Nailed It

35 Brilliant Mani Designs That'll Elevate Your Natural Nails

Featuring the most delicate details.

by Calin Van Paris and Danielle Sinay
Originally Published: 

In a world where highly exaggerated, jaw-dropping nail artistry has become commonplace and even expected, rocking a seemingly natural nail can actually feel rebellious. Different natural-colored polishes chosen to complement your skin tone result is an easy way to look instantly polished and put together — plus, it pairs well with any outfit and for any occasion, and sometimes, just a simple, clear top coat can make a standout statement.

What we’re saying is: Natural does not mean boring. As with a classic white tee or a black leather jacket, natural nails are timeless, highly styleable, and cool AF. Case in point? Just look the Hailey Bieber’s beloved “glazed donut” manicure trend, which features a neutral base with a pearlescent sheen (reminiscent of an actual glazed donut). Très chic.

Rather than a vision of over-the-top showmanship, a minimalist manicure tends to be defined by what’s not there — nude backdrops and negative space leaving room for thoughtful details to take center stage. From out-of-the-box patterns to highly stylized additions (think pressed flowers beneath a clear top coat), nail artists are on a mission to rebrand natural manicures as some of the most interesting options around.

We scrolled Instagram to cull the best in nearly-natural designs. Here, 35 pared-down options that are anything but dull.


Sheer Oval

A semi-sheer topcoat over a sleek oval manicure is an infinitely wearable option.


Liquid Metal

Leave it to celebrity nail artist Betina Goldstein to turn a neutral nail into a trendsetting statement. This time, the artist achieves her feat with tips of dripping chrome.


Blue Dot

Two-toned blue dots at the center of each nail bed represent the power of simplicity.


White Hearts

Subtly shimmering almond nails play host to randomly-placed white hearts.


French Pop

French tips are a natural-nail classic, and in this updated iteration, creamy white is exchanged for vibrant shades of pink, orange, blue, and green.


Romantic Details

Short nails with neutral notes lean lovely and romantic with nudes, shimmer, and tiny pressed florets.


Matte Peach

Make it matte. This manicure takes things to the next level with a few nearly-sheer coats of matte peach polish.


White Notes

Seashells, passing clouds, frothy waves. Curvy white lines and details top a nude manicure for a dreamy moment.


Pressed Petals

More pressed florals — this time on the two center fingers of a glossy oval manicure. A pop of petal hues makes this polish job extra-memorable.


Black Hearts

Our hearts beat for this minimalist mani. Baby black hearts pump from the center of natural nails.


Subtle Rainbow

Pastel gradients dot the edges of a pinkish-nude manicure for a look that’s perfect for spring and summer.


Clear With Clouds

Natural nails, but add some cloud. Sheer, airy white polish floats across clear oval nails for a dreamy look.


Gilded Quartets

We love a 3D manicure, and this might be the most subtle one of all.


Metallic Touches

An angelic manicure you’ll never want to remove. With gold leaf metallic touches, this design creates the illusion of a heavenly constellation.


Minty French

Almond nails with a French tip are always chic, but adding a matte finish and mint stripe makes this look feel fresh and stunning.


Emerald City

Abstracted designs — French tips, colored corners, subtle curves — turn double-take-worthy when painted in a punchy emerald green.


Little Lines

Upgrade your matte natural manicure with tiny black and white etches for a graphic effect.


Simple Flowers

Groovy, baby. Black and white flowers and metallic dots adorn the center and index fingers of this sleek nude manicure.


Reverse French

A super-sleek and minimal reverse French is eternal in its style and subtlety.


Minimal Evil Eye

Don’t blink! A single baby blue evil eye rimmed in lavender stares out from each nude nail.


’90s Frames

Minimal, but make it ’90s. This neon-tinged natural manicure is on our summer bucket list.


Floret French

French tips bloom brighter when built of tiny painted flowers.


Abstract Blooms

Dots of pale pink and green look like micro-sized abstracted florals at first glance.


Highlighter Beds

This reverse French gets its idiosyncrasy courtesy of bright yellow dots.


Neutral Finish

Here’s an idea: Paint your tips varying shades of neutral tones for a sophisticated take on a half-moon mani.


Modern French

For something unique that isn’t too over-the-top, try elevating the neutral mani with a slight French twist, like this modern take on a classic French mani, featuring contrasting colors on just half of the nail tip.


Double French

For something a bit closer to the classic French style you know and love, you can opt for this double French manicure featuring two thin lines instead.


Milky Ombré

For another subtle way to upgrade your mani, try fading a light pink polish into white for an ombré effect.


Pretty In Pearls

Alternatively, you could lean into the pearlcore aesthetic with literal pearls atop a barely-there pink polish.


Golden Accents

Golden accents — whether they’re charms or stickers — are always in vogue when it comes to nails.


Gilded Flakes

Not into gilded accents? No problem. Try some delicate golden flakes instead.


Delicate Daisies

This dainty and low-key nail art look uses daisies to elevate a natural manicure.


Pops Of Color

For something show-stopping yet low maintenance, add a few pops of color to your natural nails. You can stick with the red, orange, and yellow hues like the mani seen here, or create your own design.


Metallic Lines

Muted metallic lines add a swoon-worthy pop to a neutral base.


Glitter Outline

Decorate your nails in a silver (or gold) glitter outline for an understated but just-sparkly-enough manicure.

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