Short nails are often considered to be more practical, but they don’t offer a lot of space for elegant nail designs. But regardless of the length of your nails, there is a way to keep them looking classy with a variety of short nail design concepts. To fuel your inspiration, we’ve put together a list of 65 beautiful options you can try!
Check out 65 different cute nail designs for short nails that you can rely on to look beautiful for more than just a day or two.
1. The Classic
A tried and true classic, nude manicure with white tips is not just for the lengthy nails. Even with shorter nails this manicure can work. The section of white will be shorter, but the look is no less chic or classy because it is on shorter nails. The design holds up regardless of the length of the nail.
2. Flowers on Short Nails!
The upcoming fashion season has shown that taking your nail art a bit farther than your nail is a great and trendy idea, but it works even better with shorter nails, as the design seems to mesh better with the fingers. Painting daisies on the nails and fingers gives the most complete flower-power look ever created.
3. Cobalt Blue Insight
Deep cobalt blue on the tips, sides, at the cuticles and beneath a design will snatch the attention right away. Paired with white and nude under a glossy finish, the blue really shines, and the shapes created by the framing looks well designed. This is one of the best nail designs for short nails for every occasion!
4. Accented Nude Short Nails
Glossy nude gel nails don’t need too much to make them interesting. Just because the nails are shorter doesn’t mean that there is no art that can be used to emphasize the look. Here, line art is used to accentuate and even make the nails look longer with simple white lines and a burst of fuchsia on an accent nail.
5. Black, Nude and Emerald Short Nails
Emerald green and black-painted nails designs on a nude background are surrounded by deep, shiny black nails. The combination is spectacular with just a hint of sparkle in the emerald green lines. The overall design makes for a first-rate manicure for shorter nails.
6. White and Rose Gold
This is a fun nail design for short nails! Rose gold has been popular for a while now and is typically a very flattering shade. Paired with white nail polish, the contrast is surprisingly phenomenal and easy to try with just a few stamps, dots and lines. A regular top coat is good for this, as you don’t want the shine to overpower the glitter and the white.
7. Textured Neapolitan Short Nail Design
Chocolate, strawberry and vanilla create a stunning nail design for short nails that shows off the aesthetic brilliance of combining textures with matte and shine. The contrast between the two finishes is visually appealing but the color is a big part of the overall greatness of this nail art design for shorter nails.
8. Matte Neutrals
Nude, white and gray matte nails make an oddly audacious manicure for such light colors. They are bold in a way that is not shouting to be noticed. The addition of a few sparkles placed together creates a stunning, perfectly formed sparkling V for an extra accent on the white matte nails.
9. Cranberry and Gold Short Nail Design
Alternating colored tips look great in rich cranberry red and sparkling gold. Because tips on shorter nails mean less space to work with, the color is painted a little further up than it would normally be to maximize the impact of the color. This nail design for short nails also gives the appearance of utilizing the cuticle window trend as well.
10. Galaxy on Nude
Stars, moons and a bit of stardust trickle along the tips of this nude manicure make a completely different take on a galaxy nail manicure for short nails. Nail art on shorter nails is all about balance and using a bit of glitter and a few stamped stars and a crescent moon over a nude polish is a good, well-balanced look.
11. Barely Seen Short Nail Design
Thin lines creating the designs of eyes on a nude background elevate the expectations of a manicure for shorter nails and raise the bar very high. The designs are barely there unless you get close up on the manicure to see the eyes closed in some cases and staring back at you in others.
12. Triangle Nail Art for Short Nails
A nail art for shorter nails featuring nude polish and black-painted designs is an easy choice. The designs in this case are triangles, each done a bit differently from the next for an interesting manicure. Each triangle is well placed to allow maximum use of the nail surface without ruining the minimalist aesthetic.
13. Sparkling Rosé Short Nail Design
Rose gold sparkle nails and nude make a great combination, especially when featuring a little design! The star here is the hand-painted design on the right ring finger but it is complemented by the nude and rose gold nails on either side and the other hand.
