Epic Nail Art Expectation vs. Real-Life Fails

Gradient fail

When going for a gradient nail art look, two complementary but contrasting colors are used to create an ombre effect. The idea is for the two colors to fade into each other seamlessly. To get the effect, you use a sponge instead of a brush to apply the polish. But, oh dear. What was this person thinking when they chose two very similar shades of blue? They also managed to get most of the color on their fingers instead of their nails, so this is a double fail.

Patriotism gone wrong

The latest place to show your patriotism is on your nails — especially when the Fourth of July rolls by. You can haul out all those red, white and blue clothes and now have your nails done to match. Trouble is, getting it right takes skill and practice, both of which are clearly missing from this nail fail. The real deal looks great, but we’re calling a fail on the copy for its epic disastrousness. This is a case for the experts.

Plaid precision

Plaid pops up as a trend on a regular basis, and of course, it’s a matter of lifestyle for lumberjacks. As with all things fashionable, plaid has landed on nails all over social media. But this trend is not for the faint of heart. You need to place several pieces of tape over your nails to achieve the perfect straight lines necessary for a successful rendition of the trend. This poor person gets props for trying but ended up with an orangey mess.

Marble wobble

Marble has emerged as a big trend in both fashion and decor, and now the trend has made its way onto nails. Marble is such an amazing material — and not easy to copy, as we can see. The person on the left got the ‘veins’ in the marble just right, so her nails look pretty genuine. But the person on the right…well, somehow they’ve managed to make a watery-looking mess that bears no resemblance whatsoever to marble. They’d better stick to marble decor instead.

Nail statement

With so much going on in the world nowadays, communication is at the top of the agenda — even on nails. This newspaper nail art is for people who want to make a statement. After all, you can fit quite a few words onto a fingernail. The person on the left shows a neat example of the design, which has been perfectly applied. But the person on the right’s efforts just ended in a smudged mess. Better stick with statement T-shirts instead.

Mr. Snowman

At Christmas time, with all the festive cheer abounding, it’s time to haul out your Christmas-themed outfits and decor. But why stop there? Why not bring Christmas to your fingernails too? The person on the left has done a great job with her snow- and snowman-themed nails. But the person on the right, although they almost got it right, ended up with one very strange-looking snowman on their nail indeed. He looks like something out of a horror movie!

Houndstooth horror

Another classic pattern is houndstooth, but we usually only see it on clothing and accessories. Now it’s hit nails, and as the person on the left shows us, it can look pretty snazzy. It can’t be an easy pattern to paint, which explains why the person on the right has made such a mess of it. The black bits are all squashed together, and frankly, it all looks like more of an accident than a design. This is one pattern that needs to be done exactly right.


Instagram is packed with nail art and artists showing off their designs. The person on the left has succeeded in paying the ultimate nail compliment to the social media platform by painting their nails in the colors of the logo, complete with a mini-logo on one nail. Great idea. But if you don’t have a steady hand, this is not something to try on yourself. The person on the right shows us exactly how wrong it can go. They still posted their attempt on Instagram, though.

‘Star Wars’ fans

If you’re a Star Wars fan, the nail art on the left might be right up your alley. Inspired by Star Wars: The Force Awakens, these nails take a high level of skill to get right. The idea, as you can see on the left, is to get your nails to each resemble a little R2-D2. Not easy, right? Not at all. The attempt on the right is such a mess that the nails look as if a two-year-old did them.

Sprinkle, sprinkle

Textured nails are a popular trend, and one way of achieving the look is to use caviar beads. The nails on the left are a perfect example of this technique. They look super-cute and would be sure to make you stand out from the crowd. But the person on the right just hasn’t managed to get the look right at all. It looks as though they shoved their fingers into a jar of sprinkles and most of them fell off. Better luck next time.

Puzzling it over

If you’re a fan of puzzles or love the look of interlocking puzzle pieces, this is a nail trend to try out. But we don’t suggest doing it yourself. As you can see from the valiant attempt on the right, this is one best left to the professionals. It requires specialized equipment, a very steady hand and a good deal of experience. So if the look strikes your fancy, take yourself to the nail salon.

Sky’s the limit

As space exploration continues to produce incredible pictures of our galaxy, images of outer space are now appearing all over the place. From food to clothing, the galaxy is everywhere. And now these images have reached nails. The expert-level version on the left is really beautiful. But this is another one that can go horribly wrong if you don’t have the experience and tools to execute it. If you want the galaxy look on your nails, find someone who’s done it before and leave it to the pros.

