Don’t underestimate the power of the nail’s shape. The right shape can elongate short fingers or maximize nail beds already blessed with length. Of course, a swipe of polish and a trendy design completes the nail look—but the foundational element of a great acrylic manicure is in the shape and how it complements both your client’s natural fingers and tips, as well as the color, design, and style they are aiming for.
Whether you love it when your clients come in with an inspo photo of how they want their nails to look or they just want you to freestyle—one thing every nail client knows is the shape they imagine their nails to look when they’re finished. The problem is that they may not know what the name of it is. Let’s get clear on what exactly each nail shape is called, what they should look like, and which are the most popular.
From Kylie Jenner to Cardi B, we’re breaking down all the hottest acrylic nail shapes.
Nail Shape Trends Are Ever-Evolving
Nail shape trends change with each generation. They change as much as jeans do, from low-rise bell-bottoms to skinny jeans to high-waisted mom jeans. During the 70s disco era, glitter was all the rage until the 80s caught on with square-shaped acrylics with vibrant colors. The 90s were all about dark tones like blacks and burgundy until the French manicure made its comeback in the 2000s—and is still going strong as a pretty timeless style.
Today, we’re seeing a trend towards minimalism, from “capsule closet” wardrobes to home decor, and this is no doubt being reflected in your nail client’s requests. On the flip side, maximalism is a thing, too, with TikTokers rocking chunky, colorful rings with mismatched vibrant nail polish colors different on every nail.
Whether your client is looking for simple neutrals, negative space nail art, or smiley-face designs on each nail—we’re here to help you know just what they’re talking about when they say “what Billie Eilish has!” (hint: it’s probably long stilettos with black and lime green flames).
Almond nails look precisely like an almond. This style really looks best on long nails and is very feminine and dainty. This princess-like style gradually thins as it extends from the nail but doesn’t come to a point like the stiletto. Instead, it is subtly rounded off at the tip.
Styling: Pretty versatile, looks great with nail art, ombre, or a funky, abstract polish design.
Best For: Long nails, narrow nail beds, elongating short or wide fingers.
Coffin and ballerina nail shapes are interchangeable—they mean the same thing. This style looks best on long nails, often sported by Kylie Jenner, the acrylic queen herself. When filing this shape, you’d take the same approach as you would with the Almond shape, but file the tip flat to a straight edge instead of rounded. Think: a ballerina slipper en pointe.
Styling: Neutral or moody polish color tones, with a matte finish or high shine.
Best For: Long nails, narrow nail beds, and elongating short or wide fingers.
This classic shape works on long and short nails alike. This shape is ideal for low-maintenance clients that don’t always make their two-week fill appointment. It is durable, reliable, and totally timeless. If your client prefers a long nail—the square should taper just slightly, but if they prefer them short, do a sharp square, no tapering necessary.
Styling: Bright, bold, high-shine nail polishes or a French.
Best For: Thin hands and long fingers, or thin long nail beds.
Best for shorter acrylic extensions, the oval nail is a simple, natural look ideal for those who often work with their hands or just prefer shorter nails. They curve only slightly, extending from the fingertip while maintaining a short length and mimicking the natural angle of the fingertip.
Styling: Unexpected shades, metallics, and bold reds.
Best For: A natural look that elongates short or wide fingers.
Yup—you guessed it. This nail shape is a merge between square and oval-shaped nails. It is a more natural alternative to the square nail and perfect for the client who likes a flat edge but hates sharp corners. The nail should be filed straight across with the corners rounded ever so slightly, unlike the square shape, which has a hard, sharp 90-degree angle.
Styling: Darker color tone polishes.
Best For: A natural look good for short, wide fingers or long and thin ones.
Stiletto shapes are for the client who makes #moneymoves. This badass, long nail shape resembles the heel of a stiletto, coming to a sharp point at the tip. Resembling a claw, this is a fierce, daring look that evokes true vixen vibes. It’s a fave of Cardi B, which pretty much speaks for itself.
Styling: Darker color tones, nail art, color mixing, crystals, gems, glitter, patterns, and more.
Best For: People who want their nails to be a real accessory and make a statement.
#7. Mountain Peak
The mountain peak shape is an edgy, more functional option for the client who likes the look of the stiletto but can’t commit to the length. It is a shorter, more wearable version. The point at the end of the nail should be pointed but not as sharp as the stiletto would be. Since it is shorter, it isn’t as tapered and may curve a bit as it forms the point at the end.
Styling: Darker color tones, nail art, geometric nail art, and angled designs.
Best For: People who want fierce but functional nails.
Advise Your Client on the Best Shape for Them
You can usually tell when you have a newbie in your salon. Acrylic nail virgins are less knowledgeable of what will work best for them. Ask them the following questions and figure out which shape will work best for them together.
Fool-Proof Client Satisfaction
Your client may have an image in their head of how they expect their nails to look, but don’t exactly know the correct verbiage to explain it to you. If they didn’t come in with a Pinterest or IG inspo pic, communicating their imagination can get a little muddy. Our advice? Have a visual guide in your salon that shows each shape and what it's called, so there’s no confusion!
Part of being a nail professional is to not only be trusted to execute a gorgeous acrylic manicure but to be able to assess your client’s nail goals and help them get the nails of their dreams.
By being well versed in all the trending acrylic nail shapes, who they work best on, and why looks complement the shapes the most, you can confidently walk each other your nail clients through the process confidently and with the most satisfying results.