Good news — the latest nail art trend taking over social media is actually, legitimately, honestly easy to DIY. (Seriously.) Meet negative space manicures for spring, the nail polish look that embraces squiggly lines, imperfect shapes, and “happy little accidents,” to borrow from the wisdom of Bob Ross. Better yet? Nearly any nail art trend you’ve already perfected can be amplified by adding in negative space. Love a cow print? Do it on top of bare nails. Finally figure out how to dot on a daisy? Paint the florals on just your nail tips, leaving the rest of the look blank.
It’s a trend that goes by multiple names, too, seeing as there are plenty of ways to go about it: abstract nail art, minimalist swirls, line art, and any number of decades, including the ‘70s and the ‘90s. (Remember blocky, colorful ‘90s graphic design? This trend can include that look.) Popsugar’s Jessica Harrington even called it “Pucci nail art,” seeing as some of the looks resemble designer Emilio Pucci’s work.
Regardless of how you approach it, and if you use your bare nails or a nude nail polish, one thing remains the same: Just make sure you leave some negative space. Below, seven different ways to approach negative space nails for spring.
“I use a 9mm detailed nail art brush for all my art work,” manicurist Alexandra Teleki, negative space manicure extraordinaire, tells TZR. Here, she says she first outlined all the heart shapes to make each shape even. “Then I will cover the side of the tips and thicken the lines until you can see the full heart shape,” she explains.
Black And White Swirls
Go for the unconventional with differing colors on each hand, like this swirly set by Teleki. “For the swirls I outline the shape to see how it would look, and if I am happy with it, I will fill out the space using a nail art brush,” she explains. But if you don’t have a steady hand, nail stickers are always a welcome alternative.
“Swirls are easy and extremely popular designs all year-round,” Teleki says — honestly, it seems the trend will never die. For these accent nail swirls, Teleki again reached for her trusty 9mm detail brush and outlined the shapes of her pointer and ring fingers. Throw on a shiny top coat, and you’ve mastered an easy and trendy swirl nail design to show off all season.
Squiggly lavender shapes make for an adorable negative space nail art option for spring — you can really never go wrong with pastels this season. The accent of a thin gold line is the icing on the cake, and if you’ve got the right tools, you can totally attempt it at home. Freeform shapes make this a super easy style to DIY.
Wavy lines and abstract designs have blown up on social media. “It looks very busy and intimidating, but with abstract you can’t go wrong,” LeChat Nails educator Anastasia Totty tells TZR. “It’s a hot trend for 2022 in nails to create fun, mixed and matched abstract art manicures.” Fans love it because it’s almost impossible to mess up. Any look you create works.
Create your standard French tip — either in a traditional white or a fun color — then add on your favorite design, keeping it just on the shade and not on the lower part of your nail. Nail art stickers also work if you’re short on time. “There are also French manicure stencils you can purchase to create perfect smile lines at home,” says Totty. “A dotting tool will be great for creating smiley faces, hearts, [or] cherries, and a nice liner brush will help with the finer details. It will take a little skill, but if you are good at drawing it will be super easy.”
This expensive-looking manicure comes courtesy of celebrity nail artist Chaun Legend, but you can DIY a similar look at home if you pick up some striping tape or a stencil. “I would use a French manicure stencil horizontally and add a tiny piece of stripe tape vertically to keep that little gap between the two-tone French,” Totty suggests. “Paint the tip black, remove the stencils, and let dry.” Then, simply outline with gold and apply a top coat.
Another Bob Ross-esque look — and another hit from Legend — this design only uses one pop of color against a neutral base to create interesting contrast. “First apply your favorite pink or nude nail polish and let dry,” says Totty. “Using a liner brush, paint the outline of the swirls, and then fill in the rest of the ‘lava lamp’ design keeping most of the nail the original color. Let it dry thoroughly and apply a matte top coat. Latex tape will come in handy with this one and keep your cuticles clean and make the job easier.”
Cow print nails are actually easy, since the design is naturally splotchy and imperfect. “You need a good clear pink or nude base, a highly pigmented (not runny) black lacquer, and top coat,” offers Totty. “Apply your base, [then] using a dotting tool, create different size cow print spots — the bigger ones will almost be like dotted clouds — use a lacquer brush to fill in the bigger spots and get nice solid spots.” A thicker glossy top coat will seal everything in once you’re finished.
For one of the most minimalist designs on the list, this one does look a bit complicated to recreate — but it’s doable as long as you pick up a thin nail art brush instead of trying to use the one that comes with a polish. “These are a lot harder to create at home, you need to be good with drawing or cursive writing,” explains Totty. “On a nude base, you have to use a thin liner brush dipped in highly pigmented lacquer [to] create [the] desired design. Clean, uninterrupted swipes are the best way to do this. Once they dry thoroughly, carefully apply [a] top coat so you don’t smudge.” Plus, you don’t have to actually spell out any words; start with just getting your swirl technique right.
Stickers And Appliqués
Negative space nail art can be a bit tricky to freehand, which is why nail stickers come in so handy. For this look, use a sticker or some other appliqué right on top of nude nails for the trend without all the hassle. “Just stick them right onto your clear base,” Totty tells TZR. “Use manicure scissors to trim the excess length, [then] file gently if necessary. I would do two top coats over them so you get good coverage and no snags.”
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