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How to Do Your Nails Like a Rock Star

Updated on August 15, 2022
My first manicure with gel and acrylics.  I never thought my nails could look so good. :)
My first manicure with gel and acrylics. I never thought my nails could look so good. :)

I was a notorious nail biter growing up. In fact, it wasn't until I graduated from college that I was finally able to kick the habit. Then, when I was pregnant with my first son, I was amazed by how fast, strong, and beautiful my nails were growing. Seeing how interested I had become in my nails my hubby treated me to my first manicure and from then on I was hooked!

Getting my nails done at a salon was of course the easiest and most pampering way to get them done, but being the creative type, I became very interested in teaching myself to do designs and do my own nails. I also spent a lot of time browsing YouTube and the internet to find cute and easy designs to try out.

Now that my son is a hyper toddler I don't really have time to play with nail designs--but I can still have fun looking up awesome designs for those father and son days when mommy gets some time to relax :)

While french manicures and seasonal color choices are a nice simple way to paint nails. I tend to go for more fun and funky styles. So here are some tips to get you rock star hands.

Take Care of Your Hands and Nails

First things first, if your nails are brittle and breaking or if you are a bad nail biter like I used to be, then you need to first learn how to take care of your hands and nails.

This doesn't really call for much, honestly. For basic care all you need is a good moisturizer, a nail file, nail clipper, and cuticle tool.

Moisturize your hands daily. When I first wrote this Hub, I mentioned that unscented goat's milk lotion is good for people with sensitive skin like mine. In general, it's good to use skin care products that are free of potentially harmful chemicals. Since I've written this Hub though, I've started using Cetaphil Restoraderm as prescribed by my dermatologist. I can get pretty bad eczema on my hands (red, patchy, flaky, even bleeding), but since I've started using this lotion it has completely cleared up. Cetaphil has other creams and lotions too for general use. I'm in love with this brand, but you should find a lotion that works for you.

File your nails. I prefer filing to clipping because you can shape and smooth the nail a lot easier and nicer. I have also heard that it's actually better for your nails and strengthens them. Rounding the nails or squaring them is really a matter of personal preference, but I would suggest rounding the edges at least a little bit. This is because rounded objects have no weak points, unlike boxed objects. Therefore, rounded nails will be less likely to break. I'd say clip your nails only if there's a substantial amount of length you want to get rid of or is badly misshapen.

Push back cuticles. If you have a metal filer you could probably use the plastic handle to do this depending on your nail filer. Pushing your cuticles back is not only more aesthetically pleasing, it allows your nails to breath which will lead to healthier nails in the future. I would not recommend cutting your cuticles as this can be painful and lead to infection if done improperly.

These are just some super basic and easy tips on how you can care for your hands and nails. In addition to these little things, you can also paint your nails regularly with clear calcium nail polish or other nail strengthening polishes.

Massaging your hands is another way to pamper yourself and keep your hands nice and supple. In my Hub How to Use Hot Chocolate for Makeup, I mention some ways you can make homemade scrubs and lotions using products you probably already have in your house. Once a week or so you can massage your hands with these scrubs or lotions to keep your skin soft (and sweet--yum).

To make the glitter tips I dabbed on some blue with a sponge, then dabbed some darker blue at the tips, and went over it with a silvery glitter polish.
To make the glitter tips I dabbed on some blue with a sponge, then dabbed some darker blue at the tips, and went over it with a silvery glitter polish. | Source

Rock Star Polish

Picking a bold nail polish is the quickest and easiest way to make a statement with your nails. I like to use very loud bright colours like hot pink, bright orange, and neon yellow (I also like the effect of white nail polish). Iridescent nail polishes that change colours when you move your hands are really cool, they remind me of the inside of a seashell. Another big favorite of mine is glitter polish and metallic polish. Any of these polishes can give you the rock star feel you're looking for.

I would suggest though, before applying any nail polish, not matter what you plan to do, put down one or two coats of clear or calcium nail polish. This will help prevent the colour of the polish you're using from permanently dying your nails.

