Leopard-print nails are fun, and one of the easiest "fancy" manicures to DIY. All the painting is freehand, and you can work quickly because the more uneven your leopard spots are, the better. With three chords, you can write a rock song. With three polish colors, you can do your nails all leopard-y.
Here's what you'll need: A top coat (I use Sally Hansen Insta-Dri, which is far from Insta in its Dri but otherwise gets the job done), a feature color for your spots, a base color, a dark color for outlining your spots (a nail art pen or a small brush helps), and a base coat of your choice (I use OPI Nail Envy). Go wild with picking out colors: for a traditional leopard print, try a beige base, a tawny golden feature color, and a dark brown or black outline. Or else go tone-on-tone, with lime green, medium green, and black — or lavender, purple, and black. Or light blue, royal blue, and black. Whatever. I did a leopard manicure last November when I broke my toe and it was freezing outside and I got really bored with a grey base, bright blue feature, and maroon outlines.
Now that it's summer and my outlook is slightly brighter (and my toe seems to have healed), I figured pink and turquoise couldn't be wrong. If you have some polish colors that you like, but which have proven disappointing in their durability when you've used them in the past, now's the time to bring them into the mix — as your feature color, not your base. (Whenever I've done my nails with the hot pink I'm using, no matter how careful the application, that shit never goes more than two days without chipping. Never.) But here that won't be a problem, because the base color does the heavy lifting in this manicure.
First, prep for your manicure, to make it last longer. Remove your old polish, if any, and soak your hands in warm water for a few minutes. Trim your nails and push back your cuticles. (My cousin who's putting herself through school doing nails says: Don't cut your cuticles, because that's how infection starts.) Don't use lotion at this stage, and make sure your nails are clean, dry, and oil-free before you apply your base coat, because if there's any oil on or around your nail it can affect the drying time and the durability of your manicure.
Do your base coat. Two coats for even coverage. Click any picture to enlarge.
Next, start applying your feature color in little blobs, all over your nails. You can do big leopard spots or small (obviously, the smaller the more difficult), but for my medium-sized spots, about three-to-four blobs per nail is ideal. Keep the blobs roughly the same size, but vary their shape.
Spread 'em out, and make sure they aren't too centered — have some blobs that start at the cuticle, some that start way off to the edge of the nail, and some that go off the tip.
Then, using your skinny brush or your nail-art pen, turn your blobs into leopard spots. You're going to outline each blob with your dark polish. This part should be easy because basically, the wobblier the outline, the better. One trick is to break up the outline into two sections, leaving some of each spot outline-free. One section is a short, like a little "c", the other is longer, like a big "C." When you've outlined all your spots, look at the overall effect. If there are any areas that seem too empty, add a little dot or two — either between the larger blobs, or going off the tip of the nail is nice.
Finish outlining each nail, and apply your top coat. When the manicure is dry to the touch, I dab a little castor oil onto my hands, and rub it into my cuticles. It's a great, inexpensive natural moisturizer and promoter of healthy skin. And now your nails are done.
Next week, look out for a Very Special Episode of Friday DIY, in which Dodai and I team up to show you how to alter clothing for a Very Special Area — your boobs. (I know we said we'd do that for today, but we got a little overwhelmed with other projects.) In the meantime, to check out past Friday DIYs — including how to paint your nails with stripes, how to make a custom dress form parts I and II, how to make a fascinator, how to alter a thrift-store dress, how to make an at-home version of a Prada bag, and how to dye your own stuff — click here.