Cool Fall Nail Colors & Designs to Try in 2018

BY: Colleen Loggins Loster | Aug 15, 2018

Because of fall's often unseasonably warm temperatures, it can be hard to get on board with the season's aesthetic—layers, tights, moto jackets, and boots. Sure, you want to bust out your flannel shirt, but it's 75 degrees today, and you don't particularly relish blow-drying your pits in the office bathroom. That's why fall nail colors and designs are so great. They let you embrace fall's aesthetic even on the warmest days.

To inspire you this season, we rounded up some of our favorite fall nail colors and designs on Instagram. Get ready to look cozier than a Pinterest board dedicated to the concept of hygge.

Cozy Plaids


The only way these fingers could be more fall is if they were clutching a Pumpkin Spice Latte. Nails like this are the perfect sweater-weather look, plus, they're a fresh update on the tan, black, and red Burberry-esque pattern everyone seems to do.

DIY? Surprisingly, yes—but you do need a nail stamp that looks like plaid stitching. To create this look:

  1. Paint your nails a dark burgundy and wait for them to dry.
  2. Paint navy polish on the metal stamping plate, scrape off the excess, and pick up the design with the nail stamper.
  3. Roll the stamper across the burgundy nail to add the blue plaid pattern.
  4. Wait until the navy polish dries, then repeat the stamping and rolling process with cream polish. Carefully clean up the stamped patterns on your skin using a q-tip dipped in nail-polish remover.

Shop the Look 

OPI My Car Has Navy-gation; You're So Vain-illa; Thank Glogg It's Friday! ($6.99 each) 

Vampy Stilettos


A post shared by M.C.💁🏻💅🏽 (@madebymc) on


When you hear the words "press-on nails," you probably think of cheap plastic rectangles from the drugstore. But these fierce stiletto press-ons wouldn't be caught dead in the drugstore aisle. With their dark colors, 3D chains, and claw-like shape, they're more suitable for a dungeon lair. Or the boardroom of an evil corporation.

DIY? No. These press-ons can be purchased from this Instagrammer, madebymc. You could also visit a nail salon and have a pro replicate these nails using acrylics.

Red-Hot Rorschach


The Look: The design on these nails is almost Rorschach-like. Do you see a roaring fire? Scattered rose petals? Deep-red autumn leaves? No matter what you see, there's no doubt this design look great in the fall, especially when paired with the perfect nail shape for the season—coffin.

DIY? No. The complicated red-and-black marbled nail art and the coffin shape, which typically requires acrylics to achieve, should be left to a pro.

Berry Boudoir


A post shared by Bretton Wiltshire (@nailsbybretton) on


At first glance, this polish seems like one of the more traditional fall colors for nails. But closer inspection reveals it to be a moodier red with hints of mocha. It's great when you're feeling pensive about the looming seasonal darkness, yet want something less angsty than black.

DIY? For sure! All you need is a bottle of reddish-brown polish (this look uses CND Shellac Berry Boudoir) and a steady hand.

Shop the Look

UV Nails gel polish set in Evening Glow and UV lamp ($62.99)

Natural Harvest


A post shared by Mikaela Frost (@nailsbymk_) on


There's no doubt that neutral nails exude elegance. After all, they basically look like a shinier, better version of a natural nail and, thus, go with everything. But nails that are uninterested in standing out can be a bit boring. That's why this manicure is so great. It upgrades a neutral polish with a couple of delicate black-leaf outlines on each hand.

DIY? Yes, the nail art is simple enough for DIYers to replicate, as long as they have a fine-tipped dotting pen (or toothpick). To create this look:

  1. Paint your nails a neutral color. To make it feel more appropriate for fall, grab a tan shade without any pink tones.
  2. After the tan polish dries, dip your dotting pen in black polish. Draw simple leaves on 1–2 nails on each hand.

Shop the Look

Sephora Formula X nail polish in beige or tan ($9.99); OPI Soft Shades set with free gift ($21.99); Zodaca nail art dotting pen ($8.99)

A Little Camp


A post shared by NAILTHOUGHTS (@nailthoughts) on


These nails have the same vibe as the tiny tattoos for girls that are so popular on Instagram, but none of the commitment. And the simple black camping symbols on a snowy-white background make the overall design look fresh and cute, instead of, ahem, too campy.

DIY? Depends on how artistic and patient you are. Although the designs aren't super complicated, they do require the ability to draw basic pictures and really tiny lines with a dotting tool or perhaps a super skinny eyeliner brush. Maybe try it out on a low-key weekend day; otherwise, save it for a pro.

Glittering Autumn


A post shared by T's Nails:Cayce,SC (@tsnailsalon) on


Whereas the previous two looks were a subtle nod to the season, this is an in-your-face, unapologetic homage to fall and its gorgeous imagery. And yet, the design manages to look cool instead of cheesy. That's due to three factors: the short, square shape of the nails, the dreamy colors, and the use of negative space.

DIY? No, the nail art is a bit too detailed, plus this look requires you to have multiple nail polish colors on hand.

Goths at the Beach


A post shared by Lucy (@cannyclawsbylucy) on


The look: "a goth makes the mistake of wandering outside in warm weather." The Instagrammer, cannyclawsbylucy, made these sassy press-ons back in May, but they work just as well for fall, especially during the transition from warm to cool weather.

DIY? No. But again, if you don't order this particular set, you could always ask a nail artist to re-create the cheeky design using acrylics. 

Reverse Ombre


A post shared by PHOEBE N. (@lovepbeauty) on


If you love black nails for fall yet want to try something a little different, these softer ombre nails are the way to go. Unlike the majority of ombre nails, they start out darker at the tips and get lighter toward the cuticle—something that makes them stand out from their fellow gradient nails.

DIY? Probably not. Ombre nails are a more advanced DIY nail-art technique because you have to first dip a cosmetic sponge into polish and then dab it onto your nails using a feather-light touch to distribute just the right amount of polish. Then you have to carefully clean up all of the polish the sponge leaves on your fingers, and it's not an insignificant amount.

Marble Accents


A post shared by Kalynn Hanna (@kalynn_salonlenae) on


The muted lavender and gray polishes here look like they'd fit in well with an overcast fall day. Chicago nail artist Ailey Ly says nail polish colors like this are on-trend right now, as are marble nails and 3D nail accents. Basically, these nails are as trendy as cross-stitch of a succulent plant.

DIY? Newp. Trying to replicate this look takes skills and supplies far beyond what the average person has in their arsenal.