- There are 16 nail shapes to choose from, with the most common ones being round, square, rounded square, oval, squoval, almond, coffin, and stiletto.
- The most popular nail shape is the shorter rounded square shape.
- The easiest way to choose the best nail shape for you is to match it to your cuticle shape.
So, you’re about to get your nails done and try to do a quick search to figure out what nail shape you should get and you find… So. Much. Information. There are nail shapes that you haven’t even heard of, and it’s overwhelming. I know. So, we’ve created a guide with all of the nail shapes and how to pick the best one for you.
Before we get started on nail shapes, it’s important to understand how nail strength factors into each shape. The rule to keep in mind is that shorter nails are stronger nails. As nails get longer, they are weaker, which is why stiletto and coffin nail shapes are typically supported with false nails.
In this article:
16 Different Nail Shapes to Choose from
Now, it’s time to talk about the 16 different nail shapes and how to get each one at home.
1. Round Nails
This is the perfect nail shape for folks who like to keep it extra simple. Think of the round nail shape as your natural nails, but slightly elevated. They are easy to achieve since they follow the natural roundness of your nails. Keep your nails short (just over the nail bed), and round the edges with a nail file.
Rounded nails look best with a solid base coat and a glitter topcoat or small nail decals in a pattern. Keep the theme of simplicity going by using shapes like stars to decorate them or by utilizing negative space on the nail to give them a high fashion look. The round nail shape gives hands a feminine touch instantly and makes your fingers look slightly longer.
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2. Square Nails
The square nail shape is the round nail shape’s close cousin. If you don’t think the rounded edge is right for you, simply file your nail straight across the edge to give it a square look. Square is one of the best nail shapes for long and slim fingers.
Similar to the round nail shape, the square nail shape works well with simple nail polish, glitter, or patterns. Accentuate the angles of the square nails with vertical and horizontal line-work for a bold and simple nail look.
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3. Rounded Square Nails
The square family has a sister, and she’s classic. If you’re looking for a nice middle ground between the square and the rounded nail shapes, meet the rounded square. This nail shape is perfect for a long nail that is still easy to achieve. File the nail straight across to get the square shape, and then round the corners.
The rounded square nail shape is the perfect place for a wide range of polishes. From a classic French manicure to a bold shade of polish, you can’t go wrong here.
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4. Oval Nails
Oval nails are the older sister to almond and round nails. With a delicate semi-circle tip, this nail shape requires some length – think medium to long for a length goal. Besides keeping a nail strengthener on your nails to protect them between polishes, you’ll need to keep a file on hand to keep the sides filed neat and the edges rounded and even.
This nail shape is best paired with a color that emphasizes its femininity. Try soft pinks, blues, and other pastel colors!
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5. Squoval Nails (Square Oval)
The squoval nail shape looks feminine and fun, but bold at the same time. It is similar to the oval nail shape in that it requires medium to long nail length. You’ll want to achieve your length in the square shape. Once you get to your desired length, get this nail shape by rounding the edges gently.
This nail shape is extremely versatile, so go bold or soft and tailor your squoval nails to however you feel!
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6. Stiletto Nails
Stiletto nails are, by far, the edgiest of all of the nail shapes. These sharp beauties are for the person who wants to make an immediate statement with their nails. Stiletto nails are known for their sharp pointed tips that resemble the heel of a stiletto shoe. Achieve this nail shape with acrylics!
When deciding on a color or design, remember that the more daring and creative, the better for this nail shape.
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7. Squared Stiletto Nails
The squared stiletto nail shape is a step above the stiletto nail and a step below the ballerina/ coffin nail shape. Transform your stiletto nail shape to the squared stiletto version by filing off the tip of your stiletto nail to make a flat tip. Once you do this, your nail shape will look like a cross between an almond and a ballerina style.
This nail shape is perfect for deep, rich colors like burgundies, blacks, forest greens, and dark browns.
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8. Ballerina/ Coffin Nails
Ballerina or coffin nails get their look from their namesakes. From the side, this nail shape looks like a ballerina slipper on its pointe. From above, this nail shape looks like a coffin. To achieve the coffin nail shape, it’s safest for your nail beds to use acrylics to reinforce the narrow shape. Coffin nails require the nail to be long and tapered in on the sides with a flat-edged tip with sharp corners.
This nail shape comes with lots of space, so get creative with how you decorate them. The most popular way to decorate ballerina nails is with sparkling gems and drawings, as well as moody colors, and matte nail polishes.
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9. Almond Nails
The almond nail shape is slender, feminine, and pretty. Similar to an actual almond, once the nail extends out from the nail bed, it is tapered inward to a point like stiletto nails minus the sharp tip. Almond nail shapes have rounded tips giving it a much softer look than the stiletto nail shape.
