The Independent’s journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission.

Lockdown manicure: The trending nail art designs you can create at home

An expert nail artist reveals how to give yourself an Insta-worthy look

Louise Whitbread
Wednesday 06 May 2020 09:31
From animal print to colourful French tips, it's easy to try your hand at nail art without a salon visit
From animal print to colourful French tips, it's easy to try your hand at nail art without a salon visit

The lockdown means more time at home, and you may find yourself with more time on your hands, looking at bare nails and wanting a change.

While salon appointments are temporarily on hold, there is nothing stopping you from giving yourself a manicure and staying on trend with the styles popular for spring/summer 2020.

Colourful French manicures were seen at SS20 Zimmerman and SS20 Oscar de la Renta shows, while gemstones and pearls were on the agenda at Simone Rocha and Rouland Mouret and pops of colour were celebrated at Paul Costelloe.

If you’re looking for plain polishes, IndyBest have picked out the best vegan ones and reviewed Shellac nail kits for glossy, long-lasting finishes to master while at home.

However, if you want to up your nail game and try out some of the biggest trends this season, such as animal print, marbled designs and more, then keep reading, as nail artist Metta Francis, founder of Nails by Mets, a mobile nail artistry business, shares her tips for achieving them at home.

“Animal print, rainbow and marble are designs that can be easily created at home without the need for any extra special tools you can use bits lying around the house,” Francis says, alongside clean, natural nail looks and skinny French manicures.

She also reveals that shorter almond nail shapes and "squoval" (oval and square) are particularly popular this season.

You can trust our independent roundups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Rainbow shades

Seen all over our Instagram feeds, the rainbow nail trend has a different hue of pastel blue, pink, coral, yellow, mint green and lilac for every nail. It’s the easiest look to perfect if you’re a novice, or are just really messy when it comes to manicures.

  • Metta recommends wiping your nails with acetone before painting, so any oils are removed from the nail. “If there's any moisture or oils, the polish will slip and slide.” 
  • Apply a base coat, which will act as a sticky layer for the nail polish to grab onto.
  • Line up your polishes in the order you want to apply them, and do two coats on each nail. We love the Peacći rainbow nail art kit (Peacći, £50) with its selection of five colours and a nail art brush so you can master rainbow nails in one easy kit. It’s also donating £5 from every one sold to the NHS.
  • Barry M also has a huge affordable collection in every colour imaginable, we love the Gelly nail paint in lavender (Superdrug, £3.99), it’s got the glossy finish of a gel polish without the commitment, so you can easily remove with nail polish remover if you fancy a colour change in a weeks time.
  • According to Metta, a top coat is a must for giving your manicure a glossy finish and to protect the colour coats. “I recommend CND vinylux top coat (Amazon, £8.16) as it's fast-drying and hard-wearing."

Animal prints

Leopard, cow and zebra print nails are easier than they look, and can be done freehand. The point is for the animal print to not look completely uniform, so even if you’re a little messy, you can still easily nail this look. This is how to achieve a leopard print style, according to Metta.

  • Paint your base coat.
  • Apply two coats of your chosen base colour, we’d suggest the Pink putty 704 (My Beauty Brand, £15). It’s a beige nude shade that will suit every skin tone and has a wide brush for easy coverage. 
  • Choose a complimentary polish colour for the spots, says Metta, and use the nail polish brush to dab on random spots onto the nail. 
  • Use a black polish and dotting tool such as this Two way dotting pen (Amazon, £2.48) to add the black spot outlines and random black leopard spots onto the nail.
  • Once dry, apply a top coat. 

Colourful french tips

If you like classic styles, like a traditional French manicure, switch it up by swapping out the white tips for colourful ones, which you’ve probably seen all over Instagram, with tips painted red, pink, blue and green. You could also incorporate the rainbow trend into it, with each nail tip an alternate shade. Here’s how to do it.

  • Apply a base coat.
  • Apply two coats of your chosen base colour, a neutral shade will work best such as a pale pink or beige-toned nude. The nailberry l'oxygene nail lacquer in almond (Look Fantastic, £15) is our go-to vegan and halal-approved polish.
  • You can paint the tips of your nails freehand, but if you wanted a guide to help, try this 10 pack of french manicure tip guides (Amazon, £3.38) to keep it tidy. 
  • Vibrant red tips is an easy shade to go for that’ll suit all skin types and make a bright, on-trend statement. Try the OPI classic nail lacquer in big apple red (Look Fantastic, £12.50)
  • Once dry, apply a top coat. 


Creating a marbled effect may look difficult but it is surprisingly simple. You can use up to three contrasting colours to create them, Metta recommends using a light, medium and dark shade.

To create a marble look with coordinating colours, try the Keep it tonal set (Nails Inc, £22), which is a mix of mocha brown, khaki, mushroom and natural shades.

  • Apply a base coat.
  • Apply one coat of colour.
  • Apply the darkest colour generously in a “swirly” movement from the top left to the tip of the nail, this doesn't need to cover the whole nail.
  • Immediately after applying the darkest colour, generously paint on the medium shade, mixing and blending into the dark colour with the nail polish brush. 
  • Wipe off the brush to avoid mixing the colours in your nail polish bottle.
  • Add the lightest colour and mix and blend on the nail with the brush; wipe off the brush.
  • Wait for the polish to dry and apply a top coat to seal in the design, this creates a smooth surface and leaves the nails looking super shiny.

Stickers, stickers, stickers

If in doubt, reach for the nail stickers. Applied on bare nails or one a single shade, they’re the easiest way to feel like you’ve just stepped out of a salon with a fresh new manicure and to cover up cuticle growth. It’s minimal effort with maximum impact.

  • Apply a base coat.
  • Apply one coat of colour. We’d suggest white, a simple base which will take the guesswork out of trying to colour-match your chosen stickers to polish you’ve used. We’d recommend the OPI nail lacquer in alpine snow (OPI, £13.90). It only takes two coats for opaque coverage, while still staying glossy once dry.
  • Pick your stickers. There’s plenty of designs to try, but the Ciate London cheat sheets (Ciate London, £16) are our favourite. The pack comes with four different design sheets to play with; Mattisse inspired abstract illustrations, pastel leopard spots, evil eyes and geometric lines. Simply peel from the backing sheet they come on, and apply to a dry nail with tweezers for expert precision. 
  • Apply a top coat to ensure a smooth finish and stickers that won’t budge and they should last for up to a week. 
  • When you want to remove them, use nail polish remover to shift the top coat, then soak hands in warm water and use a cuticle pusher or tweezers to peel the stickers off. 

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in