Stepping out of the nail salon with a set of freshly painted nails can make you feel like a new person. There's nothing like a little pampering and a fresh mani to make you feel like your best self. But it can get expensive fast, especially if you opt for some nail art.
That's why we rounded up 30 of our favorite simple and easy nail designs that you can do at home (and probably with the nail colors you already own). We're not nail artists by any means, but luckily with these looks, and tips from experts Jordan Meade, Amy Oung, and Tammy Taylor, that doesn't matter. Whether you want to rock a set of stars along your cuticles, a tonal gradient across all 10 fingers, simple glitter stripes, or a double French mani, you're sure to find a look (or three or four) that you love.
Meet the Expert
Check out some easy nail art ideas you can do at home.
This look offers "minimal effort but maximum design," says Meade. "Like art on your nails, this abstract line design gives a simple yet alluring effect." Meade offers the following tips: "Apply a thin base coat using a light polish and cure for 60 seconds. Take a fine detail brush and color of choice to draw random, freestyled swirl lines that vary in thickness. Remember art is subjective, not perfect."
In this case, less is more. We love the simplicity of these neutral nails with a thin white stripe down the middle. "Do one to two coats of any nude/neutral color for the base," instructs Oung. "Once it is dry, use a striping brush and apply a vertical thin line with a nice white. Apply gloss (SpaRitual Nourish Fast Dry Vegan Top Coat, $20) to lock in the design."
Play up your bare nails with a swipe of gold at the tips. Try a chunky metallic shade like L'Oréal's Colour Riche Nail ($13) in Gold Dust. Pair with gold jewelry to really make a statement.
We love a good pastel nail look, and having multiple shade options is even better. Mirror the color order on each hand for a polished nail art look that doesn't require any tricky precision.
This nail art is almost too easy. It features stripes over top half-painted nails, providing inspiration for a way to make your mani last longer as it grows out. "If you've mastered #02, you're on your way to this design," says Oung.
- "Do one coat of clear on the nail."
- "Once it's dried, use an opaque pastel bright (SpaRitual Nourishing Vegan Color, $14, in Poetry in Motion) and paint halfway down the nail. To achieve this, take a light amount of product on the brush and fan it where you want the color to be on the nail. With the Nourishing brush, it is curved to create that moon shape. Brush down evenly on the nail. Repeat a second coat if necessary."
- "Once it is dry, use a striping brush and paint a thin vertical line down the center of the nail using a metallic color." (We like FingerPaints' Striping Polish, $4, in Brushstroke of Bril).
- "Once dry, lock the design in with a clear coat."
If you want to rock some nail art but you don't have the steadiest of hands, we've got a solution: nail stickers. Olive & June's Nail Art Stickers ($9) make for a unique and easy mani. It's safe to say we're impressed.
Teal and Gold
Teal and metallic gold collide in this chic design. To recreate, "Paint two coats of an opaque teal color," says Oung. Try a shade like Essie Go Overboard ($15). "After it is dry, use a long detailer brush and paint a half-moon around the cuticle area with a metallic color. Start with a small dot in the middle with the metallic color (the base of the U of the moon) and a dot on each side of where the moon will end (the 'smile' of the U). Connect the dots with the detailer brush, and fill in the rest of the moon. Allow to dry. Apply [a fast-drying top coat] to lock in the design."
Rather than paint your half-moon design, an alternative would be to use French Manicure sticker guides ($5) from Orly and apply them to the nail as a stencil, says Oung. Once the teal color is dry, place the sticker on the nail. "Use the metallic color and fill in where the moon would be. Wait for it to dry and then lift the sticker. Apply a thin coat of clear," instructs Oung.
You've probably seen polka-dot nails before, but this one creates a new layer of fun. Pick a few colors to create a bunch of tiny dots all around bare nails—variation and overlap are all part of the fun here. To replicate this look, Taylor suggests first applying Flawless Foundation Gel Base Coat ($29) and allowing it to cure before adding designs. "Using the Tammy Taylor Dotting Tool ($7), New Flame Gelegance Gel Polish ($21), and Fresh n Fruity Gelegance Gel Polish($21), create a dotted smile line in the middle of the nail, alternating colors," she adds. "Repeat this process by filling in gaps down the nail. Cure."
The colored stripes make this neutral mani fun and interesting while remaining simple enough for both execution purposes and more conservative settings. Nail stripe stickers can make achieving this look even easier. To achieve interesting shapes, like curves or lines, Taylor suggests using her eponymous Striper Brush ($20).
