Polished nails can pull your whole look together, even if you’re dressed in casual gear. But nail art can take your polish game to the next level. You may have thought that nail art was too complicated for you to do on your own, but new polishes and DIY tutorials are making it easier than ever to fancy up your fingernails at home. Check out these super cool special effects polishes and DIY tutorials for fun nail art without the high cost or headache. Bonus: all of the polishes listed here are 3-free, meaning they are formulated without DBP, toluene and formaldehyde.
Orly Matte Top
$8.79 at Sally Beauty
Glossy nails are gorgeous, but if you’re going for an edgy look that still has sophistication, give matte a try. No need to splash out on all new polishes when you have this money-saving topcoat in your collection. Just brush it on top of your typical glossy nail polish, and it dries down to a gorgeous matte finish. It looks particularly fantastic on dark polishes. This top coat is a bit fussy, so play around with it a bit until you figure out what works best for your nail polish.
Essie Luxeffects Glitter Top Coat
$9.00 at CVS Pharmacy
These dazzling glitter top coats are perfect for layering over dark nail polishes for a dramatic effect or on a tonal polish if you want to pump up the color with a dose of sparkle. Here you’ll find your usual metallic silver, gold and bronze, which are opulent and chic, but there are also options for when you’re feeling a little more daring. Try Jazzy Jubilant, a mix of multicolored confetti, and A Cut Above, beautiful metallic pink, both of which are party perfect for summer. A Cut Above, Set in Stones, Rock at the Top and Summit of Style are available at CVS, while Jazzy Jubilant, Sparkle on Top and Stroke of Brilliance are available for $8.50 at drugstore.com.
If you want shine without the glitter, try...
Essie Mirror Metallics Nail Polish
$9.00 at Ulta
Essie nailed the futuristic chrome trend with this brilliant collection of metallic polishes. For a steampunk feel, go with the copper Penny Talk, but if you want nails of steel, you must try the aptly named No Place Like Chrome. For a fresh take on your typical pastel, try Nothing Else Metals, a sweetly subversive lavender hue. Pro tip: These reflective polishes show every ridge and imperfection, so having healthy nails is a must. You can also set a smooth foundation with this genius method from nail polish blog The Daily Varnish. The secret? Layering a matte top coat in between the first and second coats of polish! Check out the full tutorial for the lowdown.
Wet ‘n Wild 1 Step Wonder Gel Nail Color
$4.99 at CVS Pharmacy
Along with a plethora of trendy shades, Wet ‘n Wild’s high-shine, long-lasting formula comes in two classic metallic shades: the gilded All That Jazzy! and the self-explanatory The Silver Screen. These foil-finish polishes mimic the ultra-glossy gel manicure effect without causing damage to your nails the way gel polishes can do at times. This formula is also great if you need to do your nails in a hurry since you can skip your base coat, though you may want to use two coats for maximum impact. The Daily Varnish’s trick works with this polish as well.
Think you need fancy tools to create a stunning look? Think again. The shattered glass nail trend is still going strong, and you don’t need special nail art stickers or tools to create the look. Just pick up a package of iridescent cellophane. Use whatever polish you have on hand and experiment with light and dark polish backgrounds. The black is stunning, but nude nails also look funky. The tradeoff here is that you’ll need to spend a little more time than you would do with nail art stickers or accoutrements since you have to cut the “shards” yourself, but it’s a small price to pay for such a thrifty, cool effect. Both the tutorials by nail art vlogger Sandi Ball of Cute Polish and DIY diva Kate Albrecht of Mr. Kate are thorough and easy to follow, but Ball goes with a dark polish while Albrecht demonstrates the result on nude nails, and there are other minor differences, showing you this look’s ease and versatility.
Get Look 1:
Get Look 2: