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The Best 35 Short Acrylic Nail Styles to Show Your Nail Tech

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Main image – @betinagoldstein/instagram

Longer isn’t always better, and sometimes less is more. And that goes for nails, too.

While most of us think of acrylic nails as long and *probably* including a fake tip for extra length, the short acrylic mani is gaining more and more popularity for its simplicity and practicality, leaning into the recent clean girl aesthetic.

Short and strong, acrylics last for at least 3 weeks, meaning they’re pretty easy upkeep for gals and guys who don’t really have the diary space (and dosh) for an appointment every time they get a chip. As well as those of us who are always on the go, have a practical and hands-on job, or are into sports and don’t want our nails to get in the way.

So, we’ve carefully curated a list of 35 of the *best* short acrylic nails that are stealing the spotlight for those of us who want to look put together without having to sacrifice dexterity and functionality!


35 of the Best Short Acrylic Nail Styles

1. Micro French Manicure

Kicking off the list is the classic French mani – but make it micro!

An understated take on the trend that you can do at home with a tiny nail brush, stamps or even sticker guides like these ones from Mavala ($8.95) or these ones from Sally Beauty (£3.99) – see, you don’t even need a steady hand!

micro french manicure french tip nails

Image – glosslab/instagram

2. Delicate baby pink short square acrylic nails

A delicate baby pink set is perfect for any occasion, and they look especially cute on square-shaped nails. To create the square shape without having to go to the salon, Essie advises to first begin by trimming the nail straight across with a nail trimmer (or you can use a 120/180 nail file).

“Once nails are trimmed, refine the tip by filing straight across. Remember to never slant the file. Finally, check the corners, if there are any sharp edges, give them a light buff with the file. Do not over file! Over-filing the edges will give you a squoval shape.”

short square acrylic nails

Image – @misslizheart/instagram

3. Clean girl aesthetic milky white acrylic nails

Dominating hair, makeup AND nail looks this year, the clean girl aesthetic is here to stay going into 2024 and these short milky white acrylics are perfect for the trend. Seen on everyone from Selena Gomez and Jennifer Lopez to Simone Ashley and Hailey Bieber, this sheer mani is like your natural nails, only better.

To get the look, ask your nail tech for short acrylics with a natural shade, adding some sheer polish or gloss on top. Want something a bit different? Add dainty nail art or gems.

clean girl nails acrylic

Image – @paintedbyjools/instagram

4. Evil eye short acrylic coffin nails

Said to ward off bad vibes and malevolent spirits, I’m *slightly* obsessed with everything evil-eye – from jewellery to trinkets, home decor to artwork.

Radiate good karma by asking your nail tech to hand paint this talisman like the ones below, get some nail stickers like this Nails.Inc set (£11.20 from the Sephora UK website/$16.00 from the Nails Inc Nail Polish US website), or stick some falsies on and DIY from home!

evil eye coffin nails

Image – @nail.mouse/instagram

5. Up in flames short acrylic nails

Hotter than hell, these short flame acrylic nails are bang on the Barbiecore trend as well as being *perfect* for spring 2024.

And if you’re not really a fan of pink, this design looks amazing in literally any colour combo, especially the classic Hot Wheels colours of yellow and red (they’ve also created a pretty cute tiny version of the classic Corvette Barie herself drives!)

flame nails pink short acrylics

Image – @topcoat_tonic/instagram

6. Pick and mix short acrylics

Can’t decide on a design? You don’t have to! If you’re a fan of whimsical colours, glitters and art, these nails are perfect for you.

Ask your nail tech to go wild and mix and match the nail art. So. Cute.

mix and match acrylic nails

Image – @nailsbyheather.errington/instagram

7. Shiny stars almond acrylics

A mixture of aura design and stars, this mani is out of this world!

Want to get the look? Ask your nail tech for a blurry aura airbrush design and some twinkle stars to top it off.

short almond nails stars acrylic

Image – @lolo.nailedit/instagram

8. Mermaid-blue nails

Conjuring up memories of days on the beach and snorkelling in the sea, these mermaid-inspired acrylics are *just* long enough to make a massive impact.

For a real mermaid look, add some sparkles and gems and ask your nail tech to add some ‘bubbles’ that make it look as though you’ve just stepped out from the sea.

mermaid blue short acrylic nails

Image – @indigonails/instagram

9. Dripping blood black and red short acrylic nails

*Literally* the perfect mani for Halloween, we love this glossy dripping blood set with negative space around the cuticles. Fancy recreating this look at home? All you need is two colours (you don’t necessarily have to use red and black if you’re not keen on those colours), a wooden cuticle tool, and a top coat.

