20 Negative Space Nail Art Ideas


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@alicatnails / @nailsbymimi

As much as I enjoy getting manicures, I’m not the best at maintaining them. I’m too lazy to get them regularly, yet can’t stand walking around with them chipped—an inevitability just days after getting them painted. If I go the gel route, I’m too lazy to get them refilled and get some unsightly grow-out. So recently, I tried out the best solution: negative space manicures.

Negative space manis, in which your natural nail is incorporated into the nail art, are brilliant because they can still look good well beyond one week. In my experience, if the design is only on the upper half of your nail, and done in gel, you can keep the same manicure for up to a month. It’s smart for long vacations, busy schedules, and low-maintenance folks. Plus, there’s something really eye-catching about the minimalism that feels fresher than a solid color. Ahead, top nail artists provide inspiration for your next appointment.

Embellishments

Dress up naked nails with skinny stripes of polish. Metallic strips add more oomph.

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Pastels

These gold-lined pastel colors will last a really long time thanks to that sliver of nude nail at the bottom.

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Yellow Dot

The vibrant, diagonal pink paint looks amazing on its own, but just a touch of yellow really adds a unique accent.

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New French

This is not the French manicure everyone had in the early 2000s. With thinner lines and a thin half-moon stripe on the nail bed, this look is anything but basic.

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Splatter

Exposed nail balances out this vibrant, artsy nail design perfectly.

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Graphic

Get creative with stripes and checkers with just a strip of natural nail at the cuticle so you could wear these works of art for all the time they deserve.

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Racer Stripe

If you have time to only paint one nail, that’s cool. Just paint racer stripes on the rest of the nails to match.

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Gold Ombré

This eye-catching gold manicure brings a little glamour to everyday.

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Hearts

Tiny red hearts really pop against a nude base.

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Bright Colors

One of the best parts of a negative space manicure is how quick it is to create something stylish. Just a few swipes of color at the tips brighten up plain nails.

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Pink

A few diagonal stripes in the same color family are simple, but impactful.

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Almost Black

If you want a new take on all-black nails, try negative space in a half-moon shape (a little heart design doesn’t hurt, too).

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Maryjane

Clever nail artist Miss Pop dubbed this look a metallic “maryjane” design—like the shoe.

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Color Blocking

Can’t decide on which shade to wear? Why not use all of them? Exposed natural nail helps to balance the mix of colors.

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Highlighter Hues

If you’re really extra, go for long square nails and eye-catching colors on each nail. The nail gems add even more drama.

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Minimalist Floral

These handpainted white flowers, placed randomly on each nail, are the perfect touch of whimsy.

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Glitter

Pair the plainness of your natural nail with some sparkle. This silver glitter manicure is perfect for special occasions (or everyday, why not?)

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Accent Nail

The minimalist nature of negative space manicures means you can really go there with accent nails. See: This black french mani featuring a kitty illustration.

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Silver Foil

Patches of silver foil look striking against an impeccably cleaned-up, natural nail.

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Tie-Dye

Because your plain nail is neutral, you can get more wild with color combinations like this funky green-yellow-pink creation.

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