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Warmer weather is creeping in, meaning summer nail designs 2023 are firmly on the beauty agenda.
We love a seasonal manicure, so we’ve compiled this guide to the prettiest summer-ready nail trends – complete with insights from leading nail experts – to inspire your next trip to the salon or DIY job. “Brights will definitely be making a comeback for spring-summer – orange, green, electric blue, bright pink,” says Julia Diogo, luxury manicurist and artist in residence at Liberty London. “Pops of color will definitely be trending, as will micro-dots, French manicures, line-work on a sheer nude base, and brightly-colored minimal designs.”
“Bold and vibrant hues will be all the rage this summer,” agrees Juanita Huber-Millet, founder and creative director of TOWNHOUSE nail salons. “Think electric blues, sunny yellows, crisp greens, and magenta pinks. These are going to be the ‘it’ colors of the season, perfectly capturing the carefree and fun-loving essence of summer, and will act like a burst of sunshine on your fingertips.”
Summer nail designs 2023 – 27 ideas for the season ahead
Bright summer nail designs
Bright nails and summer go hand in hand, so if ever there’s a time to go for bold summer nail colors, it’s now. “We’ve seen a rainbow of colors popping up on celebrities and appearing in fashion weeks in the last few months,” Charlotte Knight, founder, and CEO of Ciaté London, tells us. “Bright and bold nails are always on the agenda, but I think this year neon nails are definitely coming back in fashion to celebrate summer in a big way. Whether via a French tip, a gradient, or abstract design – think swirls and flowers – wearing your nails neon is the way to go this summer”
1. Bright French tips
“Micro French tips in bright colors are always in for the summer” says Diogo. “They are a great way for people to inject color onto their nails.” The great thing about this design is that you can pick absolutely any bold color you like, plus it doesn’t feel as much of a commitment as block nails.
Barbiecore, AKA all things pink, is everywhere this season. “The Barbie movie is coming this summer and what better way to celebrate than to wear a pink mani?” says celebrity manicurist and Essie ambassador Michelle Humphrey. This can also extend to nail art. “Think pink on pink; this can be any design created with several pink tones – super cute, fun, and perfect for the summer.”
3. Color blocks
The antithesis of the micro French tip is a “half and half” nail, either using two colors or one against a plain or neutral background. If you’re not particularly dextrous when it comes to painting your nails, Knight has an easy solution for creating those clean lines. “Especially when it comes to last-minute, spontaneous going-out plans this summer, Ciaté London’s Block Party Nail Art Kit is the perfect solution for the easiest manicured nails on the go. Simply seal with a clear coat after applying in your desired area to ensure it lasts, and you’re ready to go!”
If ever there’s a season that suits neon hues, it’s summer. As Knight touched on, these shades are going to see a big uptick in the coming months, particularly bright shades of pink, yellow, and green.
5. Mix and match
Having a different color and/or design on each nail results in a unique design, and this particular manicure screams summer – especially the rainbow swirls. Although the longer length is beneficial, particularly for French tips, you could fit smaller swirls and tips onto shorter nails, too.
6. Two colors
Picking two complementary brights and having each hand a different color not only looks cool but requires a lot lower skill level than nail art, while still packing a punch. All you need to know is how to paint your nails (or how to book your nearest nail salon).
7. Bright blue
This shade just makes sense for the summer months – think bright blue skies, bright blue seas, and bright blue nails. Don’t get us wrong, it’d work well as part of a nail art design, but it’s so bold that it really stands out from the crowd and makes a statement on its own.
8. Multiple colors
Stuck between more than one bold color? Who says you have to choose? Go for more than one by alternating two summery shades, or having a different shade on every finger for a gradient effect or complete rainbow, as above.
9. Single accent nail
A trend that we’re seeing more and more of is colorful French tips that are offset by having a single block nail as an accent, usually the ring finger. It’ll work with any color you fancy, though we do love this sunny yellow shade.
Summer nail art
The beauty of nail art is that, really, anything goes, and you can take inspiration from just about anywhere. “This summer, the minimal aesthetic is going to be a popular theme for nail art – this trend takes inspiration from the paired-back ‘clean girl aesthetic’ trending across beauty and makeup,” says Huber-Millet. “To nail this trend for summer, go for a natural sheer color polish with an accent of nail art – we’re loving chic animal prints, delicate florals, and eye-catching metallics.” For those who like to play with bolder designs, colorful swirls and summery motifs are also great nail art choices for the months ahead.
Bright and colorful swirls against a neutral background are an excellent summery nail art choice, whether you opt for a single color of swirls, as seen above, or mix it up with a couple of different shades.
