9 Cool Manicures Inspired by Pantone's New Color(s) of the Year

Wave goodbye to 2020 on trend.

smiley nails


2020 was, of course, a year marked by global devastation. But it was also 12 months of compassion, activism, and humanity-defining achievement. Pantone's Colors of the Year (yes, there are two) are directly representative of that duality: Ultimate Gray and Illuminating, a lemon-yellow shade, are the storm clouds of this most awful year followed by the inevitable sunshine.

"The union of an enduring Ultimate Gray with the vibrant yellow Illuminating expresses a message of positivity supported by fortitude,” explains Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute, in a press release. "Practical and rock-solid but at the same time warming and optimistic, this is a color combination that gives us resilience and hope. We need to feel encouraged and uplifted, this is essential to the human spirit."

Considering a cheerful manicure is already an easy and (relatively) inexpensive way to get a mood boost every time you flutter your fingers, some Illuminating or Ultimate Gray-toned nails the perfect way to wave goodbye to 2020 in style.

01 of 09

Electric Geometric

Long yellow patterned nails


Step into the sunshine with an Illuminating-hued geometric pattern—a beautiful design you can bring to your nail tech. Or try a simpler version at home with cut-up tape to help guide your lines.

02 of 09

Concrete Cowboy

Gray and cow print nails


Combining the Color of the Year and taking with it a trend from 2020, gray-on-cow-print is surprisingly subtle and perfect for the chilly winter months ahead.

03 of 09

Out of the Box

Gray, black, and white square nails


Don't box yourself in with just Ultimate Gray when you could flank with black and white for a mod manicure that will have you mesmerized as you type away at your keyboard.

04 of 09

Make My Daisy

Daisy-painted nails


Celebrate spring a little early with some yellow-and-cream daisy petals. Pretty enough to feel like real nail art without feeling too overwhelming, this design turns your fingers into flowers with just two shades.

05 of 09

Glittering Gray

Glittery silver-tipped nails


Some unimaginative people might try to tell you that there's no such thing as glittery gray, just silver. Ignore them and proceed straight to the salon for this shimmering, concrete-colored, wavy-tipped mani.

06 of 09

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Yellow smiley face painted nails



It's impossible not to grin at what might be the happiest nails of all time. A '60s-style yellow smiley manicure, especially in an Illuminating-adjacent shape, is the nail equivalent to the light at the end of the tunnel.

07 of 09

Ultimate Marble

Long gray and marble nails


If 10 gray nails feel too plain for you, break them up with some complimentary nail art like this gray, pink, and marbled set. Marble nails look complicated and elaborate but are actually pretty easy to do at home. Check out our DIY marble nail tutorial here.

08 of 09

Main Squeeze

Lemon yellow nail art


Fresh, bright, and zesty nails fast-forward you all the way to summer picnics and beach trips. In Feng Shui, bowls of lemons exorcise bad energy so it stands to reason that fingers full of little lemons will bring nothing bud good vibes.

09 of 09

A Very Mellow Yellow

Long yellow nails with butterflies


Quick, someone show this to butterfly enthusiasts Kylie Jenner and Mariah Carey! A perfectly symbolic pairing, the Illuminating-colored nails with free-flying butterflies mean only bright skies ahead for 2021.

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