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Your DIY Guide to Instagram-Worthy Nail Art

Prepare for the "likes" to roll in.

nail art

Ever since Cardi B and her tech Jenny Bui pushed long acrylic nails back into the cultural limelight in 2019, we've seen a rise in nail trends that goes well beyond conversation around seasonal colors and matte vs. glossy finishes. Instead, cooler, more experimental trends (think geometric designs, neon colors, press-on nails, and gemstone adornments) have taken center stage. Now, thanks to Instagram, we've discovered new ways of expressing ourselves through DIY manicures. But while we're still trying to master the at-home gel manicure, nail techs and artists are perfecting new techniques, custom colors, and artful designs every single day. So we turned to the experts for their advice on the coolest summer nail trends. Ahead, Brittney Boyce, celebrity nail technician and founder of Nails of LA, and Jessica Tong-Ahn, Smith & Cult brand ambassador,share their tips and tricks on how to nail your manicure this summer.

Outlined French Tips

Boyce loves giving the classic French manicure her own modern twist. Rather than swiping on the usual white shade, Boyce opts for a clear polish base paired with bold-colored tips. This trend also incorporates color blocking, a design style that Boyce recommends for summer. "When it comes to color blocking, I'm a fan of using minimal geometric shapes so it doesn't look too overwhelming on the nail," she says.

To recreate this trend, swipe on a clear base coat and wait for it to dry. Then, Boyce suggests selecting two complementary bold colors. Next, cut several pieces of washi tape that are about two to three millimeters wide and adhere one piece in a straight line over each nail, leaving a small sliver uncovered near the tip.

After the tape is secured on, paint your nail with one shade, using the top of the tape as a guide to ensure smooth and straight lines. Then, using the bottom of the tape this time around, paint on another line with your second shade.

"If you're more advanced, you can freehand it and use a dry brush dipped in acetone to clean up the sides," says Boyce.

Abstract Swirls

According to Boyce, the Pucci-inspired abstract swirls that you've probably noticed on your IG feed started gaining traction this spring. She expects this trend to go full force this summer, especially since the style looks great on both short and long nails.

Don't stress too much about staying inside the lines when you're recreating this look. "The idea is to create swirls and patterns that are abstract and somewhat psychedelic, so you don't have to be super precise," says Boyce. Grab your preferred shade, and swerve it over the nail in whatever shape you desire. (Be sure to let it dry completely before layering on additional shades.) "The beauty of this design is that your look doesn't have to be identical from nail to nail," says Boyce.

Pop Deco Design

For Tong-Ahn, this summer is all about pop deco designs and psychedelic swirls. "Not only is this trend fun, but you can do them freehand, which gives each nail its own unique look," she says. When recreating this trend, Tong-Ahn recommends starting with a sheer, neutral base. Then, using a striper brush, add a loose S-shaped wave onto your nail. Tong-Ahs opts for a skinny striper brush with one-inch bristles. "The long and loose texture of the bristles helps to freehand the swirls nicely," she adds.

Then add one or two other nail polish shades alongside the original S-shaped wave in a loose swirl. Once you're finished, you can choose either a matte or gloss finish. "The finish is all about your mood," says Tong-Ahn. "For a classic look, go for a gloss, or opt for a matte top coat for a little attitude."

90s-Inspired Designs

nail art

Photo: Courtesy of Jessica Tong-Ahn

According to Tong-Ahn, throwback designs like flames, cherries, smiley faces, and fun animal prints have been trending since the spring, and they're most likely still going to be popular come summer. "This trend is so fun and very versatile," says Tong-Ahn. Not only can you mix and match the designs, but the trend looks great on all nail shapes and sizes.

When DIYing the cherry French manicure, Tong-Ahn suggests swiping a downward arch from the center of the nail to the right side of the nail and then repeating the step on the other side. "For the cherries you'll want to use a larger dotting tool, a bright red polish, and a striper brush to form the stems," says Tong-Ahn.

"To add dimension to the look, use the striper brush and a deep plum color to add a shadow where the stem meets the red of the cherry," adds Tong-Ahn. "Then finish with a bit of white along the right side of the cherry's small arch to add some shine."

What Summer Nail Colors Are Trending This Year?

According to Boyce, you can't go wrong this summer if you opt for bold shades like rich purple, lime green, bright tangerine, and lilac. A bright red hue is also another summer shade that Boyce recommends: "They never go out of style."

"I'm normally a year-round red nail gal—my go-to polish is Smith & Cult's Nail Lacquer in Kundalini Hustle—but I'm really into different shades of pink for this summer," says Tong-Ahn. She suggests Barbie-pink hues, pink glitter polishes, and soft baby-pink pearl metallic shades. Basically, summer 2021 nail colors (and trends) are all about expressing yourself through fun colors, modern design, and creative finishes, so you really can't go wrong with your picks.

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