A little sparkle certainly goes a long way, especially in the manicure world, but it’s easy to go overboard if you’re moonlighting as your own nail artist. One ill-placed crystal can shift the effect from trendy to tacky, so to make sure our handiwork never falls into the latter category, we enlisted the pro advice of Vanity Projects founder Rita de Alencar Pinto, who has decked out many digits in sets of Swarovski elements at her famed New York City salon.

“Symmetry is key to any good design,” she tells us. “Keep the size of the crystals in mind when covering smaller nails. I often opt for flatback stones in smaller sizes, but having a few larger stones adds to a lot of great designs.” While most people go on the hunt for full crystal and glitter kits, a handful of the Swarovski Elements (prices vary; fusionbeads.com) you can shop at any craft or art supply store have the exact same effect, and are what the Vanity Projects team uses for their elaborate manicures. Nail art novices should ease into their own masterpieces, workable designs, and the appropriate tools. “I suggest getting a bottle of clear top coat, an orange wood stick, and a small selection of crystals. Use trial and error to practice different looks; Acetone will easily remove the elements,” de Alencar Pinto advises.

We asked the Rita and pros at New York City’s Vanity Projects to paint up two of their hottest pattern, along with step-by-step tips on how to nail the effects on your own. Keep reading for both of the complete how-tos!

Swarovski NailsSarah Balch for InStyle.com

1. Start with your favorite base coat, and once it dries completely, apply two even layers of RGB’s Doll ($18; rgbcosmetics.com) over your entire nail.

2. Follow by sweeping RGB’s White ($18; rgbcosmetics.com) into a half-moon shape at your cuticle, making sure the top part of the semicircle dips upward toward the base of the nail. Add a dot of baby blue lacquer in the center.

3. Once this part has dried entirely, paint a thin layer of brush-on glue around the outermost perimeter of the eye. Then, take your orange wood stick and apply the Jet crystals around the edges to outline it in black.

4. Place a small dot of glue over the blue dot, and use the wood stick to place an Aquamarine Aurore Boreale gem on top.

5. Finish with two layers of Dior’s Gel Coat ($26; dior.com), paying careful attention to each of the crystals.

Swarovski NailsSarah Balch for InStyle.com

1. Once you’ve applied a base coat, sweep on two layers of RGB’s White ($18; rgbcosmetics.com). Paint a semicircle at at the base of the nail with a pale melon hue — de Alencar Pinto used Dior’s limited-edition Mango lacquer.

2. Draw a thin line with Jin Soon’s Coral Peony ($18; jinsoon.com) above the semicircle to outline the shape.

3. Pick up a pastel blue nail polish and outline the Coral Peony hue with a thin line. Then, paint a thin arch with the same color 1/4th of the way down from the top of the nail.

4. de Alencar Pinto used a black nail polish by Dior to form tiny triangle shapes above each of the blue strikes, pointing upwards. A miniature half-moon was added in the center of the melon tone, then she created a row of dots to frame the pastel stripe at the tip.

6. A limited-edition purple by Dior was used to add four larger dots just underneath, and with a few dabs of brush-on glue, de Alencar Pinto added two Crystal Aurore Boreale elements within the pattern.

7. Five more crystals were placed at the tips of the triangles closest to the base, and in the center of the half-moon.

8. Add two layers of the Dior Gel Coat ($26; dior.com) to lock in the 3D elements.

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