We have entered a nail art renaissance with textured chrome, air-brushed auras, sculpted seashells, charms galore, and now: 3D flowers. Made from gel, acrylic, and even rhinestone glue, these flowers take the most classic salon design and unfurl their petals into something more hyper-realistic.
The trend began in early spring as the wasteland began to turn a bit greener, an obvious inspiration. Among the yearning for the warm came flowers growing not just in the soil but upon nail beds, bags, and bodies as well.
Jonathan Anderson’s Loewe SS23 sensual anthuriums debuted as the ultimate accessory worn by the likes of Zendaya, Taylor Russel, Adwoa Aboah, Dakota Fanning, and Emily Ratajkowski. Roses sprung everywhere — stuffed into sheer Simone Rocha gowns, growing across a Sandy Liang little black dress, and adorned in gold and silver upon the ears of Palomo Spain —stem and all.
Perhaps this is a part of the cultural return to childhood innocence and yearning; a reclamation and healing of one’s inner child seeking safety from this tremblingly terrible world where things don’t feel like they’re going to get any better, especially for women. Or exhaustion from fake hating the color pink and even discourse between women. The recent acceptance of the feminine in a post Barbie world feels like a shot of espresso. Or maybe people simply like these nails because they’re vulvic. In a world where having a vagina itself is a political statement rotten with the loss of rights and options, nails like these can be a small reclamation of bodily autonomy.
Whatever it is, flowers on nails are nothing new — early 2000s nail designs had dotted flowers as the height of sophistication. What is new are the following three interpretations: 3D orchids, wire copper flowers, and gothic hand painted orchids.
The Blooming Orchids You Can Touch
Much like the variety of flowers, there are a variety of applications of this trend from artist to artist. With licensed nail technician Evelyn Robles, the idea began with her love for orchids.
“[Orchids] represent the feminine anatomy and when I think of orchids, I think of women, and that’s so pure,” Robles says. “I wanted to start something that people were like, ‘Oh damn, you thought of that.’ I wanted to birth to something.”
Robles has been doing nails since she was fifteen and looking for independence while living with her boyfriend. Now at nineteen years of age, she finally went to nail school to get her license. Quickly, she got bored, and then came the daydreaming.
Freehanding the flower set with only 6 color acrylic because her kit was stolen at school, she began. After laying down the base she began picking up beads of acrylic and waiting two minutes for them to dry down before sculpting them into petals. Then she would paint on top of the flowers to give them an even more realistic look, a technique she had not seen anyone do.
And when she posted on TikTok, they blew up — Her recognizable designs became synonymous with the 3D nail flower trend.
“Everybody’s recreating it in different forms. They’re doing it with gel, they’re doing these crazy stuff,” Robles says. “I’ve seen so many recreations of [my design], it’s worldly. I see orchids on nails every day and it’s just so pleasing to me that I started that.”
Her nail design was even replicated by her role model California-based nail artist @shynebychelle whose work litters Robles’ Pinterest boards. Shynebychelle’s lavender fuschia 3D flower nails post has over 12k likes on Instagram where she also credited Robles as well as Paulina Sanchez for inspiration. Sanchez, also inspired by Robles, did a deeper fuschia-red interpolation.
“I had seen it on [Robles’] TikTok and that’s when she showed the whole hand and nails,” Sanchez says. “I remember I had screenshotted it and [said] I need to do these like ASAP”
Hot-wire Leads to Hot Nails
“We’re in a really unique time with nails where clean girl nails are trending at the same time these really funky 3D chunky nails are trending,” says nail artist Elise Nguyen. “[3D flowers are] like the anti-clean girl nails: Celebrating individuality; celebrating artistry. Just trying to be different and show a version of yourself through your nails.”
Another nail style of 3D flowers is the wire method. Inspired by Adriana Casas, Nguyen shaped wire copper into a petal and covered it in builder gel. After which she gently blew a bubble to make a sheet of gel between the wires and then cured. Finally, she placed each petal together to make a flower and painted it light blue. While other 3D flowers have height, this method has width.
The Deliciously Gothic Sexy Orchid Vibes
While many 3D flowers err on the side of being sweet and ethereal, Cindy Lieu created a design a bit more robust and dangerous. Scrolling on Etsy she found her inspiration: A black poster with rare, exotic orchids. The way the vibrant flowers popped against the dark background sparked something in her.
“[Orchids are] very present in a lot of Asian households. I grew up with a lot of orchids at home, my mom loves taking care of them,” says Lieu. “My family in Vietnam has a lot of them too. My uncle had a whole rooftop on his apartment with a bunch of orchids that he was growing.”
The nails took two days to create. On top of her square GEL-X extensions, she started with an opaque coat of black and then came the hard part. While comments speculated whether the nail design consisted of charms or real flowers, Lieu tells ELLE.com that she painstakingly painted every since orchid (she’s a Virgo, btw).
Mostly using local Montreal brand Le Manoir’s Gelcare collection, she referenced the exact images of orchids she saved online. Lieu delicately topped each flower with JIN.B Coolear Non-Heating Builder Gel to give them dimension and height. Voila, a new 3D flower style was born.
Ultimately this trend is a transcending twist on a classic nail design that will literally elevate your nail art to new heights. Built off the current zeitgeist’s love of flowers, this nail art can allow you to accept the divine feminine in both body and expression. The creation of this trend and its many variations is a reminder of social media’s beautiful contribution of newfound collaborations and inspiration between nail artists. Any of the designs are prime inspiration for your next nail appointment where you can take a bit of summer with you into this fall.