How To Paint Your Nails With Stripes


Brightly colored stripes were all over the spring collections — Jil Sander, Prada, Marc Jacobs, Fendi, and Céline all played with parallel lines — but a dress or a top by any of the aforementioned isn’t exactly within my freelance writer’s budget. So…I set myself the challenge of incorporating stripes into my look in a far cheaper, and reassuringly temporary, way. Striped nails! Here’s how I did it.

First, these are the final results. I did this last Friday, and aside from one or two minor chips, everything’s still in place. I suspect I’m heading into ten-day territory. Which is good, because this project took almost two episodes of This American Life and three micheladas to complete. Cheers.

I used everything you see here. The main equipment was a cutting mat and ruler, a rotary cutter (an X-acto knife or similar would also work, or, in a pinch, a sharp paring knife), and a roll of medical tape from my first-aid kit. For the nails, I used OPI Nail Envy as a base coat, OPI “Don’t Mess With OPI” green polish (from that company’s Texas-inspired collection), Essie “Waltz” white polish, and Sally Hansen Insta-Dri top coat. It is far from Insta in its Dri, but it is the most durable top coat I’ve ever encountered. I chose white and green because it seemed fun. I was pretty tempted by yellow and black, green and blue, and orange and pink.

I started using Nail Envy, both on its own and as a base coat for manicures, about eighteen months ago on the advice of my cousin Dallas. She’s working her way through college in a nail salon, so I figured she’d know, and she said it was the best. I can’t say its extravagant claims of nail-strengthening feats have exactly been borne out by subsequent experience — my nails still break, albeit a bit less than before — but I like that it’s fast-drying, and it gives a very thin, even coat with no mess. (I bite my nails, and it’s such a thin coat that, unlike a clear polish, I can’t chip it off with my teeth. That’s a good thing.) And I’m still on my first bottle, which is a relief considering the shit costs like $16. You want to start any manicure with clean, dry nails (do not apply cuticle oil or lotion before beginning with the paint). A base coat will make everything stick, and also last longer.

While that was drying, I put a piece of tape on my cutting mat, and sliced it into long ribbons about 1/16 of an inch wide.

Then I peeled off the strips, cut them to a finger’s width, and applied them to each nail, keeping them parallel. Medical tape worked better than the painter’s tape and the sellotape I also experimented with.

It did occur to me that the sensible way to do a striped manicure would be to paint the entire nail with the lighter color, wait for shit to dry, then mask off each nail and paint the darker stripes over the top. But my white polish takes about four coats to look even, and the green takes 1-2, and I didn’t want half an inch of polish on my nails by the time I was done. So I did the green stripes first, then removed the tape, and filled in the white stripes. If you have a better white polish that gives even coverage in a more reasonable number of coats, by all means, use the sensible method.

Slather those nails with the green polish. I used two coats.

Once the polish has dried completely, whip off the tape. Voilà.

I used a really small brush (and, at times, a toothpick) to apply the white carefully between the green stripes, without going outside the lines. The best general manicure tip I’ve ever heard is to do your fingers first, and thumbs last — that keeps your opposite thumbnail free to scrape off any accidents. The lines of the stripes on this hand are not so perfectly straight, but that’ll all be fixed when…

…the top coat is applied. I swiped side-to-side, instead of down the nail like usual, and it kind of cleaned up all my little wobbles and inconsistencies of line. That’s the thing that’s great about Insta-Dri — it’s like it seeps into the polish all the way down to the nail, evening out the color and coverage, and strengthening the manicure. It turned like four layers of polish and base coat into one, impenetrable striped nail. I was feeling pretty damn proud of myself at this point, until I realized I then had to do another whole hand. When everything’s all dry, rub some oil on your cuticles, or lotion, or whatever is your wont.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin