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26 DIY Summer Nail Designs That Anyone Can Create At-Home

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Summer may be peak pedicure season, but that doesn't mean you can't also go all out in the manicure department. This time of year is all about bright colors, bold accents, and unexpected patterns—all of which are perfect for nail art designs. While crafting tiny works of art on your fingertips may seem intimidating, many designs are totally doable for those who don't yet have the ultra-steady hand of a pro nail artist.

However, you may want a few key tools to get started: A few great summer nail polish colors are obviously a must, as is a durable top coat. While classic polish will work fine, using gel polish is a great way to ensure that your designs will last as long as possible. To easily create small details, you might want to grab a toothpick or a super fine nail art brush if you're serious about perfecting your skills. Some nail tape and tweezers may also be in order depending on what type of look you’re going for.

Ready to create your first masterpiece? Whether you are looking to try the next big nail trend or you're just hoping to take your basic DIY manicure up a notch, here are 26 fun and wearable summer nail designs to inspire your look this season.

1. Pastel-Swooped Tips

These pastel nails manage to check off just about every summer nail art trend by featuring fun, seasonal colors, negative space, and whimsical tips. To add even more interest (because who doesn't like a little bit of extra credit), this mani lends some extra dimension and contrast to the swooped shapes by lining them with a polish that's almost the same color as the tip, just slightly lighter.

2. Feeling Happy

This extremely cute summer nail is certainly full of cheer. It's also one that you don't need a million different colors to try. All you need is a nude polish, a yellow polish, a black polish, and a toothpick or fine-tipped nail brush. After your nude base coat has dried, instantly give your mani a facelift by using the toothpick to create itty bitty smiley faces in different orientations and locations on each and every nail.

3. Psychedelic Magic

Don't have much summer travel planned yet? These rainbow nails will take you on a trip. This super bold, eye-catching design is a great way to use just about every nail polish color you have in your nail kit. And with purposefully wavy lines, it’s also great if straight, precise designs aren’t exactly your forté.

4. Rainbow Tips

Even more popular than the asymmetrical French tip pictured above are these multi-colored tips. The bright pop featured on each nail is just the right amount for when you want fun nails that feel super summery, but you also want something you can feel confident wearing from work to weekend. As this look tends to look best on longer nail shapes, it's also the perfect pick if you're looking for a style fit for acrylic nails.

5. Yin and Yang

On the hunt for a cute summer nail art design that will also serve as a gentle mindfulness reminder? Enter: the classic yin and yang design. Not only is it visually iconic (and easy to execute), it’s also symbolically complex: the yin (the dark swirl) is associated with shadows, femininity, and motion while the yang (the light swirl) represents brightness, passion, and growth. To bring a little extra drama to this design, you might try swapping the classic glossy black nail polish for a matte shade like the KASCA Nail Polish in Velvet Black Matte.

6. Picnic-Patterned

Summertime is synonymous with picnic season. And what better way is there to pay homage to the iconic warm-weather pastime than by using it as inspo for a summer nail design idea? This fun nail art pairs delicate pastel shades with a classic gingham-type print to create a summery scene that will make the finger food feast even more enjoyable.

7. Side-Swiped

Here's a fun way to put a new spin on trendy neon nails. If using this ultra-bright family of shades on the entire nails tends to be a bit overpowering for you, try refining the look by using it as an accent color that gets paired with a classic neutral hue.

After applying a neutral base, delicately apply a swipe of the neon shade of your choosing (we're partial to this fluorescent pink hue) along one side of your nail. Want to bump up the drama a touch? Try doing both sides so that the neon creates a graphic outline around each nail.

8. Florals, But Make Them Sparkly

Close-up image of hand with floral sequins nail art

Flowers and nail art are a classic combo (in fact, we have an entire blog post dedicated to floral nail art designs), but when you add sparkle to the mix it’s pure mani magic. The best part: this nail art design is beginner-friendly (no steady hand needed). All this look requires is tweezers and the sequins or rhinestones of your choice. First, paint your nails with the polish of your choosing (we love a neutral for this look so the flowers pop). While the polish is still wet, use tweezers to gently place your first sequin, starting with the center of the flower. Then, continue adding “petals” around the center until a flower shape forms. If the polish dries before you can get all your rhinestones placed, try using a little bit of nail glue.

