Nail Art Design Ideas for all Occasions 2021

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Finding new nail art ideas can be challenging. There are so many amazing designs on social media that you can use for references. How you want to do the nails may depend on the season, holiday celebrations, formal gatherings and other external influences. In this article, I am going to list nail art ideas, ranging between extreme hand-painted art and simpler nail art.

Note that the pictures used in this post are nails I did myself. During most of the designs, I made use of references.

1. Blue nails with hand painted bicycle and Eiffel tower art

This set was created using blue acrylic, gel liner and gel polish. I firstly drew all of the outlines with black gel liner, where after I started filling in the base colours. Finally, I added shading and highlights here and there. The clouds were done with a thin layer of white gel liner, which I thinned out more to give a translucent effect. This makes the clouds look more real. I think this set if perfect for spring and summertime if your client likes extreme nail art. It’s colourful and fun and definitely makes a statement.

2. Vintage hand painted nail art

This set turned out much better than I anticipated.  It’s not that hard to achieve if you break down the colours and steps that you have to take. Always start with the background first. Look for any colours, textures or patterns. One nail has white vertical stripes and others have pink gradients, all of which had to be painted before the main design could be created. The watch in particular is my favourite part of this design. I created it by painting the main design, then adding a thick layer of topcoat to give it a 3D realistic effect. To top it off I added gold beads around the design. I personally think this set can work for both fall and springtime, with neutral colours as well as the floral patterning.

3. Fruity insects nail art

This set of nails is absolutely perfect for summertime. It stands out with neon colours and different patterns. Water droplet nail art has become very trendy of late. I created the clear water droplets by using a topcoat.  I mixed a bit of pink gel polish to give it a pinkish hue, to make some of them seem like watermelon juice droplets.  It’s a fun and versatile medium. And it particularly stands out on top of a matt background.  Creating fruit-insects can be a new challenge that you can try yourself. Get out different fruits and imagine insects as fruit hybrids.  It’s the perfect opportunity to use bursts of different colours and textures.

4. Floral spring nail art

When you want to go for a lighter look, but still incorporate a bunch of nail art. Hand-painted flowers are something everyone is trying out these days.  Flowers come in various shapes, sizes, textures and colours, so the possibilities are basically endless. Embrace the warm touch of spring by creating the perfect floral set. The background is created in such a way so that it seems like a watercolour painting. I used regular gel polish colours, applied them thinly to make this amazing looking backdrop for the art.  The main focus point remains the flowers in the foreground. Focus on drawing the petals correctly, once the basic outlines for the flowers exist, you can play around with colours and different details that you might want to add.

5. Sweet treats nail art

Painting a variety of desserts and sweet treats has become quite popular in the nail art community. Some people give it a different twist by creating cartoonish treats instead of a more realistic design. I focused more on realism but every person is different. To create a more realistic design, try focusing more on highlights and shadows. While you are painting the nail art won’t look super realistic from the get-go, but once you start adding shadows and highlights appropriately, it can bring the entire design to life.

6. Butterflies nail art

So, let’s talk about butterflies.  This type of nail art has been the hype of the nail community for the majority of this year.  Designs range from hand-painted nail art, stickers and a range of sequence designs and colours. In this nail design, I combined the use of encapsulated glitter, with hand-painted butterflies. Creating this design was a bit challenging, as I had to envision where I wanted the wings to be when placing the glitter. Overall I feel that the design turned out nicely and I captured the idea I wanted.

7. Dark forest nail art

Having done multiple spring nail designs on my clients, where the main idea was girly, colourful, and pink, it would be an understatement to say I was all pinked out! I wanted to do a set on my own nails, seeing that the first month of spring was almost over, and my nails looked horrible. In the theme of spring, I wanted to stick to the floral concept, and create nails where the main focus was flowers.  So I did this set of nails of myself. I personally love black nails, and having the burst of floral colours over top just gives me a dark forest vibe.

8. Feather nail art

French fade nails are another versatile type of nail art.  You can create this effect with an assortment of colours and create the most amazing designs. I have wanted to try out creating a feather design for the longest time. Using light strokes of whatever base colour you want, create the feather texture and direction. I then went over the base colour with different shades of blue. The French fade can be tricky when you use a dark colour for the tip and a light colour for the base of the nail. What I found works best, was to mix the two colours where they meet.  This gives a subtle transition from one colour to the other, without the presence of a harsh line.

