Tribal Nail Art

DIY nail art is having a real moment. From color blocking to swirl art (we gushed over those DIY’s here) to bedazzled, foiled, and gilded creations, nails have become this season’s means of individual expression – like a pair of killer stilettos or a blunt bob (only less expensive than the latter two). With the nail art trend taking center stage, we asked celebrity manicurist Dawn Sterling, who has worked with Naomi Campbell, Kirsten Dunst, and Rhianna (to name a few), to give her tips on a DIY favorite: Tribal Nail Art.

Inspiration: “This past Spring I was thrilled to see so many nail art designs on the runway,” says Sterling.  “As a young girl growing up in Brooklyn, nail art has always been a form of fashionable self-expression. As middle school students, my friends and I would airbrush our nails to match our sneakers and school uniforms or hand-paint designs with neons, deep dark color and pastels depending on the season or event. One of my favorite trends that is making a comeback in a big way is the tribal print. Reminiscent of African tribal designs, this type of nail art incorporates bold patterns, colors and shapes. Tribal prints were seen on the spring 2012 runway of  Donna Karan. Please note, although it looks difficult it’s actually super simple to recreate and, if at first you don’t get it right, that’s what nail-polish remover is for.”


Step 1: Select colors you love. Any colors will do, but I recommend bright. This is a loud print that lends itself well to funky colors.
I used: Illamasqua in purple – any color from them is a vibrant hit. Color Club neon pink – not only is this brand organic, it has one of the best neon collections available. Uslu Airline – I tracked down from Germany for its rich blue shade. Essie for its white – it applies thin and rich and dries quickly.

Step 2: Cover the nail with a white base and allow 2 minutes to dry. Apply a second basecoat.

Step 3: Stripe the nail with the 3 colors you’ve selected, again allowing 2 minutes to dry.

Step 4: Once that has dried outline the colors with a black nail art brush. I use a black nail art pen from Color Club. What designs you use is up to you. This time I did lines and dots. In the past, I’ve done the design the same on all ten nails and sometimes I get crazy and do each nail differently! This is an adventurous trend, not for the faint of heart. Get creative and let dry for 2 mins.

Step 5: Add your topcoat to seal everything and allow to dry for 2 minutes and Voila! You’re officially on trend.”

*tribal nail art steps image courtesy of Dawn Sterling.

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  1. I’ve always loved these tribal nails–but I’m SO bad with nail art I highly doubt I’d be able to pull this off. LOVE your purple and pink version though!

  2. Tia
    August 2, 2012

    Tribal prints are great especially during the summer, but I never considered tribal nail art. I guess it’s because I rarely do any designs on my nails, but this trend is worth trying. Thanks :)

  3. koki
    September 1, 2012

    bagad elrasm 3alaa eldawafer da to7fa.

  4. veronica
    October 15, 2012


  5. setu
    February 21, 2013

    Wow….never knew this was so easy.shall do one for sure.

    Thenailartandbeautydiaries.wordpress. Com

  6. Ashanti H.
    July 3, 2013

    I have small round finger nails, is this an okay look for me?

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