Looking for inspiration for your next mani?
Wanna know what nail polish colors go together like PB and J, cupcakes and frosting or cookies and cream?
Then look no further 🙂
In this post, we’re going to dip our toes into a little color theory.
Then, once you have the basics of how to mix and match down, we’ll take a look at some amazing nail polish color combinations that you might not have thought of.
We’ll also show you specific examples of the exact shades that work best together.
So, you don’t need to worry about tracking down that perfect pearlescent nude, pastel yellow, mint green or light pink.
Then let’s get right on it!
One quick note before we start.
If you’re not interested in learning how to combine colors and you just want a list of polishes that go together from the likes of Essie and OPI, scroll down to the bottom of this article.
You’ll find a ton of recommendations for matching nail polish shades at the end of this post.
I’ve also put together a huge list of all the OPI colours that work well together – you can see that here.
Ok, let’s talk colors!
Why does choosing the right nail polish colors matter way more than the design?
You don’t always need a fancy design to get tons of compliments on your nails.
You can create (or copy) the most amazing nail art design ever to grace the IG feeds, but if the colors aren’t quite right, it’s not going to look anywhere near as good as it could.
But, if you know a little bit about color theory, and you have a basic knowledge of what colors work together and why…
Well, that’s a total gamechanger.
Once gained, you can use your color-combining skills to create really simple but utterly amazing looks that all your friends will want to copy!
With a little color theory under your belt, not only will your nail polish pairings always be harmonious, but you can also figure out what colors will work best with specific outfits.
And you can save time and money by not buying nail polish colors that clash with the colors that tend to dominate your wardrobe.
So, now that we’ve covered the importance of combining the right colors, let’s look at what color combinations work.
1. Any 2 (or more) Neutrals.
Neutrals are the most versatile colors in color theory.
Technically, neutrals are “colors with little to no color”, which sounds kinda weird.
All it means is that neutral colors can blend easily with most, if not all, other colors.
So, if you paint your nails in neutral colors, there’s a really good chance that they will go with anything and everything in your closet!
Personally, I love neutrals. Most of my wardrobe (and my nail polish collection) is made up of them.
Neutral colors like black, white, and grey are so versatile and easy to match that they make a great choice for your nails, especially if you like to wear a lot of different colors in your outfits.
They also look equally good with minimalist outfits that are made up of neutral colors.
The best thing about neutrals is that you can choose any 2 neutrals (or more) and they will almost always work well together.
If you find neutrals a little bit less than exciting, don’t worry, because it’s not all black, white and grey.
In fact, here’s a list of 15 neutral colors for you to experiment with.
Try combining 2 or more of the following colors in your next mani and marvel at how long you can go before you feel the need to change those nails up again:
- Olive green
- Sage green
It’s important to note that some neutrals are a little more versatile than others. The ones with the least amount of color, like black and white, will go with anything.
But neutrals with stronger undertones of color, like ivory (which has yellow undertones) sage and olive green, and blush (pink undertones) while still amazingly versatile, can be less versatile than your classic neutrals like black and white.
There are so many possible color combinations just in this small “neutral” category alone.
Here are some of my personal favorite neutral on neutral combinations using either 2 or 3 different neutral colors:
Gray, white and pink
Essie – Press pause / OPI – Alpine snow / Essie – Adore-A-Ball
Navy and White
Essie after school boy blazer / OPI – Alpine snow
Black and silver
Essie – Licorice / OPI Designer Series – Radiance
Beige and blush
OPI – Maintaining My Sand-ity / OPI – Aphrodite’s Pink Nightie
Sage green, gray and silver
Essie – Sage You Love Me / OPI – I Cannoli Wear / OPI Designer Series – Radiance
Nude and tan
Essie – rainwear don’t care / Essie – don’t be latte
Olive green and taupe
OPI – Olive for Green / OPI – Taupe-less Beach
When you are matching up your neutrals, your personal preference is also going to play a role.
For example, even though brown and gray do technically work together, I would never combine them, simply because I just don’t like that particular combination.
A note about glitter, metallics and other finishes.
If like me, you love the versatility of neutrals – but you also like shiny things, then you can easily add a touch of glam to your neutral manicure by adding some glitter.
Essie – Sparkle on top
You can either stick to your neutral color palette and use say, silver glitter on a black and white mani for example.
Or, you could add some interest by including a normal and a metallic version of your chosen color, a mixture of matte and high gloss finishes, or sticking on a few nail gems.
Ok, that’s it for our first color combination.
Ready for option 2?
Let’s dive in.
2. 1 or 2 neutrals and any other color.
I’ll say it again. I love neutrals.