9. Simple lotus flower nail art

This flower is something that came to me when doing my own nails, seeing that my thumbs were bare; I wanted to fill up space.  I absolutely love mandala style drawings, so I tried to draw a design from memory. After this my client saw the flower on my nails, she wanted me to recreate the nail art on her nails. I used a rose gold gel liner and a striping brush, as well as my smallest dotting tool.

10. Daisy nail art

I simply loved recreating this design. There is something so beautiful and sweet about daisies. Using gel liner and striping brushes I created the stripes along with the nails. The daisies are quite simple to create and give this amazing look. Breaking the pastel blue and light colours with some black just makes it stand out even more.

11. Rose gold nail art

Rose gold has really become the dominant colour for nail art in the past few years. I personally love it, as it’s soft, elegant and very ladylike. I made use of very soft pink for the base of the nails, focusing more on nail art. I used rose gold liner gel for the lines, as I personally strongly dislike using striping tape. I added subtle gold rhinestones with gold pearls for even more elegance. The mirror chrome powder is definitely the show stopper of this nail. Remember to properly seal the chrome nails, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, as the overuse of hand sanitiser (especially since some places use strong chemicals instead of real sanitiser) can cause even the strongest topcoats to crack, which will result in the chrome peeling from the nails. Dreadful I know!

12. Nude flower nail art

This is an insanely simplistic design with no highlights or shadow effects.  I simply used the same shade of gel polish as the acrylic I used for the rest of the nails, to create simple petals. Where after I outlined them with black liner gel and drew a stem. Create a closed flower bud here and there for a fuller design. Using pearls, gold beads and my favourite holographic rhinestones, I created this beautiful jewel-like effect on the middle fingernails.

13. Constellation nail art

“It’s not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves.”- William Shakespeare

Constellation nail art has a wide variety of possibilities. Simply start with a black background and create white dots using dotting tools. Connect the dots creating any pattern you wish. You can create real constellations or silly pictures and words. The sky is the limit!

14. Simple nail art

Sometimes the simplest nail art can be the most beautiful. By using the contrast of a dark purple against a nude colour, makes the art stand out even more. Always consider complimenting your hand-drawn art with some 3D add-ons like rhinestones or pearls.

15. New take on floral nails

These nails made me view flowers with a different set of eyes. By simply using spider gel, a dotting tool and a short striping brush, this set of nail art was brought to life. Add glitter to make the leaves stand out more. The thumbs have some 3D acrylic flowers with rhinestones to add that bling factor!

16. Cartoon Nail Art

There are so many amazing animations and cartoons that you can use for your inspiration when creating a set of nails. I used 101 Dalmations as well as Aristocats. Add some extra detailing and rhinestones to give it that pizazz. I created the paw print rhinestone by using an upside-down heart with smaller round rhinestones. Remember to never cover rhinestones with a topcoat. this will only dull the shine. If you used a good enough adhesive you won’t have to worry about clients losing rhinestones. These didn’t come off at all as I used a base gel for adhesion and carefully went around each stone with a topcoat.

17. Spring girly floral nail art

This sculpted set is a mixture of reverse french, colour blocking, rhinestone placement, and hand-painted nail art. Creating flowers is one of my favourite handpainted creations. You can mix and play with colours to your heart’s desire. To create flowers I just added a base colour and then played around with different shades to give the illusion of petals and shading. Roses are very simple as you can just paint a “blob” and then go in with lighter or darker colours to draw the petals.

18. Colourful hand-painted nail art

Using gel is amazing as you can mix colours and play around with different designs. I created a pastel design with an air balloon and rose design on the one hand and a cartoon-styled bird and birdhouse on the other. Mixing a beautiful coral gel polish with some white I made a pretty pastel coral colour. If I can’t find a colour I’m looking for in acrylic, I simply build the nail using clear acrylic and then go over it with my desired colour in gel polish. Gel polish is excellent as you can mix almost any colour if you have only a few colours in your collection.