This nail shape looks great both on short and long nails, being especially a perfect choice for all those that want to create the illusion of slimmer fingers. Pair almond nails with soft, feminine colors and floral nail designs and other naturescapes.
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10. Moroccan Almond Nails
The Moroccan almond nail shape is similar to the almond shape, except it’s a wider nail with a rounded tip. Think of a skinnier round nail. Unlike the rounded nail, though, this nail shape requires at least medium-length nails. This nail shape works great with softer colors, florals, and naturescapes, just like its almond counterpart.
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11. Edge Nails
Edge nails are a less common nail shape. It is similar to the stiletto nail in that it has a sharp point. The difference is the sides of the nail once it extends from the nail bed. Instead of tapering in immediately, the nail extends out, and then the tip is shaped with a file. The finished product is a nail shape that resembles a steeple.
The best way to achieve this shape is with acrylics. Pair edge nails with bold designs and rich colors for maximum effect!
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12. Arrowhead Nails
The arrowhead nail shape is almost exactly like the stiletto nail. The difference is that the arrowhead nail shape has a shorter peak that is less sharp. Think of the arrowhead as the stiletto’s more feminine sister. Use a flirty and feminine color to show off this nail shape.
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13. Mountain Peak Nails
The mountain peak nail shape is another sister to the stiletto nail. The difference is that the mountain peak nail shape is shorter and pointier! Achieve this look with acrylics to protect your nails.
This particular nail shape looks good with sparkly, bold nail designs. Try doing something a little different on each nail to bring out the eclectic nature of this nail shape!
Try Smith & Cult’s cheerful Fade in the Sun available through Revolve!
14. Lipstick Nails
The lipstick nail shape is one of the most unique in the list! The shape is characterized by looking like a lipstick bullet, sharply slanted edge and all. You’ll need to grow your nails out, then file one side in an angle with the base of the triangle being the nail bed. Keep the polish simple here to let the nail shape shine.
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15. Flare/ Trapeze Nails
Also known as duck feet nails, the trapeze nail shape is the only one that can’t be achieved with a natural nail alone. It flares out at the end, similar to a trapeze bar, making the tip wider than the nail bed. Achieve this by using acrylics. To best highlight this nail shape, focus all of the bold artwork on the widest part of the nail!
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16. Cut-Out Nails
The cut-out nail shape is truly the most eclectic of all of the nail shapes. It starts out as a square nail, and at the tip of the nail, there is an inverted half-moon cut-out of the tip. This nail shape is perfect for celestial nail art. Use the cut-out half-moon to your advantage!
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How to Choose the Best Nail Shape for Your Fingers
Choosing the best nail shape for you can be difficult since there are so many to choose from. If you’re having trouble deciding, we have some information that should make things easier for you.
We mentioned at the beginning that shorter nails are the strongest, but we should also mention what the most popular nail shape is the shorter rounded square. It’s the closest to your natural nail shape, the easiest to maintain, and very strong.
With that being said, here are some helpful tips for picking the best nail shape for you:
- Match your cuticle shape to the nail shape. For example, if your cuticles are almond-shaped, your fingers will be most compatible with the almond nail shape.
- If you have short, wide fingers that you want to look longer and slimmer, choose a long, slim style like almond or stiletto. Make sure to avoid shorter, squared nail shapes.
- If your nails grow naturally long, try the round, almond shapes.
- If you like to keep your nails short, go with a rounded square shape for something elegant and understated.
If you want to make thick fingers look thinner, consider the following nail shapes:
- Almond/ Moroccan Almond
- Stiletto/ Square Stiletto
- Ballerina/ Coffin
If you already have long, thin fingers, you can try these nail shapes:
If you have shorter, slimmer fingers with narrow nail beds, go for the following shapes:
If you have short, yet thick fingers that you want to slenderize, these are the best nail shapes for you:
- Ballerina/ Coffin
If you have long, yet thick fingers, try nail shapes with a medium or long length, such as:
If you like to keep your nails short, the best nail shapes will be:
- Rounded Square
If you like to keep your nails medium length, you can go for these nail shapes:
- Flare/ Trapeze
But remember! You are in control of what nail shape you rock, and you should rock the nail shape that you love the best. Hopefully, your next trip to the nail salon will be smooth sailing!
Nail Design Ideas for Your Nail Shape
Get inspired by our lists of nail designs for different nail shapes:
- Coffin Nail Designs
- Nail Designs for Short Nails
- Nail Designs for Long Nails
- Acrylic Nail Designs
- Flower Nail Designs
- Fall Nail Designs
- Winter Nail Designs
- Summer Nail Designs
- Spring Nail Designs
- Cute Nail Designs
- Valentine’s Day Nail Designs
- Nail Polish Colors to Make Short Nails Look Longer
- French Nail Designs
- French vs. American Nails
Photos via @janicejoostemaa, @asjabondareva, Instagram