More patriotism

We’ve seen the U.S. flag on nails, but this is a patriotic pattern that’s seemingly a little easier to pull off. Actually, it’s not. The manicure on the left is really pretty and eye-catching, having achieved beautiful straight lines and neat borders. But the poor person on the right has splotched paint on their skin, painted wobbly stripes and generally made a dog’s breakfast out of it. The heart’s not too bad, but the pond-scum green nail is not the gold it’s meant to be.

The tricolor

Getting the tricolor design right — like the person on the left did — requires you to use special tape to separate the three sections of your nail. The tape has to be precisely placed, and each color needs to be allowed to dry properly before painting on the next shade. The person on the right has made an unholy mess of this technique. They haven’t managed to tape off the different color sections properly and ended up with paint all over their fingers. Oh dear.

Disney to the fingertips

This is a cute design if you love everything Disney. The Mickey silhouette seems as if it would be the easiest Disney character to paint on your nails, but it’s clearly not as simple as it looks. The person on the left’s nails are spot-on, but the nails on the right are just terrible. The polka dots are too big and Mickey’s a disaster. And honestly, if you’re going to bite your nails, don’t draw attention to them with nail art.

Going dotty

As we’ve seen, getting beautiful nail designs is far from easy and attempting these designs can lead to some epic disasters. But the easiest nail art technique is polka dots.  The top photograph shows a well-executed example of the polka dot design using different-sized dots and a beautifully symmetrical design. This was the inspiration for the person below, who gets points for attempting the look but fails due to lack of symmetry and making the dots the wrong size. Big mess.

Watermelon madness

So far, we’ve come across a whole lot of really complicated nail art patterns that are mostly best left to the experts. But if you’re feeling bold, this watermelon pattern could actually be quite easy to achieve. All it takes is a deep pink base coat, one line of white and another of green, plus a few black dots. Simple, right? Not for the person on the right. The dots are too big, they got polish all over their fingers and the lines are wobbly.

It’s in the accent

Wherever you look these days, people are sporting accent nails. This usually means painting one nail — especially the ring finger nail — a different shade from the rest. Once again, this seems simple. The truth is, we’re not all cut out for nail painting, as the person on the right demonstrates only too clearly. Probably the worst part is the nail polish all over the skin. Surely they could have removed that. Not neat at all, and the accent nail is also a complete mess.

Candy corn

Come Halloween, the stores stock up on candy corn for some reason. No one eats it, but they still insist on getting in truckloads of the stuff, making it a staple of the scary season. The person on the left must be one of the few who likes it and decided to pay homage to the stuff. The person on the right just should not have gone there. They clearly have no idea how to tape off the different color sections and should stick to eating the sweet stuff instead.

Oh Vincent

This is a fantastic idea for the person who appreciates the work of great artists, but it’s certainly not a design that’s easy to pull off. The person on the left luckily found a very artistic nail artist to copy Vincent van Gogh’s celebrated “Starry Night” onto their nails. It looks very convincing. The same, however, cannot be said of the attempt on the right. This person’s nails look as if a whole lot of paint tubes exploded at once. This is not a good look.

The classic French

A French manicure continues to be the classic design that every nail salon — and plenty of amateurs — should be able to do. It is a clean manicured design that looks almost natural and lacks all the frills of the designs we’ve seen so far. But the signature pale nail tip has escaped the notice of the person on the right. They’ve clumsily attempted the stripe at the cuticle end of the nail rather than at the tip. Not very classy at all.

Polka dots everywhere

Polka dots come in and out of fashion every couple of years, and if done in black and white, they’re quite the classic. As we said, dots are one of the easier nail designs to achieve. First, you need to apply the base coat and wait for it to dry. Then place tiny dots of a contrasting color all over each nail, and you’re good to go. Problem is, you can sometimes get this very wrong, as the person on the right is showing.

Even Minions

The world’s obsession with the Minion characters from the Despicable Me movies shows no signs of abating. Everywhere you look, some new item comes onto the market depicting Minions, and now they’re being seen on fingernails. We think the characters are pretty cute on the left, but while the person on the right certainly tried, they have made a dreadful mess of their poor Minions. The little characters are all squashed and misshapen, and the yellow polish is all over the place.

Splatter effect

Painters sometimes use a technique called splattering when they are applying paint to canvas. It’s now made its way to nail art, and as we can see from the nails on the left, it can look really fun. However, this is another one that might seem easy to do but can actually result in a terrible mess. This person posted their failed attempt on Instagram, explaining that they had used a straw to blow the polish around their nails. The effect is messy splotches rather than artful splattering.

