Summer is very nearly here, so it’s time to experiment with some summer nail designs! If you’d like some inspiration for your own bright summer nails, we’ve collected some of the most fun examples of designs you can try either at home by yourself or with the help of your manicurist.
Some of the key trends for bright summer nails right now include negative space or designs over bare nails, matte finish (especially over neon nail polish shades), and abstract black line art or doting over colorful nails. As for summer nail polish colors, the hottest shade is yellow, closely followed by orange, pink, and a few different pastels.
Whether your tastes run more towards the twee or the abstract, you’ll find something to like here, because we definitely selected a variety of gorgeous summer nail art looks. We’ve also decided to highlight some of the best polishes and tools you can use to recreate the summer nail designs at home, all by yourself! Enjoy!
In this article:
Must-Have Tools for Summer Nail Art
If you plan to try DIY nail designs for summer, you need to make sure to have at least a few of these nail polishes and nail art tools in your arsenal.
1. Nail Art Liner Brushes
This little brush set allows you to draw stripes, swirls, and if you have a particularly steady hand, then even lettering and free-handed cartoons! The set includes five durable brushes of different sizes you can use again and again, with a comfy nib for easy hold. They are a must for artsy and dynamic summer nail art. Get them on Amazon!
2. Essie Matte About You Matte Finisher
A matte topcoat is a very important part of the summer manicures. It helps tone down loud neons and make wacky designs seem a little more sophisticated. Not all matte topcoats were created equal, however. If you want a long-lasting matte manicure, this is probably the best matte topcoat to choose. It helps transform the nails while also increasing the longevity of your polish. Find it on Amazon!
3. Pueen Nail Art Stamp Collection
The prettiest nail designs are usually done with nail stamps. They allow you to really play around with designs, even if you’re not the best artist. We like this set because it includes a wide variety of designs, from abstract art to recognizable symbols. You can buy it on Amazon.
4. Jsdoin 5 Piece 2 Way Dotting Pen Tool Kit
Dots, usually in black, are a major element of summer nail designs. If you’d like to recreate such looks, having a good range of nail dotting tools is a must! It’s easier than using a brush or a toothpick, with clean, even dots each time. You can experiment with dots of every size with this colorful 5-piece set! It’s available on Amazon.
5. China Glaze Nail Lacquer with Hardeners in Liquid Leather
Black nail polish is a must-have for chic summer nail art. Use it for dots, squiggles, stripes, or zig-zags this season, as well as to draw the outline of cartoon designs! A good black polish for nail art has to be very opaque and long-lasting, which is why we selected this China Glaze polish for our list. It goes on dark and strong in just one swipe, and it doesn’t flake away. Shop for it at Ulta!
6. OPI Infinite Shine Long-Wear Nail Polish in Exotic Birds Do Not Tweet
Yellow is the number 1 most popular color for summer nail art creations, either on its own or in combination with a stamp art or dots. All kinds of yellows can work, but OPI’s Exotic Birds Do Not Tweet is an especially good fit. It’s vibrant and radiant but not too in your face, and it will pair well with blues, oranges, or just about any other shade. It’s sold at Ulta.
67 Ideas of Summer Nails to Copy
Lacqueristas everywhere take inspiration from the season and weather to create bubbly summer manicures. Here you have 67 amazing designs to recreate!
1. Dotty Summer Nails
This summery design is easy to achieve, and it even allows you to celebrate with partially bare nails! The bottom half of the nail was left bare, while the top half is painted with a colorful shade and a rounded bottom. A smattering of either dots or little lines finishes the look.
2. Simple Cartoon Summer Manicure
If you’re good with a paintbrush, then drawing on this summer nail art will be a piece of cake. Just paint your nails with a light, solid color, and then overlay it with these simple sketches of cartoon birds, pineapples, a smiling sun, and more.
