Before you even think about color, patterns, and finish, you need to think about your desired nail shape. There’s no point heading to the salon until you’ve checked out our nail shape chart and decided on your favorite! You’ve got several important things to consider that will be the difference between beautiful nails and ugly claws, strong tips, and broken points.
So, which of our popular nail shapes and styles is right for you?
Below we’ve got a definitive nail shape chart and some lit examples of beautifully executed nail shapes from salons around the world.
Why Does Nail Shape Matter?
Looks are important, but they aren’t everything.
Whether you plan to grow your nails out naturally or use acrylic nails, a lot of time and effort goes into maintaining them. There’s no point spending months growing your nails to discover that a short style is in-fashion at the moment.
Likewise, a full set of acrylic nails can last 2 to 3 months, so you’d better check that the style you want will be fashionable for a long while!
According to Cosmopolitan, extended square nails (or “square stiletto”) are very on-trend as we enter fall 2021. They’re a mix of two different nail styles on our chart and a great example of what a very talented nail artist can achieve!
Different nails have different strengths. This has two meanings. The first is physical strength – typically the longer and spindlier the nails are, the weaker they are. So, if you want a very strong nail shape that is less likely to break, opt for shapes such as oval, natural and almond.
These shapes are close to the natural shape of your nails. Sharp edges like the square shape tend to break more easily. If you’re determined to get angular nails but retain strength, check out squoval.
You can also measure the strength of nails by how much they suit your hands. For example:
- Short fingers – short round nails elongate your fingers, while very long stilettos will look out of balance.
- Wide fingers – almond shape has a delicate point that adds elegance while elongating and thinning your fingers.
- Long fingers – oval helps to balance the length of your fingers, but if you want to embrace your long fingers instead then go for ballerina or lipstick.
Your job matters too as well as your hobbies! If you use your hands a lot, whether you love to bake and cook or type all day on a computer, then your nail shape needs to be more practical. Oval, almond, square, etc.
If you’re an influencer or need to really make a statement, then go for some of the longer and more impractical nail shapes. You won’t be working on anything intricate, but you’ll look stunning.
2021 Nail Shape Chart
Our nail shape chart shows you the basic shapes of 16 popular styles. These are the basics, in a way. You can alter the length, width and other aspects of these styles. For example, changing the angle of a point can create a style that’s somewhere between edge and pointed.
Bookmark this chart and show it to the person shaping and styling your nails to discuss which shape will work best for you!
To help give you a little inspiration and demonstrate what these nail shapes look like on real hands, here are 16 different shapes shown by Instagram influencers.
A beautiful example of natural nail shapes! Rounded but not pointy and following the natural shape and style of this person’s fingers. Compared to true natural nails, they’re actually fairly long and just go over the tips of the fingers. They’ll definitely make that satisfying noise when they’re tapped against a table.
The style is great too – a reverse French tip, which could be a popular nail shape and style trend as we enter 2022. The French tip suits both rounded and square nail types, but usually works best on shorter shapes rather than extended ones (although we have seen some stunning exceptions).
Oval nails are often mixed up with rounded nails (see below) but they key difference is that oval nails protrude more from the fingers and are only curved at the end. It’s hard to explain in words, but if you scroll back up to our nail shape chart you can see the oval and rounded styles side by side for a comparison.
This example shows the rounded edges perfectly. The nails are a little on the short side for a typical oval style, but you can easily imagine them longer. The blue, white, and black color scheme with touches of texture gold is gorgeous.
Rounded nail shapes are more angular than oval ones and seem to extend from the shape of the fingers. It’s a very elegant style of nail and could even be created with your natural nails if you can grow them out.
This photo also gives an example of how the pattern can seemingly alter the shape of the nails. The French tips appear slightly longer than the daisy print nails, even though they’re actually the same length. Bear this in mind when choosing a pattern and style together.
If you want a natural style but with a little more point, check out almond below.
Wide nails, also known as wide tips or flairs, sprawl out at the ends to be wider than your nails at the base. It’s a statement look and not for the shy. They’re also pretty impractical and make typing a nightmare. If you use your hands for your work, then avoid this style!
If you want to make a fashion statement as an influencer, however, it’s a great way to explore something new. The wide nail shape gives you a bigger canvas, so if you are all about that nail art, this is a good shape for you as well. Acrylics are best for this shape, as the strength will lower the chances of them chipping or snapping.
