Rainbow Gradient Tutorial

With the new film Noah, starring Russell Crowe, Emma Watson and Jennifer Connelly, out in cinemas this week, I thought I’d share a rainbow gradient tutorial.

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The story of Noah and the great flood ends with the creation of the first rainbow and a conversation between God and Noah:

‘And God said, “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.”’
(Genesis 9:13-15)

A rainbow is a symbol that God is always faithful and that he keeps his promises.

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Photo by Blaowphoto

RAINBOW GRADIENT TUTORIAL

For this design, in addition to your base and top coat, you will need a cosmetic sponge, a dotting tool, and white, red, yellow, light blue, dark blue and pink nail varnishes. I used White on White by Revlon and then I used acrylic paints by folkArt for the other colours but nail varnish will work just as well. I just find that acrylic paints dry faster (see here for more tips on working with acrylic paints).

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1. Apply your base coat, followed by two coats of your white nail varnish. This will make your colours much more vibrant so is strongly advised.

2. Next, on a palette, mix a bit of your red and yellow nail varnish, a bit of your yellow and light blue, and a bit of your dark blue and pink so what you have is an orange, a green and a purple. (If you already have orange, green and purple nail varnishes then this stage isn’t needed.)

3. Taking your cosmetic sponge, apply thick layers of coloured stripes in the following order: red, orange, yellow, green, light blue, dark blue, purple.

4. Gently dab the sponge on each of your nails in turn.  Top up the sponge with more layers of stripes as necessary, remembering to use the same order as before.

5. Repeat this process three or four times so that the colours appear rich on your fingers.

6. Once you are happy with the gradients, pour out some white nail varnish or acrylic paint onto a palette and, taking your dotting tool, dot zig-zag shapes horizontally onto each of your nails. If this step is too fiddly then you could use a nailart pen.  Or if you have the patience to wait for your nails to dry then you could apply chevron guides to help you.

7. Finally apply your top coat and clear up around your nails using a Q-tip soaked in nail varnish remover.  If you have used acrylic paint then you may need a couple of coats of top coat to seal in your design safely.

There you have it!  Enjoy your colourful, summery nails!  Let me know if you decide to try them.

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I’m Ready to Try Nailart

So, perhaps you’ve been considering it for a while, you may even have attempted a design or two, but now the time has come for you to take your nailart ambitions to the next level.  

Where do you go from here?  How do you go about having nails that will leave people speechless?!

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Ah Haaa!  That’s what I’m here for.

I’m going to ask you a series of questions to help you get on your way. Ok, here goes …

1. Can you master a good base colour?

Yes – go to question 2.

No – read this to discover how to make your manicure look professional and then continue to question 2.

2. Is this your first time doing nailart?

Yes – you’ll be brilliant!  There are some introductory nailart tips here and 7 tips to consider before embarking on nailart here. Once you feel confident, move on to question 3.

No – great, proceed to question 3.

3. Do you want to try some new equipment?

Yes – read this and this for some recommendations of nailart equipment then move on to question 4.

No – stripes are a great design to try if you’re a beginner because you don’t always need extra equipment. Try one of these six simple stripe designs.

Vertical Stripe Gradient Nails

Or this a ruffian manicure is always an easy place to begin. Then go to question 9.

Demilune Ruffian Nails

4. Do you want to have a go at a simple gradient? 

Yes – here’s a tutorial for you to try, then go to question 9.

Rainbow Gradient Nails

No – move on to question 5.

5. Do you have nailart pens or dotting tools?

Yes – how about one of these polka-dot designs?  Then go to question 9.

Yellow crowned nails

No – proceed to question 6.

6. Do you have all the tools and equipment imaginable?

Yes – I’m jealous!  Try this love design then nip to question 9.

Valentine's Day Love Nails

No – it’s ok, neither do I!  Go to question 7.

7. Are you up for trying something a bit fiddly?

Yes – there are some tutorials for detailed fashion-inspired designs here and an ikat tutorial here before you go to question 9.

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No – move on to question 8.

8. Are you just looking for inspiration?

Yes – ooh me too, always!  Have a look at my nailart photo archive and see if anything takes your fancy then proceed to question 9.

No – go to question 9.

9. Has this been helpful?

Yes – I’m so pleased!  If you give nailart a go, post it on Instagram and tag me @tillynailart so I can see too.

No – please comment below or drop me an email and send through any suggestions for what you’d like me to post about or what tutorials you might like to see.

Easy Ruffian Nailart

‘What even is Ruffian nailart?’ you may be wondering. Well –

‘The definition of a Ruffian is someone who does something against the rules.  Someone who is disruptive.  The Ruffian woman is bold, she has a sense of history, she’s a little bit irreverent, she’s a good girl who’s gone a little bit bad.’

So said Brian Wolk and Claude Morais – designers behind Ruffian (pronounced rooffian), the critically acclaimed cult New York label.

