Nail Art Design Ideas for all Occasions 2021
This page contains affiliate links. If you want to buy an item please consider using my links at no extra cost to you.
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 created by talented nail technicians.
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 colors. 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 is perfect for spring and summertime if your client likes extreme nail art. It’s colorful and fun and 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 colors and steps that you have to take. Always start with the background first. Look for any colors, 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 favorite 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 think this set can work for both fall and springtime, with neutral colors as well as floral patterning.
3. Fruity insects nail art
This set of nails is perfect for summertime. It stands out with neon colors 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 colors 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 colors, so the possibilities are 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 watercolor painting. I used regular gel polish colors, 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 colors 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 colors. 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, colorful, and pink, it would be an understatement to say I was all pinked out! I wanted to do a set on my 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 love black nails, and having the burst of floral colors 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 colors 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 color you want, create the feather texture and direction. I then went over the base color with different shades of blue. The French fade can be tricky when you use a dark color for the tip and a light color for the base of the nail. What I found works best, was to mix the two colors where they meet. This gives a subtle transition from one color 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 nails, seeing that my thumbs were bare; I wanted to fill up space. I 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 colors with some black just makes it stand out even more.
11. Rose gold nail art
Rose gold has become the dominant color for nail art in the past few years. I 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 the show stopper of this nail. Remember to properly seal the chrome nails, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, as the overuse of hand sanitizer (especially since some places use strong chemicals instead of real sanitizer) 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 color, 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, color blocking, rhinestone placement, and hand-painted nail art. Creating flowers is one of my favorite handpainted creations. You can mix and play with colors to your heart’s desire. To create flowers I just added a base color 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 colors to draw the petals.
18. Colorful hand-painted nail art
Using gel is amazing as you can mix colors 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 color. If I can’t find a color I’m looking for in acrylic, I simply build the nail using clear acrylic and then go over it with my desired color in gel polish. Gel polish is excellent as you can mix almost any color if you have only a few colors in your collection.
19. Butterfly nail art
Butterflies have been one of my favorite 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 gives it an almost starry effect. Neon colors are always a winner. I am in love with the ombre effect that looks like dusk. The possibilities are 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 colors on top. They will flow and swirl into each other. For a more blended effect, you can place the colors next to each other on a pallet and pick them up at once with a brush. This will help the colors 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 colors or play with some gel colors 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 color blocking your acrylics, or hand painting the colors 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 afterward.
25. Cat and mouse nail art
I found this art super cute. I 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 colored the pictures using base colors 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 colors like slightly darker brown for the cat’s eyes.
26. Puma and butterfly tropical nail art
This was an all-time favorite for me. Not only are the butterflies very unique in their colors 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 color into a living image. Add some rhinestones to give it that 3D effect.
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 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.
31. Metallic oceanic blue nail art
Initially, I wasn’t quite sure how to do this set. But after experimenting with some techniques and colors 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 color 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 color. I then cured it and capped the gel with clear acrylic.
Never limit yourself in terms of your capabilities and skills when it comes to doing nails. The options are 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.