13 Doable Nail-Art Ideas Perfect for Short Nails

It’s no secret that long, healthy nails are a feat that sits atop many beauty wishlists. We’re always on the hunt for the best nail-growth products and expert practices for achieving extended talons, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love a good short-nail moment from time to time. After all, there are few things more liberating than the carefree attitude that comes along with freshly chopped nails. Opening cans and picking up coins are just a couple of simple pleasures that become infinitely easier.

Though keeping your claws cropped means having a little less real estate to use for nail art, there are still tons of short-nail designs that will satisfy even the most adventurous aficionados. Ahead, we’ve rounded up 13 decorative ideas to try on short nails, along with all the supplies you’ll need to get the job done at home.

Abstract Art

Incorporate all your favorite colors and designs into one easy composition. Add as many or as few elements as your nail length will allow.

Get the look:

Nails Inc. Naked in Neon Nail Polish Set ($22)

We love the neon shades in this polish set.

Reverse French

No matter how short your nails are, there’s always enough space to create a reverse French-manicure design. This spin on the classic nail-art style is modern and oh so chic.

Get the look:

Avery Hole Reinforcements ($5)

The key to getting this design right might already be in your desk drawer. These hole reinforcers are perfect for creating that crescent-moon shape at the base of your nail. Simply stick it on slightly above the cuticle and fill in any nail space between the sticker and your skin with nail polish.

Fine Lines

Fine, curved lines are an easy nail look that brings in an ultra-cool design element without being too flashy. The best part? You can paint your lines in any color you want.

Get the look:

Makartt Nail Art Liner Brush Set ($15)

These skinny paintbrushes will help you achieve the fine lines of your dreams. Each brush comes with a cap, so you won’t have to worry about frayed bristles.


Can you imagine a dreamier nail design than fluffy clusters of cumulus clouds? You can even make them work on super-short nails.

Get the look:

People of Color Beauty Non-Toxic Nail Polish in New Attitude ($12)

The key to the perfect fluffy-cloud design is the perfect white nail polish. This one by People of Color Beauty (a black-owned brand we love) is 10-free and totally opaque. Cloudy days are on the horizon.

Simple Studs

Looking for a bit of hardware to add to your manicure? Simple metal studs are the way to go.

Get the look:

Wokoto Metal Nail Art Studs ($10)

This affordable collection comes with studs in all different shapes and finishes. The studded possibilities are endless.

Colorful Accents

Sometimes all you need is a little accent here or there to create a full-out design moment. This nail-framing look is perfect for shorter lengths since the details are so small.

Get the look:

Olive and June Blue Jeans Kit ($40)

If you’re feeling this blue motif, this curated set has the most perfect assortment of colors to help you execute the look.


This artful take on the classic French design looks beautiful on shorter nails. The negative-space effect is so cool.

Get the look:

Orly Half Moon Guides ($7)

It’s so easy to repurpose your classic French-manicure supplies to achieve this graphic look. Simply trace along the top and bottom of these curved polish guides and then connect the lines on either edge of the nail.

All Smiles

Smiley faces provide the whimsical nail art we all need right now. (Just ask Harry Styles!) No matter how long or short your nails are, you’ve surely got enough nail real estate to accommodate this happy little design.

Get the look:

Ciaté London Stick-On Nail Stickers ($18)

Get perfect smileys every time with these easy-to-use nail stickers. They come in a variety of styles, sizes, and colors to fit any mood.

Flower Power

Flowers are the nail-art staple that never goes out of style. Just adjust the sizing to fit your particular nail-length needs.

Get the look:

Conair Styling Essentials Bobby Pins ($4)

The best thing about floral nail art is that it’s so simple to create. All you need to do is arrange little dots of polish in a flower formation. You can get the job done using the tiny ball at the end of a bobby pin.

Dots for Days

Polka dots, anyone? We love the look of the full nail covered in these tiny circles—the smaller the better.

Get the look:

Coyaho Dotting Tools ($6)

This set of dotting tools will help you create dots of any size for the perfect nail design.

Color Swatches

Make a big impact on short nails by swatching contrasting colors. We love simplicity.

Get the look:

Deborah Lippmann Gel Lab Pro Nail Polish ($20)

Nail polishes with wide, rounded applicator brushes are best for this easy design. Deborah Lippman’s classic lacquers have the perfect brush bristles for this.

Polychromatic Schemes

No matter the length of your nails, a coordinated multicolored look is always a good idea.

Get the look:

Essie Expressie Quick-Dry Nail Polish in Saffr-On The Move ($9)

Expert nail artist Betina Goldstein shared the exact hues she used from the Expressie line by Essie in a recent Instagram post, so you can re-create the exact look at home.

Wavey Lines

We love this vibrating design. Grab your favorite muted colors and a solid nail-art brush, and you’re good to go.

Get the look:

Orosa Lights Set ($31)

This pretty polish set has all the low-key hues you’ll need for beautiful wavey designs.

Up next: 7 Fall Nail Colors We’re Already Obsessing Over Because Time Isn’t Real

This article originally appeared on Who What Wear

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