The duo are responsible for bringing back the half moon manicure popular in the 1920s and 30s dubbed the Ruffian manicure.  Every season they have designed a new version and have had to do 35 manicures on 35 models.  As a result they have now teamed up with MAC make-up and have produced appliqué nails of their designs for quick and easy application.

Their press-on nail designs include the following:

Demilune – a gold and black half moon manicure with a matte finish

Demilune MAC nails

Spectator – a cream manicure with black french tips and black semicircle base

Spectator MAC nails

Demoisellealmond-shaped red nails with a white semicircle base and black french tips

Demoiselle MAC nails

Although I haven’t tried these appliqué nails, I came across an excellent review for them here.

What I am here to do however, is to show you that at a fraction of the price, and for a lot more satisfaction, you can do your own Demilune Nails. You too can have a little piece of couture at your fingertips, thus ‘fusing beauty and accessories together in a modern way.’

Give them a go and you’ll be looking fierce for London Fashion Week in a fortnight’s time.

Click here to subscribe to tillynailart on YouTube.

Beautiful Cuticles

Healthy looking nails can seem hard to come by, especially in the winter when hands are typically dry and easily chapped.   However with these four tips you should have beautiful cuticles and desirable digits in no time at all.

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1. Go for the kid-glove treatment

Gloves are not merely a fashion accessory or to prevent you feeling the chill.  They work as the perfect shield against the elements.  It may feel sad to cover up your beautiful nails but they will thank you for it in the long run when they manage to maintain their beauty throughout the winter.

2. Dream of hand cream

This is the time of year to purchase some good, reliable hand moisturiser and apply it regularly.  I use Dove Intensive Nourishment Hand Cream which makes my hands feel instantly replenished.

3. Dang those hangnails

Fingers are especially prone to hangnails at this time of year – those little snags in the skin close to your nails.  It can be tempting to bite or tear them but this will only make them worse and more painful.  Instead clip them carefully with nail clippers so you get a clean, close cut that you will be less likely to pick at.  This will then allow them to heal faster.  This is the only type of clipping of skin you should be doing.  Please do not cut your cuticles.  If you are in a nail salon where they are about to cut your cuticles, then I advise you walk out.

4. Oil of gladness

The way to improve the appearance of cuticles is to use cuticle oil.  Hand moisturiser alone is not enough to see you through the winter, what you need is a natural oil that you can rub into your cuticles to replace any loss of moisture.  Then with your cuticles suitably soft you can begin to push back the cuticles to increase the size of the nail canvas and make your nails seem longer and more even.  I use The Body Shop’s Almond Nail and Cuticle Oil which quite literally works wonders.  It comes with a built-in rubber cuticle pusher for added convenience.  After just one use you will notice a huge difference.

Now for the moment of truth…here are my naked nails!

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For more advice on enhancing the look and feel of your natural nails see Strong Nails – the Long and the Short of it.

Paralysed by Choice

We live in an age packed with more choice than ever.  According to studies, the average person makes about 612 decisions a day.  The internet has multiplied our options exponentially.  We have the world at our fingertips and are better positioned now to make something of ourselves than any generation before us.

Suit and Tie Nails Left

The question is, are all these choices helping or hindering us?

I need only think back to when I was at school to remember how I, and most of my peers, had absolutely no idea what we wanted to be when we were older and the pressure of picking the correct subjects to propel us toward our dreams was quite frankly paralysing.  It was particularly frustrating when we were being asked to decide by the very people who we felt contained the answers.  We weren’t experienced enough to make these sorts of decisions.  Why was our future being left to us?

Ten years on I still don’t know if I made the right choices.  Thankfully I’m happy where I am, but I don’t think studying Latin got me here.

Which begs the question, do our choices even matter?

I’m sure they do, and I’m very grateful that I have any possibilities or opportunities in life at all.  I know there are many people around the world who don’t – women in particular.    But the problem with all this choice is, though the world is my veritable oyster, I’m not quite sure what to do with it.

On a simplistic level, I see this play out every time I paint someone’s nails.  I’ll ask them which colours they prefer, what design they’d like on each nail and so on.  Even after showing them endless examples and explaining what the outcome would be with each scenario, they still look at me as if to say ‘surely you know better?’.

I have actually taken to giving people fewer options when painting their nails just to avoid watching them seize up and removing any sense of pleasure from the experience.

Studies have shown that we are more likely to enjoy making a decision if we are presented with fewer choices.  The key is to determine what our end goal is.

My method for deciding a design is to narrow down the options one by one – what colours do I want to have on this week?  What tools do I want to try out?  What are my top three favourite designs that I have seen recently?  Piecing these details together I can always come up with something.

When I started out with nailart the weekly decision-making process was long and laborious but with practice I definitely became more adept at it.  I soon realised that I could have my cake and eat it – if there were too many designs I wanted to try, I could placate myself with the thought that if I didn’t opt for one this week, I could try it next week.

I guess that’s the beauty with nailart – it’s not a life-changing decision and your choices aren’t mutually exclusive.  You could always do each nail with a different pattern if you really wanted to.

