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 tin 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 nail 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 favourite colours and designs into one easy composition. Add as many or as few elements as your nail length will allow.

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.

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 colour you want.

These skinny paintbrushes will help you achieve the fine lines of your dreams.


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

The key to the perfect fluffy-cloud design is the perfect white nail polish. 

Simple Studs

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

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

Colourful 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.

If you're feeling this blue motif, this curated set comes with a nude base, and a bright cobalt blue for your detailing. 


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

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 space to accommodate this happy little design.

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.

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 kirby grip. 

Dots for Days

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

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

Colour Swatches

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

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 multicoloured look is always a good idea.

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 favourite muted colours and a solid nail-art brush, and you're good to go.

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

Up next: 7 autumn nail colours we're already obsessing over

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