This vintage print is dominating the 2024 nail trends - here are five ways to wear it with style

Tortoiseshell print isn't just reserved for your accessories as these chic and versatile nail looks prove...

A close up of a hand with tortoiseshell nails by nail artist @gel.bymegan/ in a beige textured template
(Image credit: @gel.bymegan)

While neutral and subtle manicure designs are dominating this year's trends, tortoiseshell nails are the exception - with the statement look already making its way into our hearts and subsequently, onto our fingertips...

Tortoiseshell is one of those prints that never goes out of style. In fact, we'd even go as far as to say it's the accessory equivalent to a white T-shirt. So, it was really only a matter of time before it came for our manicures and right now, it's topping the 2024 nail trends. And while you might be hesitant to try such a bold design, the look can actually be adapted to suit everything, from classic French tip nails to short French tips and is surprisingly easy to recreate at home - with a few pointers from the pros.

So, for anyone looking to match their nails to their favourite sunglasses or claw clips (we love a bit of coordination), here are five chic ways to wear the timeless print...

Pictured,  Juanita Huber-Millet Founder & Creative Director of Townhouse
Juanita Huber-Millet

Juanita Huber-Millet is the Founder and Creative Director of Townhouse - a UK-based, premium salon brand - who has shared her expertise on how to master the tortoiseshell nail trend at home.

What are tortoiseshell nails?

Now, before we dive into how to recreate this retro look and our favourite ways to wear it., you might be wondering what exactly a tortoiseshell nail look entails.

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As the name suggests, this manicure trend looks to replicate the spotted effect of tortoiseshell, using an array of warm, brown and amber hues. The end result is a chic, eye-catching design that is surprisingly versatile - and easily elevates any outfit.

How to recreate Tortoiseshell nails

And for those looking to recreate this vintage manicure at home, Juanita Huber-Millet, Founder and Creative Director of Townhouse has shared a step-by-step guide...

  • Prep: "Remove any existing nail polish and file to your desired shape and length -make sure to always file your nails in one direction to avoid any damage." Huber-Millet then says to focus on your cuticles, "using an orangewood stick or a damp cotton bud gently push back the cuticles."
  • Base coat: "Next, apply a base coat to your nails and let them dry completely," then once the base coat is dry, "apply one coat of sheer jelly-like yellow polish."
  • Create the pattern: "Using a brown nail polish or nail art pen, carefully paint irregular shaped brown patches, mimicking a tortoiseshell print. Allow the polish to dry completely," before then applying, "another coat of the sheer jelly-like yellow polish"
  • Add more detail: "Using a black nail polish or nail art pen, carefully paint irregular black patches overlapping the brown shapes - allow the polish to dry,"
  • Top coat: "Finish off with a top coat to seal and protect your manicure, giving it a glossy and long-lasting finish."
  • Finishing touch: Huber-Millet then recommends using a cotton bud dipped in nail polish remover, "to clean up any mistakes or polish left on your skin."

Our tortoiseshell nail staples

Nail prep and care are key for a long-lasting nail look, so on top of your tortoiseshell nail polish collection, we'd recommend investing in one of the best nail strengtheners, as well as a nourishing cuticle oil.

5 of our favourite tortoiseshell nail looks

1. Full-on Tortoiseshell nails

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Think of this manicure as an extension of your favourite accessory style. It offers an almost marbled effect, which is of course eye-catching but thanks to its warm and neutral colour palette, it's still fairly subtle - compared to that of reflective chromes or floral designs.

We just adore this look for the winter months as it will compliment your coats and knits so well but, as it takes inspiration from a timeless pattern, you can wear this manicure trend all year round also.

To recreate, we'd suggest investing in a few thin nail brushes or dotting tools (like this set, available at Amazon). As for achieving the pattern, we'd suggest choosing three complementary shades that vary in depth - from a light amber to a dark, chocolate brown. Then apply your chosen base shade and before it dries, dot on your darker browns and allow them to bleed out slightly. Then top with a glossy top coat.

2. Tortoiseshell French tip nails

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If you're minimalist nail lover but still want to try out this trend, we'd recommend a tortoiseshell French tip.

We'd recommend starting a clear, nude or slightly pink base coat, before creating your tip with an amber shade, using a thin brush. Then take your dotting tool to create the iconic, brown marbled-like effect.

3. Tortoiseshell feature nail

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If you're already a lover of dark brown nails, adding an animal print feature nail - specifically a tortoiseshell one - is the perfect way to elevate and change up your manicure.

You can either opt for brown French tips or a block brown shade on four of your fingers, leaving just one nail free for your speckled design. This offers a more subtle look than having the design on every finger - and will be quick to do at home.

4. Tortoiseshell Micro tips

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This tortoiseshell can also easily be adapted to a micro Frenchie style and while creating the tip might be a tad fiddly, it's actually quite a forgiving option for those who haven't quite nailed the tortoiseshell pattern.

As the design area is so small, you can get away with just a few dots of diffused brown. There is also the option of adding a full-feature nail, for those feeling more confident.

5. Short Tortoiseshell nails

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This trend looks especially chic on short and "squoval" nails, offering a statement but not so in-your-face effect, as opposed to long, almond or stilettos nails.

Simply shape your nails to your desired finish, apply your base shade and start the process of dotting on your two dark shades, allowing them to bleed out, before locking them in with a high-shine top coat.

Naomi Jamieson
Digital Beauty Writer

Naomi is a Digital Beauty Writer from woman&home, where she covers everything from skincare to fragrance but specialises, particularly, in makeup and nail trends. Through her work, Naomi gets to share her trend expertise and share her own shopping recommendations and product reviews. Previously, she worked as a Lifestyle News Writer for My Imperfect Life magazine, where she used her savvy for TikTok to bring readers the latest beauty buzzwords, fashion movements and must-have products. 

Before that, Naomi split her time between both GoodTo and My Imperfect Life, whilst training for her Gold Standard diploma in Journalism with the NCTJ, for which she earned a Distinction. Interestingly though, Naomi actually has a background in design, having studied illustration at Plymouth University but leapt into the media world in 2020, after always having a passion for writing. Now, when she isn’t reporting on the best perfumes and latest beauty releases, you can find her drinking copious cups of coffee, drawing and probably online shopping...