You can play around with these polishes by putting a different colour on each nail if you can't decide which one you want to use.

You can apply glitter polish to a solid coloured nail to add a bit of a kick. I like to do this with hot pink and a hot pink glitter polish, it just adds so much character. Or you can add a bit of colour to the tips of your nails then use glitter polish to sort of frost the nail tips--this works especially well if you have long nails. Though, I have to say, I've done this in pink and blue and I happen to think that the blue looked a lot better. The pink kind of made my nails look bloody, so be mindful of your colour choices.

My favorite metallic polishes are the ones that are really shiny and make it look like a sheet of metal was literally glued on to your nail. Silver is my personal favorite. :)

Glow-in-the-dark nail polish is a pretty cool way to finish your nails. Depending on whether or not you buy it tinted, it goes on pretty clear--just a bit cloudy. For an added touch, you can apply a coat or two to your painted nails. The effects of it don't last especially long though and you do need to make sure light hit your nails pretty well before turning off the light.

DIY Nail Designs

If you're feeling ambitious and creative, nail designs are a really edgy way to spice up your nails. Some designs can be a bit complex, especially if you don't have the proper tools or are a beginner, but here are a few designs that I have done and/or that I like that I think are perfect for any skill level.

To achieve this look I used LA Colors Art Deco Polishes which come with thinner brushes specifically for accents and designs.
To achieve this look I used LA Colors Art Deco Polishes which come with thinner brushes specifically for accents and designs.

Finishing Tip

I get really excited when I finish a new nail design so I'll often take pictures before I've cleaned up my nails. If you get little bits of polish on your skin when painting your nails or doing a design you can easily clean it up with a Q-tip and some nail polish remover. Or you can rub it off when you take a shower or wash your hands.

Lines and Diagonals

The taping method is a really easy way to create crisp lines. Using painter's/masking tape or scotch tape, tape of the area that you don't want to be painted. The paint the rest of your nail. Once the polish has set, but hasn't completely dried, carefully pull away the tape. You can use this method to crate diagonals on your nails very easily. Diagonal blocks of colour are simple, yet visually interesting. With some care you can also colour block your nails this way.

You can also make lines with LA Colors Art Deco nail polishes which come with thinner brushes that make it easier to create thin lines on your nails and control your brush. That is how I created the look on the right. I painted on diagonal lines on to my nails. Then when that was dry I dabbed some pink nail polish on to a piece of paper and used the ballpoint of a bobby pin to make the flowers by putting 5 little dots together. Toothpicks can be used to create the same effect at a finer scale.

For the "Rock Star" look I would try this design with neon colours, black, white, metallics and silvers.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
For this one I did the taping method described above to put down the orange and even added a tiger face. For this one I added dabs of orange, striped, then painted on nail tips.
For this one I did the taping method described above to put down the orange and even added a tiger face.
For this one I did the taping method described above to put down the orange and even added a tiger face.
For this one I added dabs of orange, striped, then painted on nail tips.
For this one I added dabs of orange, striped, then painted on nail tips.

Animal Print Nails

Tiger prints (or Zebra Prints) are my favorite to put on nails because they're fun and easy to do. You don't have to worry about having a wobbly hand when making the stripes. Just put down your base colour then paint on your stripes. It helps to look at a tiger or zebra to get an idea of how they look.

Cheetah prints are really cute and actually very popular in nail design. Paint on your base colour then using a deco brush, bobby pin, or toothpick pain on cheetah markings. Then go back in and add a lighter colour in the center of the spots.

I recently did animal prints on my nails by putting down hot pink polish, then hot pink glitter on top, then striping, then light pink accents, and sparkly prism-like rainbow glitter on top. I loved it! Try using wild colours to make your design more fun and interesting.

If you want to add faces I would suggest drawing your image and even painting it out on an index card before you put it on your nails. To make my tiger I put down an orange base first, then added two dabs of white for the eyes and painted the tip white for the muzzle. I striped and actually used a fine tip sharpie marker to add the eyes and mouth details since I don't have nail deco pens. The sharpies worked decently enough, but when I went over the artwork with clear polish it bled a little so I wouldn't say it's the best.