Retro Geometric Nails

Case in point!

The same can be said for canapés, tapas and boxes of chocolates – if you really want to, there’s nothing to stop you from trying all the options.

The problem is that, in life, the choices we make aren’t temporary trivialities such as nourishment or nailart.  It turns out Forrest Gump wasn’t right after all – life is not like a box of chocolates.  We can’t have ten spouses at the same time or change our job each week depending on our mood, which is why, so often, I see friends delaying making any decision at all for fear they’ll make the wrong one.

Theodore Roosevelt said ‘In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing.  The worst thing you can do is nothing.’

I actually think that there is often more than one right path to take and if we pray about it and push enough doors eventually one will open.  It certainly takes the pressure off.

So, what if we take the lessons we’ve learnt from making small decisions and apply them to the big ones too?  If eliminating our options has been shown to reduce anxiety, and the key is to keep the end goal in mind, can we practise doing this with the easy decisions and remember these tips when we come to tackle the trickier choices too?

Could this in fact be the day that we finally make that 613th decision?

GALAXY NAILART TUTORIAL

This week’s choice of nailart was galaxy nails – I’d seen them around, they seemed suitably wintery, but sparkly enough for a wedding I was going to and were super simple too.  I really like them, but already after one day, I feel like repainting my nails – I just need to decide what to go for.   After all I’m not immune to choices – just gradually getting better at making them!

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For this design, in addition to your base and top coat, you’ll need a black, white, light blue and glitter polish.

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I went for Knockout, White on White, Blue Lagoon and Sequins all by Revlon.

1. Prep your nails with a layer of base coat and then apply two coats of your black nail varnish.

2. Next blob random lines or swirls of white varnish on your nails – this will act as a base for the light blue and make it stand out better against the black.

3. Paint over the white using your light blue polish.

4.  Taking a brush loaded with your sequin varnish paint a thick coat over the whole design and finally seal with your top coat.

Here’s a more recent Galaxy Nails design, done using the same technique but with a variety of colours.

Galaxy Nails

There you have it – by far one of the easiest designs, and no need for any nailart tools at all.  Surely there’s no two ways about it – it’s definitely one to try!

If you want more inspiration follow me on Instagram or Twitter and if you give this design a go, tag your photos @tillynailart so I can see too.

Relationship Status Changed

So often I shy away from experiences I haven’t tried before.  It’s probably partly as a result of my extreme introversion, in addition to my overarching fear of failure, but I also just love routine and the security of knowing what the outcome will be in any situation.

I’m currently reading Quiet by Susan Cain, in which she writes about ‘the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.’  According to Cain, as an introvert, I have a high reactive amygdala (emotional brain!), and apparently the more reactive it is, ‘the more jangled [I’m] likely to feel when [I] confront something new and stimulating.’

So, there’s no avoiding it, it’s in my nature.

So far, my relationship with spontaneity has been fairly non-existent.  I flirted with it briefly, but all trace of this was soon ruined by too much planning.  I set aside a day to be spontaneous, but ensured it was well within a strict set of parameters like – as long as I was warm enough, within walking distance of food and bathroom facilities at all times, had slept well the night before, was suitably dressed for all weather eventualities, was able to get home easily etc etc.  What can I say? I’m practical!

You’re probably wondering where I get my enjoyment from if I only do things that are predictable and controlled (two words that have never let me down).  Well, I guess I get satisfaction from that feeling that I have done something better than I had planned.  And that’s not to say I set low expectations just so I can supersede them.  On the contrary I am an extreme optimist and quite a perfectionist.  What it means is that I am almost always content, but on occasion, if something genuinely exceeds my expectations, I am positively ecstatic.

What’s this got to do with nailart you may be asking?

Well, this week I entertained the idea of a date with a challenge that was most definitely out of my league and certainly outside my comfort zone.  I don’t really know what compelled me to do it.  I knew I was probably taking on too much, but I had recently reached the ‘positively ecstatic’ state following a recent floral venture, and as a result, was feeling deceptively overconfident.

This challenging design combined ombre (which thankfully I had done before, see Ombre Seaside Nailart Tutorial) with extremely fine detail.

Ombre Seaside Nails

Obviously, like any good planner, I thought through the implications of it not working out first.  What would be the worst-case scenario?

The first course – the ombre might be a complete disaster and I would have to build the rest of the design on unsatisfactory foundations, or mortifyingly, just call it a day there.

The second course – the fine detailed overlay might be terrible and ruin whatever progress I’d made during the first course.  This really would be discouraging and I would have to go away and start again, which would make the whole thing a complete waste of time.

But, if I succeeded, I thought, if I made it to desert, then having pushed myself to the next level of nailart, I would be able to take on other intimidating designs with confidence.

Going through these outcomes one by one, I realized that death from failure wasn’t one of them, so I went for it.

