do you like my nails

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I should probably preface this by saying that, while I’m by no means an expert, I’m not exactly a nail art novice. There was a period of time at the beginning of 2015 when I always had some kind of ~*exciting*~ manicure going on, whether that was just an accent nail or some kind of relatively easy design. Since then, my love for nail art has tapered off, mostly because I don’t have a ton of time to sit and give myself an ornate manicure. I’m a very busy and important person, you see. 

(Related: 10 Non-Cheesy Valentine’s Day Clothes and Accessories, Because Festivity Doesn’t Need to Over-the-Top)

That said, Valentine’s Day is coming up, and since there’s nothing I love more than dressing up for a theme or holiday, I thought it was the perfect time to resurrect my nail art skillz. I wracked my brain for the five easiest V-Day-ready nail art designs I could think of (I am several months out-of-practice, after all), grabbed my polish, and got to painting. Or, well, attempting to paint. Really, it was just an hour of cursing and slapping polish on any available surface, but what is art if not an experiment in foul language and color play?

Here’s what I used:


This is part of SinfulColors‘ Valentine’s Day collection, which I thought would be appropriate for the occasion. In addition to these four shades (the black bottle is a gel tech top coat), I also used a red OPI shade, a striper brush, and a dotting tool. If you don’t have nail art tools on hand, you can always use a toothpick a bobby pin to achieve the same results.

On with the show!

Look #1: A Big Red Heart, Because I’m Not a Creative Human

What’s more festive for Valentine’s Day than a classic red heart? To start off, I used the lightest shade of polish as my based. Then, using the bigger end of my dotting tool, I picked up a bit of red polish and applied to small dots right next to each other:


After that, I proceeded (well, attempted to proceed) to drag the paint down from the two dots into a sharp point to create the heart shape. After all was said and done, it wasn’t a complete disaster:


It’s a bit of a wonky heart, but what single 20-something doesn’t have a wonky heart around Valentine’s Day, you know what I mean?

(Related: 12 Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas For The Person You Just Started Dating)

Look #2: One Mini Heart, Because Sometimes I’m Not Creative on a Smaller Scale

So I had to skip a finger because I’m a bad planner, but don’t make a big deal out of it, okay?

My second look was supposed to be even more simple than the first, but slightly more subtle for those of you who don’t want to walk around looking like you’ve just put stickers on your nails. A small, white heart should be easy to pull off, right? (Spoiler alert: wrong.)

My base color for this look was that red shade I mentioned before, and the same technique as with the previous heart applied here as well. This time, though, I used the smaller end of the dotting tool and the lightest shade of polish:


It was all going well, and then the next thing I knew:


Okay, so the glare from our overhead lighting actually makes that heart look a lot better than it was IRL, but I’m not going to lie to you: it kind of looked like I just spit white nail polish all over the corner of my nail. Since that wasn’t the look I was going for that day, I wasn’t all too pleased. With a little practice though, anyone can pull these looks off; all it takes is patience and a steady hand. And maybe some nail polish remover nearby, just to be safe.

Click to the next page to see the rest of my Valentine’s Day nail art looks!

Look #3: Polka Dots, Because if They’re Good Enough for Lauren Conrad, They’re Good Enough for Me

I knew right from the get go that this was going to be the easiest look for me to complete—this wasn’t my first polka dot manicure rodeo. I did one for July 4th last year that I’m still obsessed with to this day.

To start, I applied my base shade: the second darkest shade of pink, which actually turned out to be quite a lovely color:


Using the same small dotting tool and light polish as before, I applied four small dots down the center of my nail:


With any kind of dotting tool, whether it’s an actual nail art tool or just the tip of a bobby pin, the key is to not pick up too much polish, and to tap on the nail very lightly to avoid getting oversized, misshapen dots. As you can see, I sort of screwed up the second one down from the tip of my nail, but such is life. Once the light dots were complete, I cleaned off my dotting tool, used it to pick up some of the darkest shade of pink, and applied three small dots on either side of the white dots:


All in all, I was actually really happy with this look. I’d definitely consider doing it again.

Look #4: A Poor Man’s Glitter Ombre

Guys, I’m so, so bad at glitter ombre nails. I’m not even going to pretend that this was a one-off bad experience. Just, like, look at this disaster:


I was using this tutorial, and I tried so hard to follow it, but really it just ended up looking like a normal nail with a glitter top coat. Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with that, but when you’re going for ombre and end up with something completely different, it’s just a little disheartening.

(Related: 10 Gorgeous Pieces of Jewelry For Your Partner on Valentine’s Day for Under $100)

Look #5: X’s and O’s, or the Only Action I’ll Be Getting This Valentine’s Day

For my final look, I was going to be using my striper brush for the first time, so I wanted to give myself as much room as possible. Using a small amount of the blue polish on the tip of the brush, I very carefully and very slooowly painted on small X’s diagonally across my nail:


It wasn’t perfect, but it went better than I’d expected. Once those were done, I used my dotting tool and the red polish one last time to dot on the little O’s:


Then I patted myself on the back, because I can’t remember the last time I was so proud of myself (is that sad?).

Here’s my finished, festive hand, if you want to see all the looks at once:


I’ve never felt more alive.

If I learned anything from this experience, it’s that if you’re going to try your hand at Valentine’s Day nail art, you need to lower your expectations ASAP. Oh, and maybe don’t drink two cups of really strong coffee right before you do it, because shaky hands don’t exactly make for even nails.

Hopefully I’ve inspired some of your creative spirits, and even if I didn’t, I hope you have a glorious, happy Valentine’s Day!

Will you try any of these Valentine’s Day nail art looks this year? Which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

(Photos: Sara Steinfeld/The Gloss)