9. Pretty Accent Pearls

Image of hand with pale pink nail polish embellished with pearls

This manicure is the epitome of simple elegance. It could be the perfect choice for a bridal mani, although it’s understated enough for anyone to wear. The trick to making it feel a little unexpected is in the placement of the pearls: setting each one on a slightly different part of the nail gives the look an effortless, whimsy feel.

To recreate this look at home, begin by painting your nails with pale pink nail color like the SUNDAYS Nail Polish in No. 04. Then add a drop of nail glue wherever you want to place your pearl. Use tweezers to apply the pearl, then repeat on the rest of your fingers.

10. The New French Mani

Image of a hand with French manicure

You heard it here first: The classic French manicure is back in a big way. Invented in the ‘70s by Orly founder Jeff Pink, the French mani famously features a nude base with a white tip. There have been endless iterations since, but this new asymmetrical take gives the iconic style a welcome refresh. With one side of the white tip extending down the side of the nail, it adds a graphic twist while also giving the illusion of length.

11. Brush Strokes

Image of a hand with red and gold abstract nail art holding a rose gold pouch

File this look under “manicure ideas for people who can’t do nail art.” The abstract, artsy mani uses negative space (meaning you’ll leave a little bit of your nail bare), one polish shade, and gold foil. If you don’t have gold foil handy, you can just as easily recreate the look by using two contrasting nail polish shades. One pro tip: Be sure to let the first polish dry completely before applying the second, otherwise the colors will blend together.

12. Glitter Gradient

Close-up image of model's hands with fuchsia and gold glitter nail art holding IPSY February Glam Bag

Few manicures spark joy quite like one that features not one but two of the top nail art trends: ombré and glitter. Seamlessly combine the two looks by first applying a bold shade as your base. Then, use a glitter top coat on all fingers or just on two accent nails (one on each hand). To make sure you achieve an ombre effect, be sure to apply more glitter around the tip of the nail so that it forms a gradient from the base upwards.

13. Getting Graphic

Image of woman's hand with geometric nail art

If you're partial to neutral shades, geometric nail art is a great way to tone down the saturation while still keeping the fun factor high. This color and design combo is also a great move if you tend to prefer short nails. If you’re blessed with a steady hand you can certainly freehand these geometric lines, but if that's not quite the case, try using thin nail striping tape. Much like using painter’s tape on a wall, this tool makes it ultra-easy to create crisp lines on those itty bitty nail beds every time.

14. Summer Love

Image of model's hands with pink hearts nail art holding a pink pouch

Did you think heart nails were reserved just for Valentine’s Day? Think again! Not only is the simple motif easy for nail art amateurs to master but it also treats you to a dose of self-love every time you glance down. If you don’t want to paint them on every nail, one or two hearts per hand is all you need to add a little bit of summer romance to your usual at-home manicure.

15. Striking Sparkle

Image of a woman's hand with purple nail polish and gold glitter holding a nude and teal pouch

If ombré nails are for minimalists, this full-on glitter nail is for all the maximalists amongst us. Instead of creating a gradient effect with your go-to glitter polish, this look creates a stark division halfway up the nail bed. To recreate this design at home, apply your base coat and the primary nail color of your choice. After that fully dries, grab that nail tape and apply it horizontally across all of your nails. Then, add the glitter polish to the top half, allow it dry, and remove the tape for satisfyingly sharp lines.

P.S. If you sometimes struggle to get the kind of glitter density you see here, try using our expert tips on how to apply glitter nail polish.

16. Mixed Patterns

Image of woman's hand with nail art of different patterns holding a stack of multi-colored pouches

Can’t decide on one nail design? Try them all. Okay, maybe not literally—but it’s important to remember that there are no rules when it comes to nail art. If you feel like mixing it up on each nail, or every other, or one on each hand, go for it.

