Colour of the year 2021 colour combination, accent nail ideas, 3D flowers, roses. Salon friendly ideas and nail art techniques.

Illuminating Nail Ideas for 2021


In December 2020 Pantone announced that it had chosen two colors of the year for 2021: Ultimate Gray and Illuminating, a combination of dull, familiar gray and the bright yellow of lemon skin.


Colours of the year 2021

Every single time when I see this announcement a little fresh air, a little excitement jumping around. I start to plan colours, colour combinations, different designs from salon friendly to a bit more complicated one, different nail art techniques from freehand painting to 3D. I feel alive again! Not just because of the colours or designs, because I know I can work on something new, something different.

December is all about Christmas, Christmas parties (not this year because of the pandemic) glitters, red, gold, a bit of green if you lucky (I am, as have at least 2 clients who absolutely loves green, so thank you so much Nicola and Carol 🥰), snowflakes ❄ and snowmen glore. So planning something new, that can actually be part of my salon life and nail art all year around, is great.

This isn't the first time that Pantone's Color of the Year has come as a duo. Rose Quartz, a pale pink, and Serenity, a powdery blue were its choices for the year 2016 if you remember. 

Personally speaking, I'm happy we got 2 colours to work with when it comes to creating trends on nails.

Grey has been around for quite some time now and loved by a lot of people; (just think about interior house designs) however yellow is a bit tricky. Yellow is not necessarily the best selling colour in the salon. I do not think anyways. I have been working as a nail technician for over 10 years but I can count on one hand how many clients asked for yellow nails. So I have decided to try to find ways, how to get clients wanting that illuminating yellow colour. 😉 

Challenge excepted! 💪


As for products, there is a wide range to choose from; gel polishes, hard colour gels...

gel paints, art gels...

acrylic powders...

spider gels...just to mention a few.


Silver Ghost is a big favourite of mine, but you have to be careful how to use it. It's a gel polish with metallic chrome effect. You need to shake the bottle thoroughly before use and just a very thin layer. These gel polishes dries when exposed to air, but for the ultimate result, cure it for at least 3-4 minutes in a UV or LED lamp, and use a fan to ensure a completely dry surface.


Can be used on its own or part of any nail art applications, on uv gels, acrylics and polygels too.



In this blog post, I'm going to share with you a few accent nail ideas and techniques I came up with, how to combine the colour of the year 2021 💛 and how to sell this colour combination to your clientele.  


If you are new to nail art, possibly wondering what is accent nails? Or which finger does the accent nail go on? 

Accent nail is a simple way of customise your manicure and add personality. Some clients like to have just one accent nail, mainly on ring finger, some prefer two. This all depends on your clients' preference (or on yours if you are free to create whatever you want on your clients' nails).  It can be a different colour, glittery or the only finger having nail art on. 

Let's have a look on some ideas, shall we?!

1. Modern abstract design

What is modern abstract design? 

Abstract art is art that does not attempt to represent an accurate depiction of a visual reality but instead use shapes, colours, forms to achieve its effect.

I am a great fan of abstract designs!  It is just one of those things you cannot produce twice exactly the same which gives the art that one and only appearance. My clients love it too because they can have a very unique set of nail every single time. 


Modern abstract design salon nails

Fine lines with swirls on a gradient background.

Modern abstract design salon nails

 Gold flakes with spider gel.

Abstract nail art.


They are also handy knowing, specially if you combine them with other nail art like one stroke, freehand painting, aquarelle or 3D just to mention a few. 




Combine matt and shiny, marble, leaves and flowers, freehand painting, holographic powder, fine lines and swirls. Endless possibilities.  


Watch it here:


2. Geometric art design 

Possibly the easiest way to describe geometric art  is designed and created with lines, circles, square and rectangles. Geometric art designs are absolute on trend right now. 

You can easily achieve this look with simply using your dotting tool. 

Geometric Nail Art

Here is an easy step by step instructions to achieve some geometric nail art. All you need; the colours of the year 2021 and a long nail art brush and voala



For those clients, who are up to some in sunshine!


