Style

12 Holiday Nail Art Looks That Are Chic, Not Cheesy

And how to do them yourself.

Olive & June
Updated: 

If you're a huge fan of the holidays, you probably look for every opportunity to express your love for the season, from rocking the ugliest sweaters to creating the most glamorous beauty looks. This likely also includes holiday nail art, because let's face it — is there a more fun way to embrace December's festive happenings than with your manicure?!

But if you do decide to get a special look for your nails this month with a stylish, refined, and, most importantly, Instagrammable look, Olive & June founder Sarah Gibson Tuttle, celebrity nail artist Queenie Nguyen, founder of New York City-based nail brand Sundays Amy Lin, and OPI’s North America education and capability manager Darlene Sritapan have you covered with must-try manicure designs.

There hasn't been a more exciting time for nail art, which means anything is possible — you no longer have to stick to the traditional flowers and hearts that you're used to getting. Instead, think: unusual shapes, bold accent nails, and tasteful glitter details.

Whether you're looking for something that screams "merry everything!" or want a look that's a little more subtle, one thing's for sure: You won't be able to stop staring at your nails when you recreate one of these mani ideas.

Here are 12 holiday nail art looks that are anything but boring and cheesy.

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1
Glitter Stripes
Olive & June

Step up your stripes game by adding a touch of glitter. "Glitter stripes are a great way to mix it up if you want something subtle, but still fun," Gibson Tuttle tells Bustle. While yes, there is glitter involved in this look, it manages to walk the line between sparkling and minimal thanks to the negative space created by the single line design on each nail.

The base of the manicure features a soft and sheer wash of creamy color, and the stripes are easy to recreate by placing two strips of nail tape in whatever position you'd like and applying the glitter polish in between. For the glitter polish, try the Olive & June Nail Polish in Exclamation Point, which is $8 on Olive & June's website.

2
Negative Space

Nail artist Queenie Nguyen takes inspiration from the ribbon on presents with this abstract, negative space manicure. She tells Bustle that the look brings a "subtle vibe and versatility" to more traditional holiday nail art.

To get the look, Nguyen says to first paint the base of the nail with a nude polish that matches your skin tone before using a white polish to create a stripe across the nail. Once dry, use a thin detail brush to sweep a red line on top of the white shade. Finally, use a nail striper brush — like the ORLY Striper Brush — to outline both sides of the white shade in a gold glitter polish.

3
Holiday Wreath
Olive & June

"Could a wreath mani be more perfect?" asks Gibson Tuttle of one of her favorite festive manicure looks. She also loves that you can change up the shades and colors to make it feel "of the moment." While this particular design may require the hands of a seasoned professional thanks to that exquisitely painted wreath, you can mimic the look with a simple base color and one accent nail decked out in a nail sticker (Olive & June holiday nail art stickers are really cute, FYI).

4
Candy Cane Bling
Darlene Sritapan

OPI's Darlene Sritapan has created a candy cane-inspired manicure that still maintains a bit of subtly. Rather than coat your entire hand with candy cane stripes, go for a single accent nail with a dash of bling.

For the look, you'll need a shimmery white base coat for the entire nail, a red polish (Sritapan recommends OPI's Red-y For the Holidays), and a striping brush to draw the candy cane design onto the nail. If you want to add the bit of bling, grab a set of jewels and nail adhesive to top things off.

5
Christmas Plaid
Olive & June

Gibson Tuttle swears that plaid is "the holiday look this season." The above is just one of the ways you can have fun with the trend. Plus, you can mix finishes and opt for a mix of metallics, lacquers, and mattes to get a look with tons of dimension.

While yes, this look requires several different polishes, it is doable at home. Use tape (like Fandamei Nail Striping Tape, which is $6 on Amazon) to cover the portion of the nail you don't want to paint immediately and use your first shade to paint the first section. Once dry, remove the tape and place some over everything but the new section where the second color will be placed. As for the stripes, grab nail striping paint for an easy, perfectly lined look.

