Cloud Nails Give Your Manicure A Heavenly Polished Look

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From Hailey Bieber's glazed donut nails to Nicola Peltz Beckham's birthday "blizzard" manicure, platforms like Instagram and TikTok have popularized an ever-evolving cycle of nail trends. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, at-home manicure options have become all the more extensive. "There are so many velvet magnetic nails, press-on nails, and gel nail strips to choose from at home," Zola Ganzorigt, a consulting manicurist for Dashing Diva, explains to Marie Claire. Whereas shows like HBO's "Euphoria" popularized over-the-top, bejeweled designs, many real-life celebrities are opting for minimalist manicures.

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"Cloud nails," one of social media's favorite trends, represent the perfect compromise — they're one step above minimalism and one step down from "Euphoria." Best of all, the look is relatively easy to achieve without the help of a professional manicurist. "I think people like cloud nails because it's a design that's not too over the top," says Chyna Stevens, a Los Angeles-based nail artist. As she tells Bustle, "It's cute yet subtle, and anyone can pull it off." And there's no shortage of variations on the look. Whether your goal is a two-step blue-and-white design or a more intricate landscape, consider this heavenly polished look for your next manicure. 

Keep it simple with white and sky blue

When creating an at-home cloud design, start with a sky-blue base like this subtle shade from Olive & June. Let the base coat dry — when it comes to painting your nails, patience is key (and stick to a three-coat maximum). 

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Next, Courtney Nicole, owner of FX Nail Studio, suggests using a gel pen and a small brush to paint on the clouds. As she tells Nylon, "I have to draw the base of the clouds, then start at the highest point of the cloud, and work down to the sides." YouTuber Hannah Weir demonstrates her process in a step-by-step tutorial, using a dotting tool — like this one from Orly — to create clouds.

Add star detailing for a nighttime aesthetic

In the words of nail artist Alicia Torello, "It seems like everyone's wearing and posting soft, dreamy nail art." Cloud nails are no exception, especially when they incorporate star detailing. "My favorite interpretations pair light colors, like baby blue or sunset pink, with white ombré cloud shapes and playful star accents," Torello tells Refinery29. Given the right tools, you can even make your nails look like an anime-inspired night sky, nail artist Chyna Stevens points out to Bustle.

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There's nothing quite like a sunset

TikToker @aminaoui shows off her sunset-inspired nail art, starting with Gelcare's Nude BB cream and painting a gradient of orange and pink on the tips. Next, the creator goes in with a dotting tool and white polish, blending the clouds downwards with a small brush. 

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Alternatively, after creating a sunset-inspired base, add cloud detailing with the help of nail stickers. For instance, this Amazon set offers a range of celestial objects including star clusters, crescent moons, and (of course) clouds. Simply stick them onto your clean and dried base coat, and you're good to go. 

Experiment with French tip clouds

Though there's a near-constant stream of variations, French tip manicures never really go out of style. To create cloud-inspired tips, start with your favorite blue polish. "Once you've selected your shades, apply a coat of your first color to the tip of your nail using the side of the brush to sketch out the shape," Sarah Gibson Tuttle, the founder of Olive & June, illustrates for InStyle. "You'll be able to clean it up later." Add cloud accents on top of the tip, and finish off the look with a clear, glossy top coat.

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Add extra magic with glitter polish

To make your sky-themed manicure all the more magical, start with a glittery base like TikTok creator Dahlia Lilly (@poshnails209). When using glittery nail polish, first paint a base coat before applying liquid latex around your cuticles, ensuring that sparkles don't stick to unwanted parts of your fingers. 

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In a TikTok how-to, Lights Lacquer suggests wiggling your applicator brush back and forth to achieve fuller coverage. After letting the polish dry, paint your clouds or even use a shimmering gold polish to add celestial details. 

Acrylic extensions create the perfect base

Though you're likely to achieve more long-lasting results if you visit a salon, experiment with at-home acrylic extensions using an Amazon starter kit. TikTok creator @jxyelle outlines the process, showing how to glue down the extension before sanding down the barrier between artificial and natural nails. Next, use a dehydrator and primer to prep your base for acrylic powder.

