How to do aura nails: The trending mani that will be everywhere this summer

We spoke to the experts to find out how to do aura nails, plus the trending looks for this season

set of aura nails on a gradient background
(Image credit: Instagram @nailsby_joana / Future)

For a warm, vibrant, and eye-catching summer manicure, look no further than aura nails. Spotted on the likes of Megan Fox and Dua Lipa, this nail trend is doing the rounds on social media for the positive energy it will bring to your look. And despite being popularized on TikTok, this trending mani will suit all ages.

There is no shortage of inspiring nail trends for 2023, but aura nails are one of the most tasteful and timeless styles on our radar. After gaining traction on TikTok last year, the style is back in full force this summer thanks to its warm and glowing finish that is perfect for the season. Easily adaptable to suit all ages and tastes, this nail design can be effortlessly achieved in a few simple steps. So, if you're ready to switch up your trusty French tip nails or minimal milk nails for something a little more statement, aura nails should be at the top of your list. 

"Creating a real atmosphere is what this mani trend is all about. There are no rules when it comes to color here, it’s all about choosing a shade you feel brings you ‘good energy’," explains Julita Fagan, 14 Day Manicure nail expert. Whether you're gathering inspiration for your next salon visit or you want to have a go at creating them yourself, here's everything you need to know about the aura nails trend.

Aura nails, explained by the experts 

What are aura nails?

Aura nail designs tend to use an ombre effect to blend two or more colors in a spherical shape from the center of the nail. "This artistic nail design should symbolize the radiant energy fields or auras surrounding us. The focal point of aura nails lies in the oval shapes that blend perfectly into the backdrop of the nail color," explains expert Liana Thomson. 

For those who are unfamiliar, an aura is a colorful halo that surrounds a human body, representing a person's energy. When translated into a manicure, it has a glowing effect that emanates from the center of the nail.

With a similar soft and blended style to watercolor nails, aura nails allow you to add color to your manicure in a subtle and tasteful way. For spring nail designs that will carry you through the summer, aura nails offer a perfect way to add pops of color that aren't too blocky. 

How do you do aura nails?

"There are a few different ways to achieve the aura nail effect, such as with an airbrush gun, but you can also simply use gel polish," says Fagan. If you're doing aura nails yourself and using gel polishes, or opting for other methods like BIAB nails or polygel nails where you'll be painting yourself, you should:

1. Start with a clear base coat to prep the nail. 

2. Apply a light-colored base shade and cure.  

3. "Apply your accent color of choice in the center of the nail, using a sponge to stipple in the color, curing between each layer," advises Fagan. The sponge will help to get that soft and blended finish.

4. Once you've reached your desired opacity, seal in with a top coat and add some cuticle oil to keep up with your nail care.

When visiting the salon, Fagan notes that your nail tech is likely to be familiar with the trend and how to achieve it. But if not, "you’re looking for a hazy, ombré nail color gradient in the center of the nail," she says. You can also "request for an airbrush machine to be used to create this design at your nail salon. This is important because the aura and background nail colors must blend perfectly with one another for the design to work," says Thomson.

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These handy mini sponges will make blending your aura nails a breeze. Follow Fagan's stippling technique to get a soft and natural look that will only take seconds.

Which nail varnish shade should you use for aura nails?

"The beauty of aura nails is their versatility - you can create them using a shade of your choice," says Fagan. But she notes that "you would want to choose a lighter base coat than the color gradient you’re using for the effect." Bright summer nail colors are perfect for pairing with a white or nude base coat to get a subtle yet vibrant effect.

Likewise, Thomson says that "the selection of colors for both the background and the aura are crucial in aura nails. Whether you opt for warm sunset tones, delicate pastels, or vibrant and bold shades, the key is to select colors that complement each other while providing a striking contrast." One of the best nail designs for short nails, aura nails rely more on color than they do nail length or shape, making the design extremely adaptable.

