16 Dreamy Design Ideas For Coffin Nails

From marbling to plaid.

by Hilary Shepherd
Originally Published: 

Fun nail art is especially doable when more real estate is involved. Enter: Coffin nails. The name might sound morbid but it’s fitting, considering the shape. Also known as “ballerina nails,” coffin nails are typically long in length, tapered toward the tip, and squared off at the ends — just like, you know, the shape of a coffin or a pointe shoe.

You can opt for acrylics or grow your actual nails out (just be sure to file the sides for a narrowing effect and clip the ends so you get a blunt tip), but rest assured there’ll be plenty of room to rock intricate patterns, color combos, and designs.

While coffin nails can be achieved via medium-length nails, it’s a bit easier to go longer in order to achieve the pronounced tapered effect and avoid looking square-like, says Rebecca Ludwig, professional nail artist and ManiMe nail artist community member. She adds that in order to keep the edges of your coffin nails crisp and clean, it’s a good idea to keep a nail file like ManiMe’s Glassy File on hand for easy touching up.

In terms of designs, you could get nail art ideas from stars like Hailey Bieber, Lizzo, Saweetie, and Kylie Jenner (the coffin nail MVP) — all of whom have been known to rock a seriously cool mani — or peruse some expert-approved styles the next time you’re craving a switch-up. Bellacures nail technician Savanna Galvan tells Bustle that marbling, swirls, minimalistic lines, and v-shaped French tips all work especially well with coffin nails “as they make a bold statement to compliment the long, tapered edges of the nail shape.”

Below, Ludwig, Galvan, and more nail pros share their favorite designs that look particularly cool on coffin nails.


French Tips

It’s no secret that the French mani is back — and the early ‘00s style looks amazing on coffin nails, especially when it comes with a twist. “There are many variations of a French manicure, so you don’t have to keep with the traditional pink and white,” says Ludwig. You can go for virtually any color or finish when it comes to coffin nails with a French tip, like Lizzo’s metallic gold details.



Nothing screams fall like plaid, so consider incorporating the pattern onto your nails, suggests Ludwig. The best part? Any combination of colors and finishes works — you could even mix it up and rock one combination of shades on one hand and a different one on the other.


Matte Black & Gold

“You absolutely cannot go wrong with a sleek matte black coffin nail,” says Ludwig. The style is especially good for the fall and winter months. To add a little pizazz, incorporate gold detailing for a subtle yet eye-catching gilded effect.


Tie Dye Coffin Nails

Whether you choose to go from dark to light (or vice versa) or prefer a soft blend of pastels à la Kylie Jenner, a gradient look involving several different shades of the same tone always looks great, says Ludwig. “I really love this look because it’s so versatile. You can use any color scheme and it always looks great.”


Subtle Outlines

Outlining your coffin nails in different shades is an easy way to upgrade your look. A colorful border paired with a neutral polish on the nail bed is both unexpected and fun — and gives emphasis to the shape.


Textured Details

“I’ve been seeing a lot of textured, three-dimensional [nail] looks that resemble the weave of a cable knit sweater,” says Emily Rudman, nail technician and founder of beauty brand Emilie Heathe. “This is a super fun idea as we approach the colder months.”


V-Tip Coffin Nails

A fun update to the classic French mani, Rudman calls out pointed, v-shaped tips as a particularly good design. “The angularity of both the design and the nail shape pair very well together,” she says.

Galvan agrees, noting that the design is perfect because of the structure of the shape. “It flows well with the points and narrowness [of coffin nails].”


Neutral Ombré

Rudman points to ombré neutrals as one of her favorite coffin nail designs. “A neutral that goes from a pink or [bare] base to a white tip is like an updated French manicure,” she says, adding that the design gets extra points because it grows out easily due to the base color matching the natural nail bed.


Tortoiseshell Nails

“Animal prints are always in,” says Rudman, “but tortoiseshell is one that you don’t see that often.” Still, she touts the print as being timeless and chic — especially when it comes to a mani. (In other words, the print isn’t just for sunglasses.)


Animal Print Tips

Rudman predicts that animal-print tips in warm tones will be popular this fall. “People are always looking for new and exciting ways to spice up a French tip,” the pro says, “and featuring a bold print is the perfect way to do just that.”


Minimalistic Lines

If you’re looking for something a little less daring, minimalistic lines or small dots along the nail bed could do the trick, suggests Galvan. “It’s great for a full nail or can be mixed in as a French tip. It’s a great way to showcase bright holiday colors without being too bold,” she says.



A celeb favorite, marble manicures are elegant, subtle, and downright beautiful, says Galvan. With coffin nails, the design looks even better. “Marble nails are [also] an elegant way of introducing yourself to nail art,” she adds. The best part? You can totally achieve the look at home.



For an edgier feel, opt for a flame design, says Galvan. While orange might seem like an appropriate shade for this fiery look, you can play around with different polish colors like metallic purple and green, sparkly white, or even neon.


Retro Swirls

“Swirls have been the most-requested design at the salon for months now,” notes Galvan. “People love the simplicity [and the] touch of vibrancy.” With coffin nails, there’s a lot of room to showcase some really eye-catching swirls.


Red Sparkles

With the holidays coming up, Galvan recommends darker hues like moody purple or deep red on coffin nails. For a little extra fun, interchange each nail with matte or ombré finishes — or better yet, glitter.


Accent Nail

“Since most coffin-shaped nails are quite long, there’s a lot of room for design, but that doesn’t mean you have to use it all,” says Rudman. An accent nail — aka one nail that incorporates a different design or color than the rest — is a great way to “spice up a simple look.”

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