3. Jungle Cat Manicure
This manicure brings to mind a children’s picture book about a jungle, thanks to the painterly effects enhanced by the addition of a matte topcoat. The simple drawings of leaves and tigers have a continuity from nail to nail, which makes for a cohesive and artful manicure that totally works over bare nails.
4. Quirky Cartoon Summer Nails
This is a more artful take on cartoon summer nail designs, with figures drawn out of solid shapes and then given a few more touches that finalize their appearance. It’s the kind of technique you’d want to practice on paper first before attempting it on your nails.
5. Exotic Summer Fruit Nails
Nothing is more refreshing than a fruit salad in summer, and exotic fruits are the perfect thing to get inspired by for your nails! Drawing the fruit over a bare nail and then adding a glossy topcoat is a key part of keeping this look appetizing. While here we see papaya, guava, pomegranate, and dragon fruit, you can choose any summer fruits you like!
6. Vaporwave Summer Nail Art
Aside from the slightly odd-looking figure on the accent nail, this manicure is actually quite simple, summery, and lovely, with swipes of bright orange, yellow, pink, and light blue bringing to mind tropical or sunrise tones. The use of the cartoon figure adds a quirky touch and also gives us some vaporwave vibes.
7. Abstract Summer Manicure
The strange but beautiful designs in this summer manicure are actually inspired by the drawings of the artist Egle Plytnikaite, so they can’t just be recreated by anyone. However, let this inspire you to find an artist you love and recreate their designs on your nails!
8. Memphis Summer Nails
Remember that ‘80s art style of colorful zigzag lines and dots? It’s a technique made popular by designers from the Memphis Group, and this manicure presents a slightly cleaned up and stripped version of it that’s stylish yet easy to recreate, with pops of color and black stripes or dots that add structure.
9. Vibrant Scribble Nails
Summer is the perfect season for experimenting with neon nail colors. This design, though somewhat ridiculous, also keeps the neons for being over the top by using them to draw on the nails designs that look like scribbles. The little black cartoon drawings over the nail art tone the brightness down while still being playful.
10. Sphere Line Art Summer Nails
This is a stunning and very sophisticated example of how bright shades can be combined with black linework for dramatic effects. The sphere line art contrasts against the more abstract, watercolor-esque splashes of color.
11. The Wave Nail Art
Slightly inspired by the famous “The Great Wave” painting, this look is cool, stylish, and very much in season, whether you’re heading to the beach or just wishing you could go. It was achieved with stamping over bare nails, so the only color used to paint the nails was blue.
12. Fruity Striped Summer Nails
Nails painted with stripes of white are classic for any season, but the colorful fruit stamped over them gives a great summer twist. A sheen of gloss keeps the whole thing joyful and moist, although trying this in matte would have a totally different but still gorgeous effect.
13. Colorful Gradient Nails
Take inspiration from this colorful summer manicure and think up of ways to give it your own twist. The blend of purple, pink, orange, yellow, and vibrant blue is gorgeously tropical and was achieved easily with the help of a sponge technique that allows for that faded gradient. Add a contrasting shade along the base, and you’re good to go!
14. Pastel Stamped Summer Nails
The matte finish of these white and pastel nails, along with the straight lines of the designs, reminds us of ceramics, although the designs themselves of things like shells and pineapple are decidedly beachy.
15. Rainbow Bézier Nails
Remember that old Windows screensaver? This summer nail art definitely brings it to mind, with mathematical, curvy line art drawn with a rainbow gradient that reflects movement. Draw it over bare nails and add a matte topcoat to keep it modern.
16. Color-Blocked Mango and Gray Nails
The color palette in this manicure is unique and sophisticated, with vibrant mango yellow really standing out against the cool and velvety gray but not in a way that clashes. Applied in diagonal blocks over the nail, it’s an interesting yet mature summer nail design.
17. Decadent Graphic Summer Nails
There is something kind of gritty about neons and reds in this nail design, bringing to mind the wilder nights of a summer vacation in a beach town. Martinis, kisses, and dripping popsicles – what else could you ask for?
