FANTASTIC NAIL BOOTCAMP: Leopard nail edition!

Hello lovers! Allow me to put on my drill sergeant hat and instruct you to drop and give me twenty. That’s right, it’s time to check in on…

So today we’re going to talk about nail art and how it seems hard but actually isn’t. Your fearless leader is going to walk you through the leopard spot nail, which I hear is pretty popular lately? I don’t know. Honestly, I picked this style because it’s easy to do, hard to screw up and looks awesome.

My nails currently look like this:

Pretty rad, right? To make it happen, here’s what you’re going to need:

  • 1. Mixing palette. You can use a plate or an actual palette, but I like to use the perfume ads from magazines. The stiff cardboard means the polish won’t go through, and then you throw them away.
  • 2. Nail polish. Two colours (base and accent) plus black.
  • 3. Nail polish remover.
  • 4. A detail tool. You can apparently buy special manicure spotting tools, but why bother? Here I’m using a slightly modified flosser, but you can also use a toothpick.
  • 5. Q-tips. For mistakes.
  • 6. Nail file.
  • 7. Orange stick. Also for mistakes.
  • 8 & 9. Base coat and top coat. I’m using Nutra Nail, but use whatever you like.

Oh, and there’s one more thing that I needed…

My fabulous guinea pig, Melanie! Say hey, Mel!

(She said hi. Trust me.)

  • Step one: Filing and shaping.

This is a step that long-term Bootcampers are very familiar with, but newbies should take note. Our goal is to have all the nails the same length and shape. If you have fragile or damaged nails, the rule is the shorter the better. Mel is really lucky in that her nails are hard as rocks, but they weren’t in any particular shape and one of them had broken & was really short. Let’s get to fixing that.

If you can keep your nails close to the shape they grow naturally, they won’t break as easily. This means I kept Mel’s nails square, because that’s how hers grow. Easy, no guesswork involved. Then I applied the Nutra-nail strengthening undercoat, which was more of a formality for her than anything. Her nails are so strong, dudes. WE ARE TALKING WOLVERINE CLAWS HERE.

  • Step two: Base colour.

This will be the background of the manicure. Of the two shades you’ve chosen, this should probably be the lighter (though reversing it would probably look awesome, too). Mel chose Lilacism by Essie, which is a really nice pale purple with a tiny hint of grey.

Then she threw up some gang signs while we waited for it to dry. It’s how she rolls.

Apply two or three coats, depending on the opacity of your polish, and wait until each coat is totally dry before applying the next. Remember, nail polish is totally dry when you can lightly touch it to your bottom lip and it doesn’t feel sticky, wet or cold. If you make a mistake and paint your finger, don’t worry! If it’s a little mistake, dip the orange sick in nail polish remover and gently rub until it’s gone. If it’s a big mistake, dip a q-tip in nail polish remover and use that instead.

  • Step three: Accent colour.

This is the colour of your spots. It can be similar to the base colour but darker, it can contrast, it can be glitter, it can be whatever you like. No rules here! Mel chose Watermelon (also by Essie) for her spots. It’s a very bright orangey-pink, so you can tell we were going for contrast here and not exactly for big cat accuracy.

This part is all a matter of confidence. Scrape your polish brush off a couple times on the lip of the bottle so that there’s not gobs of paint on it (otherwise that will take forever to dry). Then, take your accent colour and paint small squiggles, lines and dots in all directions on each nail. Depending on how much space you have to work with, I’d say do four or five squiggles on each.

The spots don’t have to be perfect or even or anything; in fact, it looks better if they aren’t. Go nuts! Then let them totally dry.

Your finished product will look something like this. And now it’s time for the intimidating part.

  • Step four: Paint it black.

You’re going to paint the black outline around the spots. It may seem like you’re totally going to screw it up, but it’s way easier than you think. Again, it’s all about confidence.

The first thing you do is take your black nailpolish and put a nice big dollop of it on your palette. Make sure your palette has a male model staring into your soul. Male models are like the spirit animals of fantastic nails.

Next, take a close look at your dotting tool. It’s a good idea to make sure that whatever you’re using isn’t too sharp, because you don’t want to gouge holes in your manicure. If it is, use a coarse grain nail file and smooth the pointy end down a little. I used a flosser, because I’m just that awesome. Also I didn’t have a toothpick.

Excuse my beauty.

Okay. So now you’re going to take your dotting tool (flosser) and dip the pointy end in the black polish. Draw a border around the accent dots on your first nail. Don’t draw all the way around like a bullseye; real leopard print stops and starts. Keep it a little blobby and random, and throw a few small black dots on the base colour, too, just for fun. It should look something like this.

When you’ve used up your blob of black polish or it’s gotten too sticky and dry, drop another one onto your palette and keep going. You’ll really start to get a feel for what you’re doing as you go along.

A word on steady hands: If you’re shaking a little when you work with your non-dominant hand, rest your painting hand on a table and move from the wrist. This grounds it and makes you feel more stable, which means you don’t shake as much, which means everything looks better.

Eventually, you’ll be done! Now your nails look something like this:

Ta-dah! Looks pretty awesome, right? Shall we see it in the sunlight? The light in my kitchen is a little funny.

BAM. Total Lisa Frank up in here! Mel, do you love it?

(She totally loves it.)

  • Step five: topcoat.

Once the black polish is totally dry (please tell me we all know how to test this by now), apply a layer of topcoat. Move quickly with this, because sometimes the black polish will smear or bleed if you try to paint too many layers or spread the polish around too much. It happened to me and it made me sad. But then this made me happy.

Tee hee.

Once the topcoat is dry, you’re all done! Go forth and brag on your fabulous nails!

And that, my darlings, is how to get an awesome leopard print manicure. Not even close to being as hard as you thought, was it?

Until next time,

4 thoughts on “FANTASTIC NAIL BOOTCAMP: Leopard nail edition!

  1. ok totally attempting this weekend. Can you figure out a giraffe print oh fantastic leader? I do love them!


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