Nail Polish Styling: How Do You Coordinate Colors?

January 25, 2011

Several readers have asked for tips on how I pick out nail polish colors for tips and toes. I’d like to open this up to hear how you coordinate your nail polish too! My personal style is on the conservative side and I work in a corporate office environment with a business casual dress code. I rarely match my fingers with toes for nail polish, although sometimes I will use shades within the same color family. My nail polish picks are usually spur of the moment picks based on mood. Often times I cannot decide on my own so I photo-text a picture to my sister to help me decide or I bring 3-4 bottles of my own to the salon and ask for assistance with coordination.

I’m usually open to trying anything. I’ll mix creams with frosts, brights with pales, darks with lights, blues with greens, corals with pinks etc. Often times I’ll use similar colors, just with slightly different variations like a cream grey and a shimmery grey. Swatch testing on fingers or holding the bottles next to each other help me figure out which colors go together. Some combinations are total failures (like Jade + Lilac Sky). There are a number of mani/pedi posts I’ve featured before if you search through the archives you might get some more ideas. Below are a few I’ve done before. There are way too many for me to remember most.

Swatch testing on my fingers to see which is a yay or nay combination:

Left = nay, right = yay! (purple on fingers, steel on toes)

Holding the bottles next to each other, Left = Nay, Right = Yay! (green on toes, beige on fingers)

My nail polish picks are usually spur of the moment, but if I try to think more about my method, I would have to say my picks usually revolve around the following:

1) Is it during the week or nearing the weekend? If it’s during the week I’ll try to keep the brights or non-neutrals on the toes (less visible and more forgiving to wear those super bright shades). If it’s nearing the weekend then I’m more brave in wearing non-neutrals.

2) What time of year is it? Southern California has great weather year round, but I still prefer brights in spring/summer and darks/reds during the fall/holiday season.

3) What am I in the mood for? I often like to mix something old with something new. My nail polish moods usually revolve around my clothing moods. For clothing I go through waves of color phases. Sometimes I’m all about gray, sometimes I like adding a pop of color to neutrals, sometimes I just can’t get enough darks.

A few other frequently asked nail polish questions:

1) Are my mani/pedis done by myself or at a salon? Mostly at the salon (75%), occasionally on my own (25%).

2) How often do I get my nails done? It varies depending on how busy I am, but it ranges from once a week to once every other week.

How do you pick out your nail colors?

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  • Tania

    Hi Sabrina,

    Thank you so much for sharing this post with us (nice photos!). I guess most of us pick nail colors based on mood, although at times this has resulted me in having mismatched nail and clothing colors.

  • I like your nail polish collection. The nail polish is used by the women but at this time some man also used the nail polish. Applying the nail polish hand is looking like very beautiful. Some types of polish are advertised to cause nail growth, make nails stronger, prevent nails from breaking, cracking and splitting and stop nail biting.

  • Absolutely stunning pictures – very creative.

  • Hi Sabrina! Loved this post! What Dior beige is in your Chanel Khaki Vert photo?

    I live in the Northeast, so in winter I rarely match my toes and tips since my toes are only visible to me (and my family) around the house. I, too, usually favor darks on both tips and toes in winter and fall.

    But in spring & summer's glorious flipflop season, I'm all about the bright pedicure and will usually have neutrals on my hands.

    I'm sporting a classic French manicure today, which I haven't done in at least a year and it's kind of nice for a change! (Toes are Lippmann's Believe, a shimmery pewtery-silvery-gold).

  • Great post! Check out this Animated Chanel clip…this for true Chanel fans like yourself. http://www.nowness.com

  • Ah, the colors! And I see "the Green Guy" from Chanel.

    I have little toes and tiny toenails so I rarely bother polishing them. But with my fingernails, it's usually the mood of the moment which determines the shade. Sometimes I let the outfit dictate. Yesterday, I picked out Chanel "Pink Blossom" and didn't have time to apply; I think I'll do Chanel "Particuliere" today. I'm decided on that one for at least 8 hours!

  • I do that all the time! color coordination is key. it will help avoid looking like a clown. I agree- dark on toes light on nails it looks way better.

    I go by undertone in order to color coordinate =), but either way the possibilities are endless.

    how do you get nail polishes with a sheen or shimmer to photograph well? without getting a glare? how do you keep them from spoiling? do you sometimes color coordinate your polishes with your makeup?

  • Eye candy Chanel polish photos <3

  • Thanks for the great post and lovely photos! πŸ™‚ I normally go darker or wear less conservative colors on toes. I like to wear complimentary shades, such as a shimmer with a cream in the same color family, much like those pictured in this post. Darker in winter, muted pastels in spring, and brights in summer, but I'll wear any color, anytime, if the mood strikes or if it suits a particular outfit πŸ™‚ Sadly, my fingernails seem to hate polish and end up peeling if I polish them too much, so much of the time I skip it, but never go without on my toes!

  • great post. thanks for sharing sabrina –
    my nail polish wardrobe is quite simple – i'll wear the same color almost everyday until i'm sick of it … kind of like when you listen to the same song, on repeat., until you know all the lyrics. i try and stick to a french mani for work, but come weekend, it's currently OPI lucky lucky lavender… it's been my go-to for almost 6 months. shocking. but you've inspired me to try something different. … i can always come back to lucky lavender. xo

  • Love your blog, Sabrina. This is a great post. What is the Dior nude? What is your favorite nude? I'm searching for one. Thanks!

  • Oh how I wish I had Blue Wish. You gave me an idea for a combo with Khaki Vert and Illusion D'or.

  • Hi Sabrina,
    I think it's solely based on my mood. As always, that nail polish collection is fierce!

  • i looove some of your combinations, i too usually never match but stay in the same color family but pairing the dior blue with chanel's silvery color and dior's grey with dior's shimmery silver-lilac – SO LOVE! now you've got me thinking a of a few different combinations of my own, thanks and have a wonderful weekend

  • Sabrina- what a fabulous post! I've been feeling so stumped lately re my colour choices. In the past I've always worn a neutral finger with a bright / strong toe but It feels a bit boring to me. Lately I'm doing the reverse- a neutral-ish toe with a bold finger. Your combos are gorgeous. I have Steel too and have been a bit flumoxed as to what to pair it with. Love it with the Paradoxal! I have bookmarked this post for inspiration…now all I need is more Chanel. Nothing comes close wear-wise for me. Wondering what your neutral Dior is? You have recently showcased some of the prettiest nudes and pale neutral frosts. Love!

  • Anonymous

    I wish the polish manufacturers would sell coordinated duos as sets for stylish tips and toes! It would take a lot of the guess work out of pairing up coordinated finger and toe nail polish.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks so much for this article! This is incredibly helpful! πŸ™‚