Short Nails Can Have Fun, Too! 8 Manicures You Can Recreate at Home

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girl with short nails holding a coffee cup


Scrolling through Instagram or Pinterest for nail inspiration can be frustrating for those of us with short nails. Whether you work with your hands, have thin nails, or just don’t like the feeling of wearing your nails long, it can feel like every killer manicure is designed for 3-inch-long claws.

But that sentiment couldn’t be further from the truth.

While it’s true that some of the most talented nail techs prefer to work on longer nails (after all, the more canvas, the better, right?) that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing out there for us shorties.

If you don’t believe us, just take a look at these 8 manicures for short nails that you can recreate on your own hands at home:

1. Star Light, Star Bright

At first glance, these short nails are absolutely jawdropping. But they’re also remarkably easy to create!

Instagram photo of a nude manicure with star sequins on short nails.
Image via Instagram

Of course, you’ll need to start out with a nude base color. The exact shade you use will ultimately depend on your skin tone. The closer of a match you can find, the better, so check out Allure’s color-matching guide if you need some help.

Now, how about those stars? Again, simpler than they look!

These little stars are a type of nail glitter most commonly called flakies. When your polish is still wet, stick these onto your nails and finish everything off with a glossy topcoat.

To get the extra-precise spacing seen on these short nails, use a dotting tool to carefully place your flakies as you want.

2. Circle of Life

Have you ever heard of nail stamping? While this creative technique was used almost exclusively in Asian salons just a few years ago, the trend has gone worldwide.

And it’s easy to see why. Just take a look at the stunning design on these short nails:

Instagram photo of short nails with multi-colored stamping.
Image via Instagram

Before we dive into how to do this manicure yourself, take note that this is one of the more advanced stamping designs out there. If you’re inexperienced when it comes to nail stamping, we recommend practicing with simpler designs before jumping into this one.

The mandala manicure above was created using Clear Jelly Stamper’s Myriad of Mandalas plate. If you want to copy this look exactly, you can even find the polishes used by the nail technician in the Instagram caption!

With that said, let’s break this bad boy down:

In short, this process uses an engraved metal stamping plate, a scraper, and a stamper to transfer designs onto your nail. But rather than try to explain this process in writing, check out the video below to see exactly how nail stamping works:

3. Seeing Is Be-leaf-ing

Feeling something a bit, well, simpler? Don’t worry, we know multi-colored mandalas aren’t everyone’s choice manicure.

But that also doesn’t mean you need to resign yourself to boring, all-nude nails.

Take, for instance, this classy-yet-creative palm frond manicure on a set of short, natural nails:

Instagram photo of a nude manicure with painted palm fronds on short nails.
Image via Instagram

This simple set comes from one of our favorite nail salons on Instagram, Cute Nail Studio of Austin, Texas. While they’re not everyone’s cup of tea — some of their content is a bit crude — we definitely recommend checking out their page next time you’re feeling uninspired.

So, how do you recreate these gorgeous short nails yourself?

First, of course, you’ll want to treat yourself to a gentle manicure. Trim any hangnails, shape your nails, and push back your cuticles if you so choose.

While the nails pictured above are coated in gel polish, you can certainly use any nude polish you have on hand.

Next, grab your favorite leaf green polish, a nail art brush, and get started with your work of art. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the thought of freehand painting on your nails, check out this short tutorial below:

Yes, this set of nails takes some artistic talent. But with a little patience, anyone can pull it off.

4. Supersonic Superstar

While we’re talking about simple (but head-turning) manicures, how about some more stars? Actually, this is one of our favorite manicure trends, on short nails or not, of the moment.

These stark white nails are perfect for summer. But we won’t tell if you rock them year-round.

Instagram photo of short white nails with rainbow stars.
Image via Instagram

But the best part? They’re super, duper easy.

Of course, start with an opaque white base color. If you don’t already have a perfect white polish of your own, try out one of the polishes on Glowsly’s list.

For the stars, you have two options:

You can always freehand paint the stars on your nails. If you have an eye for symmetry, this is definitely the easiest option.

