Airbrushed Nails Are The Throwback Look With Limitless Possibilities

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There are plenty of ways to rock a unique ombre nail look, but as far as we're concerned, this latest one takes the cake. Airbrushed nails have fully arrived on the scene, and they're going to help you kick your nail art up a notch. According to PopSugar UK, you won't be able to get the airbrushed effect using a nail polish brush or even makeup sponges like ombre nails generally require. Instead, airbrushed nails are created using an air-powered tool that sprays the polish on with a gradual, blurry edge. 

While this nail art style is currently dominating the trend cycle, it originally hails from the '90s and early 2000s. There is so much to love about the airbrushed nail trend, but one of its best features is its versatility. This technique won't box you into just one trendy nail look. It can be easily incorporated into a mani with any color, finish, or added nail art you can imagine. We've got plenty of styles to make airbrushed nails your own, and there's a way to rock this technique that fits any vibe you may want. 

Airbrushed borders

One of the simplest ways to rock airbrushed nails is with a strong border. This look uses a black base with the center of each nail airbrushed in a bright magenta, creating a dramatic border effect. While the above was painted on long, squared-off nails, it can add a bit of drama to any nail shape, including those that are on the shorter side. And, while the depth created by this black border and the bold contrast between the two colors is definitely eye-catching, the border effect works just as well with a subtler, less contrasting palette. 


Airbrushing opens up so many possibilities for experimentation that you may not have with a normal nail polish brush. For one, airbrushing allows for the use of nail stencils that give off that "T-shirt you snagged on the boardwalk" vibe. The blurred, foggy effect of the polish around the stenciled designs makes for a unique look that's a bit less in-your-face than other types of nail art. You can even get your own set of nail stencils on Amazon

Monochrome aura nails

You've likely seen the blooming gel nail trend AKA "aura nails." According to celebrity nail artist Brittney Boyce, aura nails "kind of resemble aura photos." She elaborated, "There's usually a mix of colors involved to showcase your aura, and the various colors are painted on in a circular ombré or gradient design" (via PureWow). This manicure, however, features airbrushed circles in just one color. This white base with lime green is unexpected and edgy, and the squiggles add notes of whimsy and fun. This look would translate perfectly into a wide range of other colors, too. 

Colorful aura nails

Another popular way to do aura nails is a bit more organic and freeform — with different color "auras" on different nails and varied placement, rather than always in the middle. In an interview with Allure, nail artist Michelle Humphrey explained, "Each nail has an airbrush-style design with various color combinations. The colors blend together the same way someone's aura might." The only limit is your imagination. Just make sure to layer two or more shades on top of each other to get that deep, gradient effect. 

Subtle airbrushing

Airbrushed nails certainly make a statement, but that doesn't mean that they can't also be subtle. This manicure starts with a metallic, rose gold colored base and has a lighter airbrushed color in the center for a bit of added interest and dimension. We love the idea of using two different shades of the same hue for an understated airbrushed effect. And, for a bit of added sparkle, this look uses 3D nail stickers, like these ones from Amazon, to punctuate the light-colored centers. 

Vampy gradient

If you love the idea of a subtle airbrushed effect but prefer going dark with your color palette, this look is the ideal option. Start with a warm brown or a deep navy, red, or purple at the nail bed and transition slowly into a lighter version of the base color at the tip. Finish it off with a super shiny top coat, like this OPI option. For added drama, start with black at the bottom of your nail and transition to a dark grey at the tip. 

Neutral gradient

Nude nails are a standby for most of us, but sometimes even a classic needs an update. What better way to revamp a set of nude nails than with an understated twist? This version of the airbrushed gradient is reversed: The lighter color goes at the base and the deeper hue covers the tip. This manicure uses shades of taupe, but this neutral nail look would be great in baby pinks or warm browns too. Once again, the extra shiny top coat completes the look. 

Pretty in pink

This particular look is a soft and sweet way to live out your Barbiecore dreams, and who among us isn't looking to do that? It starts with a hot pink base and layers a deeper pink airbrushed center on top. While the color is bold and pretty, the transition between shades is low contrast and delicate. Ultimately, the airbrushed effect here doesn't make for intricate nail art. Instead, it gives you a classic manicure with some added dimension. 

Airbrushed accent

No matter what type of nail art is on-trend, an accent nail is always a great way to dip your toes — or should that be fingers? — into decorative nails without too much commitment. Choosing just one finger on each hand to give the airbrush treatment on an otherwise solid manicure is unexpected, yet understated. This white-on-teal style with a silver marbling effect on the accent nail is a cool way to get the airbrushed effect without the nails looking too busy. Many other airbrushed nail looks would also make for a perfect statement nail, so don't be afraid to experiment. 

Airbrushed tips

According to Byrdie, French manicures are back in a big way, but this time, on-trend tips are anything but white. If you're looking to sport the super popular colorful French manicure, incorporating an airbrush technique is a fresh way to do it. We're totally crazy about this fun, out-of-the-box French mani that has a gradient, airbrushed look only on the tips. While replicating it is perfect for a funky nail moment, we also like the idea of choosing just one gradient for all of your tips and keeping them otherwise plain without the dot design. 

Airbrushed modern french

Since the modern French manicure is in vogue in many different styles, the logical next airbrushed look is a modern French with an airbrushed tip. The tip moves into the base color with a gradient effect, instead of a sharp line like most French manicures. You can experiment with lots of different color combinations — just make sure that you switch shades close enough to the tip to get the proper French effect. You could even use this technique with a light pink or beige base and a white tip for a further twist on the classic French manicure. 

3D Nail art

As Refinery29 points out, 3D nail art is all the rage right now. Nail artist to the stars Sojin Oh says: "I think people are starting to realize [3D art] is not as intimidating as it seems. [The art looks] more like little sculptures on your hands, rather than just polished nails." One major 3D trend is droplets, like this colorful nail art. Oh explained, "I sculpt with clear building gel or use glass materials." Likewise, "toothpicks and dotting pens" are also easy tools to sculpt with. There's something so fitting about this art being paired with a colorful, airbrushed base. 


There's nothing that says "carefree summer vibes" quite like tie-dye. Incidentally, a tie-dye effect is one of the easiest looks to pull off via airbrushing your nails. That said, we have a pretty good feeling that we'll be seeing plenty of tie-dyed nails when the warmer months roll around regardless. And, just like real tie dye, your airbrushed nails can be basically any color combination you like. These pastels look so fresh and fun with a few coats of extra shiny top coat on top. 


Clearly, airbrushed nails look super cool and eye-catching with tons of sheen laid on top. That said, how cute is this airbrushed look with a matte finish? The top coat looks perfect with this pastel palette, creating a subdued spring look. Starting with a clear base or one that matches your skin tone creates a perfect backdrop for the subdued tones. And, if you want to get the entire look, these flowers are easy to DIY with a toothpick. 


From the bold chrome lips trend to unicorn nails, metallic finishes are taking the beauty world by storm. That makes a chrome-ified airbrushed manicure the perfect way to stack multiple nail trends. This look isn't just perfectly on-trend, it's also chic and beautiful all by itself. Beginning with a clear or nude base, it gradually moves into an airbrushed metallic polish in a neutral shade towards the middle and end of the nails. If you're looking for a simple, neutral nail look, this is the updated way to do it.