14. Cuticle Windows
When your manicure features a design that also incorporates a window above the cuticle, it’s already more than “interesting” – it is trendy. Carefully designed accent nails still keep the space just over the cuticle for continuity. The best feature is the high-shine top coat and the effect it has on the colors in this nail design for short nails.
15. Matte and Conservative Short Nail Design
A few little symbols or emojis on matte nail color, and you have an interesting nail art design for short nails that is sure to garner questions and praise. For squoval-shaped nails, the size and placement of the symbols are very important to keep the manicure minimalist styled, especially since this nail art is on shorter nails.
16. Blue-Eyed Short Nail Art
Bright blue eyes adorning each digit can be comical or off-putting depending on the style and intention. Here the wide-opened eyes are done in a simple style that is interesting to look at and easy to duplicate, even by hand. Fortunately, nail decals for this short nail design exist to make it easy to duplicate.
17. Hand Painted Nail Art for Short Nails
Runes on short nails carry an interesting look whether they are fantasy runes or real ones. The manicure itself is interesting for those interested in it, but even for those who are not interested in the actual design for short nails, there is no denying that it looks good.
18. Dots and Lines Design for Short Nails
Though not minimalist, these nail designs put on a big show with very little effort. Just a line here and a few dots there and you have a stunning manicure that is sure to catch a few eyes. Though this style can be done on long or short nails, this is an incredible manicure for short nails because it can be done with stamps, decals or a steady hand and will still look elegant and interesting.
19. Mini Hearts
Light pink or nude nails with a single tiny heart stamp-placed in a different spot on each nail look simple, minimalist and sweetly chaotic. The high gloss shine really ups the ante on the simple nail design for short nails, but the best feature is the placement. Just put the heart wherever your heart desires for a great look.
20. Classic Hand-Painted Flower
If you have ever tried a painted flower on a gel manicure, you know it looks and feels elegant with just a touch of unexpected. Hand-painted flowers are personal, beautiful and fit each manicure with an intent that is obvious. When you want ‘just enough’ nail design for short nails, this is the manicure you want.
21. Negative Space Stars
Negative space manicures on short nails are very trendy not only because they look cool, but also they utilize the space in an interesting and artistic way. Sometimes, when using a softer or more natural color you may need to do a double take to really appreciate the complexity of the design. Dusted around with a bit of glitter to give the manicure a boost, it’s a fun and light manicure that is a good nail design for shorter nails.
22. Heart Details on Short Nails
Minimalist manicures are fun and cute especially when a small heart and a jewel come into play. This nail art for short nails can work with nearly any color combination, but it would still look soft and sweet. It makes great use of the space offered by shorter nails without covering every inch in detailed designs.
23. Hand-Drawn Tropics
White nail polish will make your hands look more tanned, but white nails with hand-painted, brightly colored leaves and flowers will give you a tropical mood for sure. On shorter nails, it is better to frame the cuticle or tips of the nails with the design to maximize the space and create a lengthier-looking nail.
24. Candy Apple Red
Shiny candy apple red is a pretty color on its own that is often worn on long and short nails alike. When incorporated within a design that utilizes less bright colors, this shade will really stand out and create an irresistibly edgy design. Over the nude accent nail color, the red triangle, which starts at the cuticle, is an attention grabber, accented at the tip and in a half moon above the cuticle with a bold white line.
25. Stamp It
A nice neutral color accented by the clarity of a black and white stamp looks amazing on short nails. The length of the nail and the neutral color allow the stamped design to really shine. Ideally designed for people who lack a steady hand or experience with fine details, stamps are a great way to step up a manicure.
26. Carefully Glittered Short Nails
A glitter-covered accent nail is an eye-catching detail on any manicure, but a nail with the most carefully placed sprinkle of glitter of a smattering of stones or sequins is another story. Here a few hexagonal sequins and a sprinkle of glitter fade off and don’t take over the design.
27. Green, Red and Nude Short Nail Design
Though green and red are typically considered Christmas colors, in a slightly different shade they can have a transformative feel, especially when mixed together in an interesting nail design for short nails. A high-shine finish completes the look with oval-shaped tips.