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You’ll be pleased to know the ombre seemed to work so I stuck around for the detailed overlay. It was all going so well until I put the top coat on and streaked black across the background – the social equivalent of snapping your stiletto heel and limping your way through the remainder of an evening.  I was pretty gutted as it meant it was far from perfect.  But, no one seemed to mind and I actually learnt a lot from the experience.

The following day, my good friend from University, Lina, came over for a manicure.  Admirably she is running the San Francisco Marathon this weekend and wanted some suitable nailart for the event.

Having accomplished an ombre and fine detail design less than 24 hours before, I suggested something similar for her without even a moment’s hesitation, but this time with a running man on a sunset backdrop interspersed with American flags.

The borders of my comfort zone had been expanded thanks to the previous day’s near success and now there was no holding me back.

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Wonderfully, it was even better the second time round.

So, what’s all this taught me?

Well, I can’t say I will be running a Marathon any time soon, but I certainly feel more open to venturing across the perimeters of my little comfort zone … at least every so often.  In fact, this experience has actually changed my feelings towards daunting challenges and convinced me to give almost everything a go once, even if it’s only so I can learn from my mistakes.  After all, the world is not going to end if I fail.

ROMANTIC SUNSET NAILART TUTORIAL

For the Romantic Sunset design, in addition to your base and top coat, you will need a light blue nail varnish, a light pink, a dark pink, a white and a black nail varnish.  It also requires a make up sponge and some fine acrylic brushes.

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I used Dreamer by Revlon, Pink Friday by OPI, and Fuscia Fever, White on White and Knockout all by Revlon.

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  1. Start by painting your base coat, followed by two coats of white varnish.  This will make the colours of your sunset more dynamic.
  2. Paint stripes of your light blue, light pink and dark pink on the sponge so that they overlap.
  3. Check which way the sponge needs to be in order to get the right colour direction on your nails and then sponge away.  You will need to top up your stripes of paint for every other nail and you will also need to do three coats of your sponging.  Clean up around the edges using a slanted brush dipped in nail varnish remover.  You can also minimize clean up by placing sellotape or Vaseline around your nails first.
  4. Next, using your fine acrylic brush dipped in white nail varnish, paint a large circle on each of your ring fingers and blot the inside of the circle with the brush to make a shadowy moon shape.  Then place tiny white dots at random on each of your fingers for faint stars in the sky.  Finally, taking your brush and dipping it in black nail varnish, carefully paint on the silhouette designs you would like and then seal with your top coat.

Perhaps you’re also keen to take on a nailart challenge.  If you’re not sure about either of these designs and prefer instead a simpler version of a silhouette on a gradient background why not try this?  It’s one I did a while ago before I had any tiny acrylic brushes.

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Give it a go.  You may just surprise yourself.

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Fashion at your Fingertips

Perhaps we can’t all afford couture clothing straight from the runway, but who’s to say we can’t get in on the fashion action anyway, and even beat celebrities to it?!

I’ve picked four Spring / Summer 2014 ready to wear styles that I think are going to be big in the coming year.

Dolce and Gabbana Nailart Tutorial
Temperly London Nailart Tutorial
Missoni Nailart Tutorial
Alberta Ferretti Nailart Tutorial

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By focusing in on the different elements that make up each look not only can your wardrobe get an update, but I’m also going to show you how you can translate each one into nailart to give you cutting edge couture at your fingertips.

DOLCE AND GABBANA NAILART TUTORIAL

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First up is Dolce and Gabbana.  I love the bold mix of vibrant polkadot and brocade.  It screams opulence and captures the best bits of Italy.  To adapt it to your wardrobe notice the courageous colour combo and the mix of prints.  This is certainly not a look to shy away from for 2014.

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Photo by Blaow Photo

For this manicure, in addition to your base and top coat, you will need a red and a gold nail varnish and also ideally a black nail varnish pen or a normal black polish and also a fine acrylic brush.

20131005-165833.jpgThe colours I used were Fearless and Gold Coin both by Revlon and a black nailart pen by Rio.

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1. After applying your base coat, add two coats of your red polish.

2. Next paint a gold stripe down the middle of the nail but only in the half closest to the tip of the nail.  Follow this up by painting two shorter stripes either side of the central stripe so what you are left with is a gold block, shaped like the skirt.

3. Use your black nailart pen (or dotting tool, or cocktail stick dipped in black nail varnish) and paint dots of nail varnish in diagonal rows along the remaining red section of the nail.

4. Focus in on a section of the skirt that you want to replicate for the brocade.  Taking your black nailart pen, paint your pattern on top of the gold part of your nail.  I would recommend practising this stage on some paper first.

5. Seal with your top coat and allow to dry while you await the compliments!

TEMPERLY LONDON NAILART TUTORIAL

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Second in this series is one of my favourite looks from the entire Spring / Summer 2014 catwalk.  It comes from Temperly London and takes the art of gradient to the next level as it effortlessly blends leopard print into flirty florals – both an absolute must for this season.