18. Graphic Overlaid Nails
This summer nail art is vibrant and dynamic, but it’s shockingly simple. Big circles of bright orange and yellow are drawn slightly off-center along the top of the nail like twisted and elongated French tips, with a circle of white surrounding the color patch. Then, the little black scribbles and shapes give a playful twist.
19. Dotty Pastel Summer Nail Design
This time, black polka dots punch up pastel nails! Paint your nails white, and then add varied blocks of pink and yellow. Then play around with differently sized and spaced black dots to finish off the look.
20. ‘80s Art Manicure
The combination of colors and stripes in this summer nail design is also reminiscent of Memphis, but what really cements its status as an ‘80s-inspired look is the accent nails. The woman’s face but made up only of the features is an ‘80s staple.
21. Black Field Flower Nails
The combination of more classic black floral sketches and graphic blocks of yellow over bale nails is arty and joyful. It’s a look that’s best done with nail stamps and tape, not to mention a nice glossy topcoat.
22. Stylish Lady Summer Nails
The bright and colorful matte nails are lovely, of course, but we’re obsessed with the fashionable cartoon figure on the accent nail. For this look to work, it’s important that the colors in the cartoon also be reflected in the other nails, and of course, keeping it matte adds an additional chic touch.
23. Sunny Abstract Manicure
Pretty summer nail designs don’t have to mean anything! This bright and sunny look includes an abstract design with dots, stripes, and pops of color on a few nails, while other nails were kept a solid yellow, which is our favorite color for summer.
24. Olive Green Summer Nails
Olive green isn’t the first color that comes to mind when we think about summer, but when combined with yellow, it actually works perfectly for the warm season. The olive shade here is fairly light and glossy, while the accent nail brightens things up even more with a freehand yellow and green design topped with black dots.
25. Reverse Egg Manicure
Does anyone else think of eggs when they see this combo of yellow and white? The yolk yellow is as appetizing as can be, with pops of white on the accent nail reminding of the whites. A few black dots are a must these days, adding interest to the design.
26. Shades of Orange Summer Nails
Abstract black designs (okay, fun, scribbles) add a ton of excitement to these vibrant summer nail designs! The base colors are different shades of orange nail polish, with spots of white randomly added, and a healthy matte topcoat to finish things off.
27. Oil Paint Nails
The way colors come together in these bright summer nail designs really brings to mind oil painting, both with the way the colors connect and because of the glossy sheen. The color story of pastels with pops of red and yellow is very rich and lively.
28. Prickly Summer Nails
These adorable cartoon nails are perfect for a summer vacation! Neon orange is as lively as a color can be, with equally vibrant designs helping as well. Our favorites are the prickly designs, like the hedgehog and the cactus.
29. Summer Floral Nails
More is more in this look, where each nail is decorated with a totally different type of floral design (and one smiley face with stripes). The matte finish keeps the manicure from being truly all over the place, but you can definitely take inspiration from just one of the nails if you want something more down to earth.
30. Arty Summer Tips
A basic French manicure is fine, but for exciting summer nail art, you better play with it a little! This look features some diagonal tips as well as split-color tips, all made extra special with the addition of black linework.
31. Warm Dynamic Nails
The warm colors in this manicure echo the heat of summer, from mango yellow to pale orange to burgundy and pink. Concentrated near the top, it’s reminiscent of the elegance of a French manicure but with summer nail art twist.
32. Geometric Tips
If you like playing with lines and shapes, then have a look at this geometric summer manicure! The colorful shapes are added near the top of the nail, while sharp black lines help make the design even more intriguing.
33. Abstract Flower Pot Nails
Flowers are always a gorgeous nail art inspiration, and choosing potted flower cartoons for your nails can feel a little more playful! The flower nail designs are dotted with black over a white center, which is a nice callback to the abstract nail art on other nails.
