It’s always a treat to get your nails done. There’s an endless amount of art, nail colors, lengths, and nail shapes you can try to make your next set different than your last.

Your nail shape is especially important. It creates the canvas for your nail art and makes a difference in your final look. Some shapes can also complement the shape of your fingers, just like how some hairstyles can complement your face shape.

However, picking your shape can get a little confusing. Some nail artists use different names or create their own versions of popular shapes, like how some say “pointed” instead of “stiletto” nails, while others consider these different shapes. 

Below, we’ll go over the most popular nail shapes and tips to help you find your ideal fit. Starting with these well-known looks can help you figure out what you do and don’t like before you go in for your next nail appointment.

illustrated guide to popular types of nail shapes

1. Round Nails

Of the different types of nail shapes, this is the shape that started it all. Round is a timeless look that works great for all occasions. You can get a rounded shape while keeping your nails short or long. This is the perfect go-to look for anyone who has trouble growing out their nails.

Round nails are smooth and much less likely to snag than nails with sharp edges. Round nails are also an easy shape to upkeep at home.

How to create: File nails along the natural arch of your finger to create a round tip.

Best length: Short, medium

Great for: Anyone who works with their hands or wants a style to elongate fingers

photo of manicure with round nails with colorful leaf nail art on the left, illustration of the round nail shape on the right

Source: @pizzaperfectnails | Book Laurel Maha

2. Square Nails

The square nail shape is another go-to classic. You can wear your nails short or long with a square finish. Square nails provide a broader canvas for anyone who enjoys getting their tips painted a la French manicure.

It’s a classy shape that’s also easy to maintain at home. They’re especially flattering for people with long fingers. The square shape can make short fingers can make fingers look shorter.

How to create: File nails straight across the top and square off the edges, then clean up the edges with a file.

Best length: Short, medium, long

Great for: Anyone with slender fingers or narrow nail beds, or anyone who wants a chic and sturdy shape

photo of manicure with square nails with black, white, and gold nail art on the left, illustration of the square nail shape on the right

Source: @luxnailsbyj | Book Jay

3. Rounded Square Nails

Rounded square nails are exactly as they sound — a square shape with rounded edges. This look is great if you prefer a nail shape with softened corners over sharp angles. Just like the square, this shape can serve as a great base for nail art. 

How to create: File nails straight across the top to square off the edges, then round out and soften the corners.

Best length: Short, medium, long

Great for: Anyone who wants classy, low-maintenance nails or a square shape without sharp edges

photo of manicure with nude rounded square nails with black detail work on the left, illustration of the rounded square nail shape on the right

Source: @luxnailsbyj | Book Jay

4. Oval Nails

Oval walks the line between round and square. It’s not fully rounded nor does it have the square’s sharp edges. Some may call this a “U” shape. Filing too much or too little off the edges may land you with an almond or a round shape. 

If you have wide nail beds, this could be a good shape for you. It’ll also give your nail artist plenty of room to work with for nail art.

How to create: File across as if you were creating square nails, then file down the corners and edges to create a curve.

Best length: Medium, long

Great for: Anyone who wants to balance out wide nail beds or short fingers, wants room for nail art, or wants both a sturdy and sleek shape

photo of manicure with oval-shaped nails with colorful nail art on the left, illustration of the oval nail shape on the right

Source: @nailsbyregina | Book Regina Rodriguez

5. Squoval Nails

For those looking for the best of both worlds, there’s the squoval nail shape. Squoval is a combination of the words “square” and “oval.” Though it’s between the square and oval shapes, the squoval leans a bit more toward the square look. It’s also more elongated than the rounded square.

It won’t have edges quite as sharp as the square. This is an edgy, eye-catching look for most nails and a good pick if you’re having trouble deciding between square or oval. 

How to create: File across and down the edges as if you were creating an oval shape, but keep the edges slightly rounded to create the “squoval” shape

Best length: Short, medium, long

Great for: Anyone who wants to balance out wide and long nail beds or prefers an elongated, slightly square shape

photo of manicure with nude squoval-shaped nails on the left, illustration of the squoval nail shape on the right

Source: @luxnailsbyj | Book Jay

6. Almond Nails

Almond nails are round on the edges with a tip that’s a tad narrower than a rounded or oval shape. With a true almond shape, your nails will need to be on the longer end, whether that’s achieved with your natural nails or extensions.

How to create: File across the top and down the edges as if you were creating an oval shape, but taper off the edges into a round peak at the tip.

Best length: Medium, long

Great for: Anyone who wants to elongate their fingers, prefers longer nails, or doesn’t mind salon maintenance (if they opt for extensions)

photo of manicure with almond-shaped nails with orange, white, and black nail art on the left, illustration of the almond nail shape on the right

Source: @nailsbyjaja | Book Chutinant Suphanulak

7. Mountain peak

The mountain peak shape comes to a point at the top (hence the name) and is usually on the shorter side. For this look, almost all of the nail above the fingertip will consist of the peak.

