As the nail industry continues to evolve, nail lovers have increasingly shied away from acrylics — which tend to get a bad rep for safety concerns and maintenance. However, when applied and removed by a trained individual, acrylics are actually an amazing way to protect your natural nail. The more than 60-year-old method remains the only nail extension system equipped to take on any length and shape — creating yet another outlet to flex your creativity aside from just polish color and design. That's why the best acrylic nail designs are real-life masterpieces with no color, composition, or pattern being off limits.
With so many options, it's easy to be intimidated by acrylic designs — but, don't be. "Luckily, the designs that are trending are some you can do using nail polish rather than the professional-grade gel polish," Tiana Hardy, Brooklyn, NY-based nail artist, tells TZR. "Those that are looking to tap into their artistic side can invest in some nail art brushes to start, along with the basic at-home manicure tools."
And as acrylics sometimes get a bad rep for being damaging to the nails due to their rigorous removal process, Hardy suggests going to a nail professional trained in knowing how to care for natural nails. "One of the first things to keep in mind when the actual service takes place: getting your nails done should not feel uncomfortable or painful," she says. "When you are starting the service and as your technician preps your natural nails for any kind of enhancement, you shouldn’t feel any pain while they are using the nail tools on you. It’s okay to ask questions if something doesn’t feel right. Improper use of nail tools is one of many factors that can lead to nail damage."
So if you're ready for acrylics, and ready for a whole new world of design options, check out the trending looks that are colorful, unexpected, and have zero rules.
Acrylic Nail Designs: Line Drawings
You don't have to visit a portrait artist to get this design. This abstract style allows for free creativity and doesn't take hours to execute.
Acrylic Nail Designs: Marble Nails
The popular marble style takes the pain out of having to choose just one color. Pick anywhere from four to six hues and watch the masterpiece reveal itself.
Acrylic Nail Designs: Cow Print
There's been a serious spike in popularity for the animal print, especially when on nails. You can try it in an array of color pairings and styles making it both versatile and fun.
Acrylic Nail Designs: Ombres
While the style isn't particularly new, it's especially striking when created on nails of a much longer length. Try it with an extra-long coffin if you truly want the ombré effect to shine.
Acrylic Nail Designs: Line Work
There are no rules when it comes to line art. Create the pattern in any direction, color or segment of the nail for a look that's intentional yet east-to-recreate at home.
Acrylic Nail Designs: Color-Blocked Nails
"As I browse social media daily, I have noticed a lot of color block variations," Hardy says. "So instead of the traditional crispy lines with sharp corners and edges, the lines are more wispy and free-flowing. These variations require less precision than normal, which is great for anyone looking to do this nail art at home."
Acrylic Nail Designs: Mismatched Nails
"Mismatched nail art has always been a thing within the nail art community," Hardy says. But some clients may not have been interested in this kind of nail art due to work restrictions, or simply because they enjoy nail art with less colors so they can match their outfits accordingly. Now that people see how stylish they still can be with various colors and patterns that traditionally may not go together, they may be more open to seeing just how wild they can get with their nails."
This is also the easiest design to create at home. "Mismatched art is whatever you want it to be, so you can start with some simple easy patterns like animal prints or easy lines," Hardy says. "Assign each design out on each nail. It’s definitely easier to see it being executed so I would recommend searching up DIY videos on mismatch nail art."
Acrylic Nail Designs: Stained Glass Nails
Super easy to recreate at home, stained glass nails can be replicated with any color of your liking. Simply create the swirl shapes with a neutral color, and fill in the spaces with a more festive polish.
Acrylic Nail Designs: Squiggles
Chaun Legend recently created adorable squiggly nails for two of his clients, a design that was executed by dipping a thin nail brush in white polish and freely moving around the nail.
Acrylic Nail Designs: Blonde Tortoise Shell
"Blonde tortoise shell will be a thing too," Hardy says. "This is a lighter color-way to the traditional brown tortoise shell that became popular last year."
Acrylic Nail Designs: Grid Nails
This intricate line design may look like it requires a steady hand, but it's not as hard as it looks. Line the nails with tape, painting inside the spaces, to achieve an identical look.
Acrylic Nail Designs: Rimmed Edges
This design is simple. However, it does require a steady hand. Choose any color for the base, and select a darker hue to trail the perimeter of the shape.
Acrylic Nail Design: Half & Half Nails
For anyone not opposed to sitting in the nail salon chair a little longer than usual, the option of two designs on each nail surely adds that wow factor.
Acrylic Nail Design: Colored Spots
Animal spots, but make it colorful. This easy and vibrant deign can be created by just dipping the corner of your polish brush and lightly dripping onto the finger.
Acrylic Nails Designs: Gradients
Ever stare at the polish wall for minutes straight? Undecided on what color to try next? With this gradient design, you don't have to choose just one.
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