A neutral manicure with leopard print nail art on two accent nails.

Easy Leopard Print Nail Art Tutorial

It’s officially August, and many of us are already looking towards the cozy season of fall to come. To celebrate the upcoming season, we’re doing a tutorial for leopard print nail art. This nail look is timeless and has gained a lot of popularity within the last year.

This print is a staple for this time of year and is everywhere right now: phone cases, clothing, shoes, and that’s right… on your nails too! Believe it or not, this design that looks complicated is actually incredibly simple to achieve, and all you need is a dotter tool or toothpick, and three colors of your choice.

If you would prefer your design to be more realistic, try using colors in the warm neutral family.  A good color combination you could try would be ZOYA Cala as the base, Flynn as the second neutral shade for the spots, and Kateri as the outline color. 


You can replicate this look with any ZOYA shades of your choice, but here we’ll outline the steps so you can have a smudge-free, beautiful nail design!

Step 1: Prep the Nail

As with any manicure, you need to prep your nail by removing any nail polish on the nail. We recommend using ZOYA Remove +, as it won’t dry out your nails and will improve the wear time of your polish if you swipe the nails before you start.

Next, soften the cuticles with a cuticle oil or treatment (QTICA Solid Gold), and push them back. To learn more about caring for your cuticles, read our official guide to cuticle care. Use a nail file to file your nails to your desired shape. 

Step 2: Base Coat

A base coat will create a smooth base for the polish to glide onto, which is especially important when doing a nail design. Any ridges or rough spots on the nail will show in the design if a base coat is not used.

Try Naked Base by Naked Manicure which will also extends the wear-time of your polish. Apply one, even layer to each of your nails and allow it to dry. The recommended wait time is about 2 minutes. 

Step 3: Base Color

Once your base coat is dry to the touch, you can apply the base color for the design. Apply an even, thin layer of your base shade to all 10 nails and wrap the tip. It’s important to not make this coat too thick. Allow this to dry for 2 minutes, and then apply another coat of polish. Again, do not do thick coats with either layer, and wrap the tip again.

Wait for this layer to fully dry before moving onto the next step in the design. 

Step 4: The Spots

A dotting tool is best for this step, and we recommend one that is medium-sized. If your nails are shorter, you may want to use a smaller dotting tool.

Don’t have a dotting tool? Use a toothpick instead! Just make sure to use a new toothpick if the polish starts to dry on the tip. You don’t want it to get clumpy and stringy.

Apply a few small, spaced out dots to the nail with your second neutral shade. This color should be darker than your base.  Depending on your preferences for this design, you can make these spots as small or as large as you want. If you want the design to be larger and have more space, do larger, more spaced out dots. If you want the look to cover most of the nail, do smaller, closer-together dots.

Keep in mind, you’ll be outlining each one of these spots and need space to do so. Make sure you leave a little bit of space between the dots for this so that the spots don’t blend together.

The idea is to make random, imperfect spots. They shouldn’t be perfect circles. Think of them as randomly shaped, spaced out blobs of color. It looks strange now, but the outline will eventually bring the look together.

To make it more realistic, you can vary the sizes of the spots and carry them over the edges of your nails. 

Step 5: Fast-Drying Top Coat

To ensure these spots don’t smear when we do the next step of outlining them, you can apply a fast-drying top coat. This makes the outlining process easier as you’re not outlining wet polish.

The Ultra Glossy Seal top coat is great for this, because it has a dense finish and dries extremely fast. It’ll speed up the process so you don’t have to wait for all of these spots to dry on their own.

Make sure the spots have dried slightly before applying the top coat, as you don’t want the top coat to drag the color around the nail and smear all your hard work! Wait about 3 minutes after applying Ultra Glossy Seal before moving onto the next step. 

Step 6: Outline the Spots

With a dotting tool slightly smaller in size than the one used for the spots, begin outlining the spots with your third neutral color. This one should be the darkest of the three you chose.  The key here is to not completely outline the spot. Vary your outlines by only doing a half circle, and leaving it partially open before doing another half circle.

You can carry the outlines a little past the spot to create a more realistic, varied appearance. For extra depth, you can draw small, uneven dots with this color in the empty spaces on the nail. This is optional.

Once you’re happy with your outlining, you can wait about 5 minutes or longer for this to dry before applying your final layer of Ultra Glossy Seal.  

If you would prefer a matte finish instead, try the ZOYA Velvet Matte top coat. Matte finishes look beautiful with this type of design. We hope you enjoyed this fun art tutorial! Stay tuned for more nail inspiration on the Feed.