34. Green and Blue Line Art Nails
These bright shades of green and blue are perfectly cooling for summer nail designs! The way they’re drawn over the nails in squares with black stripes randomly added on top is another example of suprematist art-inspired nail design.
35. Artful Color Splash Nails
Yet another example of super arty nail designs for summer! The colors used are more vivid and saturated, but a touch of white gives them that vintage feed that’s so great for summer, while black adds a serious balance.
36. Black and Yellow Graphic Summer Nail Art
This is another twisted French manicure, featuring a hot neon yellow that’s got just a bit of green to it for that electric vibe, surrounded by a white stripe. As in other summer nail designs, black squiggles, dots, and even a design meant to look like an eye give the illusion of movement.
37. Pastel Creature Nails
From dinosaurs to turtles to fish, animals are a great nail art inspiration! These creatures may not be traditionally “cutesy,” but when painted in a cartoon-style with a lot of pastel accents, they’re friggin’ adorable.
38. Neon Summer Snakes
We can’t think of an easier summer manicure. Just pick your favorite vibrant shades, and with a tiny nail art brush, draw snake-like twisted lines over your nails. Switch up the colors for that fun gradient effect.
39. Busy Summer Nails
The abundance of stripes, shapes, and dots in this look makes for a very busy manicure, but that’s also what makes it so much fun! While the design is busy, the colors are at a perfect balance, with orange toned down by blues, burgundies, and blacks.
40. Stripes and Half-Moon Design
This simple but classy look combines a more vivid yellow with earth brown and stark black in a design that incorporates stripy tips and a black half-moon. Note that the nail designs were topped with a matte finish, while the solid-colored nails were kept glossy.
41. Curvy Summer Nail Art
This summer manicure proves that you can get more with less. The abundance of colors is a must, but otherwise, this design is very simple, with abstract curves drawn over bare nails with a free hand.
42. Piano French Fry Nails
This weird combination of elements makes for memorable summer nail designs, but also pay attention to the base in this look. The vivid, bright yellow still managers to stand out, despite being mattified.
43. Rainbow Snail Nails
Neon rainbow designs are fantastic for summer nail art, but we really appreciate this twist that includes an adorable snail sketch! You can use a stamp and just jazz it up with the rainbow-colored polish.
44. Bad Kitty Silly Nails
The key to making really ridiculous summer nail designs work is to keep the rest of the manicure more high-brow. The matte green and nude nails are sophisticated, so the ridiculous cat cartoon gets to really stand out.
45. Punky Summer Nails
If you’ve been following runway trends, you know that “nail piercings” are very much in style right now. This look adapts the trend for summer, with neon French tips and a small metal hoop as an accent on just one of the nails.
46. Summer Lunch Nails
What do watermelons and pizza slices have in common? They can be made with the same basic triangle shape for a cute, food-inspired summer manicure. We’re not sure why the pizza is speaking, but we’re into this cute design anyway!
47. Neon Cactus Nails
A cactus is the king of succulents, and as such, it absolutely deserves a bit of real estate on your nails! This cactus sketch is quite complex, so it’s reserved for the thumb, while the rest of the nails were painted a matte neon yellow.
48. Orange Juice Manicure
Thankfully, this isn’t how orange juice is really made! It still makes for a funny cartoon that’s a great fit in an orange and white manicure. Oranges may not grow in the summer, but the juice is delicious at any time of year.
49. Blue and Orange Fashion Nails
This is another summer nail art that celebrates a fashionable character. Orange and blue are complementary colors, so they’re perfect for her outfit as well as for alternating solid colored nails.
50. Deep Dive Manicure
Usually, we see the beach represented in summer nail designs, but the animals living deep below the ocean’s surface are also a great fit! The summery designs are combined with bare nails and triangular yellow accents for a very trendy look.
51. Matte and Chrome Candy Nails
These bright candy colors are perfect for summer nails, even if the designs themselves bring to mind Halloween. We love the texture combination, with some nails kept matte and others painted with ultra-reflecting chrome polish.
