A Pretty, Subtle Nail Art Tutorial for Valentine's Day

Plus two of our other favorite nail trends for spring.
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When it comes to nail art, it's safe to say most of our team is a bit... reserved. As much as we love the glitter and designs Emily has embraced in the past, it's mostly been from afar. Up until last week, Leslie, Jess, and Katie had never gotten nail art (if you don't count a tropical flower or two in middle school) and, to be honest, never considered it until Color Camp, a team favorite for manicures, sent us their spring nail trends. As soon as we saw the images, Jess gravitated towards a ceramics-inspired look, while Katie opted for a more neutral option, and Leslie decided to go for a subtle nod towards Valentine's Day.

The Valentine's Day nails make use of some of our favorite shades of pink, without shouting "xoxo" from the rooftops—you have to look closely to see the iridescent hearts. But the best part is: Even if you feel intimidated by doing your own nail art, the look is almost as cute if you skip it completely. Simply add a heart to opaque polish or alternate one of the other three colors in its place. Here's how Dara, of Color Camp, created Leslie's Valentine's Day nails:

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After nails have been prepped (cut, filed, shaped, buffed), wipe nails with alcohol to clean the nail bed and again with acetone to dehydrate the nail. This will help the polish adhere better to the nail. 

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While Color Camp uses Bio Sculpture Gel, you can start with a coat of any nourishing clear gel. For an at-home manicure, their team recommends using this one from Deborah Lippmann. It's a little bit opaque, so perfect for the detailed finger on each hand. 

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Select three corresponding colors to alternate between for each nail, and for the triangles on the detailed nail. You can go any direction here, from neons to primary colors, but for Valentine's Day we liked the idea of muted shades of rose-pink. While Color Camp used gels, we found similar corresponding colors in these Essie shades:

Light Pink: Essie in 'Muchi Muchi'
Dark Rose: Essie in 'In Stitches'
Rose: Essie in 'Eternal Optimist'

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First things first, color in your non-detail nails, alternating with each color. Apply two to three layers to each nail, then let dry completely (or mostly completely!). Leslie went with this order:

Right hand, from thumb to pinky: 
Mauve
Dark Rose
Rose
Detailed Nail 
Light Pink

Left hand, from thumb to pinky: 
Dark Rose
Detailed Nail
Rose
Pink
Dark Rose

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Use a nail art brush (available on Amazon here), to paint the outline of the center triangle, in the color you choose (Leslie opted for the lightest pink to ground the center). The tip of the triangle should stop at the center of the nail, then flare out so that the base of the triangle includes about one-third of the tip of the nail. Once it's dried, wipe the brush clean with remover, and repeat with each of the two colors, making sure the outlines all meet at the center (it doesn't have to be perfect since you can put the heart appliqué on top!). Once the outlines have dried a bit, use the thin brush to very carefully fill in each color. Repeat on each hand and let dry completely!

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Dip a dotting tool in clear polish to pick up a heart sequin and place it at the point of the triangle, facing away or towards your hand, depending on your preference (you could even treat it like a Valentine's nail Claddagh ring...). Repeat on the other hand, then add a sheer swipe of top coat on top to set them each in place. 

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Once your nails have dried completely, apply two coats of top coat. Both we, and Color Camp, prefers Seche Vite!

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P.S., Here's how to find your 'signature nail polish' and Emily's tips for giving yourself a flawless at-home manicure.