3. Marble design 

Well this is another nail art that has been around for many years but still loved by clients. 


There are different ways to achieve this look, here is my version of it. 

Marble effect with gel polishes


3. Leaf silhouette design 

What is silhouette? 🤔 you may ask. 

Well, "the dark shape and outline of someone or something visible in restricted light against a brighter background". OK, this sounds more complicated than it is. 

Leaf silhouette design has been on trend and you can find it everywhere.  From wallpapers to pictures on the wall, curtains or bedding. Clothes, earrings you name it.  So if we can have this design in our house, why not have them on our nails, right?!

Here are just a few leaf 🍃 silhouette example you can incorporate to your nail art. Obviously it all depends on the size of the nail but these designs are not too complicated and can be achieved in the salon quickly. 

Why is it good to know them? Because you can use leaves on their own as a design but they are also good to be combined into your floristry nail art.

Leaf silhouette examples


Let's have a look on a step by step, shall we?!

 Leaf Silhouette SBS

Step 1: background. I'm having a mid grey gel polish background.

Step 2: using the sticky layer of the gel polish, add some yellow transfer foil. This little piece of foil instantly brightened up my grey 🌝. Use top gel. It can be either a glossy or a matt one. 

Step 3: with black gel paint and a thin nail art brush, paint on your leaves 🍃. Mine cures without any tacky layer so I don't need to add top gel to it. 


You can combine it with marble background too. So easy and so effective, I am sure your clients will love it too. 

 Leaf 🍃 silhouette with marble background


 Watch it here:


4. Stained glass effect

To get clients choose yellow, the easiest way is, with flowers. One of my favourite, absolutely salon friendly way is freehand painting. 


Stained Glass Effect


5. Floristry design



Floristry Gel Painting

 Painting with gel.


6. Watercolour design

 Watercolour design

I love using watercolour in the salon. This is such a quick and light, elegant way of doing nail art. If you want to read more about the watercolour pens, please click here. If you want to read more about how it works and check out some step by steps, please have a look on my blog post here.

Aquarelle with gel using gelatty aquarelle gels.


7. 3D design with gel 

I have been doing 3D nail art for some time now but unfortunately no matter how lovely they looked, my clients never really fancied it. Their reason was that " oh I have children, cleaning a lot, wearing gloves. These look really lovely but I don't think they are very practical for me." I was totally heart-broken because despite of the fact they are a bit time consuming, they look absolutely lush. 

So one of those play days of mine (when everything goes to plan nice and smooth or terribly wrong) I came up with an idea, how to create 3D roses that wearable for everyone. 

When we are talking about 3D designs, most people think about acrylics.  Well I'm a gel girl in general, so  acrylics not always an option for me. Not because I cannot work with acrylics, I just choose not to. That's why I was really pleased to welcome 3D gels. You can create similar look with them to acrylics, minus the smell, so for a gel girl this was just like heaven. 

I developed a way to do 3D roses, they are as high as a small sized gem but still look pretty 3D from the top. You can create 3D roses on any nail, short or long, square, rounded or coffin shaped just to name a few. You can do just one rose or you can do a whole composition.  The choice is yours and the possibilities are endless.  


3D nail art roses


I hope you got some inspiration from this blog. But if you need more help, let me invite you to my upcoming online course

Sign up today to my brand new nail art course, ILLUMINATING 21 , covering 5 most wanted nail art techniques in the salon



About me

 My name is Susan and I have been working as a nail technician in my own salon just over 10 years. My biggest passion is salon nails and nail art. I like to create nails and art that's wearable and not just for a competition. It is a big challenge as normally salon nails are not very long but with the right techniques you can still create art on them!

I used to be a primary school teacher before so I take pride in my teaching which started 8 years ago.  I am trying to create open days / demo days / courses that help my students and fellow nail technicians to have a good start and support in this ever changing industry.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.

Featured collection