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For this design, as well as your base and top coat, you will need a light orange polish, a black nailart pen, a light pink polish, a darker pink pen and a green pen.  If you don’t have the pens then you can just as easily use a fine acrylic brush, but a pen allows for faster application as only one layer is needed to achieve the rich colour.

20131005-174751.jpgI used Sheer Blush by Revlon, a light orange shade by Nails Supreme, my trusty black nailart acrylic pen by Rio, Pink Friday by OPI, a dark pink pen by Nail Art and a green nailart acrylic pen by Rio.

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1. First things first, apply your base coat followed by two coats of a nude polish.  Then apply some light orange varnish to about a half to two thirds of your nail at the cuticle end.  It doesn’t have to finish with a neat line.

2. Using your black nailart pen paint a series of short black lines in varying directions on only the orange section of the nail.  The lines should be in pairs and should curve towards one another but not touch, like brackets.  Intersperse these with a few black dots if there is empty space between each one.

3. Blob on some light pink varnish in rough dots onto the bare end of the nail.  Apply a couple of pink dots in the centre of the black brackets nearest the edge of the orange section to imitate the gradual fade from leopard print to florals.

4. Surround your pink dots with sets of dark pink brackets and again, intersperse with dark pink dots in any empty space.

5. Place tiny green dots in the centre of your pink brackets to look like flowers.

6. Apply your top coat and wait while they dry before giving your self a pat on the back for your impressive work!

MISSONI NAILART TUTORIAL

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Third in line is a look by Missoni.  A lot of Missoni’s collection had a graphic Japanese influence, with inspiration from the elements – earth, air, fire and water.  Chevrons were a key factor, interpreted both as waves and birds.  If you’re wanting to update your wardrobe, reach for bold colours with multicoloured stripes or chevrons.  Think less breton and more varying widths of brightly coloured stripes mixed with monochrome.  Texture is also a big look for 2014 so aim to pair matte and sheer materials for a quick modern take on any outfit.

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For this manicure, in addition to your base and top coat, you will need a blue hue, a black varnish and a white nailart pen.  You will also need nail tip guides, or, if you don’t have any, you could use thin strips of sellotape.

20131005-165852.jpgThe colours I went for were Dreamer and Knockout, both by Revlon, a white nailart pen by Rio and some French Tip Nail Guides that I ordered off Amazon.  I also used Matte Magic top coat by China Glaze.

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1. To start, paint your base coat and follow up with two coats of your blue polish.

2. Next I recommend applying a quick drying top coat to seal in your colour so that when you apply the nail tip guides the colour doesn’t come off with the adhesive.  When this has dried, apply your nail tip guides in pairs.  I wanted one chevron on each nail, apart from my thumb which had two chevrons, and therefore four nail tip guides.

3. Paint black stripes between the nail tip guides and peel off the guides immediately after painting the black stripes onto each nail (you may want to use tweezers for this).

4. Using your white nailart pen, draw a border along the edge of the black chevrons.  Don’t worry if it’s not perfect as this will resemble the jagged edges on the design.

5. Next apply your top coat.  I opted for a matte top coat to imitate the leather look of the skirt.

ALBERTA FERRETTI NAILART TUTORIAL

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Florals were big on the catwalk for Spring / Summer 2014, and no one portrayed them quite as intricately and delicately as Alberta Ferretti.  It was both dramatic and romantic with bright oranges and blues and greens and pinks that seemed to beckon in the summer.  If dark, wintery nights are starting to get too much for you then splash out some colourful florals to lift your mood.

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In addition to your base and top coat, you will need the following colours: black, light blue, light pink, orange, purple, bright pink, yellow, white, green and coral.   You will also need some dotting tools and fine acrylic brushes and finally some patience and quite a bit of spare time.  Normally my manicures take me an hour.  This one took me two and a half as I was determined to get it right.

20131005-165902.jpgThe shades I used (from left to right) were Knockout and Dreamer both by Revlon, Pink Friday by OPI, Siren, Enchanting and Fuscia Fever, again all by Revlon, 330 by Barry M, White on White, Posh and Tropical Temptation by Revlon.

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1. Start by painting your base coat, followed by two layers of your black polish.

2. Using your dotting tool, paint little blue flowers near the cuticle end of your nail, each made up of five dots.

3. Next repeat step 2 but paint pink flowers instead, further up the nail, and occasionally paint little pink dots over some of the blue dots near where the pink flowers are.

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 using your orange polish to paint flowers at the tip of your nail and every so often paint over a pink dot near where the orange flowers are.

5. Paint a little purple smudge in the middle of the blue flowers.  It doesn’t have to be neat.  You want it to look like it blends in with the blue.

6. Paint dark pink dots in the centre of your blue (and now purple) flowers, and also in the middle of your pink flowers.

7. Paint some yellow dots over part of the orange flowers near the tip.

8. Place a tiny white dot in the centre of the blue and the pink flowers and around the outside of some of the blue and the pink petals.