Apply a base coat and, once that’s dry, apply the base colour. Once the base is dry, take some of the second nail polish colour on the tip of the wooden stick and carefully apply it along the tip (a bit like a French tip), then add some dots for the bottom of the drips and join them to the polish along the tips. Repeat on each nail and, once dry, add your top coat. You can watch a tutorial here, too!

black and red acrylic short nails

Image – @color.city_/instagram

10. Round short minimalist line drawing acrylic nails

Although line drawings are minimalist, they make a pretty big impact. And they’re bang on trend not only for nails, but we’ve been seeing lots of t-shirt prints and tattoos using this style, too.

Any colour combo lends itself well to these designs, but I think they look particularly impressive with a dark background and white details – keep it matte for an ultra-chic look.

line drawing short nails

Image – @imarninails/instagram

11. Magnetic short red acrylic nails

This nail art is *super* cool. You can create intricate patterns and unique designs that shimmer and shift in the lights for a truly futuristic look.

Have a play with this yourself (it’s really fun!) with The Gel Bottle Inc’s dual-ended magnetic tool (£4.50 on The Gel Bottle Inc UK website/$6.00 on the US website) and specially designed polishes that you can ‘pull’ and ‘push’ different lines and shapes.

red magnetic short acrylic nails

Image – courtesy of writer

12. Glam rock black short acrylic nails

This set is the perfect balance between rock and understated glam with black tips, silver studs, and a glossy finish.

Other ways to get the glam rock trend on your nails are with painted stars in black and silver, adding gemstones to a simple black mani, skulls either hand-painted or created with nail stickers, or going all out with chrome and embellishments!

black french tip nails with rhinestones acrylic short nails

Image – @lolo.nailedit/instagram

13. Simple heart short acrylics

Hearts don’t have to be red or pink! You can use *literally* any colours for this look and they are the perfect set for Valentine’s (or Galentine’s) Day.

There are plenty of variations of this design, from hearts all over the nails, heart-shaped French tips, hearts created out of negative space, or a simple look like the one below.

simple heart acrylic short nails imarni nails

Image – @imarninails/instagram

14. Groovy purple swirl short acrylic nails

Take it back to the 70s with these groovy swirl nails that look great in any colour combo! If you want to get this look at the salon, ask your nail tech for “swirl nails”, or, you can create this look yourself in a couple of easy steps!

First start with your base colour and wait for it to dry. Then, take the contrasting colour and use either a small nail art brush or a wooden cuticle stick and take some of the colour on the end. Start at the edges and sweep the colour across in freehand swirls (this is the fun part!). Once you’ve done each nail, wait for them to dry before securing with a top coat.

neon purple swirls nails

Image – @bahnannanails/instagram

15. Nude short acrylics with glitter feature nails

Who doesn’t love a set of nude nails?! I know I do! But sometimes we want to jazz them up a bit, and a great way to do this is with a glitter feature nail or some nail art.

There are *tonnes* of glitter types to choose from, from chunky to tiny flecks, shimmer to holographic – so no two manis need to be the same!!

glitter feature nails

Image – @_asi.nails_/instagram

16. Neon ombre

Ombre nails had a bit of a moment in summer 2023 thanks to A-listers like JLo, Lizzo and Nicola Peltz Beckham. And the colour combinations with this trend are endless – whether you prefer pastels and light hues, or neons and bold brights.

While most people leave this look to their nail tech, you can *actually* recreate ombre nails using a sponge and a steady hand! And it’s up to you whether you have the ombre going across the nail from left to right or from the cuticle to the tip.

short neon ombre nail design ideas

Image – its.a.nailthing/instagram

17. Butterfly nail design short acrylic nails

Hello, the year 2000 called and it wants its nails back! Remember when we all wore butterfly EVERYTHING in the 2000’s? Well, the trend is firmly back (yay), and it’s been seen in the form of belt buckles, applique, hair clips, and manicures.

There are a few ways you can take on this trend, including butterfly nail art, stickers, stamps, butterfly French tips, press-on nails and even butterfly charms for your mani!

butterfly nails

Image – @mynameismikinail/instagram

18. Marble green short acrylic nails

Another design that works well on basically all colours, marble nails are still on trend in 2024!

