12 Dark Academia Nail Art Design Ideas For Embracing Your Wicked Side

Prepare for plaid prints and dark polish colors.

While summertime is often associated with the whimsical cottagecore aesthetic, dark academia vibes are essentially the cold-month counterpart, ushering in a moody, bookish, and almost back-to-university vibe.

Some examples? Plaid pleated miniskirts worn by students at ivy-covered schools; grand, marble-covered libraries that smell of worn wood and the pages of old books; or even dreary grey days that are met with reading poetry by cozy candlelight.

Born out of 2015-era Tumblr, dark academia has taken over today’s trends, spilling into the worlds of beauty, fashion, home decor, and beyond. But what might a dark academia-inspired nail art design look like for those who have already adopted the buzzy aesthetic?

Expectedly, the nail polish color palette is often dark and deep, with shades like glossy black, chocolate brown, emerald green, and muted grey taking center stage. What’s more, expect a lot of chic nail art designs — like tortoiseshell, croc print, and, of course, just a bit of plaid as a nod to those iconic schoolgirl skirts.

In need of a little inspo? Below, find 12 nail art ideas that serve up dark academia vibes.

Chocolate Brown Crocodile Nails

Akin to the manicure that was spotted on Hailey Bieber while she was traveling through Paris, this dark chocolate croc print nail art moment looks like the luxe leather bags worn by students of academia.

Moonlit Celestial Nail Art

A fan of some French nails? For a dark academia upgrade, swap out white polish for black and consider adorning your tips in tiny moons, stars, and more.

Dark Academia Aura Nails

An on-trend mani movement that has the likes of Megan Fox, Sydney Sweeney, and more obsessed, opt for some aura nails using moody hues — because if dark academia had an aura, it surely would be this.

Matte French Tips

Inspired by brown leather-bound books, these matte-meets-glossy Frenchies are subtle and chic, yet still bring some eye-catching intrigue.

Cool-Girl Colorful Skittle Nails

Whether you choose a nail polish color palette based on your university’s signature hues, or go for moody, cool-toned shades, a muted Skittle mani is both colorful and understated at the same time.

Grey-Toned Gradient

An effortless manicure move that you can easily recreate at home, this gradient French design taps muted eggplant and charcoal grey polish colors.

Gilded Marble Manicure

A major nod to the marble interiors of some of the world’s most decadently gorgeous libraries, this marbled, gilded, and two-toned “gemini” set of nails truly has it all.

Royal Purple French Tips

Ultra-long French tips? Check. Moody, purple-tinted aura art? Check. Golden details and tiny celestial charms? Also check.

3D “Cherry Mocha” Swirls

ICYWW, “cherry mocha” nail polish — a trendy way of describing burgundy lacquer with cherry-inspired undertones — is definitively in. These understated 3D details truly draw all eyes to your hands.

Schoolgirl Skirt Plaid Nails

A nod to the classic plaid skirts worn by young women in academia, these plaid nails are the perfect way to rep the dark academia aesthetic in an eye-catching way.

Coffee-Colored Marbled Swirls

Mimicking the look of warm candlelight turning to black smoke, these warm-toned watercolor nails perfectly encapsulate the dark academia aesthetic.

Floating Square Details

A more minimalist take on the buzzy aesthetic, “your nails but better” neutral tips are made all the more unique with floating square designs painted in deep polish colors.