31 Nail Art Designs That Are Ideal for Short Nails


Despite having a saved folder on Instagram full of intricate manicures with butterflies, cherubs, and bedazzled crosses, the only nail art I’ve ever done is a single sticker. The problem isn’t a lack of ability—I know exactly which salon to visit instead of doing it myself—but rather the fact that my nails are always a short, jagged mess as a result of persistent nail-biting. (Thank you, apprehension!)

I’ve been unable to grow my nails longer than a few millimeters over my fingertips for years, so I’ve always stuck to a solid color, assuming nail art for tiny nails wasn’t possible. But, happily, the tide is shifting, and for every over-the-top manicure design I see on Instagram, there’s an equally stylish one that’s doable on little nails. In fact, nail artists like Betina Goldstein and Steph Stone virtually exclusively use shorter nails to show off their minimalist designs.

These are the greatest nail art ideas for short nails, whether you want to do it yourself or bring a screenshot to the salon. You’re welcome, biters.

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Minimal Gold

A thin line of metallic gold makes a lot of impact without taking up much room.

Half-Moons in Different Colors

Make a statement with bold colors if you don’t have a lot of nail space. The half-moon shape also helps nails appear longer.

Negative Space is the opposite of Positive Space.

Short nails are a great basis for dark colors, and they look really stunning when paired with negative space.

Letters in Gold

To add a luxury touch, apply a metallic accent sticker to only your thumbs (these 14k gold ones are $60 apiece).

Oribit White

With a white line that rings both the tips and the nail beds, riff on the French-mani and negative-space trends.

Accents in Neon

In brilliant neons, a pinky-finger accent nail jumps even more.

French neon

With two hues of pink, you can take a French manicure to the next level.

Cuticles with Beads

Bring the nail art up to your cuticles if you’re dealing with limited space. For the proper foundation, nail artist Steph Stone used Essie’s Paint the Gown Red.

Green Slime

With a color like this, who needs nail art?


Channel Holographic Use a holographic polish to create euphoria on your nails.

Flames with a Twist

Because it leaves so much negative space, this pattern is ideal for short nails. It’s also a lot of fun.

Nail Art using Jade

With a soothing jade manicure, you may imitate your favorite stone.

Negative Space in Neon

When lightly sketched on your nail tips and cuticles, neons become less obnoxious.

Floral Abstracts

Because more accurate forms are more difficult to achieve on shorter nails, harness your inner Picasso with abstract patterns.

Stars That Shine

Instead of using nail paint, use attractive stickers to cover your nails.

Half-Moons in Negative Space

In a nutshell, stylish.

Dots (Simple)

Dots are a simple way to give your manicure some flare. Dot on using the end of a bobby pin dipped in polish.

Fruit Fingernails

With a colorful fruit mani, you can keep a little piece of summer alive.

Tip of the Red

For a style that’s both lively and beautiful, combine traditional red with lengthening French tips.

Rainbow Dots

To create an artful aesthetic, vary the color and location of dots on your nails.

Yin-Yang Nails

A fun yin-yang accent adds a throwback flair.

Cuticles stacked

Keep your nail art near to your cuticles if you’re prone to biting so it doesn’t get ruined. From bottom to top, nail artist Betina Goldstein used Essie in Cliffhanger, Set in Sandstone, Of Quartz, Bedrock, and Roll, and You’re a Gem to create this crystal-inspired manicure.

Sequins in the shape of hearts

Prepare to grin every time you gaze at these adorable hearts.

French, black

On short nails, a French manicure might seem a touch antiquated. With black tips, you can give the appearance a more contemporary feel.

Nails made with tortoiseshell

With this fascinating trend, you can match your sunglasses to your nails.

Colors that don’t go together

With a hip mismatched manicure, take a cue from the lads (yep, that’s Harry Styles).

Nails with Confetti

With this glitter-flecked (and influencer-approved) style, you can make a statement every day.

Nails with a Gradient

Gradient nails are likely the greatest manicure trend of 2019, so include earth tones in your autumn look.

Face with a Smile

A simple grin may be surprisingly elegant and upbeat.

Print with a hint of cheetah

When coupled with bright red nails, the animal print looks adorable.

Shimmer Ombre

Concentrate the intensity on the tips of an iridescent hue to make it more fascinating.

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