9. Using your fine brush, dip it in a tiny bit of green and also in some white polish and paint leaves in any black spaces on the nail.  The effect should be some tiny streaky leaves.

10. I could have stopped there, but I thought my orange and yellow flowers didn’t look very realistic so using my light coral polish I added a little dot in the middle of each of the orange flowers to blend them in a bit better.

11. Finally, apply your top coat in gloopy dabs over the top so you are careful not to smudge your hard work.

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There you have my predictions for what will be hot even before next summer, and how you can have couture within your reach.  Give it a go and if you post your photos, tag them @tillynailart so I can see how you get on.

Strong Nails – the Long and the Short of it

When someone tells me they’re a dentist, I immediately cover my teeth.
Blue Scaled Gradient Nails
When I cook for a chef I become a nervous wreck.  When friends talk to me about nailart they hide their nails as though ashamed by how weak or chipped they are.  I may be a perfectionist about my own nails, but that certainly doesn’t mean I expect the same from everyone else.

Having said that, if you’ve got weak nails and you’d like to know how I keep my nails strong then I’ve got 7 tips for you.   However, if you happen to be hypersensitive, stop reading now.  What I’m about to write might offend those who are unwilling to change old habits.

People often assume that having my nails constantly painted would weaken or ruin them.  The truth is I haven’t had my nails naked for longer than 20 minutes in over a year and just yesterday someone remarked that they were as strong as metal.  So, how is it done?  How can you show your nails the love they deserve?

Valentine's Day Love Nails

1. Steer clear of nail biting experiences

I’ll never forget this one moment when I was little – I was about 5 years old and I was dressed up in my leotard and ballet skirt ready to do a ballet recital.  The nerves must have been getting to me because I was biting my nails down to the quick.  At that point my mother said ‘don’t bite your nails or you’ll have ugly hands when you’re older.’  Vanity must have gotten the better of me even then because I stopped biting that instant and have never done it since.  If you’re a nail biter – stop.

2. Short and sweet

If your nails are very weak, cut or clip them regularly – not so that they are super short, but don’t let them get too long until they’ve built up their strength.  This will take time, so be patient.  I would avoid filing your nails if they are very weak as this will only make them more prone to split. For advice on what shapes to opt for read Nail Shapes 101.

3. Milk them for all they’re worth

The calcium in milk does wonders for your nails.  You’ll need to have more than merely a dash in your coffee or tea, but a bowl of cereal or a yoghurt in the morning or a hot chocolate or latte every other day will help.  If you can’t have dairy then make sure you’re getting your calcium elsewhere – it’s not just your nails that need it.  Your teeth, bones and metabolism will all reap the benefits.

4. Stay back from shellac

They may look great, but beware of the harm that gel manicures can have to your nail tissue.  To remove shellac, Jenna Hipp, a Los Angeles-based celebrity nail stylist writes, ‘Many manicurists have their clients soak nails and hands in acetone, which absorbs into the body and into the bloodstream.  Others file down with a drill, often leaving the natural nail paper thin and in desperate need of a nine-month-to-a-year healing process.’  I would strongly advise that you steer clear of shellac (sorry…don’t hate me!).  You may be wondering how you can achieve that professional, long lasting manicure without it, well, look no further – read How to Make a Manicure Last a Week and 4 Tips to Make Your Manicure Look Professional.

5. Lay it on thick

When painting your nails, by the time you’ve put on your base coat, two coats of colour, whatever design you’re going for and the top coat, it’s no wonder that your nails are stronger.  It’s like they’re covered tip to cuticle in body armour.  For an extra tough finish, I use Seche Vite top coat which blobs on in a thick gloop so it doesn’t smudge my design and the best thing about it is that it dries super fast.

6. Softly, softly, catchy monkey

If you’re feeling weak and vulnerable, there’s nothing like a bit of pampering to make you feel better again.  Your nails are the same.  Use a hand moisturiser every day to help replenish your nails.  It will also keep your hands looking young and beautiful, so what’s stopping you?

7. Strength from within

The points above will help your nails regain their strength, but if you want to see even quicker results I recommend taking a nail supplement.  Supermarkets and pharmacies do their own brand versions but I use Perfectil as my daily vitamin which is for skin, hair and nails and I am certain that it’s for this reason that my nails never split or break.

If you’ve made it this far then you’re clearly strong enough to take on my advice and I’m sure your nails will follow suit in no time.

Perfect Match – ikat Nailart Tutorial

This weekend I had two weddings to go to.  Yup, true story – one on Friday and one on Saturday.  Matching your nails to an outfit is hard enough but when you have two outfits, not enough time to re-paint your nails in between and haven’t even found a dress for either occasion, the challenge is really on!

I knew I wanted to try an ikat design as I’d seen it on Instagram and was inspired to give it a go.  The problem was choosing the right colours.  I had read that emerald was the colour of 2014 as revealed by the Pantone Color Institute so, with that as my basis, I sought to choose colours that would compliment some hypothetical emerald dress that I very much hoped I would be able to track down in time for the weekend.

