The Top Coat: DIY Over-the-Top 'Under the Sea' Nail Art

Welcome to our new nail art column–the Top Coat! Every week we’ll be doing a step-by-step nail art tutorial. We’ve already told you the essentials yo
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Welcome to our new nail art column–the Top Coat! Every week we’ll be doing a step-by-step nail art tutorial. We’ve already told you the essentials yo
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Welcome to our new nail art column–the Top Coat! Every week we’ll be doing a step-by-step nail art tutorial. We’ve already told you the essentials you need for a good nail art kit, so gather your tools and try our next project.

Summer is looming (finally!) and it’s high time to book a few seaside jaunts. Thinking back to the stellar spring 2012 subaquatic sea creature-themed collections from Versace and Chanel, we decided to book a brief underwater escape for our nails, too.

Finding yourself inspired to take a quick dip under the sea? Give yourself an elegantly embellished manicure that the Little Mermaid would love. We went crazy with every nail (and yes went with a more *ahem* editorial length), but you can also just do a flare nail or two instead of the whole shebang. Either way, here’s how to get the look, including everything you'll need:

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Tools of the Trade:

Deborah Lippmann Base Coat in Fast Girls, $20 at Nordstrom.com

Illamasqua Nail Varnish in Nomad, $14 at Sephora.com

Milani Nail Lacquer in White, $3.49 at Drugstore.com Nails Inc. Nail Polish in Notting Hill Carnival, $9.50 at Sephora.com

Elle Cosmetics Nail Lacquer in On Location, $10 at Kohls.com

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Step One: First Base

After applying your base coat, polish your nails with pastels—the pinky finger should be mint green, the ring and forefinger should be white, the middle finger should be butter yellow, and the thumb should be baby blue.

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Tools of the Trade:

Pearl Nail Art Wheel, $3.39 at Amazon.com

Color Club Bullions Nail Art, $5 at UrbanOutfitters.com

Nail Art Rhinestone Nippers, $2.99 at LightInTheBox.com

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Step Two: Artsy and Aquatic

Apply your 3D nail art while the polish is still wet—not-dry-just-yet nail polish acts as glue and ensures the elevated art stays put. Using your tweezers, cover your entire ring and forefingers with opalescent pearls; use different sizes for a much more varied and vibrant visual. Next, strategically place 5 or 6 bullion dots on your thumb and pinky fingernail. Allow five minutes for drying time.

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Tools of the Trade:

Tropical Seas Nail Art Decals, $1.63 at Nailtopia.co.uk

Bibi Deco Marine Gold Stickers, $4.95 at NailLaboStore.com

Bibi Deco Anchor Navy Stickers, $4.95 at NailLaboStore.com

Star Nail Stickers, $1 at IDoNails.com

Amazing Shine Nail Art Stickers—Dots, $2 at TonyNail.com

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Step Three: Dots and Stars and Anchors, Oh My!

Feature a dazzling design on your middle finger. Grab your tweezers and create a large diagonal grid pattern using gold dot decals, filling in the open spaces with star stickers. On your pinky and thumb, liberally place marine- and nautical-themed transfers all over.

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Step Four: Dive In You’re done! Set your seascape-style tips with a topcoat made especially for three-dimensional art.

Tools of the Trade:

Cina Top Coat and Bonder, $4.79