30 Chic and Strategic Nail Designs If You're Short on Nail Space

When it comes to manicures featuring nail art, it’s easy to forget that there’s only so much space to work with. We’ve stepped into a salon too many times with a Pinterest design only to realize our nails weren’t big enough for it. What if we told you there’s more than enough inspiration to draw from for nail designs that work with all lengths?

Naturally, we’ve looked to our favorite nail artists for hints as to what nail designs look best when you’re short on nail space and came up with hundreds of examples to re-create at home or request on your next trip to the nail salon. Below are 30 we’ll be copying, ranging from simple minimalist dot designs to sunset-inspired ombré effects that make our hearts skip a beat. We’ve even pulled a few of our favorite products to prep your nails and keep your manicure looking fresh long after the initial polish application (because no one wants to lose a picturesque manicure in mere days).

The Best Short Nail Designs

Gold French Tips by Nail Artist Betina Goldstein

What’s chicer than a gold French manicure? It’s clean-looking with just a hint of eye-catching glam.

Inverted Pastel Nail Design by Imarni Nails

We’re fans of minimalist, inverted designs. This one, created by Imarni, achieves this with a colorful mix of pastel and primary colors against a blush-colored base.

Minimalist Milky White Nail Design by Imarni Nails

Milky white nails have been on the comeback lately! One of our favorite ways to wear a sheer white manicure is by adding fun, minimalist designs to each nail.

Tuxedo French Nail Design by Iram Shelton

Keep things classy with this twist on a tuxedo French design. Rather than sticking with one color, consider going monochromatic and playing with minimal space.

Shades of Red Nail Design by Hang Nguyen

A pop of red can add a bold touch to any manicure, but a lot of red can change the whole vibe. If you haven’t tested out the red nail theory, now’s your chance to experience the effects firsthand.

Inverted French Nail Design by Georgia Rae

Can’t get enough of inverted French nail designs? Save this monochromatic manicure before your next trip to the nail salon. The polish placement at the very tip and near the cuticle gives the appearance of length.

Evil Eye Nail Design by Hang Nguyen

Derived from a Greek supernatural belief, the evil eye is believed to defend its wearer from the jealous gaze (and the curses that come with it) of others. Plus, this manicure by Hang Nguyen is too good not to try.

Chanel-Inspired Nail Design by Betina Goldstein

For this manicure, Betina Goldstein drew inspiration from minimalist and monochrome Chanel motifs. She combined Chanel’s Le Vernis Longwear Nail Color in Dénudé with the Boy de Chanel Nail Color in Black to pull off the look.

Green and Blue Ombré Nails by Nails of L.A.

Remember when we couldn’t escape from bright ombré nails? This is a subtler approach to the colorful trend, as the blue-and-green ombré design doesn’t take up too much real estate on the nail.

Chrome Heart French Tip Nail Design by Imarni Nails

Fact: You don’t have to wait until Valentine’s Day to embrace your lover era. This manicure combines three of the biggest trends at the moment: French tips, negative space, and chrome à la Hailey Bieber.

Green French Nail Design by Georgia Rae

We’re not done just yet with simple and colorful French manicures. Check out how gorgeous this electric-green shade looks against a nude pink base!

Brown Retro Nail Design but Hang Nguyen

Chocolate-brown tones always make statement. The next time you reach for your favorite shades, take notes from nail artist Hang Nguyen and add a retro-inspired starburst to the ring finger.

Wavy Black Nail Design by The Hang Edit

Scalloped nail designs are the perfect ways to add dimension to an everyday manicure. Here, Nguyen only features the art on three of her nails and covers the rest with a glossy black shade.

Orange Ombré Nail Design by Imarni Nails

Here’s another ombré nail look we’re obsessed with. Imarni created this orange manicure for singer-songwriter and actress Paloma Faith.

Tortoiseshell Print Nail Design by Imarni Nails

If you can’t decide between nude and tortoiseshell print at the nail salon, try this flirty design. It looks gorgeous year-round and goes with everything.

Minimalistic Dot Nail Design by Georgia Rae

If busy nail designs aren’t your thing, Georgia Rae’s simple dot nail design might be the most elegant way to bring a little intrigue to your manicure. Use a dotting tool with your favorite polish, and you’re all set.

Black and White Minimalist Nail Design by Hang Nguyen

Speaking of simple nail designs, take a look at this timeless black-and-white nail art on short nails. The best part is your shapes of choice can be as big or tiny as you need.

Gold Drip Nail Design by Nails of L.A.

We can’t get enough of how high-fashion this gold drip design by Nails of L.A. looks on short and mid-length nails. It’s so striking against the barely there base.

Black Heart Nail Design by Iram Shelton

Intriguing and understated, Iram Shelton’s negative-space nail art draws attention to one finger with a flirty heart design that features a gem at its center.

Sunset Nail Design by Betina Goldstein

According to Goldstein, this nail design was inspired by the moment during a sunset when the sun perfectly aligns with the horizon. She uses the Chanel Le Vernis in Lagune and Sun Drop as well as Chanel Le Baum in Mermaid.

Minimalistic French Nail Design by The Hang Edit

Clearly, we love a negative-space moment (especially when French tips are involved). Nguyen shows us how it’s done with this timeless manicure.

Mermaid Chrome Nail Design by Zola Ganzorigt

In case you haven’t noticed, chrome manicures like this one by Zola Ganzorigt aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. They also look good on nails of all lengths!

Tortoiseshell Nail Design by Betina Goldstein

The red tones of this tortoiseshell nail design by Goldstein are bold yet refined. Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy’s famous printed headbands come to mind every time we come across similar designs.

Black and White Nail Design by the Mani Club

These delicate black-and-white tips are the picture of elegance. The Mani Club’s Christiana may be known on her platform for simpler manicures, but we’re in love with the way this one turned out.

Mediterranean Sea Nail Design by Betina Goldstein

Another trend we have on our radar is velvet nails. Reminiscent of the sparkling Mediterranean Sea, this one is created with a magnet that pushes all the glitter to the center or side of the nail and a jelly topcoat.

Spring Nail Design by Imarni Nails

Youthful, spring-inspired nails will always be a go-to for us beauty lovers with short nails. To get the look, Imarni Nails used The GelBottle Inc polish in the shades Fries and Iridescent.

Burgundy French Nail Design by Georgia Rae

Our last French manicure of the edit features these burgundy tips by Rae. Brilliant berry shades like these are all we’ll be wearing come fall and winter.

Dark Tortoiseshell Nail Design by Imarni Nails

You can never have too many inspirational tortoiseshell designs to replicate at the salon. The polish shades used for this manicure look especially good against this client’s skin.

Snake Skin Nail Design by Imarni Nails

To get this gorgeous snakeskin nail effect, Imarni used soap bubbles against the surface of the bright-green polish from The GelBottle Inc and topcoat. It’s the perfect festival nail look!

Gold Foiled Nail Design by Hang Nguyen

If you thought gold-foil nails should be reserved for the holiday season, it’s time to reconsider. Nguyen’s design is everything a gold-foil manicure should be and more.

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