The Art of Nail Art: Designs, Challenge & Creativity

No canvas is too small to express your creativity, which is why some artists have turned their attention to their nails as a medium upon which they unleash their art. This story of nail art is a story brimming with creativity, challenges, unique designs and innovation. That’s why today, we’ll be focusing on Nail Art – how it all started and what helped make it the mainstream art form we know today!

While nail art has been around for a while, it is at the turn of the new millennium that it really gained traction and gained attention as well as mainstream press coverage. With social media increasingly dictating trends, nail art has become a vital part of the fashion and cosmetics industry. Its popularity grows each year, making appearances everywhere from Instagram to YouTube and Pinterest; you can now follow the frontrunner’s creative minds by watching intricate design tutorials to get inspired.  

When and where did nail art originate from? This remains unclear, and can’t be pinpointed to a single moment in time, and it seems that interest in nail art sprouted almost overnight in countries across the globe. Egypt is one such place – women would dye their nails using orange dye derived from henna, to showcase their social status and amplify their seductive powers. While upper-class women would wear brighter and deeper shades, lower-class women would sport more neutral and pastel shades. In the same era, in China, early forms of nail polish were composed of beeswax, egg whites, gelatines and vegetable dyes. To “apply” it, one would dip their nails in the mixture and wait up to several hours till it set – a far cry from today’s instant Shellac! One will never know how many manicures and distinctive designs have been ruined by our impatience. Later, during the Zhou Dynasty, a more simple but more telling form of nail polish appeared, which used silver and gold dust to mark one’s social status.  

If you think that particularly long nails are a new trend, think again. It is said that Empress Dowager Cixi, who ruled China from 1835 to 1908, even had nail guards to protect her 6 inches long nails.   

As for nail art, as we know it today, it seems that it first appeared during the Inca Empire, with eagles’ paintings on nails. Modern manicures made their entry into the world in the early 1800s, but it took another 100 years before the first liquid nail polish was invented. At first, it was colourless, then quickly a variety of colours appeared on the market. The progress and advancement in nail polish technology have kept evolving since. Still, painting one’s nails has well and truly become the cornerstone of fashion since the 1980s, with the trend continuing to grow since It even made it to the silver screen, through a documentary titled Nailgasm in 2012.   

A quick search on your favourite search engine will yield millions of results and showcase everything and anything from nail trends to videos on creating nail art at home. Pinterest also showcases more than 900 ideas and patterns you can replicate. From nail polish brands to compilations videos or magazine articles – this is a truly fascinating, rich, and creative world.  

This article wouldn’t be complete without a shoutout to some of our creative adopters who are painting the world in all sorts of colours, one nail at the time 

Manila Girl Nails

 Beatrice is the face behind the Manila Girl Nails initiative. She started her blog in 2013 as it was a way for her to cope with difficulties in her life, but also to share things that matter to her – romance, friendship, beauty, and fashion. From classic to personalised nail art, Beatrice dabbles in a range of exciting palettes. 

Her work can be appreciated on her .art website or Instagram @manilagirlnails 

Telly Talons

Telly Talons was founded by Chantel Imani back in 2019. It is worth pointing out that, unfortunately, diversity is lagging in the beauty sector, which is why Chantel is on a mission to fight the lack of inclusion and representation of people of colour in the industry. Telly Talons nail art features cool, modern designs that are a feast for the eyes.

You can check out more nail art on Chantel Imani’s .art website or Instagram @tellytalons. 

The Sacred Nail

 We are lucky to count the awesome Ashley Stevenson’s The Sacred Nail shop among our adopters. Her mission is to turn any nail art dreams into reality. Soft gel extensions, gel manicure, nail art, or Gel-X —  all nail work is an artwork with Ashley. Each beauty appointment is a fun challenge and a delight for this artist: the more complicated the project, the better. 

Visit her website to find more about her universe and find her under on Instagram. 


.ART Domains are dedicated to connecting, empowering, and supporting our vibrant community. We care about fostering a sense of belonging to the art world, and this new section celebrates creators that have recently joined.ART. This is our way to give back and shine a light on the work of amazing creatives, especially in these testing times! If you would like to be featured, please have a look at our submission guidelines here.  

.ART Team
.ART Team
members are global citizens with interests ranging from art history to social justice. If we had an office cat we would have called it Basquiat.