60 Short Nail Design Ideas and Looks to Try in 2023

November 03, 2022
Jordan Julian
By: Jordan Julian | Makeup.com by L'Oréal
photo of hands with short gold accented nails and wearing rings
There’s a common misconception that nail art and over-the-top designs are strictly reserved for those with long nails. But if you prefer the easier maintenance of short nails — or you just can’t seem to get your nails to grow any longer — you can still get in on the fun. 

From neon French tips to fierce animal prints to classic manis, we rounded up 60 short nail look ideas for you to reference at your next trip to the salon.    

60 Best Short Nail Designs to Try in 2023

Rainbow Smiley Faces

Short, round nails are great for replicating the circular shape of smiley faces. This design by @akikonails_nyc features a smiley design on a color-blocked background.


You don’t need to have super long claws to pull off a flame look. This is a three-dimensional chrome take on the design.

Neon Swirls

This simple but punchy design by @peachinails features neon orange swirls over a transparent base coat. We think hot pink or highlighter yellow would look great, too.

Star Accents

A clean, minimalist manicure with metallic star accents strikes the perfect balance between fun and sophisticated. 

Chocolate Brown Mani

Warm brown nails are all the rage for fall, and we can see why. This manicure by @madebyasami combines sparkly chocolate-colored nails with brown and clear checkerboard accent nails.

Neon Matte

A matte finish is a unique way to jazz up solid-colored nails. We like this neon pink iteration of the matte manicure trend. If you’re looking for a pink polish to recreate the look at home, we love Essie Isle See You Later paired with the Gel Couture Matte Top Coat

Pastel Swirls

We adore this dreamy graphic nail art consisting of baby pink blue, lavender and white squiggles stacked to form a wave-like design. 

Autumn Foliage-Inspired Nails

This manicure incorporates rich colors inspired by fall leaves — maroon, forest green and goldenrod yellow. There are some solid nails and some painted with an abstract design.

Rainbow French Tips

There’s a reason colorful French tips have been all over Instagram for years now. It’s a fun and simple style — plus it works for all different nail shapes and lengths.

Holographic Glitter

The way the holographic glitter twinkles and reflects rainbow light in the sunlight is breathtaking.  

Pastel Gradient

Manis don’t get much sweeter than this! Candy coat your nails with this pastel gradient design using pretty blues, greens, pinks and purples.  

Mini Mushrooms

This mini mushroom mani is what storybook dreams are made of. Pair the adorable pattern with colored French tips for extra flair.

Tortoiseshell Effect

Match your nails to your favorite pair of sunglasses with this tortoiseshell effect manicure. Here, the nail artist complements the tortoiseshell pattern with pumpkin orange nails.

Neutral Ombré

Upgrade your classic white, nude or baby pink mani by combining the different shades into an ombré gradient look.   


Calling all dreamers! These cloud nails are like something out of a fairytale. 

Chrome Hearts

Hearts get a grown-up makeover with this nail art look. The nail artist hand-painted dainty metallic heart outlines on a royal purple base. 

Funky Flowers

These simple, cartoonish daisies pop in contrasting cherry red and light pink polish colors. Switch which polish you use for the flower and which you use for the base between your two hands. 

Monochromatic Yin Yang

This monochromatic yin and yang design uses two shades of purple, but you can do two complementing shades of any color of your choice. How cute are those tiny hearts? 

Starry Night Nails

Tap into your witchy side with this spooky, midnight sky-inspired nail art by @_by_shelley. We can’t get enough of the intricate details from the twinkling white stars to the crescent moon.  

Minimalist Hearts

It doesn’t need to be Valentine’s Day for you to rock these flirty yet simple heart nails.   

Pebble Nails

This elaborate three-dimensional manicure is basically a work of art. With these shiny and pastel-tinted pebbles, you’ll have the cutest little rock collection in the game.   

Butterfly Wings

These realistic butterfly wing nails by @janines_nail_art_creations channel the beauty of nature for a manicure that’s as playful as it is pretty.

Red Gingham

This vibrant manicure resembles a picnic blanket and TBH, that’s kind of the whole point. The nail artist finished the look with two little gold heart stickers.

Asymmetrical French Tips

We’re obsessed with this off-kilter interpretation of the French tips craze.

