For about five bucks, you can transform your look with nail polish! Whether you choose a shocking shade or a quirky design,tips-with-attitude don't require a major commitment. Happy painting!
1. Shatter Finish
Cracked polish is usually bad-except when it's intentional. Try a black shatter-finish topcoat over a pastel polish (thehot combo for spring). It'll separate as it dries for a broken-glass look.
Nail it: Apply two coats of the pastel hue and wait 10 minutes before sweeping on the crackle. "It spreads better over adry surface,' says Beth Fricke, an L.A. manicurist. Try Illamasqua Nail Varnish in Jo'mina ($14, at Sephora) and OPI Black Shatter Nail Lacquer ($8.50, at salons).
2. Electric Shades
The last time you painted your nails neon, your tool of choice was probably a Crayola marker. The grown-up version: high-voltage hues with a matte finish. "Matte makes neon colors more wearable," explains New York City manicurist Deborah Lippmann.
Nail it: Start with a ridge-filling base coat. "Bright, solid colors draw extra attention to ridges," says Lippmann. Next, swipe on two coats of opaque polish in orange or electric pink. Many companies make matte polish, but you can transform any glossy shade with a mattifying topcoat. Try Zoya in Charisma ($8, zoya.com) and Butter London Matte Finish Topcoat ($15, atdepartment stores).
3. Racing Stripes
Unless you're a manicurist, freestyle sketching on your nails often ends up looking sloppy. But a thin racing stripe is stylish and easy—even for amateurs.
Nail it: Apply two coats of base color and allow nails to dry for 10 minutes. If the base is wet, stripes won't look crisp, says New York City manicurist Patricia Yankee. Using a nail-polish pen, paint an off-center line down each nail. Seal with topcoat. Try Essie Nail Polish in Chinchilly ($8, essie.com) and Sally Hansen Color Quick Fast Dry Nail Polish Pen in Black ($8, at Ulta).
Ombre refers to gradations of the same color, from dark to light. Originally a fashion and then hair-color fad, the latest version for nails diffuses a solid color into a sparkly tone.
Nail it: Pick girlie, ethereal colors– Yankee likes medium pink with soft-pink glitter. Stroke a thick layer of the solid shade from the cuticle to halfway up the nail. Then apply a thick layer of the glitter shade, pulling a bit of the solid one with it toward the tip. Let dry for a few minutes. Next, drag a second, thin coat of the glitter just over the tips. Two layers of topcoat will smooth out the uneven surface and ensure that all the layers dry quickly, says Yankee. Try China Glaze Nail Lacquer in Innocence ($7, sallybeauty.com) and SpaRitual Nail Lacquer in Clarity ($10, skinstore.com.)
5. Two-Toned Manicure
French manicures have become so bridal party-unless you marry two unexpected colors.
Nail it: Pair any two shades in similar tones (for example, light tan with dark taupe tips or bright pink with lavender), says Fricke. Use fingernail guides to create the half-moon shapes: Place the stickers on the tips, then brush on two thin coats of your base shade. Let dry for five minutes, peel off the stickers, and paint your tips. Try Orly Half Moon White-Tip Manicure Guides ($4.50, orlybeauty.com) and Chanel Le Vernis Nail Colour in May and June ($26 each, at department stores).
6. Chunky Glitter
An instance where thin is not in: Fat pieces of glitter trump tiny flecks. "The large pieces will settle into an imperfect pattern on your nails, and that's what makes it modern," says Lippmann.
Nail it: Don't forget base coat–without it, glitter is tough to remove. Layer two coats of the glitter over an opaque shade, and wait a minute between layers of glitter and before brushing on your topcoat. Try Jessica Cosmetics Nail Colour in Showstopper ($7.50, at salons) and Deborah Lippmann Nail Lacquer in Happy Birthday ($18, at Nordstrom).