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Photo by Blaowphoto

IKAT NAILART TUTORIAL

For this manicure you’ll need a little acrylic brush to paint the intricate details.  You can find one in any good art shop.  If you don’t have an acrylic brush you can use a striper or a nailart pen or a cocktail stick or if you don’t have any of the above then you can use a normal nail varnish brush, and making your brush very wide and flat by dragging it along the rim of the bottle on both sides of the brush, you can then use the thin edge of the brush for the pattern detailed below.  Additionally, you will need four colours.

20130921-233752.jpgI went for Eclectic, White on White, Gold Coin  and Knockout all by Revlon.

20130921-233803.jpg1. After applying your base coat, lay down two coats of your first colour – in my case Eclectic.

2. Using your little acrylic brush draw white diamond shapes in an alternating pattern in such a way that some of them seem to go off the canvas of the nail.  The best way to do this is to paint a series of vertical lines of varying lengths, starting with one corner of the diamond and working into the centre with the lines getting increasingly longer and then getting shorter again as you work towards the other side.

3. Repeat point 2 using your gold polish but drawing a smaller diamond inside each of the white shapes so you are left with a white border around the gold.

4. Repeat step 3 using black and draw even smaller diamond shapes inside the gold so you are left with a gold border around the outside of the black.

5. Next add on rough black lines around the outside of the white diamonds being careful not to get too close to other diamond shapes so enough of the green shows through in between each diamond.

6. Lastly add on a layer of your top coat and wait while they dry.

So, armed with my freshly painted nails I went in search of dresses to wear to the two weddings I would be attending.  I was fortunate enough to find the perfect outfits from Beulah London.  

Feeling like a princess, I wore an emerald green Beulah dress to the wedding on Friday (excuse the poor lighting in the photo) which complimented my nails perfectly.  It was the wedding of a friend who I grew up with.  We used to live round the corner from one another and every weekend we would imitate all the arts and crafts projects from Blue Peter and play with our Polly Pockets together.  The wedding was breathtakingly beautiful and the canapés were possibly the most sumptuous I have ever tasted – each one seemed to explode in your mouth!

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For Saturday’s wedding, I wore a beautiful sapphire blue Beulah dress.   I know the saying ‘blue and green should never be seen without another colour in between’, but somehow I think it worked well with my nails.  This wedding was completely magical with the reception in a fairytale-esque garden complete with about a million little candles everywhere.  It was absolutely stunning.  A very good friend of mine got married to his beautiful bride and all the speeches had me both in tears and in stitches.

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I am by no means an expert on the topic of love or on what makes the perfect couple but I do know that when I coupled my nails with both of these outfits I felt it resonated with what Thomas à Kempis wrote about love (as quoted at the second wedding) – that it is ‘a great thing, yea, a great and thorough good.’  Not to trivialise love, of course, but nailart is pretty up there in my estimations in case you hadn’t gathered!

Six Simple Stripe Nailart Tutorials


The wonderful thing about nailart is that you don’t always need specific nailart equipment to make your nails look striking.

The following six designs were achieved using only nail varnish and a reasonably steady hand. So if you’re a first timer, why not have a try at one.

Vertical Stripe Gradient Nailart Tutorial
Staircase StripesNailart Tutorial
One Diagonal Stripe Nailart Tutorial
Spiky Stripy Nailart Tutorial
Candy Cane Stripes Nailart Tutorial
Chevron Nailart Tutorial

A few of these were actually some of my very early creations – I’m sure you’ll spot which ones those are!

VERTICAL STRIPE GRADIENT NAILART TUTORIAL

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I love this design. It is so eye-catching with the faux highlight down the centre, and yet, deceptively simple to achieve.

You’ll need a base coat, top coat and two or three shades of the same colour, plus a white polish.

1. Paint your base coat.

2. Follow up with two coats of your darkest colour. I used Bewitching by Revlon.

3. Then choose your next lightest shade and paint a wide strip down the middle of your nail in such a way that two stripes of your darkest colour still show either side. For this I’ve used Fuscia Fever by Revlon.

4. Proceed with your lightest colour and paint a strip down the middle of your nail, slightly thinner than the previous one. I chose Sweet Tart by Revlon for this.

5. Take your white nail varnish, here I used White on White by Revlon, and, making your brush very wide and flat by dragging it along the rim of the bottle on both sides of the brush, take the thin edge of the brush and paint a straight line down the centre of the nail.

6. Seal with your top coat and there you have it!

Variations

a) If you have lots of colours of nail varnish then try a different colour gradient on each nail.

b) Try a gold or silver stripe down the centre of your nail for an extra sparkly finish.

c) Rather than having all the stripes as vertical lines on your nails, mix it up by having some nails with diagonal or horizontal lines for an added artistic flair.

STAIRCASE STRIPES NAILART TUTORIAL

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All you need is a base coat, top coat and three nail varnish colours.