However, for those of us who can’t draw a circle to save our lives, there’s hope. Just grab a stamping plate (we use the MoYou London Pro XL 09 for large stars and hearts) and get to work.

5. Release Your Inner-Princess

Maybe delicate florals are more your style. If so, this beautiful French manicure will be your new go-to manicure for short nails.

Instagram photo of a dainty floral French manicure on short nails.
Image via Instagram

You’ve probably already guessed the first step:

Put down a nice base layer of nude polish. This manicure would also look great over a navy blue or maroon, but that’s totally up to you!

Next, grab your nail brushes (or dotting tool, if you prefer) and start creating your tiny manicure bouquet.

If you’re not sure how to paint those adorable roses, don’t worry. We suggest following a tutorial from Nail Career Education, one of the most popular nail-themed YouTube channels around:

6. Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Cotton candy nails are some of the trendiest looks in the modern world of manicures. But the best part is, they’re a lot easier to create than they look!

Just take a look at these sugary sweet nails:

Instagram photo of cotton candy polish on short nails.
Image via Instagram

So, do you want to know how to put together your very own carnival-ready manicure? Well, all you need are your favorite polish colors, a dense makeup sponge, and a pair of tweezers.

What’s next? Watch the short tutorial below to find out:

Technically, you can use any colors you like for this manicure look. If you want to stay true to the cotton candy theme, though, we recommend sticking with pinks, purples, and blues.

7. All Black Everything

No matter what your day-to-day wardrobe looks like, sometimes you need to channel your inner-goth. And unlike the black nail polish you wore as a teenager, these short nails with a matte finish are the epitome of high-fashion.

Instagram photo of short nails with a matte black polish.
Image via Instagram

But rocking matte black nails doesn’t need to stop there. In fact, this look is the perfect canvas for all types of awesome nail art.

Take, for instance, these super awesome constellation nails done at Twenty Local Nail Boutique in Dover, New Hampshire:

Instagram photo of short nails with a matte black polish and white constellations.
Image via Instagram

So, whether you want to keep it simple or add some astrological art of your own, how do you get the perfect matte black manicure?

First, you need a bottle of opaque, high-quality black nail polish. This can be harder than you think, as many black polishes can pull purple, green, blue, or gray on certain skin tones.

You also need to make sure your black polish is a creme formula — no glitter or multi-chrome finish allowed.

One of our top true-black polishes is Jinsoon’s Absolute Black. However, if you don’t want to shell out almost $20 for a bottle of polish, anything from your favorite drugstore brand will work fine, too.

Once you’ve hunted down your ideal black, it’s time to take away that pesky sheen.

The easiest way to do this is with a specialized matte topcoat. Like a normal topcoat, this polish will protect your manicure and keep your short nails looking great for as long as possible. But with zero shine.

We suggest choosing a matte topcoat from your favorite polish brand, such as OPI or Sally Hansen.

8. Let’s Make Shapes

Speaking of your inner-goth, how about a darker take on the classic French manicure?

Instagram photo of short nails with a geometric black French tip.
Image via Instagram

Just like a normal French manicure, you can always freehand this geometric shape on your own. If you want a little bit of help, however, we suggest investing in some handy-dandy nail vinyls.

Nail vinyls are sturdy stickers that you can place on your nail like a stencil. Once your polish is in place, just peel off the vinyl (before the polish dries!), and you’ll be left with straight lines and perfect angles.

What Are You Waiting For? Time to Show off Those Short Nails!

See? Head-turning manicures aren’t just for long nails! In fact, some of the most stunning looks suit short nails just as well as they do long nails (if not even better).

Whether you’re waiting for your nails to grow out longer or plan on always wearing them short, there’s no need to put away your nail polish and call it a day.

Instead, take advantage of your limited canvas to try out the craziest, brightest manicures you can imagine. Or, keep it simple with an elegant touch.

Ultimately, your nails and the polish you adorn them with are 100 percent up to you!

What do you love most about having short nails? Would you ever consider wearing them super long? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Featured Image: Unsplash License, by Daiga Ellaby, via Unsplash

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