Oftentimes when people embark on the mission of selecting a nail polish color, red is left out of the equation. Much like red lipstick, many people wonder if it’s too much for an everyday look. Well, folks, we’re here to let you know that, as with red lipstick, there is no such thing as too much. “There used to be rules about when you can wear red like ‘you can’t wear white after Labor Day but these rules don’t apply any longer,” says celebrity manicurist Deborah Lippmann. If you want to wear a ruby red polish or pout, we say go for it—regardless of your skin tone.
While flaunting a red pucker is pretty straightforward, there are so many different ways that you can embrace the nail color. To prove it, we rounded up 40 gorgeous red nail art ideas, ranging from abstract negative space silhouettes to the perfect Valentine’s Day manicures. Needless to say, you might as well go ahead and create a new Saved folder on Instagram—there’s no doubt that you’re going to want to keep these pretty red nail ideas on hand for your next manicure appointment.
Tiny Gold Bows
Looking for a way to dress up plain red nails? Put a bow on them! Instead of painstakingly trying to paint bows on your nails, consider stocking your DIY nailcare collection with a pack (or five) or Deco Miami’s Nail Stickers. Each pack has over a dozen different nail designs, with at least six and as many as 13 of each. As for bows, in particular, the Deco The Halls Sheet ($8) and Mon Cheri Sheet ($8) both include dainty little bows.
Subtle Pink Cuticles
For an extra subtle accent, top off your favorite red nail polish with a trace of hot pink along the cuticle line of each nail. While nearly imperceptible from far away, it will give your mani an up-close allure.
Romanticize your manicure with this red silhouette design that showcases lashes, lips, and lovely contours. Use a super fine detail brush like the Le Mini Macaron Liner Nail Art Brush ($12) to mimic these crisp lines. To copy this set, skip the glossy top coat.
Cherry Statement Nails
Rather than opting for an all-red manicure or a fully detailed nail look, embrace a happy medium with a few solid (or glitter) nails and two statement accents. While cherries can be easily created with a nail dotting tool and red and green nail polish, they do take a little time to perfect. If you don’t have the time, be sure to add a sheet of the Deco Miami Mon Cheri Nail Stickers ($8) to your kit—it includes six cherry decals among a bunch of other fun designs.
Another way to embrace red nails without covering your entire nail in ruby polish is to opt for a few lines of color. We love how this wavy red nail art idea employs two shades of red to contrast with white and peach. While professional manicurists will have no problem recreating them, if you don’t have the time or money to book a visit, know that you can snag these exact nails—they’re Chillhouse’s Discoteca Press-On Nails ($16).
If you prefer a purely red nail look, this squiggle negative space option might be right for you. To DIY, Syreeta Aaron, LeChat Nails Educator, recommends to use a thin brush, like the LeChat Dual Sided Brush Fine Liner & Detail Liner ($16). Use this brush to create the curved dividing line and carefully fill one side with polish. Don’t forget a clear coat for the other side!
Pink and Red Marble Nails
Craving a little contrast? Pair solid red nails with a couple pink marbled nails for the ultimate Valentine’s Day look. Of course, these nails aren’t just pretty for the day of love—pink and red create a popular bold color combo all year round.
Add a touch of contrast to your red nail look by overlaying your favorite ruby polish with offset peach squares. While it might sound unconventional, one look at this image proves why it’s such a good nail art idea. What’s more, given the sharp lines, it’s one of the easier red nails ideas to recreate. Simply apply your red base and let dry before taping off your squares and filling them in with peach polish. Let that dry before removing the tape and finish with top coat—so easy!
Instead of (or, better yet, in addition to) buying pricey bouquets for yourself, give yourself the gift of everlasting blooms with this rosy manicure. Get it done in gel and you’ll be able to stop and stare at the roses for up to two weeks. These stained glass roses are what a Beauty and the Beast fan’s dreams are made of.
Complete with wavy accents and yin-yang symbols, these are the hippie disco nails of our dreams. Plus, that color palette? We’re in love.
Instead of opting for a full negative space nail design with red polish accents, consider using a milky white base for a touch more contrast while remaining neutral. We dig the Olive & June Beb Nail Polish ($8).
Red Ombré Nails
Can’t choose which shade red to use? You don’t have to! Instead, paint a different shade on each nail to create an eye-catching gradient look—it’s one of the easiest (and prettiest) red nail art ideas. As far as colors, you can recreate this particular look with the Olive & June Rad About Rouge Set ($48).
For a red nail art look that will last, skip full color and opt for a negative space design. That way, when your nails grow out, it won’t be as noticeable by your polish. And remember: You don’t have to pigeonhole yourself to a plain French tip. Instead, consider mimicking this funky wavy nail art idea. Tracing your red tips in white will add extra contrast.
Strawberries might seem like a summer staple but they’re also a delicious food associated with many romantic occasions, so we say they’re in season for manis all year round. We’ll also say that these highly detailed tips are definitely one of the hardest red nail art ideas in this list, so your best bet for recreating them is to book an appointment with a manicurist versed in such realistic nail artistry.
Holographic Red Hearts
You also can create a red nail art look without painting your nails with any red polish. The trick? Dozens of perfectly placed holographic red hearts encased in high-shine clear topcoat. Seriously, how cute is this nail idea?
Rose Gold Half Moons
An easy way to make a red mani look even more festive or romantic? Add rose gold half-moons along the cuticles. While you can easily do this with a striping brush dipped in metallic polish from the onset of your nail art look, you can also use the design as a hack for covering up any growth between manicures.
