Nail Design

2017 Nail Trend Forecast

by Beth Livesay | January 1, 2017
This NYFW-inspired design by OPI nail artists shows how to mix bold and neutral color for a strong, graphic design.

This NYFW-inspired design by OPI nail artists shows how to mix bold and neutral color for a strong, graphic design.

2016 was the year of chrome, scorpion-embedded designs, and holo hysteria. Do these design elements have staying power for the coming year? Read the input from our experts to see what you can expect to be creating and buying for 2017.

Prediction: Rebellious Color

Influencers in the nail industry agree that when it comes to color, anything can go together. “Traditional nail rules are out the window in 2017, with splashy brights in the spring, and deep, dark colors in summer,” says session manicurist and founder of The Nailscape (, Ashley Gregory. Swarovski Senior Vice President, Alexander Wellhoefer, agrees with the concept of rule-breaking color, calling this phenomenon a color “resurgence.” “In the nail arena the polar opposites of black and white will become strong. We will also see bursts of bright, almost neon and fluorescent colors used as highlights and backgrounds for nail embellishment,” says Wellhoefer. In addition to brights, OPI co-founder Suzi Weiss-Fischmann cites corals and blues as being particular standouts.

For clients who are maybe not so keen on color, try pairing tried and true favorites with bright pops. Wellhoefer recommends painting fiery reds, purples, and oranges on black-based nails. Fischmann recommends a strong, graphic design that can blend both bold and basic color for maximum impact. Looks like those seen at New York Fashion Week done by the OPI team are examples of wearable art that feature fun color choices. Gregory says clients can step out of their comfort zone by doing something as simple as upgrading from an accent nail to full-blown art on every nail. For those who are still timid, Morgan Haile and Taylor Daniel of Morgan Taylor recommend nail techs choose colors that are found in nature, such as berry, green, blue-green, hunter green, dusty blue, and mineral gray, with pops of yellow and pastel pink.

Prediction: Laser Cut

Technology is ever-growing and ever more prevalent in all aspects of art, including nails. “For Spring 2017, we are seeing a combination of nostalgic and futuristic elements. Think of the high-octane NYC underground club scene of the 1980s combined with the intricacy of 3-D printing and laser light technology,” says CND co-founder and style director Jan Arnold. At the 2016 Wella Trend Vision Awards held in Barcelona, Wella Professionals even predicted a “pastforward” trend. Since technology has turned the once-surprising and fantastical into the new normal, beauty professionals are called upon to elevate the everyday. Staying on the cutting edge of technology has enabled nail techs to do more with art (think 3-D printing and nail art machines). By using technology to push designs even further, anything can be handcrafted, or at least, can look that way. Arnold believes nail techs should use unconventional resources to create truly one-of-a-kind designs that will only elevate the art of doing nails even more. NAILS would love to see innovations in nail art that sample from current technology. Laser-cut-looking nail art would be a welcome refresh for those looking to up the design ante in 2017.

Prediction: Customization

The split-style mani done by the CND team at Libertine. Photo courtesy of CND

The split-style mani done by the CND team at Libertine. Photo courtesy of CND

Technology not only inspires great artwork, but it can also make it all the more possible. Custom polish machines were seen on the Cosmoprof 2016 show floor, allowing clients and techs to mix custom colors at the touch of a button in the salon and even turning lacquer into a gel-polish. In fashion, the influx of stickers custom-made for accessories allow shoppers to add a personal touch to anything they own and carry. Similarly, nail manufacturers are offering more and more tools to give clients a tailor-made manicure. Morgan Taylor, for example, will be debuting a stamp line that allows for easy and customizable art for all. Just like color, art doesn’t have to be “matchy-matchy” any more either. When it comes to clothing, designers and fashion bloggers are mixing prints and pulling it off. The same can be done with nails. “The key to this trend is high-contrast in both texture and color. One hand’s soft and bright, while the other is dark and edgy,” says Arnold, who recommends a “split-style mani” for 2017. CND created split-style nail looks for NYFW, where models wore a completely different contrasting nail look on each hand.  

Prediction: Botanical

Nail art by CND for Alice + Olivia at NYFW. Photo courtesy of CND

Nail art by CND for Alice + Olivia at NYFW. Photo courtesy of CND 

Succulent-inspired nails popped up all over the internet at the end of 2016. These 3-D nail looks were both pretty and life-like, earning them the nickname “living nail art.” While NAILS can certainly appreciate the artistry that goes into forming a mini cactus on a nail tip, the takeaway here is that nature-inspired designs will be big. “Bright blues, greens, and pinks in floral and jungle painted themes will be offset with crystal integration and patterns,” predicts Wellhoefer. CND created a similar design for NYFW that showcased hand-painted leaves to frame a nail. Morgan Taylor’s Botanical Awakenings collection is based around the theme of flowers and colors found in nature, distilling this nail art trend into a polish. This wide range of takes on the botanical trend will allow nail techs to bring it to clients’ hands through the power of polish, flat art, or intricate 3-D designs.

Prediction: Chrome 2.0

New ways to play with chrome, like this print seen at NYFW will be hot in 2017. Photo courtesy of Morgan Taylor

New ways to play with chrome, like this print seen at NYFW will be hot in 2017. Photo courtesy of Morgan Taylor

Don’t just think of chrome as a mirror-finish pigment that clients are dazzled by. Think of the chrome craze as an opportunity to add even more dimension to your nail art arsenal. “Chromes and duo pigments will still be going strong, but trend-setting techs will find a way to push the envelope by repurposing, reinventing, and experimenting with them to create something unprecedented,” predicts Gregory. At the Wella International Trend Vision Awards in Barcelona, Wella Professionals predicted contouring with color will be big for spring/summer 2017. Since chrome has the ability to add shape and dimension, consider using it to create the same optical illusions possible when contouring. “Think uplift through light, narrowing via dark, and inside linings for depth,” says Wella Professionals about the Ultra Contouring trend. Use colorful chrome to create strong statement nails that have an authentic and personal presence.

Prediction: Long enhancements, almond

Nail trendsetters agree that almond-shaped nails will be big for 2017. It also may be a big year for extensions. “In 2017, we can expect an uptick in requests for additional length enhancements. The almond will still dominate, but a longer tapered square is all over social media, and on the fingers of our clients’ favorite celebrities,” says Gregory. Young Nails’ director of education Tracey Reierson agrees, “For shapes I think we will be seeing a lot more of a very tapered square nail.”

Whether or not you follow these predictions or break with them, 2017 is all about celebrating custom nail creations. Trends do come and go, but knowing even a little bit about what’s going on in the nail industry can be a helpful part of your job. “Though I do believe there are classic nails that never go out of style, keeping up on the latest and the greatest will keep you on your toes and every day in the salon will be as exciting as your first,” advises Rierson. If art isn’t your strong suit you can still make a personalized service, shape, or shade that will make clients feel special and confident .

Find out why over 400,000 subscribers love our newsletters


In our video section, watch salon professionals in action, listen to the advice of salon business experts, and tour inside the world’s top salons.

Load More