Nail Art 101: Week Four - Freehand Basics

We are on week four of the Nail Art 101 series and this post is all about freehand. Scary, I know. It certainly was for me when I first started with nail art but this post will center around three basic freehand designs that all nail artists start with. It's all about getting comfortable and stretching your idea of what you are capable of. Let's get started!

The three basic patterns or designs we will be talking about are Leopard print, Flower print and polka dots. All are super easy and don't require a ton of fancy tools. You will however need two of the tools I mentioned in the Nail Art 101: The Tools post: a dual-tipped dotting tool and a small detailing brush.

Leopard Print

Leopard print is one of the easiest freehand designs to do. It is one of those maximum impact minimal effort type of things that are always so awesome. 

Polishes needed:

Base Color

Accent Color for splotches



  • Start with you base color (let dry completely)
  • Using the brush from your accent color apply splotches randomly onto your nails. The splotches do not need to be uniform - they actually look better and more like real leopard print when they are not all identical.
  • Using either your dotting tool or striping brush (pick whichever works best for you - they both get the job done) apply "C" or "U" shapes around the splotches. Add a few random spots around to make the pattern more realistic.
  • Let dry for a few minutes before applying your top coat to avoid smudging.

Flower Print

If leopard print is the easiest freehand pattern than I would say flowers are a close second. I was so shocked at how easy these were to do when I tried them for the first time. And they are so pretty to boot!

Polishes needed:

Base color

Main color for flowers

Lighter accent color for detailing

Green for leaves and details


  • Apply base color. Let dry completely
  • Using the brush from you main floral color (you can also use your detailing brush for a crisper more detailed flower), apply splotches - again you don't want uniform circles because flowers aren't uniform. This is will be the outline of your petals. 
  • Taking you detailing brush apply your lighter accent color softly in "c" shapes within your splotches building a "petal" like pattern.
  • Clean your detailing brush and then apply your "leaves" around the flowers. This last part is entirely optional. You can just do the flowers if you'd like but I always like to add a bit of greenery to my flower patterns.
  • Apply your top coat.

Polka Dots

Okay, I take it all back. What is the easiest freehand pattern you can do? Hands down - polka dots! They are soooo easy and so fun and who doesn't like polka dots, right?

Polishes needed:

Base color

Color for polka dots


  • Apply base, let dry.
  • Using your dotting tool (you can use either the small end or the larger end depending on how big you would like you dots to be. Apply one dot near the top of your nail. Apply three more dots down the center of the nail below the first leaving an even amount of space between each.
  • Apply three more dots along the sides of the nail; using the blank space between the original dots as your guide.
  • Let sit for a few minutes to avoid smears and then apply top coat.

And there you have it folks! Three really simple and fun designs to ease you into the world of freehand nail art. Honestly once you try it you will fall in love and want to try more. 

Stay tuned next week the final - and very exciting - post in the series!