Tribal Art Nail Designs

Rebecca Wiseman
White Flame

White Flame

Tribal nail art is striking because of the exotic patterns and vivid colors. Polish colors can be chosen to coordinate with any occasion or outfit. While some designs are more intricate, anyone can accomplish these looks with a little patience.

Regardless of the design, with any nail art you need to use a quick drying manicure spray between colors. The white flame design shown here is a simple spin on a French manicure.

  1. Apply one coat of a sheer pink polish after the base coat.
  2. Make an exaggerated smile line (the point where the nail bed ends and the tip begins) with white polish. Start and finish the smile line around the middle of the nail bed on the sides.
  3. Make a similar smile line with black polish but only bring the black halfway up the white tip.
  4. Use a fine detail nail art brush, a nail art pen, or even a toothpick with white polish to make the flame detail on the black tip.
  5. Apply a clear top coat to seal the design.
Tribal Bead

Tribal Bead

This striking design can be done by a beginner to nail art. Large and medium sized dotting tools are needed for the beads on this tribal design.

  1. After the base coat, apply two coats of a metallic brown or bronze nail polish.
  2. Using a green metallic or glitter polish make a half moon shape at the cuticle area of the nail.
  3. With the medium dotting tool, make a row of dots or beads with white polish or nail art paint along the line where the green and brown meet.
  4. Make a row of red beads using the medium dotting tool and red polish or nail art paint. Offset these beads between the white.
  5. Use the large dotting tool with yellow nail art paint to make the yellow bead in the center of the nail just under the red beads.
  6. Finish with a clear top coat to ensure the design will last.
Black and White

Black and White

This intricate tribal design is best achieved with an airbrush and stencil. A nail stencil is a small design cut out of light plastic that is laid on the nail and used with an airbrush and nail art paint. While the black and white polish design is stunning, this look could be done using any color combination.

The easier option is to visit your local nail or cosmetic supply store and look for tribal-inspired nail decals, which adhere directly to the nail. Follow the instructions on the decals to apply.

Red and Gray Christmas

Red and Gray Christmas

This Fair Isle inspired tribal design is perfect for Christmas and is easy to do on your own nails as long as you have a steady hand.

  1. After applying a base coat, apply two coats of white polish.
  2. Using a thin coat of red polish or nail art paint, make one wide stripe or a couple of thin stripes on the nails. Keep the coats thin so they look worn.
  3. Repeat the same process with a medium to light gray nail polish or nail art paint.
  4. Use a fine detail nail art brush with black paint to make accent stripes above and below the gray polish.
  5. Use the fine detail brush to make the 'V' designs, triangles, asterisks, arrows, fish, and stripes.
  6. For the dots, you can use a small dotting tool or a toothpick with white nail polish.
  7. Finish the nails with a clear top coat.
Turquoise and Brown

Turquoise and Brown

This beautiful Native American inspired nail art starts with a base color of a light turquoise nail polish. An airbrush stencil with brown nail art paint adds the intricate design. Finished with a high shine clear top coat the design becomes a shining example of tribal nail art.

Native American Inspired Nail Art

Native American Inspiration

This colorful design is easy to achieve on your own nails.

  1. After applying a base coat, apply two coats of a turquoise glitter nail polish to entire nail.
  2. Using white nail art paint and a small nail art brush, make an upside-down V in the center of the top of the nail.
  3. For the tip, form an exaggerated V shaped French tip with white nail art paint. Each side of the white should be about halfway up the nail.
  4. Using a small detail nail art brush and black nail art paint, outline and detail the V at the top of the nail.
  5. For the black detail on the tip, use the same brush and black nail art paint to make three triangles on each side of the white tip area. Go back across the color division line to even it out.
  6. Use a toothpick or dotting tool with the black nail art paint to make the small black dots across the white tip.
  7. Finish with a clear top coat to ensure your design lasts.
Black and Gold

Black and Gold

This neutral design is easy to do with either brushes or nail art pens.

  1. After a base coat, apply two coats of a nude, light tan, or flesh toned nail polish to the nails you want the design on.
  2. Using a black nail art pen, add the black design where you want it on the nail. Be sure to detail the space where the gold jewels will be attached.
  3. Use a white nail art pen to add a detail stripe above the black designs and under the last black stripe on the tip.
  4. Use a gold metallic polish and fine detail brush or nail art pen to make the three gold stipes to accent the design.
  5. Attach the gold accent jewels with nail glue between the two black lines.
  6. Paint the remaining nails with two coats of black nail polish.
  7. Finish with a clear top coat.
Colorful Tribal

Colorful Tribal

This colorful design is an example of airbrush stenciled nail art. The base colors can be applied freehand or by airbrush. To apply the base colors freehand:

  1. After the base coat, apply two coats of a bright yellow creme nail polish.
  2. Using a piece of a cosmetic sponge, apply and blend hot pink, blue, and green nail polish. Be sure to leave a stripe of yellow when blending the other colors.
  3. Use black nail art paint with the airbrush stencil design.
  4. Finish with a clear top coat.
Black Criss-Cross

Black Criss-Cross

This design has a Japanese feel to it with the black criss-cross resembling a karate black belt. Whatever your take on it, it is simple to achieve yet classy in appearance.

  1. This starts as a French manicure, but backwards. After the base coat, apply white nail polish for the tips of the nails. Bring the smile line up a little higher than a typical French manicure.
  2. Apply one coat of a metallic sheer pink polish.
  3. Using a medium width nail art brush and black nail polish, make a diagonal line down the nail starting at the smile line. Repeat this for the opposite side.
  4. Make a small comma shape of black polish off center at the tip of the nail.
  5. Finish with a clear top coat.

Tribal nail art can seem daunting to a beginner. For elaborate designs, nail stickers or decals are the easiest way to achieve a tribal design.

Rebecca Wiseman
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Tribal Art Nail Designs