22 Non-Tacky Takes on Summer's Wildest Nail Trend

Something personal you should know about me: I have a pretty strict anti–animal print policy. The conventional favourites (zebra and leopard print, check) have a way of giving me visceral flashbacks to the aughts, all before rushing back out of popularity before anyone even bats an eye. That is, with one major exception: cow print. The underrated, über-versatile pattern plays the perfect complement to everything in your closet, from neutrals to bright colors, and even other animal prints. (Calling Kendall Jenner's recent Instagram post to the stand.)

As of late, master manicurists have proposed an all-new way to imbue the print into your signature look. You guessed it: cow-print nail designs. It's the playful, extraverted, summer-ready update you didn't know your mani needed. One of the best things about the cowhide nail look is how deceivingly simple it is. Unlike the total precision required to nail even a basic french, minute imperfections will only add to your spotted look in this case. That is if you are going the freehand route. A bevy of stick-on decals from brands like Ciaté London make it even easier to tap into the trend. (You'll have a chance to shop the whole set ahead.)

Pros can consider this a short-on-time update to your basic mani. And novices, this is your gateway into the wonderful world of nail art. Peruse our edit of energised cow-print manicures, with all the products you'll need to recreate the looks at home.


(Image credit: @overglowedit)

Consider test-driving the trend on a single nail, flanked by other designs that may already have earned their stripes in your nail art rotation.


(Image credit: @paragonnails)

For an ultra-low-lift spin on the look, try these easy cow nails, which overlay black spots on a clear-coat base.


(Image credit: @paintboxnails)

Complementary colours will add a spark to the classic black-and-white look.


(Image credit: @oliveandjune)

It doesn't get more classic than this. Start with a milk-white polish and use any black brush to dab on perfectly imperfect spots, and you've nailed this look.


(Image credit: @thehangedit)

Chocolate milk, anyone? This take on the trend is infused with soothing cocoa and caramel hues, making for a great summer-into-autumn option.


(Image credit: @beautyspace_charlotte)

Remember the decals we touched on earlier? Here they are in all their glory, styled with a wavy take on the negative-space manicure.


(Image credit: @thehangedit)

Serious question: Is there anything cuter than strawberries and clouds? To get this playful look, repeat the previous process on a single nail, accompanied by a trove of other kitschy designs. 


(Image credit: @overglowedit)

For a peak summer look, call on this season's hottest colourways (grass, lavender, and tangerine) for your cow spots, and stick with glossy white for your base.


(Image credit: @paragonnails)

Paging the more daring nail artists. This pro-level mani is the one for you. It anchors cowhide print in between Murakami-inspired designs and neon flames. 


(Image credit: @thehangedit)

The chocolate milk look we touched on earlier just got a joyful update with the now-trending smiley face motif.


(Image credit: @thehangedit)

We promised you that cow pint paired well with other animal prints. See that evinced here, with a giraffe-print sidekick. 


(Image credit: @ciatelondon)

This spin on the trend tacks black and white spots onto a clear base, making for a polished, minimalist look.


(Image credit: @thehangedit)

Navy and white is one of the summer's most ideal colour pairings and it's not at all off-limits when it comes to this trend.


(Image credit: @thehangedit)

If glitter nails are your thing, we've got you covered with this sheer, ethereal cow-print look. Even if they're not, that's all the more reason to give it a go, as they're heavily trending in 2021.


(Image credit: @paragonnails)

Good news if you're having a hard time choosing your fighter: You don't have to. Try alternating nails bedecked in spots with a lightly speckled French-tip mani.


To mix up your cow-print mani, keep it to one or two fingers and pick a few favorite hues from your polish collection. With those, paint the rest of your nails solid and stick on a few decals once dry. Voilà!


(Image credit: @hollyfalconenails)

What, you don't coordinate your beauty look with your mani? Get inspired by this user's bold eye shadow which adds a playful pop to her classic cowhide mani. 


(Image credit: @varnishlane)

Update your french mani with a host of playful prints—cowhide included, of course.


(Image credit: @varnishlane)

They're calling this the date night-ready animal-print nail look. Bonus points if you tuck a few dainty heart-shaped cow spots into each nail. 


(Image credit: @paragonnails)

Another case of animal-print mixing, this time, with the 2000's favourite zebra print. This manicurist also test-drove a shocking twist on cow print with a purple base and orange spots. 


(Image credit: @thehangedit)

This iteration of the navy-white look also includes the negative space trend. Plus, it relegates the spots to a certain part of the nail, making it easier to test out for first-timers. 


(Image credit: @imarninails)

Last but not least, an ultra-simple, palate-cleansing take on the cow-print mani to soothe your infinite scroll.

Up next, 11 nail trends that'll be everywhere this summer.

Danielle Naer

Danielle is a freelance Beauty Writer at WhoWhatWear. Her work has also been published in Vogue.com, The Zoe Report, Editorialist, and more. When she's not testing the latest beauty launch, she's exploring the local food scene in New York, reading a good book, or weekend-tripping somewhere leafy (or beach-y). You can keep up with Danielle on Instagram (@daniellenaer) for all things style, lifestyle, and beauty, and browse more of her work on her site.