30 Red Nail Ideas and Designs to Wear All Year Long

red nails


Oftentimes when people embark on the mission of selecting a nail polish color, red is left out of the equation. Much like red lipstick, many people wonder if it's too much for an everyday look. Well, folks, we're here to let you know that, as with red lipstick, there is no such thing as too much. "There used to rules about when you can wear red like 'you can’t wear white after Labor Day but these rules don’t apply any longer," says celebrity manicurist Deborah Lippmann. If you want to wear a ruby red polish or pout, we say go for it. Everyone should try a red nail, says Lippmann, "There are so many shades that accentuate every skin tone." The options are truly endless when it comes to nail ideas. That said, we took to Instagram to find 30 red nail looks that can be worn all year long. Check them out, below.

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Red Swoosh

If you prefer a purely red nail look, this squiggle negative space option might be right for you. To DIY, Syreeta Aaron, LeChat Nails Educator, recommends to use a thin brush, like the LeChat Dual Sided Brush Fine Liner & Detail Liner ($16). Use this brush to create the curved dividing line and carefully fill one side with polish. Don't forget a clear coat for the other side!

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Red Roses

Instead of (or, better yet, in addition to) buying pricey bouquets for yourself, give yourself the gift of everlasting blooms with this rosy manicure. Get it done in gel and you'll be able to stop and stare at the roses for up to two weeks. These stained glass roses are what a Beauty and the Beast fan's dreams are made of.

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Silver French Tips

Modern French manicures are having a major moment, so what better way to rock red polish than by topping it off with crisp silver tips? We'll wait. Silver not your metal of choice? Red and gold nails are just as stunning.

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Snake Skin

Red nails don't have to be all red. Case in point: These dark textured snakeskin nails. With black and red detailing that looks unbelievably life-like, your jaw (like ours) is likely on the floor.

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Blue Outlined Hearts

Yet again, we're schooled in the way red and blue look simply perfect together. Just imagine all the ways you could wear the color combo on your nails. Go for this heart shape over the traditional French tip for a fun twist on a classic. If you're looking for another liner brush recommendation, celebrity manicurist Julie Kandalec loves the Princeton Liner brush ($5).

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Chic in Chanel

Keep it classy with a simple red Chanel logo on your pointer finger. The simple nail art is minimal but feels high-end at the same time. The best part? It's the most affordable Chanel accessory you could hope for.

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Red Woman

Romanticize your manicure with this red silhouette design that showcases lashes, lips, and lovely contours. Use a super fine detail brush like the Le Mini Macaron Liner Nail Art Brush ($12) to mimic these crisp lines. To copy this set, skip the glossy top coat.

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Red Diamonds

If you fancy negative space nail looks that prolong the life of your mani, skip the half-moon cuticles and opt for this diamond design. Shape the tips of your nails into points to get the full-on diamond shape effect. Once it's grown out most of the way, you'll have a cool French tip look that you didn't even have to paint.

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Glossy Red Tips

With shiny red tips and a simple black line across each nail, this manicure reminds us of half-turned red lipstick. It's an abstract beauty statement we'd happily recreate. Use a shiny top coat and paint on long oval-shaped nails to replicate the look.

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Strawberry Nails

If you love the idea of long clear nails dotted with playful art, you'll swoon over these sweet strawberry nails. The white grid hints at a garden fence, perfect for growing these summer berries. Here, the artist uses The GelBottle's Daisy, Candy, and Jungle shades ($19).

To create the crisp lines that define this look, pick up some nail striping tape—you just paint your entire nail and then peel the tape away.

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Strawberries + Mushrooms

Hoping for a manicure that looks fresh out of Wonderland? This strawberry and mushroom nail look is different and delectable all at once. Use fine black outlines to achieve that cartoon look.

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Reindeer Tails

A reindeer might make you think of the holidays, but these abstract nails from Kandalec are abstract enough for any season. How'd she get such a cool look? "I used this long liner brush from Princeton, available at art supply stores like Dick Blick and Michael's for about $5. I used a dotting tool and extra opaque white paint like these for the little white tails."

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Girl Power

Is there any message more worthy of displaying at all times on your nails? To make the red letters really stand out, use a light base color on each nail and allow it to dry completely before writing your message out. For the letters, you can use an ultra precise dotting tool, like the LeChat Dual Sided Tool Liner & Dotting ($14) that Aaron recommends.