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Keep in mind that at-home acrylics take patience, practice, and coordination, so don't give up if you don't nail it the first time. After some trial and error, acrylics will help you achieve the perfect canvas for intricate cloud designs.

Gel polish adds a special shine

In general, gel manicures last longer than regular polish — anywhere between two and three weeks. So, if you're hoping for long-lasting cloud patterns that will also offer a beautifully shiny finish, a gel manicure is the way to go. After letting your base layer cure under a UV light, finish off with the cloud detailing.

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Perfect the art of the rainbow

When it comes to cloud nails, accent your miniature skies with a few cleverly-placed rainbows for a great pop of color. Although you can use rainbow nail stickers — like this set from Amazon — YouTuber Kelli Marissa shows her followers how to carefully paint rainbows using a small nail brush. 

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Pro tip: if you struggle with tremors or lack precision, rest the base of your painting hand on a table. This will help stabilize the brush.

Embrace minimalist trends

Effortless "no makeup makeup" and the so-called "clean girl aesthetic" are trending on social media — today's styles are all about simplicity. That includes nail art. "I'm seeing a shift to a more minimalistic version of trends," Tom Bachik, a celebrity manicurist who's worked with the likes of Selena Gomez and Jennifer Lopez, informs Marie Claire. "Things are getting simpler and cleaner." Combine the subtle, "clean girl," look with a cloud manicure by opting for a nude base coat or even a clear polish. 

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Add trending heart motifs

For a unique twist on the traditional heart, freelance nail artist Emily Gilmour (known under the handle @emilygilmour.nails on Instagram) made use of the Comme des Garçons heart logo to accent her client's cloud manicure. After all, heart motifs are trending. Next time you ask for a cloud manicure, contrast the subtle blues and white with a vibrant red. 

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Backgrounds don't have to be blue

Switch up your sky with an unexpected color like peach, pink, or even green. When choosing a nail color, consider a shade that will compliment your skin tone. "Cool tones always should look for vibrant colors like pinks, yellows, and oranges to bring depth to their complexion," A-list manicurist Kia Stewart tells Elle, adding, "Warm tones should have complementary colors that make the skin pop."

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3-D clouds bring the drama

Contrasting modern-day minimalism and clean girl beauty is maximalism, a trend gaining traction post-Pandemic. "During the Pandemic, we all wanted an escape and after the pandemic, with news of the vaccine and restrictions lowered, people want to rejoice, celebrate, bring back what they put on hold, and do it big," design duo George Azzi and Assaad Osta of Azzi & Osta explain in a conversation with Mojeh

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Part of that includes bold nail designs. For instance, TikTok creator @dreamylittlenails shows how to bring extra volume to your clouds using a sculpture gel and a silicone sculpting tool.

Add character decals

Whether you choose to pay homage to Cupid, the winged god of love, or another famous gravity-defying character, what better backdrop than cloud nails? For starters, check out these Cherub stickers on Etsy. After painting a base of clouds — or simply investing in cloud nail press-ons — top with your favorite winged stickers. 

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TikTok creator @connie.wi demonstrates her Cupid nail process, first applying gel tips and curing under a UV light. Next, she paints her nails with a sheer pink coat and a top layer of glitter before adding clouds, cupids, and 3-D golden frames.

Follow up the clouds with lightning and rain

TikTok creator @carlys.nailingit shows followers how to add a dramatic flair with free-handed lightning. Start with a base of black glitter polish and let it dry before going in with a small detail brush and layers of dark blue, gray, and white for the bolts. 

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Alternatively, experiment with viral 3-D raindrops using a dotting tool and a clear gel topcoat. These nails are the perfect accessory for a dark and stormy week — just pair them with a stylish raincoat and you're good to go.

Paint a miniature landscape

Though landscape nails require extreme levels of precision, there's nothing quite like walking around with miniature paintings on your hands. TikTok channel @nailing_painting demonstrates a free-handed mountain landscape design, first covering their cuticles in liquid latex to avoid unwanted smudges. Using a sponge, they create a blended backdrop before going in with a small detail brush to paint trees, mountains, and (of course) fluffy white clouds. 

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Ultimately, cloud nails are endlessly adaptable depending on your current aesthetic, whether you're a self-described minimalist or a thriving maximalist.

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