Create a stunning red mani by combining red and hot coral polish in a variety of ways—like in the example above. While one nail has checkers, the others have vertical stripes in various combinations and, to be honest, we’re swooning.
Create eye-catching contrast with this white and red nail art idea. Taking hearts to the next level, the inverted polish situation makes it a particularly head-turning design. Given its detail, though, it’s one nail art look that’s likely best left to the pros.
Blue Outlined Hearts
Yet again, we’re schooled in the way red and blue look simply perfect together. Just imagine all the ways you could wear the color combo on your nails. Go for this heart shape over the traditional French tip for a fun twist on a classic. If you’re looking for another liner brush recommendation, celebrity manicurist Julie Kandalec loves the Princeton Liner brush ($5).
Chic in Chanel
Keep it classy with a simple red Chanel logo on your pointer finger. The simple nail art is minimal but feels high-end at the same time. The best part? It’s the most affordable Chanel accessory you could hope for.
Dreamy Heart Nails
Hoping for just a hint of red? These sheer, cloudlike nails are topped off with a single red decal for a dreamy manicure idea.
Treat yourself to a bouquet that will last a lot longer than real-life flowers. With this poppy-print red nail art idea, you’ll be able to look down and smell the flowers (or at least imagine it).
Glossy Red Tips
With shiny red tips and a simple black line across each nail, this manicure reminds us of half-turned red lipstick. It’s an abstract beauty statement we’d happily recreate. Use a shiny top coat and paint on long oval-shaped nails to replicate the look.
If you love the idea of long, clear nails dotted with playful art, you’ll swoon over these sweet strawberry nails. The white grid hints at a garden fence, perfect for growing these summer berries. Here, the artist uses The Gel Bottle’s Daisy, Candy, and Jungle shades ($19).
To create the crisp lines that define this look, pick up some nail striping tape—you just paint your entire nail and then peel the tape away.
Is there any message more worthy of displaying at all times on your nails? To make the red letters really stand out, use a light base color on each nail and allow it to dry completely before writing your message out. For the letters, you can use an ultra precise dotting tool, like the LeChat Dual Sided Tool Liner & Dotting ($14) that Aaron recommends.
Channel the ’80s with these swirly, psychedelic red accent nails. Seriously, one look at these artfully painted tips and we’re craving a set of our own. The juxtaposition of the sharp-edged coffin shape and rounded loops makes the look that much more interesting.
Sometimes a stunning red manicure isn’t as much about perfectly even coats of color from cuticle to tip. Instead, it comes down to innovative ways to wear the shade. As is the case here. If you’re looking for a classic red shade, Kandalec loves Morgan Taylor’s Hot Rod Red ($9), while Aaron’s favorite is LeChat’s Dare to Wear Little Red Dress ($6).
Pink and Red
A pink and red combo does not have to be reserved for Valentine’s Day. These cousin colors are beautiful together all year round, and they look especially fresh in this thin-red-tip design. The crisp cutoff line of the pink creates that whisper of geometric appreciation we love to see.
Over the Moon
Red, burgundy, and a sliver of matte negative space make for one nail look we can’t stop staring at. You too? Use a circle sticker as a stencil at the bottom corner of each nail and follow up with a red base to the tip and a burgundy arch overtop.
This nude, red, and black manicure is feminine and flirty. Needless to say, we’re fans. Use red and nude polishes for the bases, but opt for a nail art pen (like Aotekar’s Nail Pen, $15) to create the face and abstract lines for more control.
Mixed Red Mani
Can’t decide on a design? Embrace the fun philosophy from back in second grade, when it was practically a sin to have two nails painted the same. These have the creative and carefree spirit of our childhood memories but come out polished, chic, and intentional.
Pink and Red Waves
Pink is the perfect complement to red, especially if you’re planning a Valentine’s Day manicure.
Cow Print and Hearts
If the past few years have taught us anything about nail looks, it’s that the more designs, the merrier. That’s why we love the look of this pale pink and red cow print mani so much. Paired with hollow hearts, it’s an unexpected nail look that’s quirky and fun.
Empty Half Moons
If you liked the idea of a half-moon red nail art idea but prefer negative space over metallic polish, this simple look is for you. Although any detailed nail art often seems anything but simple, this mani truly is a breeze to DIY. Simply apply a circular sticker on the base (to create the arc) of each nail and paint your red polish over top. Wait for it to dry, remove the stickers, and finish with top coat. See? Easy.
Red Glitter Tips
For a more glitz and glam red nail art idea, use glitter polish to your advantage. For the best results, choose a chunky red glitter (like the KBShimmer Leaf Of Faith Red Jelly Nail Polish, $11) and apply a few coats before sealing it in with topcoat.
Accentuate the look of your red manicure by pairing it with beautiful almond-shaped nails. Even if you can’t grow super long nails, by opting for an exaggerated curve for your red French tip, you’ll be able to create an elongated look.
FYI: Red and periwinkle look fantastic together? Case in point? These asymmetric high-contrast tips. Thanks to their staggered edges, they’re a bit easier to recreate. Simply use polishes with thin brushes and paint blue on one side and top it off with red on the other. Extend the end of one color a touch longer than the other and finish with topcoat. Bam! Beautiful nails without a lot of extra legwork.
Dig the idea of wavy nails and gradient nails? Try combining the two for an undeniably pretty red nail art idea. Simply bring this photo to your next nail appointment and ogle over the masterpiece that your nails become.