Summer is the peak season for pool parties, slinky swimwear, and super-fun nail designs that you just couldn’t pull off any other time of year.
Since we savor every single summer day and night, you better bring some fresh styles whenever you hit the beach, the bar, or the outdoor mall!
Let’s check out 15 of the cutest summer nails you need to work into your rotation.
1. Glossy Neon Flames
When the summer sun ramps up, we make a break for the shade and try to beat the heat, but there’s no hiding from the fiery flame patterns we’re seeing on nails everywhere.
You can paint them yourself or use stickers to achieve the flame effect on a well-placed accent nail, or go all-out with decals on every finger.
For the most eye-popping flame effect, start with a layer of gel or acrylic and work from there. You don’t have to be an expert artist to make it work.
Plus, if you opt for neutral press-on nails, you can get crafty and paint an entire set to your liking before you place them on your fingers. This summer is all about freestyling it and making your designs catch fire!
2. Subtle Little Stars
Many Instagrammers are shooting for the stars with some seriously astronomical designs, and we’re loving the unique looks.
If there has ever been a true entry-level design, this is it. Anybody can put pen to paper and draw some starry night patterns, so why not make it happen on your gel or acrylic nails?
Not feeling inspired to do it yourself? There are plenty of sticker packs available for purchase in stores and online to make your dreams come true.
Many press-on nail sets include star and moon motifs as well, so pick up one of these kits and make a great first impression when you go out for the night on the town.
Our current favorite is Euphoria, which features glittery stars on a lilac stiletto shell.
3. Mix & Match Freestyle
We are huge advocates of accent nails because the possibilities are endless! Don’t feel boxed in by the old-school idea that every single nail on your hand needs to be the same color.
Accent nails can send a powerful message if done correctly.
You can highlight that bling on your ring finger, or for the single folks out there, draw attention to the fact that a ring isn’t there!
As long as you maintain some level of consistency (don’t mix pastels with metallics, for example), you can get away with some wacky and fun color clashing.
The mix & match approach is also a great last-minute option if you have an assorted collection of loose press-on nails that need a home. Take care of them well, because you can reuse them over and over.
4. Fierce Animal Prints
Summer is when our inner animals come out to play! We go harder at the gym, play harder on the beach, and maybe take our careers a bit less seriously. It’s fine, we all do it!
There’s no better way to express the beast within by rocking some bold animal prints on your nails, whether you pick orange tiger slashes, suave leopard spots, or fun zebra stripes.
These designs are more of an intermediate challenge, and you probably won’t want to make them yourself, so don’t worry about picking up a pack of press-on nails to get the job done.
When matched with the right outfit and a festive occasion, this is a fierce choice for sure.
5. Modern Art-Inspired Shapes
Want to showcase your sophisticated taste in art for a gallery opening or a high-pressure first date? Step up your game with some aggressive and abstract artsy patterns.
We’ve seen some stuff on Instagram lately that highlights the artistic talent in the nail game, with strong angles, controlled splatters, and perfectly-placed shapes.
It may be tough to track down a nail tech willing or able to take on this high-level challenge, so maybe stick with some press-on nail kits that replicate your favorite classic designs.
It’s also worth taking a day trip to your local modern art museum to get some inspiration!
6. Fresh Takes on the French
The beloved French manicure will never fade into obscurity, and we’re very grateful for that fact. However, times are changing, and we’re seeing a lot of cool new interpretations of this old nail salon standard.
An article from WhoWhatWear tells us that the “Updated French Mani” features fresh elements like subtle double lines and asymmetrical placement, which are exciting developments.
If you want something totally out of left field, tell your nail tech to make something up on the fly, and see where the road takes you. Disclaimer: Only do this if you trust their judgment!
7. Bada$$ Black & White
Whoever said summer styles need to always be packed with color? If you’re feeling like a change of pace, go for a bold black and white contrast look that will turn heads.
We’re seeing some very sassy checkerboard and stripe styles that complement minimal outfits for the little black dress crew, and it’s a refreshing gear shift from the summer norm.
The “Goth French Mani” recently featured in Glamour is one of the hottest designs we’ve seen thus far, and worth trying out if you have the attitude to back it up!
If you want to capture that chic, mysterious summer look, definitely grab a set of these unique Starlite Coffin Nails with a glitter finish.
8. Simple and Sweet Designs
Feeling like summer is going by way too fast? Slow things down by going back to the basics. Try a subtle stripe or two on a couple of accent nails, or some low-key polka dots.
This can help you feel nostalgic when you don’t feel like making a bold statement to the whole world. We all have those days!
Sometimes you just want to paint some throwback designs and not care what anybody says on social media, and we get it. There are tons of press-on packs that capture this vibe perfectly if you want to stick with acrylics.
9. Pretty Pastels
We often think of pastels as more of a springtime look, but based on what we’ve seen on social media, this trend is becoming more of a perennial design choice.
There’s nothing not to like about these subtle shades of green, pink, blue, and purple, and when matched with the right summer outfit you will look like a class act.
Plus, the press-on nail scene is stepping up their game when it comes to pastels, so don’t feel like you need to dedicate hours of your week polishing and painting away.
These Miss Chella pastel rainbow nails are a big bestseller right now, and as the name suggests, are the perfect pick for your next party.
10. Fruits and Florals
Everything is in full bloom during the summer, including the nail designs! Harper’s Bazaar highlighted some breathtaking florals and fruit patterns that look like real works of art.
Many of the designs you see online look like a Monet calendar, but you can make it easy on yourself by painting some simple daisies or using a sticker pack just for fun.
As far as fruits go, we’re way past apples and bananas. Clementines, pineapples, and watermelons seem to be where it’s at this summer.
It’s pretty easy to pull off these designs if you copy and paste some of the basics you see online. Just remember to make them your own!
11. Tie-Dye Twists
There comes a time every summer where you just have to break out the tie-dye. It can be in the form of a shirt, a bandana, some leggings, or some awesome press-on nails.
Nothing says “up for anything” like psychedelic swirls, and nails are the perfect showcase for these bright mixes of colors that cannot be replicated.
We’re not saying you have to start growing your patchouli, but a little tie-dye is a ton of fun in the summer, no matter who you are.
Watch a YouTube tutorial on how to paint tie-dye nails if you want an arts and crafts project, or just pick up a pack of pre-made acrylics to save some time.
We wish that summer could last forever, but the fact that it doesn’t make it so special!
Use every day of the summer months to showcase these bold new nail styles, or turn back the clock and enjoy some old classics.
If you want to try something new, now is the time! The rest of the year is filled with so many formal occasions and cold weather, it’s just not as fun to experiment.
Have more styles than days in the calendar? There’s always next summer!