Nail art offers brides room for creative personal expression


OBSERVER Staff Writer

Every great and memorable wedding has its success rooted in the details, and the same holds true with a bride’s outfit.

Plenty of standard accessories are part of a typical bridal ensemble, but one style accent can complement the entire day and especially the moment the ring is placed on her finger: a special manicure.

Nail art today is very diverse and choices span far beyond a few colors and French manicure tip styles. Nails can be decked in any color and highlighted with a wide range of accents.

Nail wraps and stamps are available in a variety of designs and accents such as gems, pearls, bows and other nail jewelry items are part of the growing trend toward 3-D nail art, giving a bride many avenues to express her personal style.

Color choices are typically soft and hues are often selected from the color of the bridemaids’ dresses, but creative and striking designs can be achieved in a variety of ways, and on a variety of budgets.

Nail stamping has been growing in popularity in the U.S over the last several years. Its early popularity began in South Korea with a brand of metal stamping plates manufactured by Konad. The plates, which are reusable and will last for many years, are etched with designs ranging from floral and lacy patterns, butterflies, geometric designs, individual flowers, snow flakes and many other designs. Some patterns cover the full nail, others are designed to cover just the tip, and others are individual designs which can be placed alone or repeated on the nail.

Color combinations are nearly unlimited, but high-contrast, opaque colors work best. Many subtle designs can also be created with a light and a dark color in a similar hue, or with two similar colors, but one in frost and one in a creme formula for contrast.

Starter stamping kits are available in most drug store and other retail chains locally and include several plates. Stamping plates with more detailed and themed designs are available from numerous online sellers. The kits consist of a soft, rubber-like stamper which is used to pick up a design etched in the metal plates to be immediately transfered to the nail. The design is made by applying polish to the etched design and wiping the excess with a flat-edged scraper (many experienced stampers use an old credit card for this task).

It is important to work quickly to pick up the design with the stamper and transfer it to the nail before the polish dries. It is also helpful to apply a clear coat over the base color on the nail before stamping. This helps provide a barrier against mistakes and can eliminate the need to repaint the nails after a mistake. Top the final design with another coat of clear top coat applied quickly and gently so as not to smear the design.

The Internet is teeming with nail art blogs packed with pictures, videos and tips and tricks for anyone looking to become a proficient stamper.

There is definitely a learning curve to mastering the art of stamping, which depends a great deal on how much experience one has with painting, crafting or other do-it-yourself activities, along with patience. Any bride wishing to have nicely stamped nails needs to get in plenty of practice time before the big day.

If the challenge of learning to stamp is too daunting, check with local salons to see what options are available. Do some online image searches, print them out and bring them to the manicurist to share favored ideas and styles.

A different but less complicated way to achieve a similar look is with nail polish strips or nail wraps. A wide array of designs are available and strips are shaped to fit most nails. Application is quick and easier than stamping, but still takes practice. Unlike stamping, color choices are limited. Once a package of strips has been opened, it is important to seal the package quickly for reuse or the strips may dry out. Many strips are made of nail polish, so are easy to remove and unlikely to stain natural nails.

Three-dimensional nail art has been trending in Korea and Japan for some time, and many of the items used are available to order online. Pressed dried flowers, plastic roses and other flowers in a variety of colors, metal bejeweled bows, thin slices of Fimo clay in designs like flowers, fruit, butterflies and more are available to create dazzling nail designs. Take a look online by searching “3-D nail art” online to see photos of fabulous and sometimes far out designs others have created.

If a thick layer of 3-D nail bling sounds like a bit too much flash, but is still rather tempting, many opt for a single accent nail on each hand. The ring finger is commonly chosen for the accent nail, but be sure the ring will clear the art and make it into the finger before the words, “With this ring,” are spoken. Also consider the thumb nail as an accent, or a combination of two or three of any fingers.

Other simpler tools are available to add interest to nails. inexpensive dotting tools are available online and allow the user to add polka dots of many sizes consistently to the nails. The tool is shaped like a pen and features beaded ends in different sizes. The user dips the bead into nail polish and applies it to the nail in a small drop. Again, the color choices are only limited by the colors of polish available, and can reflect the palette of the bridal party’s clothing. Dots can also be used to accent other designs applied to the nails, such as adding a center dot to a flower.

Striping tape is another easy-to use and very inexpensive tool. Adhesive pin stripe tape is available in a variety of metallic colors and is easy to apply and remove. The tape can also be used to separate two colors painted on the nail, giving each side a crisp-looking edge. Tape can be prone to peeling, so it is best applied no more than a day or two before the wedding for best results.

Nail decals have been around for a long time, but modern and more intricate designs are available. The designs slip off a paper backing easily after soaking in water and can be positioned on the nail without much difficulty. Once dry, a clear top coat keeps them in place.

Taking time to practice new techniques, create new designs, try out new polishes and see how well they wear takes effort and planning, but can be part of the fun of wedding planning. Get the bridesmaids involved ahead of time and try out new styles and techniques together while everyone hashes out wedding plans. Make it part of the whole wedding planning experience and bonding between participants. Creative nail art can not only personalize a bridal ensemble, but can be a fun way for the wedding party members to have fun together during the planning stages.

Send comments to