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!).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Milky pink ombre nails? Talk about the most gorgeous subtle acrylics!
Pale purple glitter ombre? Yes, please!
Rounded French Tips
Point blank: You can never go wrong with a classic French manicure.
Gold Glitter Chevron
Gold glitter chevron over dark berry creates an eye-catching contrast that’s sophisticated and fun.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Milky Brown Diagonal Tips
Minimalist brown-dipped tips? Absolutely. (P.S. Nail striping tape will make recreating this nail look a cinch.)
Khaki and Gold
Khaki and gold can make for quite the pairing. Plus, negative space gives the manicure a clean grow-out.
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.
Geometric Negative Space
Looking for a sophisticated manicure worthy of a black-tie affair? Look no further than these geometric stunners.
Gold Foil Speckles
Diagonal mauve tips with gold flakes throughout? It’s one abstract design that looks subtle and undoubtedly elevated.
Velvet nails are a great option for elevated nails, as the polish alone creates an sophisticated end look.
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.
Whether you see hearts or clouds, these playful gold and white nails offer a fun-yet-sophisticated vibe.
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.
Minimalist Art Deco
Prefer to make more of a statement with your nails? These subtle art deco nails will make you swoon.
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.
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.
This water-marbled brown ombre manicure is giving us major milk chocolate-caramel vibes. It’s a sweet look.
Carefully place gold foil can go a long way. One look at these proves that they're magically elegant.
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.
This is probably the subtlest rainbow mani we’ve ever seen. We love the mix of neutral tones.
Tiny Evil Eyes
Teeny evil eyes make for almost undetectable nail art. In other words, très elevated.
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.