Hockey fan

These Instagramers must be hockey fans because they’ve both tried to depict a hockey rink on their nails. The one on the left must have spent ages getting the little details right, from hockey stick to puck. The one on the right, however, not so much. We’re not sure what this person is actually trying to say, but it does not say hockey rink to us. It looks like a random assortment of weird signs. Strange. We think this is too tricky for them to pull off.

St. Paddy’s

In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, this person made an attempt at painting the Irish flag on their nails. But with the colors they’ve chosen, it’s hard to make out whose flag it is. Could it be French? And instead of using actual nail polish, they seem to have used a Sharpie, giving the nails a faded, watered-down look. The white looks pretty dodgy too, so this gets a serious thumbs down from us. Keep the flag IN your hand and not ON it next time.

Duck’s feet?

If you haven’t heard of them before, they’re going to come as a bit of a surprise. What are we talking about? We’re talking about the duck feet nail art trend that looks as if it had its inspiration in the ‘90s. The idea is for the end of your nails to broaden toward the tip, giving a bit of a duck’s foot-type of look. The nails on the left actually look quite subtle, but what on earth was the person on the right thinking?

Hirsute nails

This is one of the weirder trends out there: wearing furry nails. The look popped up recently and some people have embraced the trend ferociously. Frankly, we think these nails make you look like a werewolf. And as for practicality, they must be impossible to use. How would you wash your hands or the dishes? And if you do any cooking in them, you might drop little hairs into the food. No way! Keep these strictly for Instagram and fashion shoots.

Ready for anything

OK, we’re not sure if these nails are real or have been stuck on, but having Swiss Army knife tools attached to the end of your fingers is really taking nail art to another level. The famous knives are meant to help you do just about anything in your day-to-day life, but we can’t believe that these nails are of any practical use whatsoever. What if you have an itch you need to scratch? And how would you shower with them?

Stark reality

These images show the often stark reality of nail art. The look that both were trying to achieve was a quilted effect on their nails. The left-hand pictures show what everyone expects to achieve, while the right-hand image shows what you could well end up with if you try to do it yourself. This is another design that’s best left to the professionals. Otherwise, you could find yourself looking pretty silly sporting an epic nail fail.

Heart art

The heart is an image that grows in popularity every year. They make a fun addition to your manicure and go with just about any other design elements, including polka dots and stripes. But if you’re not careful, what is intended to be a cute heart ends up looking like an amorphous blob that does nothing for the look of your hands. The person on the right must have been in a giant hurry because they got a blurry blob instead of a heart.

Egg art

Sanrio is a Japanese company that designs what are known as ‘kawaii’ (cute) popular products in Japan. Gudetama is one of their characters, and it’s an egg yolk that is often pictured lying down using a slice of bacon as a blanket. This nail art enthusiast obviously loves Gudetama so much that they’ve dedicated both hands to the eggy character. They’ve placed little eggs on their spiked nails. Not very practical, for sure, but quite a tribute to what is clearly their favorite character.


You’ve got to give this person credit for attempting to depict the Star Wars Stormtroopers on their nails. But that’s as far as it goes because this is a fail. The design is complex and difficult to achieve unless you’re a professional. This person made a valiant attempt but ended up with something that’s not as slick as it could be. They obviously need some professional nail tools if they’re going to try something this difficult again.

British patriotism

The Union Jack, the flag of the British Empire, is difficult to replicate because its stripes differ in width in certain instances and most don’t know which way is up. But attempting to paint the flag on your nails is quite the undertaking. The first person has achieved the patriotic look they were going for, but the same can’t be said for the second person. The lines are all messy, there’s too much red and you can hardly see the blue.

Holiday cheer

If it’s Christmas time, lots of people take the time to dress according to the festive theme and even get their nails painted to match. The person on the left has obviously gone to a great deal of trouble — or their nail technician has — because their nails look very festive. But the person on the right, who’s tried to copy the look, just hasn’t got the necessary skills. You have to give them credit for trying, but we suggest sticking to a Christmas sweater instead.

Inspired by nature

The dandelion look on the nails in the top pic is really lovely, with one nail showing a dandelion flower and the others sporting the fluffy seed-carriers that come off the flower. It’s such a pretty look and perfect for spring. But the unlucky person below hasn’t quite gotten it right. Instead of painting a cherry blossom tree, all they ended up with was a blobby mess. It’s a good idea that could have looked fabulous. The problem was in the execution and lack of proper nail tools.

Formal attire

These tuxedo-painted nails are great for adding a touch of fun to a formal occasion, and they don’t look that difficult to achieve. But the reality of one person’s attempt at this look makes us realize that this is, once again, only for the very experienced or professional. The amateur attempt, we’re afraid to say, is just a disaster from beginning to end. Instead of adding to your ensemble, it is enough to make you look as if you’ve been playing with finger paints all day.

