Nails

11 holiday nail art ideas you've never seen

Dec. 22, 2011 at 11:27 AM ET

TotalBeauty.com

It's holiday party time, and we're guessing you already have your outfit picked out, your hairstyle in place, and your makeup down pat. But what about your nails? You know, those little blank canvases on the tips of your fingers?

Nail art will totally transform your holiday look — and get everyone talking. Not sure what to paint? No worries. We waded through tons of holiday nail art photos to find the best ideas this season. We've got cute penguins, candy canes, strands of colorful lights, and a whole lot more. And for those minimalists, we also have some beautiful, layering options that don't require any Christmas creatures.

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Reindeer on the run

Want to impress your friends? Try this flashy reindeer nail design. While it may look super hard, it's actually pretty simple. But your friends don't have to know that.

Get the look:

1. Start with a base coat.

2. Once dry, apply two coats of gold nail polish.

3. Then it's time to add the reindeer. The reindeer image is actually a nail stamp. You can find at BundleMonster. Cover the stamp with red polish and scrap off any excess polish.

4. Position the stamp where you'd like it on your nail and press.

5. After it's dry, complete with a top coat.

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Candy cane cravings

Anyone else love candy canes more than all that Halloween candy? If so, here's a way to make those treats to little bit longer.

Get the look:

1. Start with a base coat.

2. Once dry, apply two coats of shiny red nail polish.

3. Next, paint diagonal stripes on your nails with a nail art pen/brush (try Milani's Nail Art Lacquer with precision brush in White Canvas, $4.99). Make sure to vary the thickness of the stripes, as well as the distance between the stripes.

4. After you're done, complete with a top coat.

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Penguins on parade

We love this cute take on the South Pole's cutest animal. We're pretty sure he has happy feet, too.

Get the look:

1. Start with a base coat.

2. Once dry, apply two coats of a periwinkle nail polish (try China Glaze's Secret Periwinkle, $5.99).

3. Now it's time to "build" the penguin. First, apply two coats of white nail polish — or use a white nail pen — in a rounded rectangular shape; the periwinkle should look like a border around the white.

4. After the white dries, use a black nail art pen to make two dots for the eyes of the penguin.

5. Use another nail art pen, preferably in neon so it pops against the white, to apply larger dots for the nose and feet (try Sally Hansen Nail Art Pen in Neon Pink, $7.49).

6. Finish with a top coat.

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Candy canes everywhere

If you don't feel like turning your entire nail into a candy cane, why not draw a bunch of little candy canes on them? Plus, the light green background really brightens the whole design.

Get the look:

1. Start with a base coat.

2. Once dry, apply two coats of a mint green nail polish (try Essie's Mint Apple Green, $8).

3. Next, use a white nail pen to draw on little white candy cane shapes. You should angle the candy canes in different directions, and don't be afraid to cut off a candy cane at the tip or edge of the nail.

4. Once the candy canes dry, use a red nail pen to add the stripes, which are so tiny, they'll probably look just like dots.

5. After that step, use a yellow nail art pen to dot around the candy canes.

6. Finish with a top coat.

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Pining for the winter

Aren't feeling the whole Christmas vibe? Here's a festive winter design that celebrates nature. (We promise, no more candy canes.)

Get the look:

1. Start with a base coat.

2. Once dry, apply two coats of a textured gold nail polish. Then, using nail art pens in two different shades of green (try All Cosmetics, they offer a wide selection of green hues), build your branches starting with the tip of your nail. We suggest using one color at a time and allowing them to dry in between — this way you can layer your colors.

3. After the branches are done, use a brown polish to place a small dot/oval on a couple of the nails. This is the pinecone, so make sure it's attached to the branch; you can even paint a few more branches to overlap the pinecone.

4. Finally, draw the ridges onto the pinecone in black with a very fine nail art brush.

5. Finish with a top coat.

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Catch a gingerbread man

Spread holiday cheer (minus the calories) with this Gingerbread Man nail art.

Get the look:

1. Start with a base coat.

2. Once dry, apply two coats of a mint green nail polish (try Essie's Mint Apple Green, $8).

3. Now we're ready for the gingerbread man. On both thumbs, use a dark yellow or light brown nail art pen to draw the basic shape of the gingerbread man's body.

4. Next, apply the details — the eyes, mouth, buttons, bow tie, and Santa hat -- using a red, white, and black nail art pen.

5. Finish with a top coat.

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A sparkly holiday

Sick of nail art pens and really, really small brushes? We feel ya. Here's an easy holiday look that only involves two nail polishes (and no little brushes).

Get the look:

1. Start with a base coat.

2. Once dry, apply two coats of a silver nail polish.

3. Next, swipe on a coat of green and red glittery nail polish (try China Glaze's Party Hearty, $8). The silver polish should poke through the glitter.

4. Finish with a top coat.

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It's snowing!

Even if you live in Florida, you can still hold some snow in your hands with this design.

Get the look:

1. Start with a base coat.

2. Once dry apply two coats of a high shine deep blue nail polish (try NYX Girls in Pacific Blue, $5).

3. After those coats dry, dip a toothpick in a thick white polish. Use the toothpick as a brush and draw intersecting straight lines (like a star) for a simple snowflake. For the more complicated ones, you can experiment with connecting the lines or drawing smaller lines off the main star image.

4. Finally, seal with a top coat.

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A very rhinestone Christmas

Try this for a much more subtle and classy take on holiday bling.

Get the look:

1. Start with a base coat.

2. Apply two coats of red nail polish to your thumb, two coats of peach to your pointer finger, two coats of brown nail polish to your middle finger and pinkie, and two coats of white nail polish to your ring finger.

3. After these base colors have dried, use nail art pens to add the details. You'll need white, red, light blue, black, and orange nail art pencils. You can use a toothpick dipped in nail polish if your brush isn't fine enough.

4. Now it's time to apply the rhinestones. Many online retailers sell nail art rhinestone wheels that contain multiple colors, like this one from BundleMonster. Some come with a sticky back, while other rhinestone kits require nail glue.

5. If you have sticky-backed rhinestones, use tweezers to remove them from the sheet and apply to the nail. If your rhinestones do not come with adhesive, you'll need to buy some nail glue, like IBD NailInstant Brush On Glue, $3.49. To use, simply brush on nail glue, and apply rhinestones to your nails with tweezers.

6. Finish with a top coat.

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A time for giving

Show your love of giving/getting presents (whichever the case may be) with this nail art.

Get the look:

1. Start with a base coat.

2. Once dry, apply two coats of bright red nail polish.

3. Then, using a white nail pen, draw a cross on all your nails. Add the ribbon shape on your thumb and ring finger.

4. Outline the white and bow shapes with a gold glitter nail art pen (try Stripe Rite Gold Nail Paint, $2.99).

5. Finish with a top coat.

Minty fresh

Here's a more abstract holiday design you're sure to love.

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Get the look:

1. Start with a base coat.

2. Once dry, apply two coats of a mint green nail polish (try OPI Damone Roberts 1968, $9.50) and finish with one coat of China Glaze Fairy Dust, $8.

3. Apply two coats of white nail polish on your ring fingernail.

4. Using a red nail art pen, create the peppermint swirl.

5. Finish with a top coat.

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