There are loads of variations on this trend, from marble on each nail, marble feature nails, or the ones below with gold leaf – obsessed.

green marble nails

Image – @nataliewilliams1981/instagram

19. Clear base short acrylics with nail art

Over the past few months, we’ve seen more and more of this nail design. With celebs like Megan Fox, Halle Bailey, and Doja Cat sporting daringly long mani’s with textured nail art on top. But this look isn’t just reserved for super long talons, and it doesn’t need to be paired with crazy designs, shapes and embellishments!

If you prefer understated nails, keep it simple with a short acrylic mani and some simple details like this striped set below.

clear manicure acrylic short nails

Image – @chelsdonails/instagram

20. Brown short acrylic nails

We’ve seen latte makeup taking centre stage this winter 2023, but what about shades of coffee for your mani? This is a super simple but effective look that even the queen of nail techs approves of (you guessed it, the amazing Betina Goldstein created this look on her Insta page).

If you don’t have hundreds of nail polishes and a shade for every nail, a top trick is to take your darkest shade and a white varnish and mix up your own! Use a spare nail brush and an empty pot to create different shades for each nail, adding more white polish for a lighter hue.

Brown nail designs at home manicure

Image – Betina_goldstein/instagram

21. Glitter cuticle short acrylic nails

Glitter looks AMAZING when paired with bare nails, and we’ve been seeing a lot of designs with colours or glitters applied to the nail bed and along the cuticle.

To replicate this design, all you need is a thin brush to sweep the polish across the nail bed for an understated but super-impressive look.

glitter cuticle nails acrylic short nails

Image – @betinagoldstein/instagram

22. Yellow flower French tip short acrylic nail designs

Floral nails have been seen in lots of different variations over this year, from all-over nail designs to one-off flowers and French tips.

Unless you want to use press-on nails or a set of nail wraps, this one can be quite difficult to recreate at home! So, ask your nail tech for some hand-painted flowers and leaves.

flower french tip nails

Image – @_nailsbypat_/instagram

23. Classy line detail short acrylic nails

The simplicity of this design makes it super-classy – and really easy to DIY! You can use *literally* anything to create a straight line – from scotch tape to a small piece of card.

You can also buy stickers that simply press onto your nail to create the line, like this set from kiki London (£2.99/$3.79 on the kiki London website).

line nail design

Image – @paintboxnails/instagram

24. Cow print short acrylic nails

This cow print mani is *so* cute and perfect for getting you in the mooooood for spring (sorry, couldn’t help it!)

A sweet take on the monochrome trend, this mani is quite easy to recreate with a wooden cuticle stick, nail polish and some patience. Simply apply some small blobs of nail varnish on your nails and move them around to create splodges that mimic the print on a cow.

cow print nails short acrylic nails

Image – @priscilla_nails/instagram

25. Trippy orange short acrylic nails

How cool is this trippy orange set?! It’s giving Demon Headmaster vibes!

Orange lends itself well to lots of different patterns and designs, including swirls, smiley faces, flowers, flames, and French tips. The (nail) world is your oyster.

trippy orange nails

Image – @nailsbyheather.errington/instagram

26. Ballerina ombre Frenchies

This airbrushed mid-length set is *slightly* longer, but ombre French tips look amazing on all lengths and nail shapes.

Ombre can be quite a difficult design to recreate yourself, so why not try some super easy-to-apply acrylic press on nails that look just as good as the real thing? This multicoloured ombre mani from Lovisa (£8.00/$9.99 on the Lovisa website) would look great with any outfit and for any season!

ballerina ombre short nails

Image – @thehangedit/instagram

27. ‘Digital lavender’ chrome short acrylic nails

Shimmer and glaze have been reigning supreme over the past year or so, and we’ve got the queen of manis – Hailey Beiber – to thank for that! But have you heard of one of the most recent nail crazes, the digital mani? This heavenly holographic manicure offers extra depth and shine, for a finish that is truly out of this world.

While you can purchase polishes from the likes of OPI that can offer a super shimmery shine, to get this look at the salon your best bet is to ask your nail tech for icy lavender polish topped with a shimmer, then some holographic chrome dust for extra depth. Or, you could take this photo with you to show exactly what you want!

lavender digital nails

Image – @thenailboxrd/instagram

28. Milky black French tip short acrylic nails

Black French tips are set to be *huge* in 2024, and a milky manicure is the perfect take on the trend.

