Killer Claws: The Artists Breathing New Life Into Nail Art

From phallic sculptures that change our definition of BDE to a blinged-out Pepsi homage grazing Cardi B’s fingernails, nails have evolved from a beauty staple to a literal artform. The tiny tips of our fingers have reached far beyond the mundane French classics, giving our semi-permanent accessories the major glow-up they deserve. But, it makes us think: who are the masterminds behind these innovative creations?


Below, the 13 best nail artists on the come-up.


Mei Kawajiri

Kawajiri—also known by her Instagram psydenome, @nailsbymei—is the nail artist of the hypebeast nation. Creating claw concoctions embellished with an array of conflicting subjects like Spalding, cats, and the iconic “7 Rings” homage above, Kawajiri became the most beloved nail artist on Instagram, and most recently, NYFW, for her unconventional takes on nail art.


Juan Alvear

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An experiment 🌪🌌

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Alvear’s sculptural nail work is far from the mundane. His twisting, curling tentacles and oblong shapings are both skin-crawling, and captivating. Alvear’s work is straight-up odd to some, but it’s exactly what we needed in an aesthetically-pleasing world of perfectly sharpened stiletto tips.


Needle Nails

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For a more permanent rendition that will long outlast your average mani, head over to Needle Nails. Their style may be more simplistic in comparison to others on this list, but it’s the execution of their art that makes them one to watch. Described as a “black and white explorative minimalism, where less is more but more can also be right” by Needle Nails co-founder Ambie Stapleton, the nail studio stands out by literally tattooing their creations onto the tiny tips of their clients’ fingers.


Naomi Yasuda

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Graph 📈〰️📊〰️

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Yasuda’s creations are nothing less than hypnotizing. Her designs feel less like beauty, and more like art haus masterpieces that Andy Warhol would nod in approval of. As a fashion industry staple, her outlandish tips can be seen on the likes of Slick Woods, Rita Ora, and Lily Allen, to name a few.


Best Nails Club

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•🅟🅘🅩🅩🅐• * * * * * the perfect red (@leafgelusa #6) & some sick pizza slices for my girl MADS of @babewaxpdx 😘! if you dont already know- BABEWAX is an all gender waxing salon aaaand my neighbor shop! 🖤 i was inspired by mads to start a pay-it-forward program for low-income trans & non binary folks! check out the link in my bio for more info! 🖤🖤🖤 _________________________________________________ all hand-painted using : ▪️#leafgel @leafgel_premium from @leafgelusa ▪️#agehagel @agehagel & #prestogel @prestogel from @naillabousa ▪️#apresgelx extensions from @apresnailofficial ▪️#happynails #artnails #radnails #pizzanails #pizza #pizzaparty #eyenails #queernails #naturalnails #transisbeautiful

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Inspired by “the pursuit of self-expression,” Chi Chi, head nail stylist at the Portland-based nail studio, creates surprisingly detailed animations and modern graffiti-inspired works. “The heart of my work lies in the relationship between beauty, identity, gender & resistance,” says Chi Chi.



The UK-based nail artist is one to see if you’re into the “insta-baddie” aesthetic. Ranging from MySpace-era cherry graphics to LV aesthetics, her intricate tips and press-ons are funky, eclectic, and refreshing for our Insta-feeds.


Vivian Xue

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[SWIPE 1, 2, 3, or 4?] AUNT JEMIMA 🍁🥞✨ 😊😊😊 @badbitchfiles on the nails, me on the art. We being productive out here in these streets!! Banging out these wholesome Christmastime treats 😂 • – – Tag SOMEONE for me and tell me which of the 4 was the best shot! • – – Handpainted with @bioseaweedgel ✨ – This and more Christmas sets @pampernailgallery 🥞🎄✨ • – – #pampernailgallery #food #pancakes #pancakenails #nailart #nailsaddict #nailsofinstagram #instagood #nailfashion #handpainted #bayareanails #vegasnails #houstonnails #lanails #atlnails #funnails #cutenails #auntjemima #christmasnails #viral #bestnails #nailideas #nails2inspire @theshaderoom @targetstyle @safeway @oprahmagazine @stevetvshow @theellenshow @georgehtakei

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Xue pulls inspiration for her eclectic nail designs from “Smithsonian picture encyclopedias, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and of course, my nostalgia” to craft up tips with a strict, unique scene, usually extending across a full hand to “highlights technical accuracy as well as a good composition across a nail set.” The results: insanely detailed Disney Princess motifs, Kanye West aesthetics, and Bob Ross homages pumped right out of her San Francisco-based studio, Pamper Nail Gallery.


Peka Grayson

If you live a bad and boujee lifestyle, then head to Peka Grayson for your next manicure session. Her nail art is fire—literally—and embraces a lavish, extra lifestyle.


Chaun P.

Chaun P. is a modern legend. He’s beloved by Hollywood elites like Khloe Kardashian, H.E.R, and Jennifer Hudson for his satisfyingly vibrant tones and perfectly sharpened tips.


Noodle Yess

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Who else is excited AF for SUMMER? Drop sum ☀️🌊🍒 After yesterday’s question I feel inclined to post MORE bright colors for you guys! I hope everyone is staying warm and drinking lots of hot cocoa and coffee!! It’s definitely not as cold here but it’s a gloomy day with rain approaching! – Wearing: Bare Me, Crystal Clear, 129, 133 & 134. Non wipe top coat by @valentinobeautypure. (Use code NOODLE) Lime by @luxapolish. (Use code NOODLEYESS) Fine Micro Holo Glitter by @glitterplanetuk (Use code NOODLE10) Galaxy Holo by @wildflowersnailshop. Crysta Flamingo by @vetro_usa. – #noodle_yess #valentinobeautypure #luxapolish #wildflowersnails #vetro #vetrogel #glitterplanetuk #holonails #holographicnails #springnails #vdaynails #valentinobeautypure #teamvalentino #longnails #sculptednails #notpolish #palmsprings #romeoandjuliet #aesthetics #blingnails #unhas #limecrimemakeup

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Want nails that are truly on-point? Then check out Noodle Yess, one of the most popular salons for crafting ultra-long talons. Known for their clear crystal daggers, Nail Art Conceptualist Leah Candiliere says that they strive to create an “array of imaginative and colorful designs” to achieve “simplistic minimalism at its finest.”


Jenny Bui

There is only one queen of bling, and that is Jenny Bui, owner of the Bronx-based Nails on 7th. As Cardi B’s go-to nail artist, you can only expect the most lavish crystallized claws you could ever find. If you want to stop traffic with your talons, then Bui is the girl for you.



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Zay has a similar feel to Bui, but there’s one surprising distinction: she’s only 17 years old. Her art and style is executed with the due diligence of a veteran, which makes her one to watch in the beauty-sphere.


Devin Strebler

Describing her aesthetic as heavily influenced by “the better days where your only worry was keeping your Tamagotchi alive,” Stebler creates nostalgic fantasies that we would more than love to rock both at our kindergarten playgrounds, and the concrete jungle of Soho. Vibrant colors and dreamy creations of our favorite retro games and cartoons become reality at the tips of your fingers, making this up-and-commer one to remember.

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