1. Prep your nails with a base coat.

2. Give your nails two coats of your background colour, in this case Sweet Tart by Revlon. For tips on how to master a solid base check out How to Make a Manicure Last a Week.

3. Next, take your second colour – in my case Lilac Pastelle by Revlon and paint three vertical lines of different lengths, starting with the longest. It can be about three quarters of the length of the nail and should touch and be parallel to one side edge of your nail and finish at the tip. The second stripe should be in the middle of your nail and be shorter than the first stripe. The third stripe should be the shortest of the three and should touch the other edge of your nail. What you then have is a staircase of three steps.

4. Repeat the above step with your third colour. I went for a glittery gold called Sequins by Revlon but you could just as easily choose an opaque colour. With your third colour, each staircase step should be shorter than the one you are painting over.

5. Seal with a top coat and leave to dry.

There you have it – super simple but a striking finish.

Variations

a) Why not choose three shades of the same colour and begin with the lightest and end with the darkest so you have a colour gradient on your nail.

b) If you’re feeling daring then have a go with four or more colours on each nail so you still have three steps but each step is made up of multiple colours.

c) Alternate your nails so some staircases go down your nails and others go up your nails.

d) If you can make your brush have a thin edge, then try out more than three steps – you could have five or six.

ONE DIAGONAL STRIPE NAILART TUTORIAL

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All you need is a base coat, a top coat and two colours.

1. Lay down your base coat.

2. Paint two coats of your background colour – I opted for Frostiest Pink by Revlon.

3. Paint a diagonal stripe of your second colour beginning about half way along the edge of your nail and taking it right to the opposite corner. Here I’ve used Sparkling by Revlon which in fact needed two coats to make it sparkly enough. Then fill in any gap towards the edge and the tip.

4. Finish off with a top coat and wait until they’re dry.

So quick and easy but definitely eye-catching.

Variations

a) You could use three colours and paint a thinner second stripe on top of and parallel with the first so part of the first stripe is covered. If you then chose different shades of the same colour you would have a fun gradient pattern.

b) Try painting your stripe so that it finishes in the middle of your nail and do the same on the other side so that you end up with an arrow design.

c) You could paint polka dots along the edge of the stripe.

SPIKY STRIPY NAILART TUTORIAL

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For this one you just need a base coat, a top coat and any three colours.

1. Paint your base coat.

2. Follow with two coats of your background colour, in this case Bewitching by Revlon.

3. Using your second colour, I used Knockout by Revlon, paint a series of short diagonal stripes along the tip of your nail, each the same length. The effect will be a zig-zag pattern.

4. Repeat step 3 with your third colour using shorter stripes. I’ve used Pink Friday by OPI. Normally I wouldn’t recommend putting such a light colour on top of black, but this one is very opaque.

4. Top it off with your top coat and relax while they dry.

Who would have thought it was that simple?

Variations

a) If you have lots of colours you want to use then you could do one layer of zig-zag stripes but use a different colour for each stripe.

b) You could continue the short stripes along one edge of your nail as well, or even around the entire nail to give a spiky border.

c) If you used three shades of the same colour then you would have a gradient effect on your nail. Imagine using blues – it would look like waves in the sea.

CANDY CANE STRIPES NAILART TUTORIAL

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All you need for this one is your base and top coat and two colours.

1. Prepare your nails with your base coat.

2. Lay down two coats of one of your colours – in this case Pink Friday by OPI.

3. Paint two diagonal stripes in your second colour beginning in the middle of your cuticle. I went for Dreamer by Revlon.

4. Paint on your top coat and you’re all set!

Variations

a) If you can master a thin brush by making it flat and wide and using the thin edge, then try painting a third coloured line down the middle of each stripe.

b) You could do polka dots in a third colour along the background colour.

c) Bear this in mind for perfect candy cane Christmas nails and opt for red and white stripes.

CHEVRON NAILART TUTORIAL

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For this you need your base coat and top coat and three nail varnish colours.

1. Get your base coat down.

2. Layer on two coats of your background colour. I’ve gone for White on White by Revlon.

3. Next, using your second colour, paint two converging stripes starting at the edges and finishing in the centre. I went for Fearless by Revlon.

4. Repeat step 3 using your third colour, but painting thinner stripes nearer to the tip. I used Urban by Revlon.

5. Seal with your top coat and relax while they dry.

It’s so quick and easy but will have everyone wondering how you managed it.

Variations

a) You could go for more than two colours for your chevrons and start much further up the nail.

b) Why not do the same design but use a series of tiny polka dots instead of stripes.

c) You could make it a much deeper V shape and start at one corner of your cuticle and finish in the middle of the tip and then do the same from the other side.

I hope these six designs have inspired you to give nailart a go. There are so many variations for each one and I’d love to see what you come up with, so upload your photos onto Instagram and tag @tillynailart so I can check them out. Happy painting!

For a bonus seventh simple stripe design check out an Introduction to Nailart for my mod-inspired nailart tutorial.