I don't know about you, but I'm all too familiar with mani-station stage fright. You know the feeling. That moment of choice-paralysis when your nail technician asks "What are we going for today?" and all you can muster in response is "Errr, burgundy?" when what you really wanted was that monochrome inverted French mani you saw on Bettina Goldstein? THE ABSOLUTE WORST.
Even if your mani appointment's tomorrow, you might be sitting here wishing you'd saved some of the gorgeous looks you've seen on IG so you'd have something to show your manicurist. But don't despair. We've rounded up 13 of the loveliest looks to experiment with this summer.
From subtle and chic to out-there maximalism, our guide to the best summer 2021 nail art trends has it all. We've got avant-garde basic. We've got monochrome abstracts. We've got ice cream and opaque colour palettes. Pop art. Throwbacks. Florals. Twisted French Manis. It's all here. Check them out below:
1. Your nails but better
Sheer pinks have never gone out of fashion, but we have manicurist Harriet Westmoreland to thank for the new trend of nails that look like you've just come back from a two-week vacation. It's less pastel than those French manicure pinks, with zero streaks and an almost wet look top coat.
2. '00s kitsch
Let's face it, we're all in the midst of '00s hysteria. Whether that's hunting down the Adidas tracksuit you wore in school or accessorizing your hair with butterfly clips and scrunchies. The same goes for your nails, these throwback '00s designs are a little bit tacky and a hell of a lot of cute.
3. Neon pops
@TheHangEdit has been our go-to nail inspo account forever and her latest style is actually one you can easily recreate at home. Simply paint your nails one color all over, then add the same shade but in a brighter version as an abstract smudge at the tip.
4. Happy manis
If you're seeking serotonin, screenshot this for your next mani appointment. This look marries our ultra-fave look at the moment—multicoloured pastel tips—and the adorable smiley-face trend to create a playful aesthetic that'll give you (not to mention everyone around you) a spring in your step.
Possibly a reaction to the boredom of lockdown? Maybe it's a lust for easier times when the only real problem was choosing between Kenan and Kel or Sabrina on Nickelodeon? Either way, from the '80s and '90s prints to logomania, 2021 will be dominated by nostalgic nail designs. And we're here for it.
6. Ice cream palettes
This look relies on two elements: expertly selected shades inspired by confectionery, ice cream and all things pastel, plus a simple repeated pattern on every nail. The result is a soft-focus pop-art aesthetic that makes a technicolour statement while staying easy on the eyeball.
7. Acid cow print
If that gorgeous monochrome cow print (check the index finger) isn't enough to satisfy—and we don't blame you—replicate the print in a range of hues to ramp up the energy. Don't be afraid of picking wild contrasts—that's the name of the game here. And, the chunkiness of the pattern means the look can be scaled down with a daintier brush if you've got shorter nails.
8. Double accent nails
While the ring finger has long reigned as an accent nail (at a push, the pinky)—change is afoot. We're heralding the start of a new nail mood: one that takes the index and middle finger and promotes them to the status of accent nails.
To pull this look off, choose a pattern consisting of two colors (or black and white), and complement the accent nails using those same colors in clock form across your thumb, pinky, and ring finger. The result is a gorgeously cohesive look that refreshes the whole accent nail vibe by employing tonal methods.
9. The anti-mani
This look takes the classic French mani rule book—with its cuticle accents and tips—and throws it out of the window. Make sure at least one talon has a classic cuticle (see index finger) and one has a classic white tip (see pinky), and then go hell for leather when it comes to the rest. Because after the year we've had, you've got to make the most of every mani appointment you can get, no?
10. Opal abstracts
If you're not quite ready for pattern clashes and summer brights, ease yourself in with swirls of pastel, opalesque two-tones and gradients. We're obsessed with these S-swirls in a sugared almond palette. Make sure you throw in pale citrus colors to keep things summer-adjacent.
Retro aesthetics is a big mood this year, and the easiest way to nail the look in a mani is to lean into classy B&W designs. Throw in abstract shapes and a high gloss finish, and you're onto a total winner.
12. Borderline leopard print
Leopard print had a big moment in 2020, but if you can't let go just yet, throw it into the mix with another vibe: the borderline mani. This look makes use of negative space on the nails by painting on a translucent nude, followed by a print along the perimeter of the nails. Combine it with perfectly shaped nails and you've got yourself the chicest power-mani going.
13. Contrast hands
Can't choose between two looks? Hannah Montana it and get the best of both worlds with one look on each hand. This trend is already rooting itself in salons across the UK, but mark our words, it'll take off in 2021. Tip: pick patterns and colors across a particular theme to give the contrast a sense of cohesion. Wham, bam, you've got the coolest nails on Instagram.
14. Abstract French Mani
Oui, the original French mani has its place. But we're obsessed with these slightly twisted French mani tips. Whether you have the white tips drawn on diagonally, in pattern form, or in some other dreamy formation, it's a super chic way to reinvent an old classic.
15. Maximalist multiprint
If you're keen to take the prints that make up your world into your nail art, the trend of maximalist multiprint should help take look to the next lev. The method? Joyfully clash colors, prints, and textures around one particular theme.
Artist Anouska Anastasia painted these lengths to celebrate South Asian Truck art as part of a client request, and we think the result is divine.
16. Perimeter tips
Go transparent and decorate with outlined, piped tips. They look cool as heck *and* distract from your real nail underneath if you're sporting nail extensions. And even if your nails are real, it'll draw serious attention to your hard work. Prepare to get some serious compliments.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.
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