28. Square Tips and Lots of Sparkle
A manicure with too many elements can easily look gaudy but when the placement is correct, the look comes off perfect. This very mermaid-esque look is ideal as a great nail design for short nails because it doesn’t take up the entirety of the nail surface. The sequins are perfectly placed, the glitter and stones kept separate and the design light and neat.
Nude nail polish serves as the background for an angled tip design that features holographic foil. The gemlike aesthetic will leave onlookers in awe, but the foil is actually a great inclusion for a lasting manicure when done properly. Next to the nude polish the holo-foil shines even brighter, and the detailing at the corner of the tips is a great tool for a shorter nail art design.
30. Shades of Green
Playing around with shapes and designs is part of the fun of nail art. Shorter nails are not exempt from fun nail designs – on the contrary they seem to pack more into smaller spaces for a greater impact. All of the shades of green nail polish used here are amplified by the wet shine finish of the top coat.
31. Dreamily Detailed Short Nail Design
If you have the steady hands for intricate nail designs for short nails, this is a great design to create. The smoothness of the intricate design is ultimately eye-grabbing, just as the glitter detail is fun. Even the names of the polish colors used were fun, named bubble trouble, glow with me and pure love, each one made by ella + mil.
32. Scrolling Messages
A pearlescent base coat carries a scrolling message across the manicure, and the overall aesthetic is wonderful. Sure, love is a great word that could easily fit across four fingers but here it is more a trailing message that even includes a little heart! The opaque red even gives the pearlescent base color a bit of a boost!
33. Gel Nail Designs for Short Nails
Gel manicures are designed to last and look very real. Some manicures, like this one, show off nail designs for short nails that are so well done that you want them to last as long as possible, and the gel top coat ensures this is the case. The line art and soft colors will be protected from chipping and scratching while maintaining their luster for a longer period of time.
34. More Than Tips
Gray and yellow are an often-overlooked color combination that is really pleasing to the eye. Under a high-gloss shine and showing space between the color and the cuticle, this nail design for short nails has a few interesting elements. The accent nails feature yellow in place of the gray that takes up most of the nail, and even adds a bit of black line art for an interesting point of note.
35. Grey Ombre and Negative Space
When your manicure features a whole nail of tiny crystals and that is not even the main feature, your short nail art design is awesome. A negative space heart surrounded by white nail polish is universally flattering, but the dark to light grey ombre is a stormy accent that won’t be overlooked.
36. Deep Plum and Lavender Marbling
Short, oval nails painted with lavender and accented by a deep plum nail and two white nails with purple marbling create a clever, soft looking manicure that belies the reputation of marble (and nails) that we are used to. Though they are not actually soft, the matte polish does provide an interesting texture and appearance.
37. Glossy Black Six Ways
Glossy black nail polish makes a great manicure even if you are not going for a Goth look. This nail design for short nails is even better with line art and geometric shapes over nude polish to really make the black designs stand out. Placed on random fingers, the design is even more fun.
38. Face It
If you can swing, placing artistic decals on top of your short nails is a real conversation (and envy) starter. The design is abstract and trendy and cleverly applied as shaped wire on matte and glossy styled nails. The dual colors and the sparkling stone placed right before the cuticle are master touches that are just enough.
39. Reindeer and Snow Manicure
A quaint French manicure will always be a staple but giving it a little upbeat note to the design is never bad either. On this nail design for short nails, a reindeer and snowflake are negative space airbrushed onto the nails and adorned with tiny drops of silver.
40. Dark Gray and Crisp White
Dark gray nails accented by white and teased with ombre really shine under a wet-look top coat. This nail art design for short nails is certainly a conversation starter with an unexpected color taking the lead in the design. Though underrated, this manicure shows that gray really is an excellent color for fingernails.
41. Pointing Up
Though not exactly arrows, the triangular designs done in deep black pair great with the accents of crisp white outlines and flowing half circles really. The shapes present beautifully with the swipe of silver glitter down the center. The rest of the short, dazzling manicure is nude and clever keeping the design from being over the top.
42. Cuticle Cuties
Swipes of color right at the cuticles offer a new perspective on nail art designs for short nails. The design is fluid yet precise with an angled swipe of white and one of cherry red over a nude base. A good shiny gloss gives the aesthetic a bit of extra interest as well.
