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These short nail designs that prove you don’t need length to have fun

Short nails are neat, practical, and one of the biggest nail trends of 2022, but they’re not exactly conducive to nail art. Fingernails always provide a tiny canvas to work with, and without extensions or significant natural growth, your space is even more limited. Some nail art ideas just won’t be doable on a closely-trimmed nail plate.

Still, you don’t have to resign yourself to a life of solid colour just because you’re committed to keeping your nails short. The internet has an endless supply of short nail designs, which you can try out or use as references when you hit the salon. Ahead, some of the best nail designs for short nails if you don’t have a lot of length to work with.

Two-Tone French Manicure

 

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French manicures feature a small sliver of an accent, making them a suitable option for short nails. To get the multi-colour update on the classic shown above, follow these steps from Christina Kao, co-founder and CEO of Le Mini Macaron.

  1. Prep and shape nails as desired.
  2. Apply two coats of a light pink polish and let dry (or cure if using gel polish).
  3. Dip a detailer brush into a hot pink polish. Draw two diagonal lines at the tip of each nail, then fill in the gap at the centre of the tip of each nail to create a curved line. Let dry or cure if using gel polish.
  4. Apply a top coat and let dry or cure if using gel polish.

Glitter Outline

 

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Even if your nails are super short, you’ll have plenty of room to add a thin outline to each nail. You can go with a clear coat accented with black polish and glitter as shown above, or try the technique with two contrasting matte shades. Once you’ve made your selection, here’s how to pull off the short nail design, according to Shelena Robinson, global education manager at OPI.

  1. Prep and shape nails as desired.
  2. Apply a base coat and let dry.
  3. Dip a detailer brush into a black nail polish. Outline nails by drawing a straight line down the sides of each nail. Create a thin line at the cuticle or across the tip of the nail, alternating with each finger. Apply a second coat if needed. Let dry.
  4. Dip a clean detailer brush into a glitter polish and retrace each black line. Let dry.
  5. Clean up the lines using a detailer brush dipped in nail polish remover if necessary.
  6. Apply a top coat and let dry.

Side French Manicure

 

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When you’re feeling uninspired by regular French manicures, you can consider flipping the design so that the colour runs down the side of each nail rather than the tips. Throw in an unexpected colour combo, such as red and black, and you’ll end up with a truly eye-catching result. Read on to find out how Melinda Carrillo, a nail artist at Pear Nova Studio, created the look above.

  1. Prep and shape nails as desired.
  2. Apply a base coat and let dry (or cure if using gel polish).
  3. Apply one coat of a sheer pink polish and let dry or cure.
  4. Dip a detailer brush into a red shade and create a thin moon-like shape on the side of each nail. Let dry or cure.
  5. Dip a dotting tool into black polish, then carefully add thin lines throughout each red stripe, creating an abstract design. Let dry or cure.
  6. Apply a top coat and let dry or cure.

Foil Tips

 

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Foil is an underrated nail enhancement option. “You can apply [foil] to the full nail, or as an abstract french as we did in this video,” says Jennifer Bell, senior marketing manager of Bellacures salons. “Foils are a fun way to add some shape or patterns to your nails that can be super difficult to paint on without loads of skill. This look is best achieved using gel polishes.”

  1. Prep and shape nails as desired.
  2. Apply a base coat and let dry or, if using gel polish, cure.
  3. Apply two coats of a nude nail polish. Dry or cure after each coat.
  4. Cut about one square inch from a roll of rainbow foil.
  5. Apply nail foil glue to the area where you want the foil to appear. Immediately press the foil to the glue and remove from the nail. You can press it down as a solid piece, or quickly pull and remove a couple of times to achieve the look above.
  6. Continue this process on every nail and then cure, if using gel polish or let dry.
  7. Apply a top coat and cure or let dry.

Mix and Match

Can’t choose between a solid colour, a French manicure, or swirls? Bring all three together with this take on mismatched nail art. Whether you go with two shades of the same colour as shown above or decide on complementary hues, the end result will be visually appealing. Here’s how to pull off this nail design for short nails, according to Kao.

  1. Prep and shape nails as desired.
  2. Apply a base coat and let dry or cure if using gel polish.
  3. Dip a detailer brush into a light nail polish shade and line the tip of your index finger, creating a French manicure design. Let dry or cure if using gel polish. Repeat on other index finger.
  4. Using the detailer brush and light polish, draw a curvy line along one side of ring finger nail. Fill in the shape. Repeat with a darker colour on the opposite side of nail. Repeat on other ring finger and let dry or cure.
  5. Paint remaining fingers with two coats of polish, alternating between lighter and darker colours. If using gel polish, cure between coats.
  6. Clean up any mistakes with a detailer brush dipped in acetone.
  7. Apply a top coat and let dry or cure.

Checkered Nail Art

 

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Checkered nail art such as the design above can be scaled down for shorter nail lengths. The key is to use a detailer brush with a 7-millimetre length, which will give you more control when creating drawing tiny squares, says Robinson. (A 9-millimetre brush allows you to cover a larger area faster and will suffice if you have longer nails.) Below, Robinson’s tips for achieving this take on cute, short nail designs.

  1. Prep and shape nails as desired.
  2. Apply a base coat and let dry.
  3. Place a drop of a pink polish onto a palette or piece of aluminium foil. Drag a detailer brush through the lacquer from the base to the tip, roll the brush and repeat two to three times to evenly cover all the brush hairs. Draw two lines to create a grid pattern on nails.
  4. Fill in two diagonal squares on each nail to create a checker design. Let dry and repeat.
  5. Apply a top coat and let dry.

Jewel Accents

Nail stickers are in and applying jewelled versions can set off a sparkly stack of rings. You can adhere the stickers over your favourite nail colour, go with a French manicure as shown above, or opt for a clear coat underneath. Here’s your best plan of action for pulling off this short nail design, according to Kao.

  1. Prep and shape nails as desired.
  2. Apply a base coat and let dry (or cure if using gel polish).
  3. Dip a detailer brush into a white polish. Draw two diagonal lines at the tip of each nail, then fill in the gap at the centre of the tip of each nail to create a curved line. Let dry or cure if using gel polish.
  4. Adhere three to four jewel nail stickers using a pair of tweezers.
  5. Apply a top coat and let dry or cure if using gel polish.

Heart Accents

When you’re after short, simple nail designs, consider doodling hearts onto a few of your nails. All you’ll need to copy the above design are two colours of your choice, a detailer brush, and a steady hand. Here’s exactly how to pull it off, according to Kao.

  1. Prep and shape nails as desired.
  2. Paint on two coats of a light pink shade. Cure for 30 seconds in between coats if using gel polish or let dry.
  3. Dip a detailer brush into a dark pink nail polish. Outline then fill in two mini hearts and cure if using gel polish. Repeat on every other finger.
  4. Apply a top coat and let dry.

Skittles Manicure

 

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It’s not a short nail design per se, but the skittles manicure, ie using a different colour on every finger, is more dynamic than using the same colour across the board. Plus, you can achieve a Skittles mani even if your nails are bitten to the quick. “This spring, we see this trend taking a more subtle turn,” says Bell. “Instead of reaching for a mix of bright pinks, we are going to see a lot of neutral, softer, subtle skittles out there. Think olive greens, grey-blues, or nudes.”

  1. Prep and shape nails as desired.
  2. Apply a base coat and let dry.
  3. Apply two coats of nail colour to each nail, switching to a new colour with each nail. Lighter shades may require a third coat. Let dry.
  4. Apply a top coat and let dry.

This story first appeared on www.shape.com.

(Main and Feature Image Credit: @betina_goldstein via Instagram)

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