Woodgrain Nail Art: A Manicure For Ron Swanson Fans

I find wood grain so soothing that I often draw vast hardwood floors just so I can create that organic, yet linear, pattern.
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Beth
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I find wood grain so soothing that I often draw vast hardwood floors just so I can create that organic, yet linear, pattern.

My experience with nail art is extremely limited. I just grew my nails long for the first time this past year, and I was forced to learn how to paint them when I discovered that long, bare nails can look a bit wonky. I seriously felt obscene when people could see my free edges.

Though I have taken chances with fun colors and even a glitter topcoat (which is usually like my kryptonite), I find that my style is more of a nice, understated, pretty neutral. Luckily for me, nude nails are back on the “in” list, or maybe they never fell off it in the first place--I can’t keep up with all the lists. I do know that Alexander Wang sent models down the runway looking modern and utilitarian with nude, matte nails that were described as looking like “cement.” 

I’ve been playing with that cement look for a few weeks now, but I’ve decided to mix it up a bit with a nod to my favorite building material: wood.

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I like wood. (Insert Beavis and Butt-Head laugh here.) I would gladly purchase a perfume that smells of wood smoke or sawdust. I would all-caps GLADLY nuzzle up to a man who smells of sawdust, actually. (My husband, who I often jokingly compare to Ron Swanson, makes things out of wood, so that’s another luckily-for-me thing.) 

I find wood grain so soothing, in fact, that I often draw vast hardwood floors just so I can create that organic, yet linear, pattern.

I did this one after a particularly stressful day at work.

I did this one after a particularly stressful day at work.

For this manicure, you will need:

· A base coat of your choice. I used Sally Hansen Double Duty Strengthening Base and Top Coat.

· A nude polish of your choice. I used CoverGirl Outlast Stay Brilliant Nail Gloss in Forever Fawn.

· A top coat of your choice. I used Sally Hansen InstaDri.

· A waterproof marker or Sharpie.

· A matte top coat. I used Sally Hansen Big Matte Top Coat.

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You make them as distinctive as you’d like. I chose to use a shade that closely matches the tone of my skin, but a contrasting “wood” would look super as well. While I was testing this look, I tried black Sharpie on a base of NYC In a New York Color Minute Quick Dry Nail Polish in Brownstone. Try gold Sharpie on brown, or a mustard yellow on white, or even turquoise on light pink if that’s something that moves you.

My straining wrist just screams, “I work with tools often.”

My straining wrist just screams, “I work with tools often.”

Begin by painting your nails with your chosen base color. Forever Fawn is as lovely a color as its name suggests, but I found that I had to apply three coats in order to achieve full opacity. 

Even though we will be using a matte top coat later, I finished the base with a coat of InstaDri in order to speed the setting of the enamel and to provide a slick surface for the Sharpie drawing. Let this dry for at least a half hour or until it is fully hardened. If not, your Sharpie will drag into the polish, and that just doesn’t look cute. 

The condition of my tabletop just screams, “I have a toddler.”

The condition of my tabletop screams, “I have a toddler.”

Then, take your Sharpie and begin to apply your “grain.” I find that most wood grain is a combination of whorls or knots separated by a vertical, linear pattern.  

The thing that makes this look great for beginners is that a shaky, imperfect line actually looks more realistic than something perfect. Mistakes practically blend in with the grain.

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A quick drawing lesson!

1. Begin by dividing you nail with two to three vertical lines.

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2. Randomly draw small diamonds or circles that will act as the center of your whorls.

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3. Draw concentric shapes around your centers.

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4. Fill in the rest of your nail with vertical lines.

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Remember that you can vary the placements of your whorls and vertical lines.

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I discovered that Sharpie will wash off of your nails if it is not covered with a topcoat, so mistakes can be erased, so to speak. However, I like the random patterns that evolved from the imperfection. My right hand definitely has a slightly different look than my left, but it still works.

“Your left hand is pine, and your right hand is more of a curly maple.” –Beth’s husband

“Your left hand is pine, and your right hand is more of a curly maple.” – Beth’s husband

Finish with a matte top coat to emphasize that wooden look. Matte topcoat that accidentally gets on your cuticles just looks like dry skin, so do your best to neaten the edges with a cotton swab or neaten-er of your choice.

Mine could use a little more neatening. And don’t those shadows almost look like a black French tip? There’s another idea for you. For free.

Mine could use a little more neatening. And don’t those shadows almost look like a black French tip? There’s another idea for you. For free.

This isn’t a look that will instantly get attention, but I received quite a few compliments on my nails. From a distance, it's pretty quiet, but the details can start a conversation. One friend said that she was reminded of wood grain, yes, but also an Art Nouveau sort of pattern. A male friend claimed that it looked like a circuit board, which I’m also into.

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This is like the anti-glitter manicure--perhaps something for my fellow minimalists? It’s definitely a nice place to start if you don’t have much experience drawing with your non-dominant hand.

Wood. Would you? How much wood? Do you have a favorite wood?