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These daring nail designs are perfect for summer 2021.

By Erin Lukas and Tessa Petak
Updated Apr 14, 2021 @ 1:45 pm
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Summer Nail Designs
Credit: paintbucketnails /Instagram, kourtneykardash/Instagram

Important PSA: Summer is coming.

And with the majority of U.S. adults now eligible for the coronavirus vaccine, we're hoping that things will be just slightly better than last year in isolation. (Just a quick reminder, though, this thing isn't over yet so keep wearing your mask people!)

So as things begin to reopen this summer, our manicure game has to be on par. I've practically had all of quarantine to plan my "reopening" outfits, so you better believe I included some very on-trend nail designs in that, too.

I'm talking bright and bold colors and daring nail designs. And because we've been locked up for the last year, it's no time to play it safe (except with COVID precautions!).

If you're looking for inspiration for your summer manicures, Instagram is where it's at. From checkers to clouds, top nail salons, and manicurists are serving up major nail art inspiration on our feeds that can be done at the salon, but are also easy enough to be done at home.

Here, we've cherry-picked the coolest summer nail designs that will have your return to society — albeit mostly outdoor dining — a stylish one.

VIDEO: How to Remove Your Gel Manicure Without Going to the Salon

Checkered

A checkered nail is a fun and edgy design that is truly perfect all year round. If you're looking for a brighter summer manicure, take a pastel or neon twist to this chic design. This manicure from Paint Bucket was partially inspired by the Netflix hit show The Queen's Gambit, and has us saying "checkmate" because this is a manicure fit for a queen.

Cherry On Top

Cherry designs is the nail art trend taking over this summer. Just ask Kourtney Kardashian, who just recently showed off her sweet manicure complete with cherry nail art and red tips. She also showed off her boyfriend Travis Barker's new tattoo of her name, but that was just the cherry on top for us.

Bandana Print

This western-inspired manicure is perfectly playful enough for summer. Celebrity nail artist Chaun Legend gave Kylie Jenner this fresh manicure that has us ready for a picnic. Looking to be even more festive? Make them red, white, and blue for the 4th of July.

Groovy Swirls

This groovy mani makes me reminiscent of my favorite '90s room decor — a lava lamp. Nail artist Maria V SoNailicious created these rad swirls with two OPI colors called, "Oh You Can Sing, Dance, Act, and Produce?" and "Hollywood & Vibe."

Mod Masterpieces

This '60s-esque, abstract design is a take on the way-back-when trend of marbled nails (remember that messy situation we all attempted to create in high school?) Instagram's favorite nail artist Betina Goldstein — who also just so happens to be Chanel's brilliant nail technician — created the throwback marble nail with a twist. Her "floating ink" design was made using three colors from Essie's Spring 2021 line — Cacti On The Prize, Infinity Cool, and You Know the Espadrille — which created this mod design perfect for showing off while holding your Aperol Spritz.

On Cloud Nine

Take your nail art to new heights with this dreamy and fun design by nail artist @karanailedit. These purple clouds — created with Olive & June colors — are perfect to symbolize rainy spring days. But you know what they say: "April showers bring May flowers," so transform them into white fluffy clouds and blue skies for the summer months.

Confetti Confections

We love a DIY manicure moment — and this look is as fool proof as it gets. You can easily turn any solid color into a sweet, vibrant summer manicure with one swipe of JINsoon's Daisy polish. Nail artist Steph Stone transformed her opaque pink nails to a blossoming neon garden.

Gold Stars

Give yourself a gold star for your DIY manicure — literally. At first glance, it probably seems like stars would be pretty tough to draw freehand. That's why Olive & June makes nail art stickers. Yup, this manicure was created with decals. While you can add stars to any solid base, they really pop against a neutral color like Olive & June's GH, a baby pink.

Flower Bouquets

Turn your fingers into a bouquet of flowers with this rainbow daisy manicure created by nail artist Steph Stone. She used a handful of essie shades for this design. While a dotting tool and nail art brush is ideal for drawing petals, the end of a bobby pin works, too.

Pastel French Tips

Yup, the French manicure is still going strong for summer 2021. But for this season, swap white tips for enchanting pastels like this sunny yellow tip created by JINsoon PR director Amber Zannella. After painting the almond shaped tips with JINsoon's "Tweety" polish, she coated the nails with Hyper Gloss, the brand's ultra-shine, gel-like top coat. When it comes to French manicure, opting for a long-wear gel polish is a good idea. This look is all about the tips and they're usually the part of the nail that chips or cracks first.

Half and Half

The glitter nail polish party doesn't have to stop when the holidays are over. Make sparkles feel a little more summery by pairing glitter with a pastel shade just like this half-and-half manicure from Paintbox. Think about it: since the sun is nature's Kira Kira filter, you'll need sunglasses just to look down and admire your next-level sparkly nails.

Ying and Yang

Connect your two favorite colors by adding ying yang statement nails to your manicure. Keep the shape balanced by using a dual-ended nail brush and dotting tool such as this one from Sally Beauty.

Chic Tie Dye

Last year's tie dye sweatsuit craze has transitioned into stellar nail art. Instead of doing your whole nail, this manicure from Hey Nice Nails is the minimalist's way to lean into the tie dye trend. Use a brush to draw a wavy rainbow on the corner of each nail.

Rainbow Connection

The Skittles manicure gets a chic negative space twist. Instead of painting each nail a different color of the rainbow, add two gradient stripes on each side of the nail bed. This colorful nail art was created using Orosa Beauty's 14-free vegan nail polishes.

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