43. Cherry Blossoms
Soft pink nails are the perfect base for the easily recognizable branches that bear cherry blossoms. The cherry blossom branches are beautiful and interesting, which makes them a perfect subject for gorgeous nail art for short nails. It’s important to show not only the blossoms, but also the buds on the branches.
Stripes and shapes made of carefully placed and color coordinated dots create a nail design for short nails that is eye-catching and technically intricate. More than a steady hand is needed for this design; a good eye is also required to pull the design off without any sloping or shifting. It is an easily appreciable short nail design thanks to the style and the bit of sparkle included.
45. Nude and Gold Short Nail Design
Nude nails are seen in many a manicure, but not often paired with a marble style veined with gold. The cool style is warmed up by the nude and chilled by the gold and marble for an interesting contrast that would look flattering on most hands.
46. Stars and Stripes
While not the anticipated spangled version you may think of, a thin gold line and a few shiny stars still fit the bill in this manicure that is perfectly on trend as a nail design for short nails. Stepping out from the expected while still featuring the elements of a well-known style is part of the fun of nail art for shorter nails.
47. Cuticles and Tips Manicure
Cuticle-detailed nail designs for short nails are the fun new trend, especially when used as an accent nail. Paired with bright, pastel like colors that are alternated create a matching set with a bit of “oomph.” This manicure is the epitome of chic and simple while being a lot of fun.
48. French Tips with Stained Glass
French tips on square tipped nails are the well-known manicure standard. Beautiful, chic and cleanly designed, this particular nail design for short nails is a level above the rest with a stunning, intricate design featured on one nail on each hand. Likened to a stained glass window, the design features geometric shapes, line art and a hint of colorful glitter.
49. Minimalist Magic Short Nail Design
Geometric shapes in solid colors placed on a nude background and covered in a high-shine coat are a step above the rest. Nude nails are a great background for nearly any design but this one allows for the rich red, black and blue shapes to stand out brilliantly.
50. Blue Art on Nude
Abstract nail designs for short nails are a lot of fun to look at and to create. Here the blue looks great over nude and the accent nail, shown on the middle finger and the thumb. The freedom of the design is part of what makes it so amazing; it is unlikely that anyone else will have the same design!
51. Matte Purple Plus
Matte makes another showing on the list in a beautiful royal purple that looks soft beneath the finish. The accent nail, done in the lightest mauve with multicolor painted flowers is a cool abstract element that complements the color well and gives another dimension to this short nail design.
52. Next Level Talent
A peach base decorated with white and pearl painted feathers is accented with clear, gold and topaz colored stones. The combination is more than complementary – it is also textured to be visually and physically interesting. As an extra step of spectacular nail design for short nails, the peach nail polish is also matte, allowing the stone and pearl finish beneath the feathers to shine even more.
53. Dreamy Matte Blues
Matte is a stunning nail polish finish that is unexpected and typically shows off another aspect of the color that is painted on. Here the cobalt blue is also fixed with a few stones, a white accent and even a negative space design, and all of these elements work together beautifully. Outside of the stunning short nail design, cobalt blue is also a very beautiful, rich color.
54. Vines on Nude
Glossy, light pink gel nails are already cute and delicate looking. A single dark vine with white flowering buds completes the look admirably and is perfect for any season and nearly any style. Here the nail design for short nails frames the base of the nail, while anther dances across it.
55. Textures and Matte
Matte manicures look and feel amazing, but the addition of a raised design takes things to another level. Playing around with texture in nude colors is on trend and not likely to go anywhere, especially when paired with a stunning matte nail polish. Here the raised designs are accented in white, which looks great on top of the gray and nude matte polishes.
56. Playing with Plaid
Accent nails are typically the single standout nails on a manicure, but when the design is plaid that is this beautifully done, ruby red is a good accent color instead. Three nails on each hand means that the majority of the style is the stunning and intricate plaid with ruby red thrown in.
57. Mint and Line Art
Mint green is a color that is both soft and bright and looks great against nude and contrast colors like black and white. Here, the careful placement of the color and the abstract designs make a cool and lasting impression. Each nail is different with an incredible and clean style.
