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Simple Nail Design Ideas

Updated on September 6, 2014

Nail Design Ideas

Plain, solid color nails can get boring after a while. Some fancy nail designs require major talent and patience to create. But having unique nails doesn't have to be difficult. Here are some nail design ideas that require nothing more than nail polish and a toothpick (with detailed instructions on how to create them). You don't have to be Picasso to have interesting and unique nails.


For this nail design choose two colors that complement each other. Paint the entire nail with one color and let it dry. I use the lighter color as the base coat, but you can choose which ever way you think looks best. After the nail polish dries dip a toothpick in the other nail polish and draw lines along the nails. I make random lines, but you can make a pattern (like all horizontal or all vertical lines). People sometimes ask me if they are actual Japanese characters on my nails. They aren't, but if you know Japanese you can paint Japanese characters on your nails and really make your nails speak. (Using a thick needle instead of a toothpick would make doing something that detailed easier). After the lines dry add a clear coat of nail polish.


Of course there are color nail polishes with glitter already in them. It has been my experience, however, (and this could be because I always buy the cheap stuff) that glitter nail polish chips and peels off easily so it doesn't last that long, even after putting a clear top coat over it. I think this is because the glitter in the nail polish prevents the polish from sitting completely flat on the nail. To get around this put a plain nail color on and let it dry, then paint it over with a clear glitter nail polish. Top it all off with a regular clear coat. This lasts much longer than ordinary glitter polish. This is also good for a work place if your work has policies about funky nail polish. You can have a dark, "respectable" color for your nails and still add a little something extra.

Different French Tips

Classic French tips are just white tips on the nails. To give this idea a different spin, choose two different nail colors. I use the lighter color for the bottom part of the nail. This is so I can paint the entire nail with the light polish and then paint the top part of the nail with the darker color. In this way you don't have to worry about keeping the nail polish at the bottom from reaching the top. If you decide to use the darker nail polish at the bottom, then use tape on the top part of the nail to prevent the nail polish from going where it doesn't belong. I have my nails curved in the picture because I like the way it looks with this nail polish style, but you can keep the tips of your nails flat like the classic French tips style. Top it all off with a clear coat after the nail polish dries.

Polka Dots

Polka dots are a simple and classic design that can easily turn something simple and plain into something colorful and exciting. Paint your nails with one color and let it dry. Dip a toothpick in a different color nail polish and draw small circles on your nails. Carefully fill the circles in with the tip of the toothpick. You can leave a few of the circles empty for variation. Of course, finish off with a clear coat of nail polish.

Starry Starry Night

This is a little difficult to see in the picture. It's basically the polka dots except with clear glitter polish on a dark blue background. It's subtle, but eye-catching when the light hits the glitter-dots.

For a less subtle star theme, use the Lines nail design for inspiration. For this use a dark blue color as the base coat. Once it dries draw asterisks in light blue polish on the nails. Of course, top it off with clear nail polish. This can also double as a snowflake design for a Winter theme.

Snake Skin

Aquasentials Mesh Pouf Bath Sponge (8 Pack)
Aquasentials Mesh Pouf Bath Sponge (8 Pack)

This mesh pouf balls would be good to put over the nail polish to get the snake skin texture.


This design is a little more difficult, but it's easier than it seems. I tried this idea with two different nail polishes but could only get it to work with one. It works beautifully with No Miss vegan nail polish. Of course, it will probably work with many different nail polishes, just try it with one finger before hand to make sure you don't waste a whole bunch of time.

For this design I did it one finger at a time. First take some sort of plasticy netted fabric (I used some fabric that I saved that flower stems were wrapped in but a bath sponge ball is made of similar fabric). You can just cut up a pouf sponge, the material that pouf sponges are made of would work just fine. Stretch it out if the holes are too close together. Cut out ten squares that will be large enough to cover your fingers. Paint a finger with two coats and let it dry for about thirty seconds, then carefully place a square of the fabric over the nail. Carefully press the fabric into the nail polish. You don't want to get fingerprints into the nail polish. I used a needle to help. After initially placing the fabric over the nail you may want to let it dry just a little longer before pushing the fabric down. After the fabric is staying on the nail polish by itself put another coat of nail polish over the fabric just to cover any errant smudges (don't worry about completely covering the fabric.) After you do this for all ten nails let it dry for a few hours. Make sure it is completely dry, then carefully pull the fabric off. (If the nail polish starts to come with it then it needs to dry a little longer). Top it off with a clear nail polish and you won't be able to feel the texture so it's just like regular nail polish with a subtle design. If you use a more conventional nail color then this is another design that you may be able to get away with in a work atmosphere that doesn't want you to have weird nails.

All pictures not associated with Amazon were taken by me.

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SHANY Cosmetics The Cosmopolitan Nail Polish Set (24 Colors Premium Quality and Quick Dry),  0.5 fl ounce each
SHANY Cosmetics The Cosmopolitan Nail Polish Set (24 Colors Premium Quality and Quick Dry), 0.5 fl ounce each

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Crackle Nails - The newest nail trend

The newest trend in unique nails is crackle nails. Crackle nails are really easy because there are special nail polishes that make a crackle effect. Here is an article that talks about crackle nail polish and how to use it.

Marble Nails - A more complex nail design idea

This nail design is not so simple. Using a cup of water and several different nail colors, you can make a marble design on your nails. If you have the time and patience, this is a unique and beautiful way to decorate your nails.

© 2012 Marigold Tortelli

Do you like to have unique nails?

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    • Lynda Makara profile image

      Lynda Makara 3 years ago from California

      I love the look of polish but I can't wear it. You came up with some great simple designs. My favorite one is the polka dots.

    • BunnyFabulous profile image

      BunnyFabulous 5 years ago from Central Florida

      Fun ideas, especially for my preschooler who loves getting mani/pedis from mommy and really likes polka dots. I'll have to try that one on her. Thanks for all your how-to's.

    • Spiderlily321 profile image

      Spiderlily321 5 years ago

      Nice lens. I usually just paint my fingernails with clear nail hardener. They grow really fast and look nice and healthy with clear nail polish. But a few days ago I decided to try doing water marble nails and only got a few nails that came out really cool. I think I just have to keep trying. Thanks for sharing this lens!

    • OrganicMom247 profile image

      OrganicMom247 5 years ago

      Thanks for the tips, they look cute.

    • lyttlehalfpint profile image

      lyttlehalfpint 5 years ago from Canada

      I love playing with my nails, but I find I only do three or four nails really well and the rest ... well rush job lol. Great ideas that I may be able to do on all 10 fingers and toes! Thanks for sharing.

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 5 years ago from Australia

      Mmmm. I fall into your plain, solid boring category. But I am only ever boring in Revlon Red.

    • Brandi Bush profile image

      Brandi 5 years ago from Maryland

      I love that you do your own nail designs. So cute! With 5 kids, I can't remember the last time I had paint on my nails! :)

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 5 years ago from Alabama USA

      Hi I like your nail designs.They are pretty.Thanks for sharing.

    • Showpup LM profile image

      Showpup LM 5 years ago

      I like the asterisk nails. Very cute.