FARGO - Wave goodbye to the regular manicure.

Search "nail art" on Pinterest and tiny hearts, leopard spots, chevrons, bananas, flags, ladybugs and mustaches pop up. Even Batman and Robin make an appearance.

Celebrities have been experimenting with it, too.

Actress Zooey Deschanel, who says plain nails make her "sad," has been seen on the red carpet with tiny tuxedos and movie reels painted on her fingers. Katy Perry's worn Prince William and Oompa-Loompas on hers. E! even had a "mani cam" at Sunday's Grammys.

Though pop stars likely have professional help, most women do it themselves, taking inspiration and instruction from the Web.

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Sonja Peterson, 28, of Moorhead, joined a Reddit board to get started.

There, the "Laqueristas" advised her to master basic shapes before going on to more complicated designs.

She's painted squiggly lines, snowflakes, the "female" symbol and PlayStation buttons. She plans a "Star Trek" design for J.J. Abrams' May release.

"Since I'm not a 'girly girl,' I don't feel that I have to do hearts or flowers, but instead I can do art that reflects me and my interests," she says.

Nail art is another form of self-expression for women (and some men), much like tattoos, makeup, hair, fashion or accessories.

"I think it's fun because it's an unexpected way of expressing yourself," says Jenessa McAllister, 24, of Fargo.

Her 18-year-old cousin, Jordyn Johnson, agrees, adding: "Plus it's not as permanent as tattoos."

Jordyn started painting hers to help break her nail-biting habit. Now the West Fargo senior is known for her fun and funky nails.

"It's very rare that my nails aren't painted," she says.

Nail art 101

I'm rarely seen without nail polish, either, but until recently I hadn't attempted any kind of nail art other than an accent nail in a different color.

I wanted to try as many nail trends as possible for this story, so I bought a few new polishes and tools to add to my already large collection.

Once home, I dumped out my basket of bottles and stared at them. Who knew shiny, shimmery nail polish could be so intimidating?

I had fun once I got started, but my zebra stripes looked more like wrinkled Zubaz pants, the manicure strip pulled off a layer of glitter nail polish, and my dots and hearts mostly washed off in the shower (I later discovered they need to be sealed with a topcoat).

Ironically, my favorite look was the simplest: a shimmery teal with a matte topcoat.

When the matte trend first came out, I quickly dismissed it. "Oh, I don't like the matte thing." But as soon as I tested it on a thumbnail, I was sold.

The finish seems smoother and harder than a regular topcoat, and with it you can transform any color into matte rather than buying all new.

Shatter has been around for a while, but it's an easy way to create pattern and texture. You apply it like any other polish and let it separate on its own.

My sunset-colored ombre came out much sloppier than Jordyn's white and pink version (plus I got sweater fuzz in it), but she's had more practice.

"It gets quicker and easier the more I do it," she says.

The double-ended nail art tool was easier to use than I expected, but I only used it to add dots to the tip of a silver-painted pinky nail.

Like any DIY project, nail art takes trial and error to perfect.

I'll work on my zebra stripes and polka dots, but don't expect to see comic-book characters on my fingertips anytime soon.

Tips for your tips

  • Splurge on high-quality base colors; save on colors used for accents and designs.
  • Use pinstriping tape to create clean lines.
  • Use a triangular makeup sponge for an ombre effect.
  • Use crinkled plastic wrap dipped in polish to add pattern and texture.
  • Use a Q-tip dipped in nail polish remover or a nail polish remover pen to clean up mistakes.

Sources: Sonja Peterson, Jenessa McAllister and Jordyn Johnson.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5590