11. Airbrushed nails
“Airbrushed nails are trending at the moment, from the aura nail trend [above] to ombre nails and gradients,” says Humphrey. “The airbrush defines the 00s and is back to stay.”
As for how to to ombre nails? “You can easily re-create the airbrush effect at home using makeup sponges,” she advises. “Apply the color to the sponge and dab it onto the nail in the desired position. Repeat for coverage if needed once each layer is dry, and always use a top coat to smooth any lumps or bumps – I love Essie Gel Couture Top Coat as it has the highest shine with zero shrinkage.”
12. Psychedelic swirls
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a warmer color palette than these ‘60s-inspired swirls, giving us all the bright and bold nail art inspiration we could ask for. You’ll need a pretty steady hand and fine nail polish brushes to create this at home, so, depending on your skill level, it may be worth relying on a nail tech to do the hard work for you.
13. Zebra tips
There are so many different animal prints to choose from, but if you don’t want to commit them to the entire surface of your nails, why not combine them in French tip form with a nude base? We love this zebra-inspired design.
Anything in sunny yellow shades works especially well during the summer, and that certainly rings true for nail art – we think this lemon-themed manicure would pair especially well with a zesty cocktail or mocktail.
Bright squiggles are a lovely bit of detail that can pop against a neutral base. It’s another design that calls for a bit of practice if you’re going DIY, but one that nail salons will be able to create for you in a breeze.
16. Croc effect
Croc or snake effect nails are a real growing trend (admittedly, usually in fun shades you wouldn’t see on an actual reptile), and we love this hot pink option. Salons will often use blooming gel polish to create the look, though you could create a similar effect using a Q-tip.
One of our favorite geometric designs, choose two complimentary colors or a complete clash of brights if you’re feeling more daring. The good news is that this is a fairly easy one to paint yourself using the brush that comes with any nail polish – you just need a steady hand to get that nice, clean line.
18. Completely bespoke
Of course, you can have any fun and summery motifs that you like as part of a completely bespoke nail art design – that’s the beauty of it! It’s worth noting that nail salons usually charge more for more complex or unique nail art designs, but it’s worth it for a manicure that’s completely unique.
Simple summer nail designs
For those who’d like to elevate their regular mani but don’t want something as complex as a full-on nail art design, there are several simple looks that are a twist on a single color, from adding chrome powder to simple dot work.
“Although the trend really picked up last year, French tip nails are a classic that has had a makeover, securing its status as a staple of the nail design inspiration pages,” says Knight. “Gone are the days where French meant a simple white tip, now the term is being used to describe much more ‘out there’ tips, minimal tips, and everything in between. It’s a great way to do something different from the traditional ‘one color’ without stepping too far out of the box and is able to be adapted in so many ways; the French manicure truly does have a style for everyone.”
Dots are a fun way to add a bit of detailing to any shade of polish – though a neutral shade will make them stand out all the more. “Pairing Chanel Le Vernis Longwear Nail Colour in Ballerina as a base with a watermelon-colored micro-dot is super easy to create,” Diogo suggests. “My top tip for creating the perfect dot is to dip a Kirby grip into polish and dot onto the nail.”
20. Iridescent nails
“90s iridescent finishes [are on trend for summer] as the era is massively trending right now,” says Humphrey. “Essie’s You Do Blue and Essie Feel The Fizzle are perfect, and the Expressie FX Top Coats are incredible for the 90s look.”
21. The reverse French mani
Micro French tips were a key look last summer, and the trend has only evolved since then. The reverse design sees the mini tip applied to the base of the nail for a fun twist, and can be created with any fun, summery shade of polish you like.
22. Lip gloss nails
One for fans of a barely-there manicure, this trend is all about shine and the subtlest hint of color. “Lip gloss nails [are essentially] translucent, clean healthy nails,” says Humphrey. “Get the look using Essie Nail Polish in Sugar Daddy“
23. The double micro French
This technique involves doubling up your French manicure, with both a micro tip and the reverse French mani, which involves painting a thin line of color along the base of the line. The alternative colors here are super summery!
“The glazed donut nail was a huge hit last year with Hailey Bieber setting the trend,” Humphrey notes. “This will evolve, as you can literally wear any shade of chrome and it looks super modern and cool.”
25. French tips and micro-dots
Combine two of our expert trends in one design with a baby French tip and dot detailing – both understated and a nice pop of color. As with any design, it’s very easy to swap out colors to your own preferences.
26. Marbled nails
Marbled nails are a really gorgeous design and another that can be adapted with several different color options, or to work as part of a take on the French nails – as seen here.
27. Curved accents
These curved accents are an easy way to add in a second color to a block nail. Though it has been thought of as a clashing combination, red and pink is always a winning design, though this design would work well with any bold color combination.