Squoval nails start off as square but then the sharp corners are slightly filed down to create rounded edges. This enables you to have a punchy, square style but without the edges that catch on everything. Having this style is both fashionable and practical – it’s one of the stronger nail shapes, especially if you keep your nails medium to short in length.
The pattern you choose also impacts how sharp or fluid the shape of the nails appears. In this photo, you can see the soft white curves and cute black polka dots create a softer effect overall.
Our nail shape chart gives an exaggerated picture of what cut out nail shapes look like, to emphasize how they curve inwards. But with most real cut out nail shapes, it’s quite a subtle curve. It gives your nails an elegant length without making them as long as stiletto and ballerina nails.
Bear in mind that the longer you get your cut out nail shapes, the weaker they will be. The pointy angles on either side are more likely to chip and catch on clothes and furniture.
You can emphasize the cut out style by using a French tip color pattern to highlight the shape.
Trapeze nails are often mixed up with squoval and wide/flair nails. They curve out a little at the end, as they flair away from your fingers, but they are also more rounded and curved on the corners. If you want to try a square nail that’s a little bit different – but not so different that you stand out at the office – then trapeze could be a good choice for you.
As always, the points on square-style nails are the weak points, so by rounding them slightly you will get a stronger nail shape. This pink and white leopard print nail design demonstrates this beautifully.
Almond nails saw a huge surge in popularity over 2021. They are fairly self-explanatory – nails that are the same rough shape as almonds! These nails come to a natural rounded tip that’s moderately easy to achieve by growing out natural nails – although gels and acrylics are used more often with this style.
Halfway between natural and more pointed nail shapes (see mountain peak below), the almond nail shape is both practical and sleek. Almost all nail designs and colors look great in this shape. We recommend it to beginners as well, who aren’t used to working around long nails.
Edge nails come to a very sharp point at the center, with two long sides. Our nail shape chart shows you what a short edge nail shape looks like, but here in this Instagram photo you can see how elegant this shape can look when the nails are elongated.
Along with the next nail shape, lipstick, edge nails are very popular with influencers. They are often incredibly long nails with bright, eye-catching, and unique patterns and styles. The sharp point is prone to chipping and snagging, so use acrylic nails for a little extra strength. These nails are sure to help you stand out from the crowd.
Lipstick nail shapes are fierce and growing in popularity. We think that they will be a huge trend going into 2022. Right now, many influencers are rocking this nail shape across Instagram in numerous styles. This is one of our favorites – sleek gunmetal silver. It’s a little punk rock, especially with those cool finger tatts.
But imagine it as rose pink metallic instead. See how the vibe can change? Lipstick nail shapes are also great for nail artists, as they provide a great angular shape to play with. The angular point on each nail may take a little while to get accustomed to, however!
When you see the ballerina nail shape from this angle, you can see why they got the name! Like ballerina shoes (pointe shoes) they taper down at the bottom but have a flat edge, to allow the ballerina to stand directly on their toes.
It’s an incredibly elegant and sophisticated nail shape that looks more beautiful the longer the nails are. French manicure patterns look particularly great in this style, to play up the sophistication. We are also fond of glitter and crystal colors and patterns on this particular nail shape.
Gels are best for creating ballerina nail shapes, as they allow the nail to be thinner and more delicate than acrylics.
The key to square nails is that they need to be dead straight. Any kind of tapering on the sides and you’ve drifted into ballerina territory. Use acrylics to get a really strong nail, or if you plan to grow out your own and shape them, try using nail strengthening serums.
Although angular, square nails can be just as flexible as natural round ones. You can choose any kind of style or pattern you like, and it will work beautifully. Square nails always enjoy a level of popularity and are a good choice for all hand and finger sizes and shapes.
Edge nails start off square then dramatically turn to a point with very straight lines. Pointed nails, on the other hand, or more fluid like almond shape nails but come to an incredibly sharp point. If you want nails that look like claws, the pointed nail shape is perfect.
This photo shows pointed nails in a subtle glossy ombre blush pink shade that we are crazy for at the moment. Pointed nails tend to look best in bright artificial colors. The classic French manicure looks a little strange in this shape – but perhaps that’s what you are going for.
Just like a stiletto heel, stiletto nails are long and come to a very sharp point. If the ends are blunt or flat, then that’s actually more of a ballerina style nail shape. Stiletto nails are one of the most popular nail shape trends at the moment and we can’t get enough of them.
