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The 15 Coolest Nail Designs for Fall 2020


Feeling stuck in your at-home manicure routine? We hear that. For nail-art aficionados, these past few months of quarantine have presented both a challenge and opportunity when it comes to at-home nail designs. Although nail salons in certain areas of the country have been able to reopen with new safety precautions, an appointment with your favorite manicurist may still be a ways away. Fortunately, that doesn't mean you have to forgo experimenting with this season’s fun nail trends

If you’ve been missing your regular nail appointments, you’re in luck: We tapped four experts to give us the scoop on this year’s fall nail designs. Even better, most of these are easy enough to DIY with the help of a few tools, new polish shades, and textured topcoats.

Intrigued? Keep reading for 15 new fall nail designs (plus tips on how to get the look at home) straight from the pros. 

"I think this fall will bring the need for change, and this may be expressed in the switch from a super-shiny manicure to a matte effect," predicts Jin Soon Choi, a New York–based expert nail artist and founder of Jinsoon. 

Choi touts the Jinsoon Matte Maker topcoat as one of her all-time favorite products. 

Give bright, summer orange polishes more of an autumnal feel with a matte topcoat.

Similarly, Brittney Boyce, consulting nail artist for Orly, anticipates seeing a rise in the multicolor matte manicure. "This is a really fun and easy way to DIY nail art at home," says Boyce. "It's especially great for people who can't make up their minds on just one nail color."

Boyce explains that using a matte topcoat on bright colors helps to accentuate that muted feeling.

Give this summery duo a fall spin with a unifying matte topcoat.

For beginner nail artists, Boyce also suggests experimenting with different finishes. "Try playing with matte and glossy topcoats, like a matte base with a glossy tip or vice versa," she instructs.

Another great matte option.

You can't go wrong with OPI's Infinite Shine line.

All of our pros agreed that French manicures are back in a big way. "They are simple, but I love that you can really combine any colors to create a clean statement look," says Lisa Logan, consulting manicurist for Nails.Inc and owner of The Nail Suite in Harlem, New York. Boyce agrees, suggesting that people with longer nails go for an almond shape with a darker shade at the tip and that those with shorter nails experiment with the painted curve. 

Metallics for fall just makes sense.

Yes, there is kale for your nails.

Lately, Choi's clients have been requesting a riff on the iconic French manicure. "Clients often ask for different versions of this, modernizing it a bit by using a different color combo (not just pink and white) or trying colorful tips. They also request things like negative space French manicures, diagonal or two-tone diagonal tips, and ombré French," she says.

The original white nail polish.

A quick-drying topcoat (with retinol) is essential for any DIY application.

The above photo is a perfect example of the ombré-French design and can be created using any number of color combinations.  

We love this warm-yet-moody set for fall.

This seven-piece set celebrates the many hues of autumn. 

These feline-inspired nails give the appearance of claws with dark, angular tips—just in time for Halloween. This design looks best on longer nails, and it can work on extensions, too. "This is slightly harder to DIY, but if you are getting nail extensions, this is such a fierce look," says Boyce.

Because black goes with everything.

Don't discount a double-sided brush and dotter tool for designs and delicate cleanup.

"Many people are slowly easing back into fun, bold manicure looks since, for so many, it’s been a long time since they’ve had a professional manicure," shares Logan. Like Choi, Logan's clients have requested modern French manicures with two-tone diagonal tips, as pictured above. 

Denim for fall? Groundbreaking.

This pastel pink is surprisingly opaque.

"The nail art for this season will be unlike any other mostly because it will be DIY since most people are still hesitant or unable to go into nail salons," predicts Mazz Hanna, celebrity manicurist and founder of Mazz Hanna. Simple designs on just the tips of the fingernails are a great way for at-home nail artists to begin while also playing with this season's color palette. 

How pretty are these fall hues?

We love this cozy take on the season, too.

Instead of multicolor manicures, Logan is seeing more clients request a tonal ombré with two or more colors on a single nail. Like the transition between seasons, this design can carry you from fall to winter (or your next manicure appointment).

One of our all-time favorite navy blues. 

Contrasting yet complementary.

Gray, the great neutralizer.

If the multi-nail ombré look seems a bit more feasible to DIY, we love the idea of playing within a cohesive color family. Hanna agrees, noting, "It is super easy to do and still makes a bold statement." 

When summer turns into fall, you know it's time to bust out those berry reds. 

A classic red for all seasons.

This five-color ombré set makes it easy.

As a specialist in gel extensions, Boyce is, unsurprisingly, all in on the glass nail trend. "It’s a chic design that goes with everything," she shares. "This is slightly harder to DIY, but if you are getting nail extensions, this is such a clean look." 

This intro kit will have you leveling up in no time.

If you love this nail design and want to attempt to DIY, Boyce recommends trying press-ons with glass extensions and leaving the tips unpainted.

"Nail art has become more and more popular not only at NYFW but also since quarantine started," explains Choi. "I expect to see many negative-space manicures with simple and minimalistic nail art, such as the look we created for Proenza Schouler [last season]."

At just $9, this kit costs less than 10 cents a tool.

These gold decals are so intricate.

Similarly, Hanna is predicting that polka dots will be back in a big way. "It's super simple to do using a bobby pin, even with limited nail art experience, and you can use any seasonal color that is trending," she shares. But you can't rush the process. "Polka dots typically take longer to dry, so it’s important that you make sure your dots are completely dry before applying your topcoat," cautions Hanna. "If you apply a topcoat too soon, it will cause the polka dots to drag." And that can make this DIY design prone to re-dos. 

If you don't have a couple of bobby pins already laying around then this deal is tough to beat.

Inspired by your favorite nail artist on Instagram? Or ready to try out a freehand design? Choi says to go for it! "Most designs can be done with the edge of your nail polish brush and a bit of practice," she says. She encourages at-home nail artists to begin by using everyday items like a toothpick or a clean makeup sponge. If you're ready to level up, all of our pros recommend buying a set of thin paint brushes and dotting tools. 

These tiny brushes are essential for any aspiring nail artist.

Up next: 10 Fall Nail Trends These Pros Are Calling Out