6
Glam Half Moon
Olive & June

"Half moons are always a great way to play on the colors of a season," says Gibson Tuttle of this on-trend design. With this look, you can choose any color combination you'd like, which makes the manicure ultra-customizable. Pick your favorite holiday color combination and go wild! All you'll need is polish in colors of your choosing (try Essie's polish in Love at First Frost for a seasonal shimmer) along with a striper brush to execute the moon shape.

7
Glittery French Manicure
Queenie Nguyen

Nguyen loves the classic French manicure, which has been on trend all throughout summer and fall. Colorful versions of this timeless design have been dominating nail art trends for most of 2020, and it's not stopping for the holiday season.

Though it may seem intimidating to try on your own, using something like the $5 Orly Half-Moon Guides will allow you to create the perfect tip. For a glittery accent, Nguyen recommends painting a matching base color on the tip before going in with your glitter polish. If you've opted for gold, like Nguyen's, add a layer of gold polish first, and then, once dry, add your glitter.

8
Snowflake
Olive & June

You don't have to go full-on gingerbread man or snowman to rep the holidays on your nails. "Snowflakes are a classic — even when you live in Southern Cali," says Gibson Tuttle. Plus, snowflakes work all winter long. A classic snowflake has no boundaries, and while Gibson Tuttle has opted for a red base coat, you could also switch things up and add an extra oomph by opting for a metallic shade like Pear Nova's Pineapple Skies Nail Lacquer to bedazzle with snowflakes instead.

9
Ombre Glitter Accents
Olive & June

"Glitter is always a favorite at Olive & June!" exclaims Gibson Tuttle. "It feels so festive year-round, but especially right now." Choose a couple of nails to accent instead of wearing glitter on each of your nails for a chic look. While glitter has a reputation for being hard to remove, the light coating these ombre style nails call for means you won't need to worry about scraping off residual sparkles when it comes time for your next manicure. Plus, Olive & June's $8 Nail Polish Remover Plot is the tops when it comes to at-home nail painting.

10
Metallic Detail
Olive & June

If you love keeping your nails clean and classic-looking, but want to add an element of fun, consider a small metallic detail. "We love a small detail, like a metallic accent line, because it feels special and surprising," says Gibson Tuttle.

There are several ways to keep the look chic and minimal. You can craft a subtle French manicure with a metallic tip or opt for an inverted half-moon in a second polish color. If you're looking for something easy, there's also aways the option of choosing a softer metallic shade like silver and painting all your nails in a single tone.

11
Turn Up The Tinsel
Darlene Sritapan/OPI

OPI's Sritapan is also a fan of metallics for the holiday season. Her look, called Turn Up the Tinsel, takes full advantage of the finish. This black, gold, and silver creation gives chic and festive art deco vibes.

To get the look, Sritapan says to paint two coats of black polish and let dry. Once finished, using a detail brush, paint strips of gold onto the nail. After that's dry, repeat the same steps with silver polish, like Triple O Polish's Amadioha shade. If you want a bit of extra bling, you can use nail adhesive to add a few crystals between the tinsel pattern.

12
Skittles French Manicure
Amy Lin/Sundays

Amy Lin, founder of wellness-based nail care brand Sundays, sees a popular summer and fall nail trend coming together for a new look during the 2020 holiday season: the Skittles manicure meets the French manicure for an updated classic.

This fun twist to the OG French manicure is a great way to add a pop of color for the festive season and play around with multiple shades. "Doing this holiday multicolor French nail art is great because it's low-maintenance during the festive season when you don't have access to your regular nail salon, and when your nails grow out, it's not as obvious," Lin tells Bustle.

To get the look, Lin recommends first prepping your nails by cleaning, filing, and practicing cuticle care. Paint your nails a sheer, neutral shade for the base. When that's dry, choose the colors you'd like for your tips (the Sundays Wellness Gift Box includes five chic polishes), and use either a detail brush or the tip of the polish's brush to sweep a thin line of color in a single stroke from one side of the nail to the other. Seal it in afterwards with a top coat.

Nail technician: Olive & June's Thuy Tong

Images: Olive & June unless otherwise credited

This article was originally published on December 18, 2017

This article was originally published on