The Look: It looks exactly like it sounds, with straight and sharp edges, squared off at the tip.
The Length: This suits a shorter nail to minimize tapering.
The Shade: Stone dispels the myth that dark colors aren’t meant for short nails. “I, coming into the business, heard, ‘No dark colors for short nails because it makes them look shorter,’” says Stone. “But I have clients who will only do dark colors with short nails.” She says that, above all, season can dictate shade more than length.
The Look: A round shape nail, with corners that curve inward. “This is such a classic shape and looks great on all nail lengths,” says Boyce.
Hanna echoes this and notes one thing to keep in mind if you decide to move forward with this shape: “It’s extra important to keep your nails strong if they are oval because they are more likely to break at the tips,” she says. She explains that this is because the nail plate is usually filed into a more slender shape with less support on the sides.
The Length: Though oval looks great on all lengths, it’s favored amongst those with medium-length nails and narrow nail beds. Stone mentions that clients with shorter nails might go oval if they’re growing their mani out.
The Shade: Hanna says that nail art looks especially beautiful on oval nails, and suggests a minimalist look like negative space or a french manicure. Thinking of doing all-over color? Her go-to is Orly Nail Lacquer in Noveau Riche.
The Look: Straight sides that round up with a flat-edged tip.
The Length: Short. Stone points out this style, like oval or almond, is easier to get used to than a more extreme stiletto shape. Rounder nail beds look better with a round or soft square shape.
The Shade: A simple shape such as oval or round leaves room for more stylistic nail art or bright color—like the tortoise shell inspired nails below.
The Look: An angular take on the square shape, with a straight-edged tip tapered in.
The Length: Stone says this shape looks best with longer nails. Boyce echoes this, saying it’s “a fun shape if you’re sporting gel extensions.”
The Shade: Stone says a long, black nail can look harsh. Either offset the hard lines of a coffin nail by choosing a lighter color (to add balance) or break up darker shades along the nail surface with negative space (the way Boyce does, below).
The Look: Similar to the coffin-style nail, with rounded corners.
The Length: Stone says most clients “want a coffin, but they want the corners not to be sharp, so we’re softening it just the tiniest little bit.” If coffin shape works best on longer nails, it’s safe to say ballerina does too.
Manicurist Elle adds that the ballerina shape can be mixed-and-matched with other shapes for long nails (like coffin or stiletto) seamlessly. She says doing so can “tell a story.”
The Shade: Longer nails have less limitations when it comes to color, but a pretty pink would pay homage to the ballet shoe that gave this shape its name.
The Look: A square shape nail with softer, rounder edges.
The Length: Boyce explains that this shape is best for short nails, as “the sides are rounded so they don’t snag.”
The Shade: Stone explains that as long as a nail technician is keeping a color symmetrical and “very clean” around the edges, a darker, bolder color can work on a short and wide nail.
The Look: “Just as there are different types of almonds, [typical] almonds are pointy at the tip, while a Moroccan almond is wider with less of a point at the tip,” says Stone.
The Length: According to Stone, “most people are striving towards having a medium length, natural nail,” which complements an almond shape.
The Shade: Those with medium length nails “have no boundaries” color-wise, says Stone. Go wild with your shade pick. Manicurist Elle agrees, saying “These shapes and lengths give you a great palette to create any trend you want to do,” whether it’s popular hues or art.
The Look: Shaped long and spiky, with the point curving to the base like a triangle.
The Length: Long nails are a must to capture this dramatic style.
The Shade: Color is less of a priority than safety when it comes to this daring choice. Stone cautions that first-time stiletto stans don’t get the edges too sharp, at risk of getting caught on something or scratching yourself. “Your professional should be giving you examples of things that might be more difficult (with stiletto nails),” says Stone. “I tell my clients, mostly just be mindful how you’re using your hands.”
The Look: Exactly the shape you would imagine if you combined a square and oval—as comical as the word may sound, this nail shape is a sophisticated classic.
The Length: With squoval nails, strive for a length that strikes between short and medium. Think slightly grown out, healthy nails.
The Shade: Because of the uncomplicated shape and length, squoval nails make the perfect canvas for almost design, whether it’s a classic deep red color or a whimsical design.
The Look: Asymmetrical at the tip, creating a slant that evokes the shape of a fresh tube of lipstick.
The Length: Lipstick nails can add a fun, unexpected twist to your manicure on longer nails.
The Shade: Consider a bold color to highlight the whimsical silhouette. If you’re looking to top off your lipstick nails with a design, something more muted would compliment the nail shape given that the nail silhouette is quite loud in design already.
The Look: Like how a flared skirt creates an A-line shape, this silhouette emulates an A-line flare at the tips to add some spunk to your usual mani.
The Length: Err on the shorter side with these nails as the wider tips are a bit more delicate and prone to snags.
The Shade: Highlight this unique nail shape by pairing it with French tips. The nail shape is fun enough on its own that you won’t necessarily need to supplement it with a bold color or detailed design.
The Look: Simple, rounded nails—the French it-girl of all nail shapes. This silhouette is clean and classic, it doesn’t get more elegant than this!
The Length: Go for slightly grown out, short nails. This will visually elongate and slim your fingers while keeping everything fuss-free.
The Shade: Opt for an elevated nude or neutral colored design like below. Maybe even just a clear top coat to add some shine to highlight your healthy, natural nails.
Banner image via: Jennifer Graylock + Getty Images