Nail art tutorial: how to do 2 of the most popular nail art designs yourself at home

The closure of salons during the Covid-19 pandemic has led many people to try their hand at nail art. It’s a creative, artistic hobby that requires minimal equipment and it also looks great. Here, the founder of Shoreditch Nails takes us through a tutorial for mastering at-home nail art.

Welcome to The Curiosity Academy, Stylist’s new learning hub where you can access workshops, how-to guides, new research and learn the most up-to-date skills from the UK’s most in-the-know people.

Nail art has become a huge trend in recent years and it’s one that continues to grow. Most people, however, still rely on their trusty nail technicians to create intricate designs we’ve become accustomed to. You might be surprised, then, to find out that doing nail art yourself at home isn’t as difficult as it looks.

It’s something that many people have begun experimenting with over the past year with the frequent closure of nail salons. And, conveniently, you only need a few basic tools to start out.

Tina Michael, the founder of Shoreditch Nails, has some tips on how to achieve flawless nail art designs at home including the equipment you need, how to improve your technique and some design ideas.

You may also like

Nail art inspiration: designs to inspire your first post-lockdown manicure

Start small with core products 

Don’t invest in a full collection of nail polishes and tools before you are sure that nail art at home is something you enjoy. Tina suggests starting off with between two and five polishes, “A good core collection to have at home would be a nude, a black and two or three of your favourite colours.”

It is easier to do nail art with gel polish as you can set each layer which can help you avoid smudges and improve the longevity of your manicure, Tina explains. For this, you will need a gel lamp and Tina recommends the SUNUV Lamp.

In terms of tools, the manicurists at Shoreditch Nails use dotting tools (thin metal pen tools) and striper bushes, which resemble tiny paintbrushes. You can invest in these tools but Tina also suggests some less expensive alternatives to the professional kit, “If you have a bobby pin, that works as a dotting tool and a toothpick can replace a striper brush.”

Top and base coats are essential 

Nail art can take much longer than a simple coat of polish so it would be a shame if it was to chip soon after application. Tina stresses the importance of using a top and base coat to protect your nails and prolong the design.

“Use a quick drying top coat, especially when doing nail art,” she recommends. “And remember to wait between five and ten minutes before applying your top coat so you don’t smudge your design.”

Invest in clean-up tools 

As a beginner, you are bound to make mistakes when experimenting with nail art at home so tools that will help you correct your mistakes without having to start over will be essential to ensure the process isn’t overly-frustrating.

“At our salons and academy, we use a clean-up brush that looks like an eyeshadow brush and nail polish remover,” Tina explains. “You can also use a wood stick dipped in nail polish remover.”

Tina says that you should avoid using cotton to clean up your nail art because the cotton fibres can stick to the polish and ruin your design. She also advises against over-using clean up tools because having a perfectionist mindset towards doing nail art can become frustrating.

Practice makes perfect 

There’s no real trick to mastering nail art, Tina says - it’s all about practice. “In the salon, we use plastic fake nails to practice which can work, especially if you position them as though you are doing your own nails.”

Tina explains that doing nail art on your own nails can be particularly difficult, though. “Even we still struggle doing nail art on ourselves with our non-primary hands,” she says, explaining that the only way to overcome this is practice. If you have a particularly shaky hand, you should lay your hand across a surface and use your other hand to help steady yourself.

If you live with someone who is willing to let you practice nail art on them, this is a good idea, as doing nail art on other people is much easier than doing it on yourself.

Follow salons and nail techs online for inspiration 

If art and design does not come naturally to you, you may struggle to come up with ideas for your nail art. Luckily, there are thousands of nail art experts on Instagram who can provide you with ideas.

They can also help you with your technique as salons like Shoreditch Nails create how-to Reels and IGTVs with easy-to-follow instructions on how to create new designs. Shoreditch Nails have also launchd an online academy where you can learn how to improve your nail art skills in more depth with video tutorials and a starter kit.

Start with simple designs 

Although you may be tempted to try and recreate the floral watercolour-esq nail art you saw on Instagram, it’s best to avoid starting with very intricate designs that might overwhelm you. Build your confidence with simple designs like hearts or dots, advises Tina.

To create dots on your nails, simply:

  1.  Apply a base coat 
  2. Apply two coats of your chosen colour all over the nail
  3. Leave them to set
  4. Use your dotting pen or bobby pin at a ninety-degree angle and spot dots across your entire nail or for something more simple, simply create one dot above your half-moon. 
  5. Set your nails with a top coat

Another simple design you can try when you’re feeling a little bit more confident about your nail art skills is Comme Des Garcons tips, which were really popular on Instagram in 2020:

  1. Paint a clear base coat
  2. Apply one coat of a sheer pink polish
  3. Using a red polish and a striper brush or toothpick, draw an ‘M’ shape in the middle of the nail
  4. Fill in the M to create a heart
  5. Using your striper brush or toothpick, draw two oval shapes on either side of the heart and fill them in using a white polish
  6. With a dotting tool or bobby pin, add a black dot in the middle of the white oval to create the eyes
  7. Set your nails with a top coat
Shoreditch Nails Tottenham polish

Shoreditch Nails / £10

The Tottenham

SUNUV Gel Nail Lamp

Amazon / £39.99

SUNUV Gel Nail Lamp

Shoreditch Nails Polish The Angel sheer nude

Shoreditch Nails / £10

The Angel

Shoreditch Nails Polish starter gift set including three polishes, nail oil, nail bag, nail file, nail buffer and dotting tool

Shoreditch Nails / £39

The Nail Set

The Body Shop nail art pen

The Body Shop / £0.50

Nail Art Pen

Shoreditch Nails Polish The Old Street black polish

Shoreditch Nails / £10

The Old Street

  • Tina Michael, founder of Shoreditch Nails

    Tina Michael wearing patterned dress at Shoreditch Nails salon
    Tina Michael - how to do nail art at home

    Tina Michael founded Shoreditch Nails in 2017, expanding to open a second salon in Dalston in 2019. She also launched Shoreditch Nails Academy in 2018, a modern alternative to traditional training centres for aspiring nail technicians.