Animal Print

This fierce (pun-intended) manicure features a zebra print nail and a cow print nail. Your middle school self would absolutely adore these Y2K-esque nails — need we say more?  

Black-and-White Polka Dots

The small, repetitive black-and-white polka dots on a transparent base remind us of a modern art painting.

Tiny Daisies

Turn your fingernails into a colorful garden by dotting them with tiny rainbow daisies. Opt for bright, contrasting colors for the most vivid look.


A full set of silver or gold metallic nails packs an eye-catching punch, especially when paired with stacks of rings.  


These nails may be camouflage, but you are sure to stand out in the crowd by trying this edgy manicure.


Orange you loving this juicy citrus-inspired mani? (Sorry, we had to.)

Marble Nails

It’s all about the details with this unbelievably realistic-looking marble mani. 


You’ll be pretty in plaid with this chic, preppy manicure. We’re totally into the back-to-school vibes.

Vertical Stripes

This impressive, multicolored striped manicure is not for the impatient. We can’t imagine how long it took this nail artist to stack together so many different colored stripes.

Geometric Manicure

Short, square-shaped nails make an especially ideal canvas for geometric nail designs like this one.

Mix and Match Manicure

A mix and match manicure is when you pick a different design — be it a smiley face, rainbow, heart or whatever else your heart desires — to decorate each nail.

Wine Hues 

Wine-colored nail polish is a fall staple. We love how this look incorporates solid and shimmery baby pink shades too.


Add some bling to your basic mani by incorporating sparkly confetti on a few or all of your nails. 

Minimalist Abstract Manicure

As the saying goes, less is more, and these understated nails are proof that the old adage is true.

Bejeweled Manicure

Just because you have short nails doesn’t mean you need to shy away from blinged out, bedazzled manicures like this one.

Sparkly Shrimps

OK, we know, but hear us out. You don’t have to be a shellfish enthusiast to appreciate this whimsical, utterly adorable manicure. At the very least, these nails will be a great conversation starter.

Navy Nails

Black nail polish is not for everyone, but deep, navy blue polish is one of our favorite classy winter shades. 

Sparkly Accent Nail

A solid mani with a sparkly accent nail is timeless, and this mauve moment perfectly lends itself to the look.

Cable Knit Nails

These incredible textured nails will remind you of your coziest cable knit sweater. Try this look around the holidays.

Lightning Bolts

Make a bold statement with dramatic neon lightning bolts on each nail. 

Checkerboard Nails

Checkerboard nails are a popular design because they’re easier to do than they seem and look great in any color.

Cheetah Print

You’ll be the queen of the jungle with these purr-fect cheetah print nails.

Watercolor Nails

These gorgeous watercolor nails are positively ethereal. Use the technique on a couple of accent nails, like in this photo, or do a full set.

Velvet Nails

Velvet nails are trending this fall, and we don’t expect the luxe fabric effect to go anywhere during the winter.


We’re completely mesmerized by these hyper-realistic eyes painted onto each nail.

Chrome Nails

Next time you have a special event, ask for pearlescent chrome nails like these at the salon. 

Bubblegum Pink Mani

ICYMI: Pink is having a major moment. Go all in on the girliness with a bubblegum pink manicure.   


Are you the artsy one in your friend group? Try an abstract, geometric nail design like this. 

Pearl Embellished

Embellishing your nails with tiny gemstones is not a new thing, but it’s still as chic as ever.

Water Droplets 

Create the appearance of water droplets on nude nails for a surprisingly high fashion manicure. Pair it with a slicked back wet hair look.

Diagonal Color Blocking

This tilted color block look can be adapted to any combination of colors that suits your fancy. Plus, you can easily DIY it at home.


This reverse French manicure is perfect for people with short nails because you don’t need lengthy tips.

Lipstick Prints

Is it too early to start planning our Valentine’s Day nails? Because we’re definitely trying these.  

Glitter Ombré

Glitter dripping from the tips of your nails is equal parts pretty and grunge.

Neutral Paint Brush Strokes

Swipe a few thin brush strokes of complementing colors on a nude base for an effortless nail look.


These botanical nails decorated with white vines are beyond stunning.

Photographer: Chaunte Vaughn

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