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

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Main image – @thehangedit/instagram

Longer isn’t always better and, sometimes, less is more – 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. They’re also pretty perfect for 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.

And while some of these nails have been created using gel or BIAB, there’s no one stopping you from recreating them with acrylics!

So, we’ve carefully curated a list of 35 of the *best* short 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!


2. Delicate sheer 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.”


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.


4. Evil eye short acrylic 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!


5. Up in flames short acrylic nails

Hotter than hell, these short flame acrylic nails combining pastel purple and bright red are *perfect* for spring 2024.

This design looks amazing in literally any colour combo, especially the classic Hot Wheels shades of yellow and red.


6. Mix and match short acrylics

Can’t decide on a design? You don’t have to! If you’re a fan of whimsical colours, glitters, and nail art, mix and match is perfect for you.

Ask your nail tech to go wild with the nail art for a modern look that’s bang on trend. So. Cute.


7. Shiny gold stars blue short acrylic nails

The gold applied on top of this deep blue shade is so dreamy!

Want to get the look? Ask your nail tech for a base colour of your choice and gold twinkle star nail art with added gems.


8. Iridescent short mermaid nails

Conjuring up memories of days on the beach and snorkelling in the sea, these mermaid-inspired iridescent nails 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.


9. Dripping blood black and red short acrylic nails

*Literally* the perfect mani for Halloween, we love this glossy dripping blood set. 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!


10. Short round monochrome minimalist matte 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.


11. Magnetic short red acrylic nails

red magnetic short acrylic nails

Image – courtesy of writer

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.


12. Glam rock black chrome short French tip acrylic nails

This set is the perfect balance between rock and understated glam with black chrome tips, stars, 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!


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, or hearts created out of negative space like the set above.


14. Pastel swirl short acrylic nails

square matte nails with pastel swirls

Image – @corrinnabianca/instagram

These groovy swirl nails 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.


15. Nude short acrylic nails with a milky finish

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 nail art, glitter, chrome, or feature nails.

There are *tonnes* of glitter types to choose from, from chunky to tiny flecks, shimmer to holographic, and the world is your oyster with nail art!


16. Short ombre nails

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.


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!


18. Tortoiseshell short acrylic nails

A classic in the world of nails, tortoiseshell looks so modern and chic – particularly on shorter nails.

This one is a difficult set to create at home, but fear not, because these Holy Grail nail wraps are the perfect way to get the look without heading to the salon.


19. Clear base short acrylics with nail art

We’ve seen more and more of this nail design over the past few months, with celebs like Megan Fox, Halle Bailey, and Doja Cat sporting daringly long manis with 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 the bright set above.


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? 

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.


21. Flower cuticle cuffs on short acrylic nails

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

To replicate this type of design, all you need is a thin brush to sweep the polish across the nail bed or a dotting tool to create some cute flowers, making an understated but super-impressive look.


22. Yellow, pink, and blue 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.

If you don’t want to use press-on nails or a set of nail wraps, take the sharper end of a cuticle pusher and add tiny dots to your nails to form the shape of flowers.


23. Line detail short blue acrylic nails

The simplicity of this design makes it super-classy – and really easy to DIY! You can use *literally* anything to create straight lines – 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).


24. Cow print short acrylic French tip 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, a cow print 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. 


25. Short orange almond French tip nails

We love twists on the French tip trend, particularly when it involves bright colours!

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.


26. Short matte black coffin nails

Coffin nails don’t have to be long! We love this matte set, which looks so classy on shorter talons.

Want to get the matte look? All you need is a matte finish nail polish like this one from Wet n Wild to take the shine off your regular varnish.


27. Gold metal mirror-look short acrylic nails

The metal look is everywhere at the moment – from jewellery to fashion and nails to hair accessories. We’ve been seeing so many celebs rocking this look, including Zendaya and Florence Pugh.

You can recreate this look at home with a metal nail polish (BTW, check out our review of nail polish with *actual* metal in here), or ask your nail tech for a mani that looks like molten gold.


28. Baby pink reverse French tip short acrylic nails

French tips are still reigning supreme, but the reverse French tip is the perfect take on the trend.

This one is pretty easy to recreate at home with a couple of shades and a thin nail brush. Simply sweep some colour above your cuticles for a chic and modern look.


29. Short olive green nails

Not too dark but not too bright, this olive green shade will take you right through the autumnal season while keeping it super chic.

This olive green nail polish from Essie is the *perfect* shade to rock the khaki/jungle/army trend that’s gaining momentum.


30. Rainbow lines 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. 


31. Pastel flower power short acrylic nails

Another 60s/70s vibe with this flower power mani that would fit right in during spring and summer.

You can get handpainted nail art like this set below, or if you’d prefer to DIY, these nail wraps from Holy Grail are *literally* exactly the same design and colour!


32. Strawberry bees short spring acrylic nails

The cutest mani for spring? Adding birds, bees, flowers, or fruit nail art is the perfect way to create a serious spring look!

As your nail tech for tiny nail designs like the set above, or get yourself some cute nail stickers or decals like this set from Le Mini Macaron.


33. Summer lemon short acrylic nails

What did we say earlier about a nuetral base and nail art? It really makes an impact! I love this yellow lemon 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 lemon nail art and yellow French tips (or go for all the colours!), or add some nail stickers yourself! I love these cute lemon stickers from Etsy.


34. Spooky clown short Halloween nails

You can really go crazy with Halloween nails – from ghosts to bats and devils to pumpkins, the possibilities are endless. But these happy and sad clown faces are a really imaginative set, and we are loving the gems and sparkles.

If you’re talented with a nail brush, this one can be quite easy to recreate at home and you can simplify the look by using one line for the mouth, the typical circle for a clown nose, crosses for the eyes, and then stick some gems on like the set above. If not, don’t forget to take a screenshot to your nail tech!


35. Short gold glitter Christmas nails

short glitter christas nails

Image – @hicarmelina/instagram

Christmas just isn’t complete without shimmer, glitter, and gold, IMO. So, if you prefer understated nails, this is the Christmas mani for you.

You can give this one a go at home with a sheer nude base and by dabbing some glitter polish on the tips of your nails, fading it towards the cuticles. Prefer press ons? Head over to Etsy for some super easy alternatives.


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.

And while some of these nails aren’t acrylic, there’s nothing stopping you from recreating these using acrylic if that’s more your bag.

From press-ons to DIY stickers and nail wraps to pro handpainted art, let us know in the comments 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 Senior 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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