Negative Space Manicure

Negative Space Manicure

08.15.2014    |    
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If you live in (or plan to visit) the New York City area, and you feel like a freshly painted nail (and really, who doesn’t?) than you MUST visit Soho’s newest high-design nail studio, Paintbox. This chic studio is far from your typical New York City nail salon, feeling much more modern and expensive. Founded by Eleanor Langston, a veteran magazine beauty editor, the studio’s goal is to transcend and transform every aspect of the traditional manicure experience. Paintbox offers a seasonal menu of thoughtfully-edited nail designs and colors reminiscent of runway and editorial trends. Once you pick your design from the printed menu, you can choose whatever color combination you like. You can also decide between regular nail polish and shellac. Last week, I visited my new favorite salon and choose Inner Circle, a classic “negative space” nail design, using one of my favorite all time reds, Chanel Dragon. I also had the change to interview Elissa Schell, my manicurist and Eleanor Langston, CEO and Founder on the allure of “negative space” and the step-by-step how-to.

Annie: What’s the deal with “negative space” nail art? Do you think it’s just a passing trend?  Why is it so popular?

Elissa Schell, Manicurist, Paintbox: Negative space is essentially a look that lets your natural nail peak through – we say it’s the crop top of nails!  Bonus: Negative space at the moon / base of nail helps disguise any regrowth – a great way to extend the life of your manicure. It’s fresh, sexy, and modern. Overall, negative space helps tone down nail art to make it look more sophisticated–we’re huge fans, and Eleanor (CEO and Founder) and Julie (Creative Director) are planning lots of looks for fall and winter featuring negative space.”

Annie: Who can pull of this look? Do you have to have a specific nail shape or personal style? Are there certain things to avoid for certain nail shapes?

Elissa: Anyone can pull this look off, but here are some tips to follow If you have medium to long nails, negative space at the moon will help your nails look more elegant and feminine. If you have shorter nails and want to elongate them, try a sliver of negative space like our Geometry Class design – I like that particular look with a rounded nail.

Annie: Is this something that you can do at home?  Any pointers?

Elissa: Absolutely! You can easily do a negative space moon by leaving the moon polish-free. If you can’t make a straight half-circle, use a clean, angled eyeliner brush dipped in acetone polish remover to go back in and clean up any mistakes. It takes practice but is pretty easy! You can also use painter’s tape (find it at any hardware store) to do a bisection of negative space across the nail. Just cover the bottom half of your nail with tape, paint the top in a bright color, and then remover the tape for a perfectly straight line.

Annie: Can you give me the step-by-step details to getting the “Inner Circle” look (pictured above), at home?


1. Apply base coat, like Chanel Protective Base Coat, over the top 3/4 of the nail.

2. Define the moon using a clean, angled eyeliner brush, like the Laura Mercier Fine Point Liner Brush, dipped in your favorite red polish like Chanel Dragon.

3. In really short strokes, paint in the moon shape with your favorite red polish like Chanel Dragon, keeping the moon naked.

4. Repeat step 3 for a second coat.

5. Let the nail dry for five-ten minutes and then top coat the entire nail.

Annie: What is the inspiration behind Paintbox’s “Inner Circle” look?

Eleanor Langston, CEO and Founder, Paintbox: It’s one of the new classics for nails. The red tone is ultra-feminine and strong, and the negative space at the moon makes it look really modern and fresh. With Inner Circle, we took a classic fire engine red nail into an edgier-but-still-sophisticated territory with the addition of negative space.

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