13 genuinely easy summer nail art ideas you can do yourself

Written by Shannon Peter

We might not be able to visit a salon, but that doesn’t mean manicures are totally off the cards. We set out to prove that nail art really needn’t be that tricky.

Right now, we’re taking our small joys where we can get them, and thankfully, our beauty routines are full of happiness-inducing moments. We’ve sought solace in the spritz of a perfume and felt a boost of energy from rubbing our thighs in grainy body scrubs, but right now, we’re finding a little mood boost in the simple act of painting our nails.

It makes sense: if you’re working from home and spending the large majority of your day looking down at your keyboard, fingertips coated in a flash of bright colour can very quickly put a smile on your face. And even if you’re not working from home, just think how much more cheerful that jubilant selfie of you and your oven-fresh banana bread will be with fun nails holding it up.

A slick of solid colour will certainly do the trick — side note: our very simple guide will help you master nail polish application — but if you ask us, nail art is even more joy-inducing. Think a smattering of sparkly stars, rainbow-tinted tips and 70s style flowers.

But without the steady hands of a trusted manicurist, it can be all too easy to write off nail art as something you’ll never be able to achieve at home. But that’s where you’re wrong. Pare things back, simplify your design and remember that it doesn’t need to be a Picasso-standard work of art, and all of a sudden, nail art feels a lot more achievable.

That’s why we’ve collated 13 visually-pleasing but ridiculously simple nail designs we’re sure you’ll be able to do at home.

Faded pastel tips

Rainbow nails have been a massive trend for some time now, but we’re especially fond of session nail artist Lauren Michelle Pires’ take on the look. Instead of block colours, she’s focussed the nail polish to the tip of the nail and used a sponge to create a faded, cloud-like texture.

Flower power florals

Beauty influencer Melanie, aka @overglowedit, is known for her picture-perfect nail art. Here, she’s gone for a 70s vibe, with colourful florals that are deceivingly simple to recreate. Swipe to the right to see exactly how she does it. 

Retro triangles

When painting abstract shapes onto the nails, the larger the shape is, the easier it tends to be, which is why these 80s style pink and blue triangles by @paintboxnails are a good place to start for any nail art novices.

Two-tone french tips

Since we entered lockdown, nail artist Alicia Torello has taken to Instagram to walk followers through a handful of nail art tutorials. Our favourite — and mainly because it’s so straightforward — is this two-tone tip design. This is where a striping brush would definitely come in handy.

Chic black stars

It’s hard to tell what we love more: Betina Goldstein’s enviable collection of gold rings, or her nail art skills. Recently she’s created intricate wave patterns and cow print designs, but we love the simplicity of these tiny black stars. And thankfully, she’s filmed a very easy-to-follow tutorial, too.

Tie-dye nails

Tie-dye clothing is everywhere right now, but as @stephstonenails rightfully points out, if you don’t have the tracksuit, wear the trend on your nails. Here, she’s sponged green, blue and pink polish onto a solid white base.

Valentines-style sparkly hearts

Imarni’s sparkly heart design looks a lot more complicated than it actually is. After a base coat, follow by painting on a tiny heart in red — you can even use the tip of a pencil dipped in polish to achieve this. Then finish with a clear, glitter-laced top coat.

Glitter rings

Negative space nails are having yet another moment, which is why we especially like Alicia Torello’s glitter-ringed nail design. Use your polish to trace the outer edge of the nail, and then take a lip brush dipped in nail remover to tidy up the inside. Easy!

Simple stripes

You can easily add a little interest to a plain mani by painting a solid stripe over the top in a clashing colour. This burgundy and cornflower blue combination by @paintboxnails shouldn’t work, but it totally does.

Teeny tiny stars

Have zero faith in your own hands? Rather than painting on a design, try sticking it on instead. Here, LA-based nail artist Amy Le attaches tiny star-shaped sequins onto naked nail beds. MAC does incredible holographic stars, available here.

Glitter dots

@Gelcream’s nails are so satisfyingly perfect, but we’re sure these tiny glitter dots would look great even on less well-manicured fingertips.

Muted monotones

We’ve long been fans of the gradient nail trend, largely due to the fact it takes minimal effort for maximum results. And Betina Goldstein is arguably the best at putting together chic montonal colour palettes. Case in point, this selection of muted hues.

Blurry base and abstract dots

Over on IGTV, nail artist Metta Francis’ shares loads of helpful nail art tutorials, including this one that really leans into those inevitable streaks. She uses a dry brushing technique, and then paints tiny dots on top to create this abstract pattern.

Main image: Lauren Michelle-Pires.

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