A ghoulish affair

These Nightmare Before Christmas nails are perfect for Halloween or even Christmas if you’re feeling naughty. The great thing about these designs is that Jack Skellington’s mouth and eyes are actually meant to be uneven, so you’d think that would make getting the design easier to achieve. That’s not the case. The person at the bottom made the mistake of using a Sharpie to draw on the skeleton’s face, and the condition of their nails makes the whole thing look like a bit of a nightmare.

Marbled effect

The marbled effect is actually not what you might think. Instead of trying to make your nails look as if they’re made out of marble, marbling is a technique used to create swirling name designs. And this technique is not for the inexperienced. It takes a great deal of skill and time to achieve. It involves using a bowl of water and several professional tools. This method is definitely one for the professionals, as the second person’s entire hand shows.


The first tip that will help you get better at doing nail art is minimizing the amount of nail polish that you get on your skin. You could this the hard way by applying wood glue to the skin around your nail, and after painting it, you can remove the glue with the excess paint on it. The easier way to avoid getting nail polish on your skin is by applying petroleum jelly on your nail and fingertip. After painting your nail, you will have to wipe the petroleum jelly and wait for the paint to dry before you wash your hands.

Professional help

Having your friend or lover paint your nails might seem like the best way to spend time with them and get the job done. Well, they might get the job done, but will letting your friends paint your nails be worth the comfort? This lady got the answer to this question as soon as she realized what had happened to her nails. The lesson she learned from this is that it’s always better to go to the professionals.


Getting this nail art right seems like a daunting task, but this person certainly had the capability to make this design a success. All her moustaches look almost perfect — the only problem with them is that some are poorly placed. She also ruined this design by adding the white polish above the moustaches, but maybe she did this to “improve” her nail art. The final blow that destroyed this potentially excellent art is that she didn’t wait for her nail polish to dry long enough.

V for victory?

This nail art fail is a sobering reminder of why we should strive to keep our expectations aligned with our capabilities. It’s obvious that this person isn’t good at drawing, but they went ahead with trying to paint this design anyway. To add fuel to the fire, this person didn’t let their nail polish dry long enough, but maybe they like that blurry finish. Let’s hope that this was meant as a joke because if this person invested their emotions and “expertise” in this, laughing at them might be cruel.


The first thing that made her attempt at this nail art fail is that she positioned the white lines and dots in the wrong manner. Logic dictates that these dots must be at the corners of a nail and the lines should be drawn at the curves of the nail. She drew these in the opposite order, but cutting her nails incorrectly could’ve contributed to this issue. Last but not least, her outline completely killed all chances of redemption for this nail art attempt.

Candy cane

Almost everything this person used to create this disaster could’ve been used to create the perfect replica of this nail art if it had been placed in skilled hands. The only wrong tool she used is the nail polish brush because it looks too big. However, the main reason behind this nail art’s demise is the hands of the person who painted it.  The “artist” who made this design should do more research on what the word diagonal means before they attempt it again.


Making bubbles on your nails can be a great way to decorate them in an extraordinary yet beautiful way. This design definitely looks extraordinary, but there’s absolutely nothing beautiful about it. Even though it’s already ruined, the person who did this could at least try to make it look bearable by painting it. This design looks like some sort of disease, and if the person who made it wants to paint it, they mustn’t paint it in one color. Otherwise, it’d look like tentacles from a cartoon monster in real life.


The person who did this nail art got it wrong on all levels. Starting with the most obvious, this person drew the wrong tree on these nails. The picture that’s at the top shows that the original nail art has a tree that looks similar to deciduous trees. Well, this guy or girl went ahead and drew palm trees instead. Another thing that brings out all the bad in the second nail art is that this person didn’t use the cream-colored nail polish that’s seen in the original version’s background.


Whether they’re used in jewelry or clothing, gemstones always look great because of their striking colors — and that’s what propelled this lady to try this nail art. After seeing it done on that picture, she thought that it was going to be easy. Little did she know that it would take more than just getting the right colors. For this nail art, you need appropriate brushes and experience to pull it off correctly. However, I don’t think that’s the only reason she couldn’t pull it off. Her forefinger suggests that booze might’ve also played a part.

Plain polish

What this person did is downright outrageous. She wasn’t faced with the difficult task of trying to replicate professional-level nail art perfectly. All she had to do was paint her nails in one color and in the neatest way possible, but maybe she isn’t much of a tidy person. With that said, her “nail art” went beyond untidy — it’s socially unacceptable and looks like she just dipped her fingers in nail polish.