This photo shows some glittery mismatched nails, that we love. Stiletto nails look great when they’re embellished with a little glamour like this, but they can also be quite nice in a plain color – matte or glossy.
Whichever you choose, just make sure you use high-quality acrylics for extra strength. Like the heels, poorly made stiletto nails will break under too much pressure.
Mountain peak shaped nails have a gentle sloping curve and come to a rounded tip, rather than a sharp point. This gives them a slightly more natural vibe but with the length you need to create very elegant and feminine fingers.
On the nail shape chart, mountain peak is not very well-known, but we predict that it will see a rise in popularity over the next 12 months. It suits most hands and could be achieved with natural nails, depending on the length you go for.
This example shows you mountain peak nails in a translucent pink with glittery contrasts. We love this semi-natural color with just a little bit of glamour to lift the look.
Lipstick nail trends have been so popular that another sub-trend has developed under it – rounded lipstick nails. With the distinctive slanted edge, rounded lipstick nails soften the point a little. This makes them less likely to catch on clothes and a little easier to work with.
We adore the candy pink shade of these rounded lipstick nails. They work so well with this style. A little fierce and totally unique. Don’t be afraid to go a little wild when you select a statement nail shape like this. Bring on the diamantes!
In 2022, we expect to see more of the rounded lipstick shape from Instagram influencers.
3 More Awesome Nail Shape Ideas
Not sure what nail shape to go for? Here are three more ideas that aren’t on our classic nail shape chart.
Coffin nails are pretty much the same as short ballerina nail shapes. This is a really big trend in 2021 and it works with nearly every style. Just search for #coffinnails on Instagram and you’ll see just how many people are working in this new shape.
It’s simple, but that’s part of the charm. We love that this nail shape is accessible to everyone. It’s easy for natural nails but also really simple for your nail salon to create.
Square or Pointed?
This is a really cool idea and it shows how simply painting your nails can seemingly change the style, shape and vibe… without actually cutting them.
The nails are square, but the geometric pattern adds a mountain peak shape inside them. This elongates the fingers and adds a more elegant effect, even though the nails are still square. If you don’t want to cut your nails but do want to change things up, then this is a cool thing to try. As the design is so simple, you can do it yourself at home. For a more professional finish, don’t hesitate to ask the nail salon to do it for you.
Although all the nails are the same shape, they couldn’t be more different. We love the vibrancy shown here! The fall leaves nail is our favorite. By choosing a set palate and style that’s carried from one nail to the next, the whole design just works together so well.
A true nail artist created this. Kudos to them!
If you are choosing acrylic nails, bear in mind that they will last for over a month. You don’t want to get Halloween themed nails on October 30th and still be stuck with them when it comes to Christmas time.
Nail Shape: FAQs
What Nail Shape is in Style For 2021?
The stiletto and ballerina shapes have been popular throughout 2021, particularly on Instagram. We’ve also seen some influencers break boundaries and create eye-catching shapes like the lipstick shape.
What Nail Shape Will be Popular in 2022?
We are fairly certain that stiletto nails will remain popular throughout 2022, but most other trends will be about style rather than shape. Simple accents and designs, or colorful French tips, are looking very popular for spring 2022 already.
What is the Strongest Nail Shape?
The oval, natural and almond shapes are considered the strongest, as they follow the natural shape of your nails. Hard square edges are more likely to catch and snag on things, while rounded nails glide off.
Which Nail Shape is the Weakest?
Any long and square shape is weak. Ballerina and stiletto are both weak and near impossible to achieve naturally. You’ll need acrylic or gel nails to achieve these shapes from our nail shape chart! Acrylics will be strongest, but gels will be thinner and more elegant.
What is the Perfect Length for Nails?
The most average nail length and shape that works for most people is a short squoval. The perfect length depends on the shape of your fingers as well as how often you use your hands. Try press-on nails to see which shape and length suits you before getting acrylics of gels.
Should You Clip or File Nails?
Most experts recommend that you file nails rather than clip them. Use a fine grit board or glass file but avoid metal ones. File in one direction and follow the natural shape of your nails (or whichever shape you have chosen).
What Nail Shape is Best For Thick Fingers?
Mid-length nails are best, as very short ones can make your fingers appear wider and very long ones can throw your hands out of balance. Choose elegant shapes that taper gently at the ends. Almond, ballerina, and mountain peak are our favorite choices.