The impact of this manicure far outweighs the time it takes to achieve it. No metallic or neon color combo is off limits with this simple, chic style. To make this mani—or any mani—last, "Always use a top coat!" emphasizes Oung.
The contrast between the yellow base and blue dots makes this look from Paintbox pop. These dots are 3D, but a contrasting polish will also provide a bold impact if you're not looking to shop for extra baubles.
Purple on purple totally works here. Different shades of the same tone are always a good choice for a polished, understated take on nail art. Try OPI Infinite Shine 2 Long-Sear Lacquer ($13) in Do You Lilac It? as the base and Nature Strong Natural Original Lacquer ($12) in A Great Fig World for the stripe.
Sprinkle of Glitter
Get this sparkly yet understated look by using a sponge to press on glitter from the lower left corner, tapering into nothing. Set with a clear coat and bam—instant party nail art.
The unique color combo is what drew us to this two-toned nail design, and achieving the look is as simple as letting your first shade set, then applying the second diagonally across half the nail. Oung explains how:
- "Apply one to two coats of nude/neutral color."
- "Once dry, use a striping brush and paint a diagonal halfway across the nail with a periwinkle color." The baby blue here reminds us of Essie's Bikini So Teeny ($8).
- "Fill in the rest with one or two coats with either the polish brush; for more control, use a long detailer brush. Lock the design in with a clear coat (SpaRitualNourishing Vegan Gloss, $14).
A Sleek Swoop
Shift your French tip to the corner of your nail for a modern take on the classic manicure. Stick with a pastel shade or go bolder with bright rainbow hues. "A base coat is optional with this design since all the flare is at the tip," notes Meade. "Choose five different colors–one for each nail, and use the polish brush to create a curved slope starting at the corner of your nail. Keep some acetone handy to clean up the curved line with another brush. Just like that, a pop of color is all you need to stand out."
Black and White
If you're not a fan of bright colors on your nails, this easy nail art idea is a stunning choice. We love how the thin black stripe adds dimension to the white base, creating a design that's super versatile.
Spice up your summery white mani with a strip of metallic blue. We love China Glaze Nail Lacquer ($8) in Can You Sea Me? Oung's tip for nailing the look? "Always wait for the base color to dry before painting the top designs."
This simple pastel mani got a major upgrade. Add a triangle of tonal foil to your go-to nail polish shade to emulate this beautiful style. Nothing more, nothing less.
We're totally here for this twist on the two-tone manicure. Each nail is a little bit different, which keeps things interesting. To feign a salon mani at home, make sure to take care of your nail brush. "If any of the design brushes stiffen from the nail polish, swish it around in pure acetone and clean the brush with either a lint-free wipe or lint-free paper towel and resume with the designing," comments Oung.
Nail Wave Nouveau
Throw in a curve to give a half-and-half mani a playful twist. Stick to all one shade as a base, or skip it in favor of a clear base coat for a negative-space moment that will make everyone positively jealous.
Negative Space Stunners
If you want to rock a head-turning manicure but don't have the patience to sit and paint all your nails, consider this black and white half-and-half mani that confines the color to just two nails. Recreate the look using striping tape to trace clean lines for your base color, then finish with dots of contrasting black or white polish.
Polka Dot Party
We've shown you plenty of variations on this theme, but there's still room for a classic polka dot pattern in your easy nail art arsenal. If you look closely, these delicate dots are actually specks from a confetti polish—all the better to make a fun look even easier.
Your nails can look like an actual piece of Yayoi Kusama's modern art with minimal effort. Simply start with a bright, dandelion-yellow base, then finish with black dots in varying sizes—no need to stress about uniformity here.
Embellished French Tips
Here's another option for all the French manicure lovers out there. Adorn the center of the nail with whatever design you want. The witchy decals in this mani are making us long for Halloween all year long.
If you're not one to get crafty with intricate nail art ideas but still crave an eye-catching design, check out this gradient option. With a different blue shade on each nail, it's a dreamy contrast we can't stop staring at. If you're not sure which shades of blue will pair well together, ask your nail technician.
Daisies are giving us serious mid-'90s, Clueless vibes—your nails will be the envy of everyone you flash with the "Whatever" hands. This example uses a few negative space designs underneath the daisies, but you can go as simple or complex as you want and be sure the flowers will shine.
Add a boost of joy to your solid mani with some easy nail art that smiles back. The eyes on this Chillhouse design are purposefully squiggly, so there's no need to worry about perfectly straight application.