11 Nail Art Ideas to Make Short, Stubby Nails Look Longer

Don’t think you have the real estate to rock one of those cool designs you’ve seen on Instagram? We beg to differ. Whether you have naturally (ahem) petite nail beds or just prefer to keep your tips clean and clipped, here are 11 ways to subtly enhance them.

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Two-toned Lines

Vertical lines give the illusion of length. Two-toned lines give major style.

Negative Space

Negative space (aka our favorite nail art trend—ever) is particularly flattering on closely cropped tips because it allows the design to really stand out, while keeping the rest of the nail bed visually open.

Nouveau French

Upgrade a classic French manicure with a sliver of color on the tips. The key is to keep the lines thin so you don’t crowd a smaller nail.

Compact Details

Add compact details to catch the eye, but limit their placement to the edges of your nails so they don’t look cluttered. Bonus points if you use neutral shades, which have a lengthening effect.

Almond Tips

Or try a similar design (and color palette), but with pointed tips, which are especially elongating on shorter nails.

Neon Details

Whereas a full-on neon mani might make your nails look like, well, Day-Glo Chiclets, sampling some bright shades using very fine lines adds a nice summery twist that’s still elevated.

Negative Space Lines

Quick recap: Lines are elongating and negative space makes the most of smaller nail beds. Ergo, blending the two looks creates a winning (and slimming) combo.

Cutout Accents

A punchy design like this one might be overkill on all ten fingers, but as an accent nail (or two) it delivers just the right amount of pizzazz.

tiny nail decals

Small Decals

A DIY option if you’re short on time and space: teeny tiny nail stickers. Using a pair of tweezers, place each decal onto the base of the nail and seal everything in with your shiniest topcoat.

Monochromatic Mani

You know the whole monochromatic trend in fashion? Same logic applies here. Wearing colors within the same family streamlines any look—or in this case, your mini mani.

Graphic Edges

For the creative set: Graphic shapes lined to the outer edges of your nails will give them a modern upgrade without being too overwhelming on the eyes.

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Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...