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Cartoon Nails Are A Viral Nail Trend Influenced By This ’50s Counter Culture Art Movement—And They’re Easy To DIY

Nail art has come a long way since the early 2000s—basic designs like polka dots, flowers, and minimalistic styles are cute (and stylish), but artists can get technical and intricate in their nail designs these days.

Nail artists, like all artists, draw inspiration from the things around them—nature, fashion, history, etc. Designs can be as simple as a few gold accents or as complex as a stunning galaxy. And they all somehow fit on a fingernail.

Recently, cartoon nails have gone viral on social media. The style is heavily influenced by pop art, a counter-culture style that dates back to the ‘50s and ’60s. You might associate the movement with Andy Warhol, but it’s much bigger than one artist.

Pop artists rebelled against the traditional art world and ushered in a new era of mass-produced, brightly-colored, accessible, and witty popular art. These artists drew inspiration from advertising, Hollywood, and comic books, repurposing easily-recognized images and making them even more iconic.

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Although at the time the movement wasn’t taken seriously, especially by the traditional art world, it has become one of the most recognizable art movements of the 20th century.

How Are Nail Artists Using Pop Art?

Pop nail art often uses bold and bright color palettes along with a two-dimensional effect. The most common iteration of the trend involves a surprisingly simple outlining and highlighting technique. The effect gives a two-dimensional look as if the nails have jumped right out of a comic book.

Color options are infinite, from brights and neon shades to more subtle pastels. The look is versatile and works with short or long nails, in any shape from almond to coffin.

Some artists create actual cartoons, depicting the likes of Lola Bunny from Looney Tunes or the whole Scooby-Doo Gang, which requires some artistic know-how. But the simplest style is pretty straightforward, and DIYing is not out of the question.

Read on for a step-by-step process to create the look yourself.



  1. Apply the base coat and allow it to dry completely.
  2. Apply two coats of color. Make sure it dries completely between coats and before the next steps.
  3. Outline the entire nail with a thin line of black polish.
  4. Add swoops of black accents.
  5. Use the white polish to add pops for dimension.
  6. Cover the nail with a top coat to keep your nails popping and protected.

Whether you DIY or consult a professional to achieve pop art nails, they’re a fun trend to get in on, with a surprisingly rich history in the art world.

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