58. Cherry Red and Marble Nails
Bright cherry red nails with marble-style accent nails make a visually striking nail design for short nails that is certain to gain a bit of attention. The black and white marble design works with any color really, but red is and has been a steady favorite for a while. It’s a flattering color on most skin colors and looks great next to contrast-style nails.
59. Cool and Minimalist Short Nail Design
Called the abstract paper look by the creator, this nail art design for short nails is simple and fun to look at. On short nails even the simplest design is going to stand out more than it would on longer nails. The use of minimal colors allows them to stand out brighter and in a more interesting way, giving the blue and red curves center stage.
60. Blended and Lined Nail Design for Short Nails
Expertly blending two colors might be a bit difficult for some, but the look is definitely worth it. The two colors blended on different nails rather than mirrored offer a cooler and fresher perspective. For just a touch more interest, a bit of line art was added to the look.
61. Snowflakes in Gray
For a nail design for short nails that relies on uniformity, stamps are the way to go. Here they are employed on a square-tipped short manicure with gray and white nail polish and a high-shine top coat. Putting the stamp on in alternating colors is a brilliant look.
62. Carefully Painted Short Nail Design
Every manicure is designed with clean and beautiful aesthetics in mind. A high-shine top coat certainly helps establish that look when put over vibrant, deeply pigmented colors. Bright and clear with two different designs make for an interesting set of nail art for short nails that won’t get boring anytime soon.
63. Wink, Wink Nail Design for Short Nails
White and lighter nude colored nail polish can give skin a richer and more tanned look while maintaining a crisp manicured appearance. The lashed eyes were interesting and fun to look at, making this a lighthearted nail design for short nails that still looks fresh and neat. Even the style of the eyes is a bit abstract for another interesting aesthetic element.
64. Roots and Tips
Short nail designs featuring a French tip are no longer done in the same simple way with new color combinations taking center stage. Now the resurgence of a minor style – the half moon shape at the cuticle – has come back and is paired with a painted tip. It’s a great manicure worked out on an oval tip.
65. Multifocus Short Nail Designs
A manicure with multiple visual elements is hardly a new concept, but it can be refreshed and redone an innumerable amount of ways. This short nail design features different shades and even glitter, all of which are combined in a single design on one stand-out nail. The design on the ring finger itself is stunning, tying all of the other elements of the manicure together beautifully well.
Photos via Instagram
How to take care of short nails
Many people who wear their nails short do so without knowing how to take care of them. First and foremost, set up a good nail care regimen that will include:
- Take Care of Your Cuticles: The better your cuticles look, the better your manicure looks. Make it a point to use cuticle oil and soak your cuticles before you push them back with a cuticle pusher. This will give you more nail surface to work with and make them look longer.
- Moisturize: Moisturized hands will always look great, but a lot of people skip moisturizing their nails. Use good nail oil that will improve shine and strength, and your nails will stop looking dusty and brittle right away.
- File Your Tips: For those who don’t know, filing your nails not only keeps the tips from looking ragged (and keeps you from leaving scratches on your skin), but it also helps strengthen the tips of your nails. The appearance will be neater, smoother and cleaner and obviously less sharp. Keeping a file handy is a great and easy tip to help you have healthier short nails.
- Buff Your Nails: If you prefer your nails au naturel, buff them to a nice shine to keep them looking great. You don’t have to do it often, maybe once or twice a month depending on your lifestyle. Buffing your nails will not only give them a good shine, but also it will smooth out those annoying ridges.
When it comes to decorating your nails, keep it neat! Rich colors like red, blue and even black look great on short nails, but a messy manicure is painfully obvious in any color. Use a Q-tip dipped in pure acetone to quickly and cleanly fix up any mistakes.
If you are working on it on your own, make certain to clean up any mistakes. Use a fine bristle brush when painting your nails.
Pick a good nail shape that works for your shorter nail length and chosen manicure. Finally – don’t be afraid to decorate and consider both full-on artsy and very minimalist looks (we have provided plenty of options below!) until you find a few that you really want to try.