Paint Chip Nails Is the Manicure Trend Perfect for Indecisive People

Can’t choose just one color? Get them all!



Not to sound too dramatic, but walking into a salon with the goal of plucking just one color from a towering wall of nail polishes is one way to get your heart rate pumping. There are so many beautiful colors to choose from, and narrowing down your pick to a single hue can feel tortuous. The paint chip nail trend says, “Why choose just one nail polish when you could pick five to 10?”

Whether you’re a bit indecisive at the salon or you simply love the idea of showcasing a whole bouquet of colors on your fingernails, this is the trend for you.

What Are Paint Chip Nails?

You know those paint swatch chips found at places like Home Depot or Lowes? The cards typically showcase three to six shades within the same color family to help you better determine which hue is the best fit for whatever space you’re about to paint.

Paint chip nails mimic that look by painting each nail a different color, explains manicurist Halle Michel. Unlike “Skittles” or “rainbow nails” trends, paint chip nails feature colors that are all very closely related. For example, maybe it’s five different shades of brown, or perhaps it's five closely related shades in the red and pink family.  

Also, unlike “gradient nails”—which is a very similar manicure technique—you can paint the colors in any order on your nails versus strictly going from dark to light.

“For fall, go with the warm brown tones, or try oranges,” Michel suggests. She adds, “I have a client who loves neons so we have fun with those brilliant shades, and another who loves the blue tones. Whatever fits your fancy will work.”

How to Create Paint Chip Nails

There are three main rules to follow when creating paint chip nails if you want to ensure a gorgeous result.

1. Same Color Family

The biggest rule when it comes to brilliantly pulling paint chip nails is to make sure all the colors are within the same color family. Otherwise, things start to look too rainbow-esque or chaotic.

2. Same Undertones

Another good rule of thumb is to try to make sure each color has the same warm, cool, or neutral undertones so the shades complement each other beautifully. It’s a tiny detail, but one that can make a pretty big difference in the end result.

3. Same Finish

Keep the finish the same for each nail. For example, opt for creamy with a shiny top coat, a sheer and glossy shade on each nail, or opaque with a matte top coat. Michel adds that, since there’s already a lot going on, it’s best to keep the other aspects of your paint chip manicure otherwise simple. That means avoiding finishes that are overly shimmery or glittery, and skipping out on intricate designs. (A variation of this trend that could work, however, is French tips in different hues.)

From here, the world is your colorful oyster. “The paint chip nail trend is all about embracing fun and showing your individual side. It is a form of expression,” Michel says. “There's a lot of room to experiment and play with the trend.”

Paint Chip Nails Polish Sets

Buying a nail polish set can make the job of picking a series of complementary colors easier. Here are some of our faves:

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