17. Reverse Triangles

Image of a woman's hand with purple triangles nail art holding IPSY April Glam Bag

This version of the graphic mani moves the triangles to the bottom of the nail, helping to make nails look extra long. Want to give the look a little extra touch of glam? Try outlining the triangle shapes with a thin line of glitter.

18. Flower Power

Image of model's hands with bright floral nail art

With a handful of music festivals finally back on the horizon, now feels like the perfect time to start perfecting your ‘70s-inspired floral nail art. The key to mastering this look is choosing super-saturated colors (think: electric teals like COLOR CLUB Nail Polish in Palm to Palm and vibrant fuschias (like BE A BOMBSHELL COSMETICS Nail Polish in Holy Fuchsia).

19. In the Stars

Image of hand with constellation inspired nail art against a woman's face

Are you a little bit astrology obsessed? Even if you're not, you'll definitely appreciate this dreamy, zodiac-inspired manicure. This look works with any color combo (so long as there is a good amount of contrast between the two), but if you're looking to take it to the next level, try coordinating your base color with your (red for Aries, black for Scorpio, etc.). To create precise constellations, a toothpick or nail polish pen is definitely in order.

20. Classic Accent Nail

Image of woman's hand with red and white accent nail art against her cheek

Sometimes you just can't beat a classic. An optic accent nail is the move anytime you want the look and feel of nail art, without any of the effort. Just be sure to choose a contrasting color for maximum impact, like this white-and-red combo.

21. Negative Space Half-Moons

Image of a woman's hand with red reverse French manicure against her cheek

Half-moon manis (aka the reverse French manicure) had a moment a few years ago, and TBH we’re still not over them. Not only are they unexpectedly cool, but they’re a great choice for gel nails since any new nail growth will blend in with the bottom of the manicure. Genius!

22. Sophisticated Silhouettes

Close-up image of a model peeping through her hand with artsy face silhouette nail art

Feeling pretty confident in your nail art abilities? This expressive silhouette motif is taking over the fashion and beauty world and it makes for a perfect nail design. While some nails may be big enough to fit a whole face, you might try just doing an eye or some lips on another (just say you were inspired by Picasso).

23. Whimsical Swoops

Image of a model's hand with pink and red graphic nail art against her jaw

Meet the easiest pattern you haven’t tried yet. To master this nail art trend, all you need is a great base color, a nail art pen, and a trusty top coat. After your base color has dried, get creative by drawing curved swoops across each nail bed, making sure that each design is a little bit different than the last.

24. Analogous Mani

Image of hands with multicolored nail art against a dark red outfit

In color theory, analogous colors are a range of different shades that all sit next to each other on the color wheel (think: violet, violet-red, and red). By translating this classic design principle to nail art, you can create a multicolored look that's fun and unexpected but still harmonious.

25. Leopard Love

Image of hand with white and leopard print nail art

If you hold the belief that leopard is a neutral when it comes to your wardrobe, why not extend that mindset to your nails? This pattern may seem complex, it's actually more time-consuming than anything else, with loose squiggly shapes it's surprisingly great for anyone with a slightly shaky hand.

26. Negative Space Stripes

Image of a model's hand with multicolored negative space stripe nail art against her face

This striped look is sporty, unexpected, and most importantly, extremely easy to do. Simply lay a piece of thin nail tape diagonally down the nail, then paint one color on one side and your coordinating color on the other (we're really digging this darker + lighter combo on each nail). Once the polish dries, remove the tape, and voilà! A perfect negative-space stripe with clean lines on either side.

Want to test out all the trendiest new nail polish colors? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.

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About the author
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Cortney Clift
Cortney is a New York-based freelance writer who has written about beauty and wellness for more than six years. She was previously the senior writer and special projects editor at Brit + Co where she covered a wide range of news and lifestyle topics.
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Article Last Updated August 3, 2021 12:00 AM