Negative-Space Manicures: 4 Cool Ways To Bare a Little Nail Between Your Polish

Instead of just using polish, you create interesting contrast with your naked nails, and it looks SO COOL.
Publish date:
December 24, 2014
nail art, nail polish, manicures, CND, bare nails

I’ve never been a fan of nail art. Though it looks cool on Instagram, in real life I always feel silly and end up hiding my fingers whenever I’m out in public. Kudos to you if you can look at watermelons and tuxedos while you’re texting without feeling ridiculous, but ever since the whole nail art movement started a few years back I’ve had trouble climbing on board -- that is, until I discovered the negative-space mani.

OK, so negative space manicures aren’t so different from your standard nail art. There are still designs and different colors, but instead of just using polish, you create interesting contrast with your bare nails. It’s a simple concept but, for whatever reason, looks so awesome.

Creatures of Comfort was one of the first to show this off on the runway during their Spring/Summer 2015 presentation at New York Fashion Week. Models' nails were painted in two similar tones with a line of bare nail separating them. Manicurist Alicia Torello called them “The Midi” (as in midriff) and noted how the line of bare gave them a sexy look. I couldn’t agree more.

Since then, it feels like every beauty editor on the planet (OK, maybe just on my Instagram feed) is now rocking these nails, so I figured it was time to try it.

Here are a few looks I managed to pull off.

Midi Nails

Because these were the nails that first got me hooked, I figured I should give them a try first.

The first thing that I picked up from the dozen or so YouTube DIYs was to coat your cuticles in Vaseline before painting them. That way, if you make a mess all over your fingers when you’re painting, you can just peel the polish off your skin after. How did I not know this trick?

For this style, you’re going to need some Scotch tape and two polishes. I copied Creatures of Comfort by sticking to two different tones of one color -- in my case, green. Cutting the tape into thin bands, place a strip firmly across each nail to create a separation.

Make strips long so they cover your entire nail.

Carefully paint above and below the tape and then wait until your nails are completely dry. Once you peel off the tape, use a toothpick to scratch off any polish that may have bled into the negative space.

This is the great thing about it being your naked nail, as this is usually the part where I would have been like “Doh! Time to start all over again (or give up)!” Once you’ve cleaned things up, top with clear coat and bam, midi nails!

Simple, right?

Chevrons & Lines

Now that you’re a little bit more comfortable, it’s time to take things next level.

Chevrons continually cropped up when I was Googling negative-space manis, and they really do look super-cool. Basically, you follow the same concept for the midi nails except you’ll need two pieces of tape to create the chevron. If you’re feeling really bold, try doing multiple chevrons on the nail. I stuck with just one to avoid total disaster.

For lines, cut a thick piece of masking tape in half and then secure side-by-side on nail leaving only a small gap to create a colored line.


I created a bunch of triangles out of my tape and then blocked off portions of the top or sides of my nails. Pretty simple concept, but it looks so cool.


This is the toughest one but arguably one of the prettiest. This one will actually require a somewhat steady hand, but the results are seriously worth it.

Make sure you really Vaseline all around your nails before attempting this one as it can get pretty messy. Starting on one side of your nail, a third of the way up from your cuticle, stroke the polish down and then up along the center of your nail creating half of an upside down heart. Repeat on the other side leaving just a small triangle of negative space right at the cuticle. This may take a few tries, but because you’re using your bare nail, you can touch up with nail polish remover if it doesn’t look perfect on the first go.

Am I the only one with a serious crush on these peek-a-boo nails?