25 Simple Nail Designs for a Subtly Stunning Manicure

Bold and intricate nail designs will always be a thrilling statement. But whether you’re short on time or seeking a more pared-back look, there’s beauty in simplicity. “Simple nail designs are chic and minimalistic and can be worn with any look,” says nail artist San Sung Kim. “Whether created with dots or lines, simple nail designs often incorporate a geometric shape. You can use any tool around your house to create simple looks. Try using a bobby pin or toothpick if you don’t have a dotting tool or nail brush at home. You can also use stickers or stencil stickers to create a simple design.”

meet the expert

  • Priscila Rivas, nail artist based in Temecula, California
  • San Sung Kim, nail artist at Nailing Hollywood based in Los Angeles, California.
  • Lia Smith, nail artist and OPI North America brand education manager based in Los Angeles, California.

If you’re in need of inspiration, we’ve got 25 simple nail designs that you can recreate at home below.

Pistachio Swirl

Instagram: @disseynails

Pairing green squiggles with a nude base, this manicure is fun without overwhelming the eye. It was created using the shades Matcha and Chartreuse from Gel Care and Mint Chocolate Chip from Le Mini Macaron.

Rainbow Rhinestones

Instagram: @disseynails

This nude base is adorned with Rainbow Fish Rhinestones from Cirque Colors. The crystal detail adds a pretty little pop against the neutral background, resulting in a fun yet understated look.


Instagram: @sansungnails

The shade Terracotta from Nail Bunny is used to create this pretty yin-yang tip design by Kim. The shade is similar enough to the milky base that it fades away while still adding a little hint of color. 

French Tips

Instagram: @sansungnails

French tips are the OG simple nail design, and Kim executed this set beautifully using the shades Rose BB Cream from Gel Care and Smelly Cat from Madam Glam.

Glitter Top Coat

Instagram: @melanated.mani

Adding some chunky glitter atop any shade instantly adds a point of interest without going over the top. This look uses Fuyu Jelly, Final Girl, and Hex Girl from Cirque Colors.

Purple Squiggles

Instagram: @karajillianbrown

Abstract lines are the easiest way to add a little something special to an otherwise plain manicure. I created this look using the shades Divine Self and Milky Dream from Madam Glam.

Nearly Natural

Priscila Rivas

There’s nothing simpler than a nude polish, but Rivas took this look to the next level by applying a milky, sheer shade that allows you to still see the nail underneath.

Blue French Tips

Instagram: @sansungnails

Kim created these angular blue tips using Gel Care shades Dusty Mint (a shade she describes as “the perfect French blue”) and Nude BB Cream. Instead of going with the traditional French tip look with a curve, she followed an angular design for a bit more edge. And if you look closely, you’ll see that the thumb has a darling little lace-inspired design.

Black Cat

Instagram: @sansungnails

With Halloween right around the corner, this design by Kim is the perfect simple, spooky look. Using metallic silver polish for the eyes is the cherry on top. 

Reverse Pink Tips

Instagram: @Danaturenails

This pink-on-pink look takes the traditional tip and flips it upside down, outlining the base of the nail instead of the tip. It’s done using two glittery shades of pink.

Floral Pop

Instagram: @nails_by__bridgett

A nude, milky base creates the perfect simple manicure. But this look gets a special accent thanks to a simple flower featuring white petals and an amber center.

Heart Tips

Lia Smith

“Holidays are a great time to introduce nail art,” says Smith. “This Valentine’s look uses OPI shades Princesses Rule, Big Apple Red, and Alpine Snow. Using a makeup sponge for the ombré and a dotting tool for the hearts, this can be a simple accent nail or all ten for a fun, flirty, festive design.”

Strawberry Milk

Priscila Rivas

Strawberry milk nails have dominated our social feeds this year. They take the sheer, barely-there polishes we all love and then add a soft, pink hue that’s ultra-flattering.

Skittle Nails

Lia Smith

“‘Skittle nails are a simple, fast, fun way to have an artistic look with each nail a different color,” says Smith. She created this look using a mix of different OPI polishes.

Tonal Lines

Instagram: @gossipandgloss

This manicure supplies fall vibes without a single leaf or pumpkin in sight. It features a tonal diagonal stack of brown, beige, and white lines over a milky nude base.

Scarlet Red

Priscila Rivas

A bold pop of color, like this scarlet red, is perfect for a simple yet impactful manicure. “A pop of color depending on the season — for example, a fun coral for summer or a deep red for fall — is always fun as well when keeping it simple,” says Rivas.

Dotted Outline

Instagram: @nails_by__bridgett

This hot pink look gets a fun upgrade with this pink, orange, and yellow dot design. The tiny dots create an outline around two nails with a nude base for a fun, but subtle pop.

Pink Polka Dots

Instagram: @nails_by__bridgett

Take your traditional polka dot to the next level with this ombré interpretation. Each finger features polka dots in a different shade of pink, creating a pretty gradient effect.

Orange Chrome

Priscila Rivas

A chrome finish can take any color to the next level, and that’s precisely what Rivas did to create this shimmery orange look.

Subtle Shimmer

Instagram: @gossipandgloss

This design is so simple you might miss it if you look too fast — it features a milky white base with a tiny swipe of gold on two fingers. The look is both pretty and elegant! 

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