31 Elevated Nail Designs For Special Occasions

gold plated manicure

@glosshouse/Design by Cristina Cianci

So often, people assume that nail art must be inherently bold. On the contrary, we're here to shed a little light on elevated nail designs that are subtle enough for conservative work environments and sophisticated enough for black-tie affairs. The color palettes are largely more neutral and the designs more simple, but let us be clear: These nail art ideas are anything but boring.

Keep reading to discover dozens of subtle-yet-elevated nail art ideas. Be sure to screenshot the ones you want to recreate so that you have an inspiration image on hand for your manicurist (or yourself!).

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Pale Pink Marble

You can embrace one of the season's prettiest nail trends while still embracing an office-friendly nail look. Case in point: These pretty pale pink marble nails. Here's hoping they'll give you the power of rose quartz while you wear them.

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Peace Nude

An elevated nail look can be as simple as picking a gorgeous subtle hue. Take one look at these peachy nails, and you'll know what we mean.

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Stacked Jewels

Gemstones go a long way when it comes to creating elegant nail looks. This one would be perfect for a bride (or anyone who loves a little bling).

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Abstract Champagne

This manicure might be abstract, but thanks to the subtle glimmering nail shade, it offers a sophisticated artsy vibe. Best of all, since it's abstract, it's easy to recreate. Dip a toothpick or dotting tool into rose gold nail polish and twirl it along each nail. Finish with topcoat.

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Traced in White

Achieving an elevated nail look doesn’t require covering all of your nails in full coats of color. Here, you can see how stunning white outlines and well-placed gems and dots can look. 

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Short Acrylics

Milky pink ombre nails? Talk about the most gorgeous subtle acrylics!

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Glitter Ombre

Pale purple glitter ombre? Yes, please!

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Rounded French Tips

Point blank: You can never go wrong with a classic French manicure. 

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Gold Glitter Chevron

Gold glitter chevron over dark berry creates an eye-catching contrast that’s sophisticated and fun.

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Moody French Mani

If you love a French mani's look but want to get creative with the colors, opting for a fall-and-winter-friendly palette maintains an elevated vibe.

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Black French Tips

Another option is to transform the classic French manicure into a black-tipped beauty. It’s a particularly fabulous option for black-tie affairs. 

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Sparkly Mauve

Glittery pink nails can look sophisticated, too. Just opt for a mauve hue and trace the bottom with a solid metallic silver to balance the whimsical hue. 

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Subtle Acrylics

Acrylic nails don’t have to be incredibly long. These square-tipped nails prove it. They also show just how alluring an asymmetric take on French tips can look.

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Milky Brown Diagonal Tips

Minimalist brown-dipped tips? Absolutely. (P.S. Nail striping tape will make recreating this nail look a cinch.)

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Khaki and Gold

Khaki and gold can make for quite the pairing. Plus, negative space gives the manicure a clean grow-out.

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Nude Hearts

Even seasonal nails can look sophisticated with the right design elements. Just look at these heart nails. With nude backgrounds and ultra-fine white lining, they look positively demure.

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Geometric Negative Space

Looking for a sophisticated manicure worthy of a black-tie affair? Look no further than these geometric stunners.

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Gold Foil Speckles

Diagonal mauve tips with gold flakes throughout? It’s one abstract design that looks subtle and undoubtedly elevated.

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Velvet Nails

Velvet nails are a great option for elevated nails, as the polish alone creates an sophisticated end look. 

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Mauve Diagonals

Of course, if you prefer to keep it as simple as possible, opting to keep gold flakes out of the picture makes for a pretty manicure, too. 

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Cloud-Like Tips

Whether you see hearts or clouds, these playful gold and white nails offer a fun-yet-sophisticated vibe. 

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Berry Fade

Want to get in on the rainbow nail trend without actually wearing a bold rainbow? This pink-to-berry ombre grasps the trend while looking office-friendly.

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Minimalist Art Deco

Prefer to make more of a statement with your nails? These subtle art deco nails will make you swoon.

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Neutral Acrylics

Acrylic nails are often automatically viewed as bold. However, if you opt for a neutral polish color, you can embrace the idea of subtle acrylics.

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Tortoiseshell Tips

Tortoiseshell tips are the perfect option for the person who wants to get in on the latest nail trends without rocking a fully bold manicure.

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Chocolate Drip

This water-marbled brown ombre manicure is giving us major milk chocolate-caramel vibes. It’s a sweet look.

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Lilac Stunners

Carefully place gold foil can go a long way. One look at these proves that they're magically elegant.

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Glitter Halfsies

Opting for only half a nail’s worth of glitter makes for a fun-yet-elegant nail look. And good news: It’s easy to recreate. Start with a base coat, then apply a strip of nail tape down the middle of each nail, and paint glitter polish on the side of the tape. Remove the tape once fully dry and finish with a topcoat.

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Nude Fade

This is probably the subtlest rainbow mani we’ve ever seen. We love the mix of neutral tones.

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Tiny Evil Eyes

Teeny evil eyes make for almost undetectable nail art. In other words, très elevated. 

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Nude Abstract

Nude and white always pair beautifully for a simple (but stunning) look. This one, in particular, is easy to DIY. All you need is a nude base with white squiggles and dots on top.

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