52. Gold Leaf Accent
A gold leaf accent adds a luxurious touch to any nail polish creation, and we love the way it was applied over bare nails and then topped with a gloss for this summer manicure. The rest of the nails were painted olive, one of the hottest colors for the seasons, but the truth is that any color would work.
53. Rainbow Wave Nails
We continue our deep dive into the bare summer nail designs trend with this colorful look! Creating this kind of gradient wave is not an easy project, but the rainbow effect is worth it. The dots, on the other hand, are a fair bit easier to achiever.
54. Pineapple Yellow Nails
We believe that every tasty summer fruit deserves to serve as inspiration for great summer nail designs. The pineapple is the star in this look that features the cartoon fruit on accent nails as well as negative space designs in yellow polish.
55. Summer Dots Manicure
This manicure does something exciting by having one style of design on one hand and another style on another. The tiny dots cover one set of fingers, while on the other hand, each nail is decorated with a single, large dot.
56. Dragon Fruit Nails
The dragon fruit is one of the most unique looking fruits we know, but it’s also sweet and delicious, so, of course, it works well in summer nail designs! All you need is some white and pink nail polish for the fruit and black polish with a dotting tool for the seeds.
57. Negative Space Neon Matte Manicure
If neons are usually too much for you, topping them with a matte topcoat might help tone them down just enough. Orange and pink neons are an easy combination made even more sophisticated by the addition of empty space in the center of the accent nails.
58. 4th of July Nails
You don’t have to be an American to rock this nail art, although this look is pretty fitting for American independence. The blue star stickers come in both dark and light blue, and together they look super shiny as a result, while other nails just need a stripe of blue to have an impact.
59. Summer Garden Nails
These cartoony summer florals are clean, pretty and a little playful! Having the leaves of the flower double as the nail tips is a very clever touch, but to keep it from being too much, that design is reserved for the accent nails, while the rest are simply decorated with a large green dot.
60. Olive Love Nails
Glossy olive continues to surprise us for summer! The simple, nearly-neutral shade of green is great on its own, but the smiley heart stamps on the accent nail add a bit more joy to the summer nail design.
61. Bare Accent Summer Nails
Nail art over bare nails is very trendy, and we appreciate this particularly adorable take on it. The bare nails were covered with small floral designs, as well as a layer of gloss, while the rest of the mani is a simple and vibrant yellow.
62. Lemon Yellow Summer Nails with Floral Accent
This delicate floral nail design is so pristine and beautiful that it’s simply perfect for an accent nail. The rest of the nails were painted a lemon yellow, which gives brightness and prevents the look from feeling childish.
63. Blue and Neon Stripes
Blue and yellow are a great color combination, with blue’s level-headed coolness helping to tone down neon yellow’s vibrancy. This graphic design features horizontal stripes over nude-beige nails for a fun but not overly ostentatious look.
64. Multi-Lingual Summer Nail Art
We love this cheery combination of flowy nail art and lettering. Long, bare nails were painted over with pretty, thick swipes of pastel, and then overlaid with the word “love” written in five different languages!
65. Summer Lovin’ Nails
Show some love with a wordy manicure! This utterly simple nail look relies on lemon yellow nails for that summer feel, while hearts and love are appropriate at any time of the year. You can attempt to freehand the design, or opt for nail stamps.
66. Hot Pink Geometric Nails
Hot pink has never looked so artistic! The abstract geometric shapes connected by lines in this summer manicure bring to mind suprematist designs but with the pop flair of bright colors. Mattified bare nails are the perfect canvas for this kind of creation.
67. Speckled Yellow Summer Nails
Yellow is the perfect color for bright summer nails, and in our final look, it is used in a simple but effective way. The glossy polish is speckled with dots of black and gray, reminding us of a bird’s egg!
Photos via @nails_anna.glushchenko, @solovey_nail_art, Instagram