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Red Swirls

Channel the '80s with these swirly, psychedelic red accent nails. Seriously, one look at these artfully painted tips and we're craving a set of our own. The juxtaposition of the sharp-edged coffin shape and rounded loops makes the look that much more interesting.

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Crisp Red

Sometimes a stunning red manicure isn't as much about perfectly even coats of color from cuticle to tip. Instead, it comes down to innovative ways to wear the shade. As is the case here. If you're looking for a classic red shade, Kandalec loves Morgan Taylor Hot Rod Red ($9), while Aaron's favorite is LeChat Dare to Wear Little Red Dress ($6).

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Levi's Nails

Excuse us while we lose our minds over these perfect negative space nails that look like free-floating Levi's tags. And how perfect are they with gold jewelry? Betina, you've outdone yourself yet again.

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Abstract Art

This work of art belongs on the walls of a museum. Seriously, just paint abstract red shapes with some black dots here and there and you've got a masterpiece worthy of The Louvre. Most often, we see only a single accent nail, but this double-duty feature is putting in work.

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Pink and Red

The pink and red combo does not have to be reserved for Valentine's Day. These cousin colors are beautiful together all year round and they look especially fresh in this thin red-tip design. The crisp cutoff line of the pink creates that whisper of geometric appreciation we love to see.

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Over the Moon

Red, burgundy, and a sliver of matte negative space make for one nail look we can't stop staring at. You too? Use a circle sticker as a stencil at the bottom corner of each nail and follow up with a red base to the tip and a burgundy arch overtop.

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Bloody Accent

If you're obsessed with Villanelle and Killing Eve (hi, same), this blood-drip accent nail is worth considering. Again, red nails aren't just for certain holidays and we'd be happy to rock these bloody nails well beyond Halloween. Wear on naked nails as shown, or add to a full-on polish design.

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Bandana Nails

Bandana print is making a major comeback in the 2020s with jackets, pants, and dresses showcasing the trend. Why not add your nails to the list? Use a fine-tipped design brush to nail the paisley pattern.

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Red French Tips

Another way to update the French manicure is by elongating the tip and painting it in red. To do so yourself, use a circle sticker on each nail as a stencil to paint on the tips. Finish with topcoat.

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Glitter Divide

A red base with a single line of gold glitter? Simple and demure. And proof that short nails are totally in, too. If you want to keep your gorgeous manicure from chipping, Kandalec has some great advice. "Prep, prep, prep! The days of soaking your nails in water are over - there's no faster way to make the polish chip. Cleanse the nail plate in 99% isopropyl alcohol to temporarily remove all oils. Then, use an excellent base coat like Orly Bonder (a double base coat for red shades will prevent stains better than just one coat). When top-coating, polish over the tip a bit too, to "shrinkwrap" the polish in for the best longevity."

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Cherry Nails

These adorable white-tipped cherry nails are dripping with a mashup of summertime cottagecore and '90s dreams. Don't feel like you have to keep your designs confined to the space before your tips. In this example, the cherries run freely over the French mani and it's definitely working.

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Abstract Woman

This nude, red, and black manicure is feminine and flirty. Needless to say, we're a fan. Use red and nude polishes for the bases, but opt for a nail art pen (like Aotekar's Nail Pen, $15) to create the face and abstract lines for more control.

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Nude and Red Swirls

Start with your favorite nude nail shade as an all-over base. These swirls are really just backward and forward "S" shapes, starting an ending in opposite corners of the nail. Pick a corner and drag the red in a bubbly "S" but leave out a chunk of the bottom swoop to look as though it continues beyond the nail. Voila!

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Red Jelly Nails

For a Pulp Fiction vibe, check out these intense red jelly nails. The slim black cuticle accents add a dark flair. Feel free to paint the black strokes at random across the nail, not just at the cuticle.

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Mixed Red Mani

Can't decide on a design? Draw on the good 'ole days in second grade when it was practically a sin to have two nails painted the same. These have the creative and carefree spirit of a kid but come out polished, chic, and intentional.

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Solid Accent

Accent crisp, red French tips with a single solid nail on each hand. The subtle twist is just enough to keep it interesting, while still holding that minimalist manicure status. Here, the artist reached for OPI Big Apple Red ($11).

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Red Lips

Put new meaning behind lipstick nails with varying shades of red kisses. Start by painting a regular French tip on each nail, then connect the top lip shape just underneath the tips. Perfectly pouty!

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