Pair this mani with a little black dress and some dainty jewellery for a really up-to-date but chic look.

milky black french tip nails

Imge – @harrietwestmoreland/instagram

29. Gold mirror short acrylic nails

So shiny, you can almost see your reflection in them! Shimmers, glitters and holographic nails have been seen everywhere in 2023, and they’re still being seen on the likes of Beyonce, Margot Robbie, Selena Gomez, and Dua Lipa.

If you want to create this super shiny mani at home, you’ll need a powder like this one from Lecente (£6.95 on the UK Leccente website) or this set from La Mini Macaron ($15.00 on the US La Mini Macaron website). Want a holographic nail tutorial? We got you, take a look here for our step-by-step guide.

gold mirror nails

Image – @nagellujah/instagram

30. Pastel rainbow short acrylic nails

The biggest trend usually seen in spring isn’t just one colour, it’s wearing the rainbow on your nails! Colourful and fun, they’re also *perfect* for celebrating Pride events.

Rainbow nails can take the form of wearing a different colour on each finger, horizontal stripes, vertical stripes, wavy stripes, or even striped French tips. We love this pastel set below – sweet enough to eat.

pastel rainbow nails

Image – @_by_shelley/instagram

31. Flower power mix and match short acrylic nails

Another 60s/70s vibe with this flower power mani!

You can get handpainted nail art like this set below, or if you’d prefer to DIY, these Holy Grail nail wraps (£3.99 on the Holy Grail website) or these Flower Girl wraps from Lily & Fox ($9.99 on the Lily& Fox USA website) are the perfect alternative!

orange and purple handpainted nails

Image – nailsbyheather.errington

32. Cute and fruity short spring acrylic nails

Pink and lemon (literally) is the perfect combo for spring. But you don’t have to stick with lemons, strawberries, kiwis, oranges, cherries, watermelons, grapes and so many more juicy fruits can make up a spring manicure!

lemon nail art design short spring nails

Image – oliveandjune

33. Summer short acrylic nails

What did we say earlier about a clear base and nail art? It really makes an impact! I love this smiley set for summer that will really brighten up your mood, even if the sun isn’t shining (talking to you, UK summer).

To recreate this look, ask your nail tech for smiley faces in whatever colour you fancy (or go for all the colours!), or add some nail stickers yourself! I love these Ciate London ones (£16.00 on the Ciate London website) or these smiley face nail wraps on the Ciate US website ($15.00).

yellow summer nails design ideas short

Image – hollyfalconenails

34. Spooky skeleton Halloween nails

You can really go crazy with Halloween nails – from ghosts to bats and devils to pumpkins, the possibilities are endless. And, you might think these skeleton nails are difficult to create at home, but they’re not as difficult you you’d think! Of course, you can go to the salon if you prefer to get a pro to paint the design for you.

Paint the base coat on each nail (we definitely suggest a dark colour like black), and wait for it to dry. Then, take a thin nail brush and paint some small blobs of white nail varnish around the cuticle (about 6 or 7) to mimic the knuckles. Then, paint around 3 longer shapes to represent the bones in the fingers. Apply a top coat and you’re good to go!

halloween chrome

Image – @polished_yogi/Instagram

35. Candy cane Christmas nails

Candy canes scream Christmas! You can take it literally and get candy canes painted on your nails OR you can ask your nail tech for some red and white nail art for a more subtle Christmas look.

candycane christmas nails

Image – @bycheznails/instagram

The takeaway

If you prefer to keep your nails short and sweet, we’re betting there’s a mani for you in this carefully curated lineup!

From press-ons to DIY stickers and nail wraps to pro handpainted art, let us know if you try any of these super cute designs!

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Senior Beauty Editor

Laura Kemp started her journalism career as a news reporter for one of the largest newspaper groups in Europe before moving into features and editorial writing. Combining her love of hard-hitting journalism with her passion for beauty, she’s now Beauty Editor at Live That Glow. When she’s not writing, researching, or interviewing her favourite experts, you’ll find Laura practicing her downward dog or drifting on her paddleboard.

Expertise: Hair care, nails
Education: University of Salford
  • Ann


    Wow, that was pretty extensive, I think I liked the first one the best. I felt this was a bit overwhelming, perhaps pick one or two styles and then elaborate on them, but still no stone was left uncovered.

    1st January 2024

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