White marble nails - an example of classy short nail designs

50+ Classy Short Nail Designs You Need to Try


Christine Barbara & Sarah Barthet


In the last few years, we have been living in the midst of a global pandemic that has encouraged everyone to keep their nails short and trimmed. It’s undisputed that longer nails can indeed harbour more dirt and germs than a shorter nail and during that ill-fated time, cutting our nails short seemed like the right thing to do. At-home manicures became the norm.

As we all begin to emerge from what feels like a two year hazy hibernation, short nail designs seem like they are here to stay and with the re-opening of nail salons and spas, we can start to be a little more creative with our short nail designs – not quite to the same level as longer nails, sure, but definitely not far off! And coming from a writer that spends long hours at the keyboard, we can totally appreciate the practicality that shorter nails offer.

One only has to turn to Pinterest to discover plenty of classy short nail designs that can make anyone’s nails look beautifully polished and chic. The sheer beauty of classic short nail designs lies in their timeless appeal, and their ability to elevate anyone’s look to appear more put together is undeniable.

To help inspire your next classy manicure, we’re featuring some beautiful nail styles that perfectly suit short nails and are guaranteed to be the cherry on the cake to any outfit of the day. If you’re still on the fence about whether to keep your nails short, keep reading for our top classy short nail designs, with over 50 pictures of stunning short nail ideas that are sure to fill you with inspiration for your next trip to the salon.

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Classy Short Nail Designs & Styles to Try

1. One Simple Solid Colour

The very first place to start, and probably the most popular, is a simple, one colour manicure. Rather than picking elaborate nail art designs, stickers and shapes, sticking to one colour gives the hands a timeless and classic look which is amazing on short nails. What’s more, this choice of colours nowadays is conveniently versatile, making it appropriate for everyday wear, as well as special occasions.

Ultimately, the colour you choose is all down to personal style and preference. Some prefer to adapt their nail colour to the passing seasons, preferring relaxing pastels during the spring, bright and bold colours during the summer months and warmer darker hues for when the autumn/fall and winter seasons starts to approach. Here are some of our favourites:

Nude Nails

You can’t really go wrong with understated nude nails. Available in a variety of shades to suit different skin tones, the colour nude is incredibly versatile, with the ability to be worn for virtually any occasion and easily match any item of clothing in any shade.


From baby blue to pale yellow, there is something indisputably beautiful about pastel colours. They’re pleasing on the eye without being loud or overpowering, and absolutely perfect for months of spring.

Red Nails

You’d be hard pressed to find a colour that is more universally loved than a classic red nail. It’s a shade adored by many and we can see why – a colour that is truly timeless and can easily be worn all year round. A strong contender for both long and short nails alike!

Darker Hues

We love darker hues on short nails. In fact, they might even do them more justice than long nails do. A classic black, a rich aubergine or a statement midnight blue, these darker tones make super cute short nails ideas that are worth trying!

If you’re still struggling for ideas, be sure to check out our article on our top 10 nail colors that go with everything.

2. Multi-Coloured Nails

Multiple-coloured cute short nails can be very aesthetically pleasing when done well! It’s an adventurous way of trying something new, without turning to nail art. The options are endless – try painting each of your nails in a different shade of pastel colours. Alternatively, why not try to try going for a gradient effect of the same hue, where each nail colour goes a shade darker than the previous nail.

3. French Manicures

A French manicure is a staple offering at any nail salon, but times have moved on since the term was first coined many decades ago. There are now so many ways to shake up a traditional French manicure and we’re listing a few designs short nails might want to try. Many of them are so elegant that they have become classic nail looks in their own right!

Classic French Manicure

Made up of two neutral colours – a base of light, nude pink polish and a clean white tip – French manicures are designed to look tidy, understated and polished.

Coloured or Multi-Coloured French Tip

Simply put, a coloured or multi-coloured French tip is a traditional French manicure that uses different shades on the tips other than white. Again the options are endless, with the option to either go for the same hue on each nail tip, or to go for a range of colours. Check out these Pinterest images below for inspiration!

Slanted French Tip

Very similar to the traditional French manicure, a slanted French tip features a diagonal strip of white (or any other colour of choice for that matter!) along the tip instead of the more traditional horizontal line. 

Baby Boomer

Also called ‘French ombre’ or ‘French fade’ nails, the baby boomer style is a fresh, modern take on the French manicure which many can’t get enough of! Instead of the blush pink nails and defined white tip characteristic of traditional French manicures, this updated style blends the pink and white hues together in a gradient effect that is seamless and fluid.

Metallic French Manicure

A metallic twist on the traditional French manicure. This design experiments with different metallic shades – typically in silver, bronze, gold or rose gold – to produce a reflective two-tonal style that’s absolutely mesmerising. 

Reverse French Manicure

This variation uses a dark colour as its base, with a different shade applied on the nail bed instead of the tip of the nail. 

4. Half-Moon Nails

Known affectionately by some as ‘Dita nails‘ after well-known burlesque performer and half-moon manicure enthusiast Dita von Teese, the half-moon nail design involves leaving a negative space over the lunula – the half-moon or crescent-shaped whitish area of the bed of a fingernail. A deep shade of red does this type of short nail design particular justice!

5. Accent Nails

Whilst bearing a resemblance to the one colour design, this style indulges in a bit of extra je ne sais quoi. The nail on the ring finger is typically painted in a different colour – possibly a glittery version of the chosen colour or sporting a different style using nail art – to add a focal point to an otherwise minimalist style.

6. Matte Nail Polish

Whilst shiny polish has a decidedly ‘polished’ look, matte nail polish is a way to try something new without being too adventurous. With an understated satin finish, matte polish leaves the nails looking subtly elegant, and when combined artistically with a high polish top coat, the nail designs that can be achieved are pretty cool! Whether using matte polish on all nails, on the tips or to create a custom pattern, this is a short nail design worth experimenting with!

7. Two Tone Designed

Sometimes, simply combining two colours to create unique nail designs can be particularly striking, especially when using black and white, combined with a metallic shade. Why not try:

Black and White

Contrast black nail polish with white to create a timelessly elegant look that Coco Chanel herself would love!

White and Gold

These two colours can be paired in a plethora of ways, from gold stickers arranged in geometric designs upon a white base, to a white and gold French manicure inspired style.

8. Gradient Nails / Ombre Nails

Instead of delighting in sharp contrast, gradient nails (or ombre nails) seamlessly blend complimentary hues together to produce a gradual change in colour from the nail bed to the tip of the nail.

9. The Marble Effect

This nail art technique is an absolute must try! The marble nail pattern is designed to make nails look like marble tiles, and this style looks gorgeous as an accented nail design as well as a sophisticated pattern to adorn all anyone’s nails. Word of note, this does take some time at the nail salon, so be sure to let your nail technician know in advance!

10. Swirl Nail Art

Bring a little playfulness into your next manicure and experiment with some swirl nail art!

11. Floral Nail Art

For something a little more decorative and feminine, you might want to try experimenting with some floral nail art. The options are truly endless, and whether it’s roses, daisies or blossoms, floral nail art can look more like a work of art, rather than just a manicure.

12. Elegant Nail Stickers

Instead of colourful prints or intricate nail art designs, choose an elegant nail sticker – such as gold strips or delicate rhinestones – for a fun but sophisticated nail look!

Don’t forget to look after your hands as well as your nails! Dukes Avenue shares how in our article The Perfect Hand Care Routine for Youthful Hands.

Don’t forget to pin this article if you found it helpful, and follow Dukes Avenue on Pinterest for more!


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