These 9 Understated Designs Are All We Want on Our Nails Right Now

Over the past couple of years, nail art has really hit the big time. We saw bright colours, bold checkerboards and psychedelic swirls reign supreme in the nail world last year. In 2023, however, there's the start of a nail design revolution bubbling away. Yep, we're ready to bid adieu to bold, bright, in-your-face designs and welcome some understated subtlety in the form of small and delicate, but impactful, creations.

Long gone are the days of understated nails being boring. Nowadays, we're talking about intricate, fine art–like designs that require an expert hand. And with at-home LED lamps available and masses of gel polishes on offer, many of us are wanting something bigger and better from our in-salon nail appointments—something we can't do ourselves at home. It's for this reason that delicate, understated designs are having such a moment.

To load you up with inspo ahead of your next nail appointment, we have scrolled through Instagram for many hours to compile an extensive list of the prettiest and chicest delicate nail designs. So go on—keep scrolling.

1. Micro Hearts



If you thought heart nails were reserved exclusively for Valentine's Day nail art, think again. Start with a nude, sheer base (we love Dior's Abricot Base Coat), and ask your nail tech to create small red hearts at the base of the nail for a super-clean, chic look.


(Image credit: @VARNISHLANE)

A polished French mani with tiny hearts? Count us in. If you're not sure whether you want to fully commit, look for red-heart nail stickers and add them to your salon-fresh French manicure at home.



If red isn't your thing, this delicate design by Harriet Westmoreland serves up the sort of black heart we wouldn't mind having.



Crank things up a notch by incorporating a heart design with a modern take on the French manicure. Red and pink never looked so good. 

Get the Look:

2. Dots



Level up your nude manicure with some simple, colourful (or monochrome if you lean towards neutral designs) dots. The best bit is that designs just like this one can be achieved at home very easily with a dotting tool.


(Image credit: @BUFFCS)

This understated nail design is ideal for lazy people or for those who struggle to find the time to get down to the salon. A sheer base coat with a simple gold dot in the centre looks elegant and disguises any major signs of grow-out.


(Image credit: @BUFFCS)

Team a colourful French manicure with a contrasting dot at the cuticle for a fun but simple look.



Definitely one for your nail tech, these fine waves are created with tiny metallic dots, and we couldn't be more obsessed.

Get the Look:

3. Fine Lines


(Image credit: @BUFFCS)

It turns out line drawings look just as beautiful on nails as they do hung on the wall. This understated by artfully executed design suits virtually all nail shapes and lengths.



We're always looking for ways to up our French-manicure game, and we think a super-fine line at the base of the nail is the perfect way to do so.



This nail design is giving me such summer holiday vibes.


(Image credit: @PARAGONNAILS)

This fine-line, gold-halo design is sitting front and centre of our nail art inspiration board this season.

Get the Look:

4. Negative Space


(Image credit: @THEMANICLUB)

Negative-space nails have been on the rise for a few seasons now, and this year, they're taking off big time. A simple angular design like this one is easy to execute and looks great on everyone.



Green nails are having a moment, and with this negative-space mani in mind, we can totally see ourselves buying into the trend.


(Image credit: @PARAGONNAILS)

A different take on the classic French manicure, this design is a twofer, serving negative-space and fine-line dreaminess all at once.


(Image credit: @ALWAYSJUDGING)

A summer take on the negative space trend, this design mixes and matches bright, fun hues with darker tones.

Get the Look:

5. Evil Eye



What says "fresh summer mani" better than tiny evil-eye accents on perfectly preened and polished nails?


(Image credit: @PARAGONNAILS)

I'm loving the base and gold flecks in this design.


(Image credit: @THEHANGEDIT)

If you're not ready to commit to the entire look, nod to the trend with the design on just one nail.


(Image credit: @BETINA_GOLDSTEIN)

For a bolder take on the trend, swap out a white polish for a shimmering silver and apply your evil eyes randomly on each nail.

Get the Look:

6. The Skinny French



That's right. The skinny French isn't going anywhere—not if we have anything to say about it at least. Pastel rainbow tips like these ones make for the ultimate spring manicure.


(Image credit: @THEMANICLUB)

What's a summer mani without incorporating a pretty pastel hue? A periwinkle-hued skinny French manicure is at the top of our list when it comes to delicate mani designs to try.



Super-thin silver-glitter tips? Consider us sold. Not only does it look seriously fresh, but silvery glitter also works all year round.



These baby blue are so subtle, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was just a standard mani.

Get the Look:

7. Yin & Yang


(Image credit: @PARAGONNAILS)

White is one of the most versatile and chic nail colours around, so why not amplify its beauty with a statement yin-and-yang design on one nail?


(Image credit: @THEHANGEDIT)

This colourful take on the trend gets a yes from me!



Downsize the traditional yin-and-yang nail design big time with a fresh, teeny-tiny accent just like this one.


(Image credit: @PARAGONNAILS)

If monochrome designs aren't your thing, a yin-and-yang design can also be created with negative space. It looks particularly great when paired with a popping bright hue on the other nails.

Get the Look:

8. Stars


(Image credit: @BETINA_GOLDSTEIN)

A starred manicure can certainly be hit or miss, but these black accents of varying sizes on bare nails hit the mark.

A photo posted by on

This galaxy-inspired look is just magical! A great choice if you're not a fan of pinks and pastels in summer.


(Image credit: @BETINA_GOLDSTEIN)

So pretty if you've got some summer events like a wedding or hen do coming up.


(Image credit: @OLIVEANDJUNE)

If you'd rather keep your star details micro, apply stickers or small pieces of star confetti to your existing manicure and seal with a clear topcoat.

Get the Look:

9. The Reverse French 


(Image credit: @iramshelton)

A reverse French manicure is the ideal way to switch up your standard polish on the tips of the nails. Play with the placement and colours to add a playful twist to your fingertips.


(Image credit: @nailartbyqueenie)

We love this optimistic citrus reverse French mani—so perfect for the warmer months.


(Image credit: @ROCHELLEHUMES)

So subtle and so chic.


(Image credit: @iramshelton)

If in doubt, double it. How pretty is this spring-green mani?

Get the Look:

Next Up: Top Nail Techs Told Me These 10 Nail Trends Will Dominate This Summer

Freelance Beauty Editor

Shannon Lawlor is a renowned beauty journalist and has contributed to Who What Wear’s beauty content since 2020. As a leading beauty editor, expert and brand consultant, she has over eight years of experience working for some of the industry’s most esteemed titles, including Who What Wear (of course), Glamour UK, Stylist, Refinery29 and Fabulous. Having also worked behind the scenes with some of the industry’s biggest brands and retailers, Shannon has a unique insight into what people really want from their beauty routines. Understanding that beauty lovers seek honest, open and responsible advice, she has it made her mission to demystify the intimidating world of beauty, taking a no-frills approach to the most relatable topics. While Shannon is the first to admit she doesn’t hold the answer to every beauty question out there, she is dedicated to sharing her expert insights in a bid to help. As a self-proclaimed lazy girl, Shannon has an affinity for easy-to-use, foolproof beauty products and has made it her mission to scope out the best of the best. When she’s not working, Shannon is likely soaking in the bath or giving no-holds-barred beauty reviews on Instagram from her bathroom floor.