Dog Nail Design featuring my dog, Biscuit
Dog Nail Design featuring my dog, Biscuit
I love Hello Kitty!  Wish I had cleaned my nails up before I took this pic though.
I love Hello Kitty! Wish I had cleaned my nails up before I took this pic though.


Some people like to use their nails as a canvas to display their loves. I strongly encourage you to experiment with trying to think up ways to incorporate your interests into your designs. It just highlights your personality and makes creating the designs so much more fun.

After I adopted my dog Biscuit, I featured her on my nails. I painted her on my ring finger by first putting down her base colour, then tried to mimic her muzzle design. After that dried I added her facial features with other art deco polishes.

To make my Hello Kitty design I put down a base coat, then started painting my Hello Kitty. I put down the white shape of her head, then painted her bow and nose. I went back in with a black deco brush to add the lineart and details, but had to touch up the bow colour. I striped the nail tips and for the little designs I just made random designs using my brushes and bobby pins.

Nail Bling

Here's a great Rock Star Manicure tip I almost forgot! When glitter polish isn't enough, rock out your nail designs with rhinestones and stickers. I wouldn't recommend this for active parents are people who work with their hands a lot though. This also looks best on long natural nails or fake nails.

You can buy adhesive rhinestones and stickers and put the right on to your nails or you can use clear nail polish or nail glue to stick on stones and place paper cut outs (or drawings).

To attach stones dab just a bit of clear nail polish or nail glue on to your nail and place the stones carefully. It would probably be best to use a thin tweezer to do this so you can see what you're doing and place it more accurately.

To attach paper decals, print or draw your design and cut it out. Then dab a bit of clear nail polish on to your nail and place your decal carefully with a tweezer and press it down. Once it has set, protect your art by going over it with at least two layers of clear nail polish.

YouTube is Your Friend

I love to browse YouTube videos for cool nail designs and tips. My absolute favorite nail artist is cutepolish because she has so many adorable nail designs and her tutorials are super clear and easy to replicate. Most of what I've learned has come specifically from her.

Here are a few nail tutorials I feel fit right into the Rock Star look.

Glittery Animal Print Nails

Pink & Black Hearts w/ Rhinestones

Black & Teal Abstract Nail Design

Rainbow Nails

To make this fit into the Rock Star image more, try a black background and pastel colours for the rainbow.
To make this fit into the Rock Star image more, try a black background and pastel colours for the rainbow.

More Nail Designs

To see more nail design tutorials, get tips on taking care of your nails, and see pretty nail polish colours check out my Pinterest board on Nails.

Please also feel free to share your tutorials, designs, or Hubs on nails in the comments below :)

From the Readers

Here are some additional suggestions from people who have commented and my responses to some questions:

Crackle nail polish is a quick and easy way to get a cool rock star look. How could I forget this!

Fake nails can be a great alternative to people with short nails and nail biters. If you're applying them yourself it can take some practice to get them to look real nice, but you can do it. My mom uses DIY press on nails when she has to do her nails quickly for an event or conference and they can really look great when done well.

If you're going to a salon to get your nails done please check Yelp or talk to people who have had their nails done their before. If the place seems unclean and not well kept try to find some place else to go. A bad manicure or pedicure can easily lead to an infection! I have friends who can attest to this. :(

For you nail biters, try and think about what it is that is making you bite your nails and try and find an alternative outlet. For me, stress is what made me bite my nails; I would always bite them when I was in school or around test time, but in the summer I would just stop. Once you've figured out what is making you bite your nails try and find a more positive outlet and try to be mindful during the times when you know you'll bite your nails.

To grow your nails try taking multivitamins every day and use calcium nail polish and strengthening polish to make your nails stronger. If you're a woman you can also take prenatal vitamins, even if you aren't pregnant or nursing--they're just super multivitamins. Not only will your nails grow fast and strong, your skin, hair, and teeth will reap the benefits as well.

Thank you all for your encouraging comments and great questions!


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