The 13 Best Nail Art Ideas for Short Nails

From half moons to sparkly stripes.

As a lifetime member of the short nails club, I've always thought that nail art wasn't for me. Mainly because every time a bold, intricate design would blow up on Instagram or Pinterest, it was always featured on long tips. But, as it turns out, I've been voluntarily leaving myself out of the nail art party.

Nail Art for Short Nails

Paintbox chief creative director Eleanor Langston tells me that thinking designs don't work on short tips is simply a myth. "Shorter nails are easier for real life and you can still do cool art on them," she says.

"Designs with negative space (especially at the base of the cuticle) work well with short nails, as it elongates the nail bed and works well with grow out, too," she says. "I think intricate, full coverage designs would be the only exception for short nails."

Langston adds that trying a neutral polish with a line down the center of your nail or some vertical angles will also create the illusion of a longer nail.

Keep scrolling for the 13 best nail art ideas for short nails.

Seeing Stars

Short clear nails with silver glittery stars outlined in black


This look can technically be achieved on all nail lengths, but we think it makes short nails really pop.

Minimalist Half Moons

Who says half moons have to sit at the base of your nail? Nail artist Betina Goldstein gave the classic nail art design a modern twist by painting tiny crescents on the corner tip of the nail, then outlining the shape in gold glitter.

Deep French Manicure

You don't need long tips to partake in the French manicure's 2019 comeback. Instead, use a bold color like poppy red and paint a horizontal stripe on the middle of the nail bed. Then, fill the space in.

Geometry Class

There's no right or wrong way to do this manicure. Paint a clear base coat and then use a striping brush to paint geometric shapes in whatever colors you want. The finished manicure gives us an '80s Saved by the Bell vibe.

Sparkly Stripes

Yep, glitter nail polish can be subtle. Paintbox's design is easy to DIY at home and elongates short nails if that's your goal. After painting your nails in your favorite neutral shade, use a striping brush to paint a vertical line down the center with glitter nail polish. Alternatively, nail foil can be used as the accent.

Painterly Strokes

This manicure is like a straight up Monet. The museum-worthy manicure is just a bunch of tiny brushstrokes on the tip of the nails. If you can't keep a steady hand when painting your nails, this one's for you.

Groovy French Manicure

This play on the French manicure gives the classic design a twist — literally. The play on negative space keeps the violet polish from overpowering the short shape.

Rainbow Nails

Why pick one nail polish when you can wear all of them? This rainbow-inspired manicure is impossible to mess up. Once you pick all of the colors you want to use, simply paint your nails. That's it.

All Angles

What do you get when you mix a French manicure with negative space nail art? This chic design. Along with adding length to fingers, the possible color combinations for these angles are endless.

Negative Space Half Moons

When in doubt, negative space half moons are always a great option. This design looks salon-fresh even as your nails grow out.

Stamp It

While nail artist Madeline Poole used a stud for this manicure, you can easily paint on colorful squares or dots with a brush, too. A decal also works.

Classic French

Ella Mai with short square nails

Ella Mai

When in doubt, go with a classic. Here, British singer Ella Mai is sporting a square French — a Y2K look that's been trending again as of late.

Fine Details

Gel Manicure Ideas for Short Nails
Getty Images

Adding a mix of small embellishments is the perfect way to make a short, neutral manicure really pop.

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