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Saturday, June 8, 2013

How to Adapt Nail Art for Short Nails

Hello lovely readers! Instead of a typical tutorial, I thought that today I could share some techniques on how to adapt nail art designs for shorter nails. Frequently, nail art is displayed on either medium length or long nails, which leads those with shorter nails to question how to recreate the design. Personally, I think that with a little creativity 99.9% of designs can be adapted, which I've been figuring out in the process of re-growing my nails. So without further ado, here are some basic tips that can be applied to most designs:

1.) Use smaller tools
Left: On longer nails. Right: Adapted to short nails by using a smaller dotting tool, including only two flowers, and shortening the stems.
If fitting a design onto shorter nails means having to cram it on or cut some of it off, try using smaller tools to shrink the design so that it doesn’t look crammed onto smaller nails.
Left: On longer nails. Right: Adapted to short nails by using a smaller dotting tool to stipple on the white heart and feet. 
For example, if a design calls for a medium dotting tool, see if using a small dotting tool would be more proportionate to your nail size. I usually only shrink designs if they aren’t patterns, which leads me to tip number two…
 2.)  When recreating patterns, simply include less of the pattern
 Left: On longer nails. Right: Adapted to short by including 2 rows of dots instead of 3.
What I mean by this is that if someone with long nails can fit 4 rows of a pattern, folks with shorter nails may only be able to fit 2-3. Usually, sacrificing a row or two of pattern doesn’t affect the integrity of the design- fewer rows also means that you probably won’t have to use smaller brushes/dotting tools.
3.) Be extra neat when painting near the cuticles 

Left: Unflattering gap. Right: Polish is applied closer to the cuticle and the nail looks instantly longer (excuse the air bubbles).
It’s common knowledge that you aren’t supposed to paint your cuticles, but leaving a significant gap between your cuticles and the beginning of your polish can make short nails appear even shorter. Try to get as close as possible to the cuticle when painting your nails- if you accidentally get polish on the cuticle, just use a Q-tip and polish remover to wipe it away. For an even more precise line, dip a small paintbrush/ nail art brush into polish remover and gently shape the edge of the polish.

4.) For ombre or gradient looks, paint thinner stripes of  color onto your sponge

Left: Longer nails are able to fit thicker blocks of color. Right: More colors can be fit onto short nails if the stripes of color are thinner.
Although fitting 2-3 colored ombre designs onto shorter nails isn’t too difficult to figure out, squeezing an entire rainbow onto tiny nails can be tricky. If your nails are very short, or if the width of your nails is larger than their length, try sponging your gradient going vertically instead of horizontally across the nail. You may be able to fit on more colors this way. Since my nails are longer than they are wide, I just stuck with decreasing the thickness of each block of color.
Lastly, all of the designs (except for the penguins) I've shown are from my previous tutorials which I'll link here:

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day!


  1. Hi Emily,

    We would love for you to share your amazing nail art with our users on

    It is a great way for you to get more exposure and we are sure you will love it. You can link all your pictures back to your blog :) xx

  2. That would be fabulous! I'll be sure to check out your website and hopefully get around to posting soon.

  3. Lovely designs .I will be happy to try these all one by one.

  4. Wow, so pretty. I love that 3rd pattern you use. So beautiful nail designs. Thanks for sharing!