19. Butterfly nail art

Butterflies have been one of my favourite nail art trends of 2020. This set makes use of a black background that allows the red and rose gold butterfly designs to pop. I added a red flower in the background of one of the butterflies and what makes it distinguishable from the butterfly in front is the darker shading and dotted designs on the petals. I used a little bit of rose gold gel to add some sparkle to the butterflies’ wings.

20. Neon new years nails

Combining ombre with some spider gel and white dots to give it an almost starry effect. Neon colours are always a winner. I am in love with the ombre effect that looks like dusk. The possibilities are literally endless.

21. Squirt cartoon nail art

Who doesn’t love Squirt from Finding Nemo? I sure do! I painted I’m over 3 nails and used the right hand to create an oceanic marble effect, and I used some crystals to give that elegant vibe. You can create a similar marble effect by painting a layer of gel base coat and without curing it adding a mixture of colours on top. It will flow and swirl into each other. For a more blended effect, you can place the colours next to each other on a pallet and pick them up at once with a brush. This will help the colours to flow and blend into each other more easily. I just went in with some silver metallic liner gel to give it a sparkly effect.

22. Galaxy nail art

A galaxy effect can be done in multiple ways. Whether you marble acrylic colours or play with some gel colours as I did. It’s fun because not one nail has to look the same. Add some glitter and hand-painted stars to create the perfect starry sky.

23. Geometric nail art

Create this effect by either colour blocking your acrylics, or hand painting the colours by using gel polish.

24. Flower line art

A beautiful french fade set with hand-painted flowers. Mandala art is so beautiful and unique to me. You can create so many unique and creative designs by using line art and adding some shimmery details afterwards.

25. Cat and mouse nail art

I found this art super cute. I myself am an extreme cat lover. I simply mapped out where I wanted the designs to be by drawing rough outlines with liner gel. I then coloured the pictures using base colours like black for the background and light brown for the eyes. After I was done I added shading and highlights by using white and different shades of colours like slightly darker brown for the cat’s eyes.

26. Puma and butterfly tropical nail art

This was definitely an all-time favourite for me. Not only are the butterflies very unique in their colours but the puma with a butterfly on its head was just so majestic and beautiful. Being able to bring a design to life by adding shading and highlights is just amazing. It changes from a blob of colour into a living image. Add some rhinestones to give it that 3D effect.

27. Shimmery black elegant nails

Never do short nails have to be boring. These colours compliment each other so perfectly. Black, cover pink and white. Instead of regular silver, I used this beautiful holographic silver glitter, and it absolutely makes a world of a difference.

28. Watercolor nail art

This is something very unique and I loved doing this. This effect can be achieved by either using marble ink or water paints. I personally made use of water paint. By manipulating the paint using water you can create the most beautiful effects. The little elephant and love lettering I hand drew using liner gel.

29. Nude nail art with 3D flowers

I personally love this set and think it is extremely elegant. Using nude colours gives you endless possibilities. I added some pink glitter and gold rhinestones and created some 3D flowers by using acrylic. 

30. Teddybear valentine nail art

When you love the month of love but you are tired of red and pink. These little bears are very cute and super simple to paint. The petals I created using acrylic and I added some beautiful blue rhinestones to bring out the bling.

31. Metallic oceanic blue nail art

Initially, I wasn’t quite sure how to do this set. But after experimenting with some techniques and colours I came across the perfect combination. I sculpted these nails with acrylic and did some reverse french on 4 of the nails. For the beautiful oceanic effect, I placed a base colour of ocean blue and then without curing it added a few drops of this magnificent metallic blue. Using the sharp side of a wooden cuticle pusher I swirled the metallic into the base blue colour. I then cured it and capped the gel with clear acrylic.

32. 3D sweater nail art

33. Sunflower watercolor nails

34. Fall / Autumn themed nails

35. Blue and gold stiletto flake nail art

36. 3D rose and teddy bear nail art

37. 3D flower pink and green nails

38. hand-drawn pink flower nail art

39. Abstract Nails

40. Blue Winter Snowman Art

Never limit yourself in terms of your capabilities and skills when it comes to doing nails. The options are literally endless and you will most definitely find some type of art that calls to you! Anything that you look at can be used as a reference for nail art. You can also use things you find, like beautiful stones or seashells, and incorporate them into your design for a unique set of nails.

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