Cheap Nail Art at Your Fingertips

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Do-it-yourself nail art can be simple and cheap with common household items like tape and toothpicks.

Having unique nail art on your fingertips doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.

Some salons charge $5 to draw a couple of dots on your thumbnail. The more intricate the design, the more you’ll shell out. But you can adorn your fingernails with designs from leopard print to happy little clouds ala Bob Ross for little to no cost.

You don’t need pricey tools to adorn your nails either. All you need to create cool fashions are household items like toothpicks, straws, tape and vodka.

Basic designs like polka dots and stripes can be easily achieved by dipping a toothpick or a bobby pin into nail polish and applying. Adornments can be as simple or complex as you like. You can decorate all of your digits or just a ring finger.

Here are a few ideas for do-it-yourself nail art.

Reuse your newspaper creating a headline-worthy look

Items needed:

  • White nail polish.
  • Newspaper.
  • Vodka or rubbing alcohol.
  • Cotton swabs or pads.
  • Nail polish remover.
  • Top coat.


  1. Apply white polish to nails. Let dry.
  2. Immerse nails in vodka or alcohol for a few seconds.
  3. Place the newspaper on each nail, print side down. “Once you apply the newspaper to your nail, don’t move it or your letters will get blurred. Just gently roll your finger over the nail,” says Nail Art 101. If the paper is too dry, apply another drop of alcohol.
  4. Peel away the newsprint. Clean up around the nail with a swab drenched in remover.
  5. After all of your nails are done, apply the top coat.

Similar steps can be used to make a map manicure.

For Jackson Pollock fans, here’s a splatter paint design

Items needed:

  • A paper plate or foil to protect your work surface.
  • Clear tape.
  • Cotton swabs.
  • Nail polish remover.
  • A drinking straw, cut in half.
  • Base and top coats. Pretty Gossip suggests using white as a base coat.
  • Your choice of two or more other nail polishes.


  1. Apply the base coat.
  2. Use the tape to isolate your nail. Wrap tape just under the cuticle, and put another piece along one side of the nail, then over the top of your fingertip to the other side of the nail.
  3. Put a few drops of one of the polishes on the plate. Dip one end of the straw into the polish, making sure the polish covers the entire hole.
  4. Place your hand on the plate. Put the straw about 2 inches from the nail and blow out the polish. Pretty Gossip suggests pretending to enunciate the word “two.”
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 with the other polishes.
  6. When all of your nails are done, remove the tape. Clean up around your nails with a cotton swab soaked in nail polish remover. Finish your new look with a top coat.

La La Oo: Reverse French manicure

Items needed:

  • Reinforcement label stickers, generally used for notebook paper.
  • Two nail colors.
  • Top coat.


  1. Apply the base color and allow to dry.
  2. Cut a label in half and stick one of the halves on the base of your nail to make a crescent shape.
  3. Color in with the second polish.
  4. Allow to dry completely before removing stickers.
  5. Apply a top coat.

A similar procedure can be used for a regular French manicure.

Chevron with little human energy

Items needed:

  • Three polish colors.
  • Clear tape.
  • Top coat.


  1. Paint nails with your choice of base color. Follow with a top coat and allow to completely dry.
  2. Get three strips of tape. Apply one piece at the bottom of the nail, pointing a corner toward the center. “Overlap the other two pieces at the top of your nail to create the chevron shape in the center of the nail. Press down firmly on the edges to make sure you have a tight seal,” instructs She Knows.
  3. Apply a second color over the tape.
  4. While the polish is wet, slowly peel off the tape. Once it’s dry, apply the top coat again. If you like the two-tone chevron look, you can leave it be. Otherwise, go on to the next step.
  5. Criss-cross two pieces of tape at the base of each nail, leaving a triangle design. Fill in the exposed nail with the third polish.
  6. Remove tape, allow to dry and apply final top coat layer.

Tape can be used to make a variety of stripes and other decorations. Here’s a gradient pattern. Another option is a cool checkerboard design.

Matte — anything but lackluster

Items needed:

  • Cornstarch.
  • Regular nail polish (no glitter or shimmer).
  • Small mixing container.
  • Stirring stick.
  • Base and top coat.


  1. Apply base coat and let dry.
  2. Mix a small amount of nail polish with a pinch of cornstarch. Stir cornstarch in completely to avoid clumps.The more cornstarch you use, the more matte your polish will become, says Tongue in Chic, adding that the texture will be “weird when you first apply it.”
  3. Quickly apply the mixture to your nails.
  4. Wait up to 10 minutes for the polish to turn matte.

This new polish can be used to create any of the other designs above or left alone for a high-fashion look.

What tips do you have for do-it-yourself nail art? Tell us on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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