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Minimalist Manicure Ideas That Prove Less Is More

Easing into nail art? Screenshot these 10 designs.

Minimalist Manicure Ideas That Prove Less Is More
Photo: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

I haven’t always been a nail art girl. My obsession with over-the-top manis developed incrementally over the two years that I worked as a receptionist at a nail salon. First, it was simple linework on a nude base, then it was a multicolored French. After that, I moved on to glued-on pearls and gems.

I didn’t grow up going to the nail shop and I didn’t see my mom get a manicure until I was in my 20s, so nail art didn’t feel like something I could sink my teeth (or nails) into. I’d swoon over manis covered with smooth airbrushing or crazy colorways on my feed, but it was hard to picture something equally extravagant on myself. The investment of time and money felt slightly too steep, considering that I’d only be able to enjoy it for a few weeks before needing another. Plus, I figured that my nails, which I’ve bitten for as long as I’ve had teeth, were way too short for any kind of art.

All of this changed a few weeks into said job, when one of the techs asked if she could use my nails as a practice canvas. Seeing the simple, monochromatic lines that she added to on top of my neutral base completely shifted my perspective. This was a mani worth swooning over and it was totally worth the extra time spent in the chair. Since then, I’ve adopted a "more is more" mani philosophy—I’ve tried everything from Yayoi Kusama-inspired dots to cyber chrome overlays—but this was all sparked by a simple line on each nail. If you’re easing your way into nail art and looking for a simple place to start, these manis will tap into your minimalist sensibilities.

Glitter Arch

This is what we call "gateway glitter" to ease you into more eccentric nail art. Glitter isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think about minimalism, but this French-style outline is far from over-the-top, thanks to the clean, nude base.

Nude Diamonds

Does your nude mani feel naked? A single gem is a simple way to dial up the drama on an otherwise understated manicure. Once the gem is glued on, it’s cured under a UV lamp and finished off with another top coat.

Old English Initials

If the idea of lettering on each nail is intimidating, adding your initials (or your S.O.’s) will draw extra attention to your mani without taking you too far out of your comfort zone.

Tonal Swoops

Adding a pop to your mani doesn’t always have to mean adding a pop of color. These white swirls overtop this milky base are a monochrome treat that gets better and better the closer you zoom in.

Line Up

This mani is simple, but far from basic. One thing to consider before DMing this design to your nail tech is the size of your nail beds, since this style is ideal for those with a little more depth. If you have shorter nail beds, you might want to try vertical lines for an elongating effect.

Bold Dots

Like an ellipsis...on your nails. If bold colors feel like a particularly big leap, trying bright dots on a neutral base can help ease you into this palette.

Length and Linework

This look is all about balance—when you max out on length, a minimalist design can keep things from going over-the-top.

Reverse French

Last year Blake Lively sent our pulses racing when she debuted a white reverse French mani—a minimalist, modern update on classic white tips.

Gold Border

Shine, but make it minimalist. To add extra shine to this mani, gold-tone chrome powder was used to create an asymmetrical outline to each nail—the perfect introduction to this summer's chrome trend.

Matte French

This isn't your typical French mani—and not just because of the matte top coat. Each nail alternates its approach, from a micro-French to a French outline, and the finish pays homage to a classic French but is way more modern.

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