"Contrasting colors help to highlight the spherical design and create a more impactful visual effect. If the colors were too similar, it would be challenging to distinguish the blended airbrushed edge between them, resulting in a less pronounced and defined design," explains Thomson. Pastel nails work particularly well for aura designs as they keep that soft yet colorful effect, but Thomson says that "maximalist asymmetrical nails are very in right now," so don't be afraid of going for hues a little out of your comfort zone.


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This vibrant nail color is ideal for creating aura nails this summer. Layer on top of a white or nude base and blend in gently to get a bright yet smooth finish.

14 aura nails designs we love

1. Classic aura nails

set of aura nails

(Image credit: Instagram @nailsby_joana)

We love this classic aura nails set by @nailsby_joana on Instagram. With a simple base color and a soft aura blend between different shades, this is the perfect way to nail the aura trend. 

2. Glowing aura nails

Whether you prefer a gel or acrylic manicure, this glowing aura style will work for you. Keep things monochromatic for maximum impact, and ensure you blend just a tiny amount of your lighter hue and blend it out fully to get this soft and ethereal look.

3. Square aura nails

If you want to try out different nail shapes, we love how this long square finish looks with an aura design. If you're opting for extensions or have long natural nails, you will want the center color to be more like an oval than a circle to keep that lengthened look.

4. Graduated aura nails

This style uses various opacities to get a graduated aura nails look that is almost floral. Start with a clear base, then gradually work from your lightest to darkest polish, ensuring your lightest color has a thin layer and your darkest has a thicker layer to make it stand out.

5. Aura nail accents

If you prefer a more stripped-back look, these aura accents are perfect. Channel the negative space nails trend by painting mini aura circles across your nails, keeping the base color neutral. Add some sparkle to your look by adding nail stickers or metallic details.

6. Blended aura nails

This blended design keeps the base coat color very minimal, allowing the colorful aura to shine through. The ideal style for lengthening squoval nails, it works particularly well on natural nails for a put together yet eye-catching finish.

7. Monochromatic aura nails

For a more subtle aura nails design, stick to one color palette and keep the tones consistent throughout. A good choice for those who favor polygel nails, it has a shiny finish that will keep your nails looking healthy.

8. Abstract aura nails

There really are no rules with aura nails, and this style proves it. Add in a French tip for a more refined look, or go for various circles of different sizes and hues to lean into the painterly effect.

9. French aura nails

Combine two of the best nail trends with this simple yet distinctive French finish. Choose shades on the opposite sides of the color wheel for your aura and tip to get this beautiful contrast that will pop in the summer sun.

10. Flowing aura nails

Marble nail designs will never go out of style, but we love how they've been reinvented for this aura-inspired look. Stick with your lighter and darker shades but allow your nail polish to flow freely without being too neat to get this same loose style.

11. Subtle aura nails

If you always lean towards the same neutral nail polish colors, why not switch it up? Choose one of your favorite nude shades and create an aura design with a slightly darker hue to get a natural manicure with a twist.

12. Reverse aura nails

Aura nails typically have the lighter color as the base and the darker color as the accent, but this isn't a strict rule. Go for a reversed style by using your deeper shade as the base and get a halo effect in the middle. Particularly good for long acrylic nails, it will enhance your nail shape.

13. Alternating aura nails

Select a few different color combinations and switch between each nail. If you want a bright style without being too on-the-nose with a classic rainbow, this more muted palette of pink, orange, and blue will give a similar effect without looking too youthful.

14. Natural aura nails

Embrace your nail shape with this natural style that works even on short nails. Go for a cool-toned base coat and soft pop of color to recreate the style, and opt for shellac nails instead of extensions to keep your natural nails strong. 

Amelia Yeomans
Senior writer

Amelia joined woman&home in 2022 after graduating with an MA in Magazine Journalism from City University and she is now a senior fashion and beauty writer. She began building her career as a lifestyle journalist after completing a fashion journalism course at the Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design in 2019, writing for a variety of titles including OK!, New!, and Notion on topics such as sustainable fashion and entertainment.