Not only do they all go with each other, but neutrals also go with any other color.
This second option simply builds on the first one.
To create this next color combination, what you’re going to do is take 1 or 2 of your favorite neutrals from the list above, and then add any other color you like!
Since you are only introducing 1 color, you don’t need to worry about clashes.
This combo is a great option if you just want an eye-catching pop of color, or if you’re still a bit unsure about color matching.
Seriously, you can’t go wrong with this method!
For excellent color combinations that work every time, try choosing 1 or 2 neutrals from the list above and matching them with any other color you like.
Think hot pinks, bright yellows and vibrant oranges, or pastel greens, pale blues and lilacs, anything goes with this combo, so have some fun!
Some of my favorite combinations using one or 2 neutrals and 1 other color are:
Pink and Grey
OPI – Don’t Bossa Nova Me Around / OPI – Steel Waters Run Deep
Navy and Coral
essie – After school boy blazer / OPI – Coral-ing Your Spirit Animal
Navy and mint green
Essie – after school boy blazer / OPI – This Cost Me a Mint
Brown and baby blue
OPI – You Don’t Know Jacques! / OPI – To Be Continued…
Navy and mustard yellow
OPI – Get Ryd-of-Thym Blues / OPI – Sun, Sea, and Sand in My Pants
Cream and rose pink
OPI – Funny Bunny / OPI – Aphrodite’s Pink Nightie
Navy and Peach
OPI – Get Ryd-of-thym Blues / OPI – Machu Peach-U
Cream and Green
OPI – Funny bunny / OPI – How Does Your Zen Garden Grow?
Peach and Blue
OPI – Machu Peach-U / OPI – To Be Continued…
Red, white and black
Essie – Red hot rio / OPI Funny bunny / Essie – Licorice
Olive green, brown and gold
OPI – Suzi- The First Lady of Nails / OPI – Over the Taupe / Essie – You’re golden
Red, white and Navy
OPI – Red hot rio / OPI – Funny bunny / Essie – After School Boy Blazer
Sage green, gray and coral pink
Essie – Sage you love me / OPI – I Cannoli Wear / OPI – Kiss Me I’m Brazilian
Beige, tan and mint green
OPI – Maintaining My Sand-ity / Essie – Don’T Be Latte / essie – Fashion Playground
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should be enough to get you inspired.
If you add in the options for different finishes (matte, high gloss, metallic, gems etc.) then this method of combining colors should last you ages!
Then, once you get bored with neutrals, you can just move on to color combination number 3 below 🙂
3. Shades of the same color.
This is a really simple but very effective way of creating a well-put-together nail look.
All you need to do is follow 1 simple rule.
Stick to one main color.
Because shades of the same color will always go well together.
So, why not use 2 to 3 or even 4 or 5 shades of the same color to create amazing monochromatic (meaning all one color) nails!
I like to do this with blues.
Basically, I use 5 different shades of blue.
I start by painting my thumbs in the darkest shade (usually a navy).
Next, I choose a slightly lighter shade for my index fingers.
I pick out yet another slightly lighter shade for the middle fingers and so on until I get to the very lightest shade on my pinkies.
It’s such a simple idea, but the results are amazing, and I always get a ton of compliments when I do my nails like this.
Obviously, you don’t need to use blues, this method works with absolutely any color you can think of (providing you have at least 5 different shades of it).
Don’t panic if you don’t have 5 different shades of the same color!
You can still create beautiful monochromatic designs with just 2 or 3 shades.
Try combining 2 or 3 shades of the same color into your chosen nail art design, which could be anything from a few polka dots to a subtle ombre.
The monochromatic route is a great one to go down for manicures because it allows you to create high contrast looks or subtle ones, depending on the shades you pick.
If you only have 2 shades of the same color or you don’t have time to do nail art, then you might try painting in a 3, 2 formation (1 shade on the index and pinky and the other on the rest of your nails).
As with the first 2 color combinations, you can also mix things up here by using a glitter or a metallic in the same color that you’re working with.
I did this recently with purples. I used this shade called Pile on the Sprinkles from the OPI Hello Kitty collection, on my index and pinky.
OPI – Pile on the Sprinkles
Then I used this gorgeous bluey purple, from the same collection on the rest of my nails.
OPI – Hello pretty
I loved the finished look and can highly recommend mixing a glitter polish and a regular one in the same color for amazing results!
4. Combine 2 or 3 analogous colors.
An analogous color scheme could be your secret weapon when it comes to nail design.
What the heck is an analogous color scheme?
Well, in color theory, analogous colors are those which sit next to each other on the color wheel.
Colors that are next to each other on the color wheel are usually grouped into 3’s to create an analogous color scheme.
