DIY Nail Art Tutorial: Inspired by Art Deco

An art deco manicure is the focus, with a step by step tutorial for how to do art deco-inspired nails.
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{Photo credits, going clockwise from left: 1, 2, me}

Art Deco-inspired prints - like the one on the sweater above, spotted at Carolina Herrera - were all over the spring 2012 runways. No doubt about it, clothing that recalls the Art Deco movement is hot right now. And what's more, the geometric prints translate perfectly into nail art, so as soon as I saw this trend popping up I knew I would have to give it a try.

So this week, I decided to create a nail arttutorial inspired by the adorable Carolina Herrera art deco print. But first, here's a little bit of info about Art Deco and what makes it so awesome!

All About Art Deco

  • Art Deco originated in Paris in the 1920s and remained popular through the 1930s. It returned to the spotlight in the '60s, and its popularity surged once again in the '80s. This trend keeps coming back!
  • It influenced a myriad of art forms, but arguably its most notable effects were on fashion and architecture.
  • The hallmarks of Art Deco pieces are graduated, geometric shapes that create a modern feel. Sunbursts and chevron motifs are also characteristic of Art Deco.
  • Some of the most iconic structures in the United States, such as the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building (shown above) and the Golden Gate Bridge, were built in the Art Deco style.

And now, here's how to create an Art Deco masterpiece on your fingers!

How to Nail This Trend

What You Need:

Quick disclaimer: The two Milani lacquers I used are nail art polishes with thin brushes made for drawing lines, and they definitely made creating this look easier. If you love painting nails like I do, they're cheap and give you so much more freedom than a regular brush. However, this can certainly be done without them - try using an old eyeliner brush instead.

Getting the Look:


  1. Start off with a base coat, followed by 1-2 thin coats of color. Thin is the key word here! If you glop the polish on, it won't dry well and using tape to make the stripes will mess it up later. Allow the polish to dry completely before moving on - I would give it at least a good 45 minutes.
  2. Once your nails have dried, take a piece of scotch tape and place it about two thirds of the way down your nail. Take the black polish (or whatever other color you fancy) and make two thick stripes starting at your nail bed, leaving a space more or less equal to the width of one of the stripes between them. Paint all the way down onto the tape. Once you're done, gently pull up the tape. You should be left with two stripes with nice, square edges. Repeat on the rest of your nails and allow to dry for a few minutes.
  3. Next, take the white polish and make a horizontal stripe, leaving a bit of room between it and your nail bed to let the base color peek through. Let it dry for a few minutes.
  4. With the beige polish, make another vertical stripe between the two black stripes that starts at your nail bed and goes all the way down to the middle of the tip of your nail. It is best if you can do this in one smooth, sweeping motion, with a light touch and using only the edge of the brush. This will give you a clean, straight line.
  5. After allowing 10-15 minutes of drying time, slap on a top coat. You're done!

A Work of Art

Art deco nails

This is the finished product! I'll admit that this took a lot of trial and error, but once I figured it out, it wasn't too difficult. And my friends did say that my nails reminded them of skyscrapers - mission accomplished!

I think these could be made even cooler by varying the color order in the pattern, or by starting the pattern at the tip of the nail instead of the nail bed on every other nail for some added visual interest. Either way, it's a fun, eye-catching print that feels grown-up and modern.

What Do You Think?

Are you a fan of Art Deco? What do you think of the trend? Will you be trying it out on your nails or with your clothes? Discuss in the comment section below!

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