For example, you could combine blue, blue-green, and green, or red, orange-red and orange, or violet, blue-violet and blue.
Each of those trios would work together harmoniously.
You don’t have to use 3 colors if you don’t want to.
You can get great results (and create interesting and well-matching manis) by just using 2 next-door neighbor’s on the color wheel.
Getting the balance right in an analogous color scheme can be a little tricky.
Most designers recommend using a percentage split of 60 / 30 / 10.
So, the main color should cover approximately 60% of your nails.
The second, “supporting” color should cover around 30% of your nails.
And the final color should be used as an accent, covering about 10% of your nails.
Using 3 bold colors can sometimes get a little overwhelming.
So, to calm things down a bit, you might want to use muted versions of your chosen colors or combine 2 analogous colors and 1 neutral to anchor your design, though this is entirely optional.
Again, feel free to play with different textures and finishes within your analogous color scheme to create a unique look.
Also, you don’t have to stop at 3!
If you’re feeling adventurous, the experts say that you can also combine up to 5 colors that sit next to each other on the color wheel – yikes!
Here are some very simple analogous color pairings you can try to get you started:
Orange and red
Orange and yellow
Blue and green
Blue and violet
Pink and purple
Green and yellow
Ready for some dramatic, high contrasting color combinations?
Onward to option 5.
5. Combine 2 complimentary colors.
Complimentary colors are opposites.
That means that they sit directly opposite one another on the color wheel.
Red and green, orange and blue and purple and yellow are all examples of complementary colors – at the most basic level.
It does get a little more complicated, like when you start looking at combinations like red-purple and yellow-green, yellow-orange and blue-purple, and orange-red and blue-green for example.
As a basic rule though, no matter how complicated the version of the color wheel is that you are looking at, the opposite color will always work well.
If you use 2 nail polish colors that are complementary, the result will be a high contrast, striking and energetic look.
Complimentary color combos always include 1 warm color (like orange, red or yellow) and one cool color (like blue, purple or green).
This is what helps to create the strong contrasts and big impacts that are associated with complementary color schemes.
So, if you’re feeling dramatic and you want nails that are going to get noticed, you might wanna give this method of combining colors a try!
Here is a list of ideas to get you started:
- Seafoam green and coral
- Sky blue and light orange
- Lilac and lemon yellow
- Deep purple and mustard
- Cyan and dark orange
- Peach and turquoise
- Burnt umber and pacific blue
- Red-orange and royal blue
- Magenta and warm butterscotch yellow
- Powder blue and tangerine
- Bright red and navy blue
- Mulberry and chartreuse
- Cherry red and emerald green
- Mauve and gold
- Hot pink and spring green
- Raspberry pink and mint green
- Lavender purple and amber yellow
Ok, now you know the basics of how to mix and match colors for your manicures, let’s look at some specific examples of exact nail polish shades that work well together.
Examples of nail polish colors that go well together:
Yay, it’s time to start playing with colors!
I’ve put together a short list of exact shades that go together perfectly which you can see below.
However, if you want a full list of exact polish shades that match, organized by number of colors included and by brand then check out this post which has way more options! Link to the list!!!!
Some 2-color combos that go well together:
These color combinations create a high contrast look:
OPI – Telenovela Me about it / OPI – Verde Nice to Meet You
Essie – Hay There / Essie – Butler please
For an analogous look you might like to try:
OPI – Don’t Tell a Sol / OPI – Suzi’s Slinging Mezcal
Or if you like pastels:
Essie – Lilacism / Essie – Fiji
For a subtle, neutral combination I just love these 2 essie shades together:
Essie – Pre-Show Jitters / Essie – Topless and Barefoot
Some 3 color combos that work well:
These 3 OPI colors create a bold statement:
OPI – My Chihuahua Doesn’t bite anymore / OPI – Verde Nice to Meet You / OPI – Hue is the Artist?
These 3 OPI colors will create a harmonious sophisticated, more neutral (and perhaps also festive) look:
OPI – Stay Off The Lawn / OPI – Many Celebrations to go / OPI Isn’t she Iconic
If you’re into reds, these 3 Essie colors look amazing together:
Essie – Rocky Rose / Essie – Bed rock & Roll / Essie – What’s gold is new
For a subtle, neutral look that’s calm and tranquil try this combo of Essie polishes:
Essie – Mind-ful Meditation / essie – Toned Down / Essie – Generation Zen
As I mentioned, this is just a tiny sample of colour options.
For more awesome nail polish combinations check out this post which has a huge list of perfect color combinations organised by brand. Put a link in to master list
That’s it for now.
Thank you so much for reading this article.
I hope that you found it useful.