This is a stylish option if you are looking for something fun and different but still manageable for the day-to-day. Plus, you won’t have to worry about mountain peak-shaped nails breaking as easily as some of the longer styles.

How to create: Using a nail file or clippers, shape the top of your nail to create the peak, then use a nail file to clean up the edges and create the rounded point at the tip of your nails.

Best length: Short, medium

Great for: Anyone who wants a pointed tip without the length of similar shapes

photo of manicure with mountain peak-shaped nails with colorful nail art on the left, illustration of the mountain peak nail shape on the right

Source: @unasbasement | Book Una’s Basement

8. Stiletto Nails

Stiletto nails are similar to mountain peak nails, but longer and sharper — think of a long, thin stiletto heel. This long nail shape lengthens the hands and will make them look more slender.

Stiletto nail shapes look gorgeous with rhinestones, gems, and other flashy nail art. Unless you have strong natural nails, you’ll need acrylics or gel extensions to strengthen your nail for this length. 

How to create: Taper the edges as if you were creating an almond shape, then file the edges and the top of the nail into a pointed tip.

Best length: Medium, long

Great for: Anyone who can keep up with maintenance appointments, doesn’t need to work with their hands often, or wants to elongate their fingers

photo of manicure with pink and hot pink stiletto-shaped nails on the left, illustration of the stiletto nail shape on the right

Source: @mysfitnails | Book Mysfit Nails

9. Coffin Nails

The coffin nail shape tapers from the base of the nail, coming to a square finish at the top, which is slightly more narrow than the bottom. This shape works well with long nails because of the extra space needed to get the correct shaping on the edges. Just like a stiletto shape, you may need to look into gel or acrylics for long nails.

How to create: Taper the edges as if you were creating an oval shape, then square off the end for a flat tip.

Best length: Medium, long

Great for: Anyone who can keep up with maintenance appointments, doesn’t need to work with their hands often, doesn’t want pointy tips, or wants to elongate their fingers

photo of manicure with coffin-shaped nails with clear and black marble nail art on the left, illustration of the coffin nail shape on the right

Source: @terranceterry | Book Terrance Terry

10. Ballerina Nails

Ballerina nails are very similar to the coffin look and also come to a square finish on the top, but this shape is more rounded on the edges of the nails. You’ll also need extensions to get a more elongated look.

Some nail artists may use “coffin” and “ballerina” interchangeably. To avoid confusion, bring your artist inspiration photos so they can understand what look you want.

How to create: Start by tapering the edges as if you were creating an almond shape, but aim for a curved edge. Then, square off the end for a flat tip.

Best length: Medium, long

Great for: Anyone who can keep up with maintenance appointments, doesn’t need to work with their hands often, doesn’t want pointy tips, or wants to elongate their fingers

photo of manicure with ballerina-shaped nails with red, gold and silver nail art on the left, illustration of the ballerina nail shape on the right

Source: @terranceterry | Book Terrance Terry

11. Lipstick Nails

This shape looks like the silhouette of a new tube of lipstick. The nail is higher on either the left or right side to create a slant across the edge. If you’re having trouble picturing it, imagine a square shape that’s angled on the top. 

Nail artists commonly create long lipstick nails by using tips or creating the base shape with a form. Once the extension is finished with either method, they’ll file down the edges and the top to create that iconic lipstick shape.

How to create: File the edges straight, then file across the top at a slant.

Best length: Short, medium, long

Great for: Anyone who can keep up with maintenance appointments or wants a trendy nail shape

photo of manicure with lipstick-shaped nails with pink, black and glittery blue nail art on the left, illustration of the lipstick nail shape on the right

Source: @terranceterry | Book Terrance Terry

12. Cutout Nails

The cutout shape features a unique curve shape at the top to give the nail a cool, swooped effect. It’s square on the sides and edges on top, then swoops down. This is a fun and flirty twist on the traditional square nail shapes. 

How to create: Square off the top and file down the edge for a slight curve.

Best length: Short, medium, long

Great for: Anyone who wants a fun shape without extra maintenance

photo of manicure with cutout-shaped nails with pastel nail art on the left, illustration of the cutout nail shape on the right

Source: @nailsbyjaja | Book Chutinant Suphanulak

What are examples of more unique nail shapes?

We’ve covered popular shapes, but there are other styles that can create looks worth considering. We especially recommend bringing in inspiration photos since these looks can vary. 

Flare

Want to add a little flair to your nail game? Flare-shaped nails are formed when the bottom is narrower than the top, creating a fan effect. From there, the corners of the top are squared off. You can get nails that are dramatically wide or only slightly wider than the width of your natural nail.

Edge

The edge shape will be square on the edges, coming to a dull point on the top. This is a good choice if you’re looking for a bit of an edge but don’t want a point as defined as the arrowhead shape. Your nail artist can also create a visible edge down the middle of your nail.

Arrowhead

If Katniss Everdeen had a favorite nail shape, you know this would be it. The arrowhead shape will come up as if it’s going to be squared off at the top and angel into a point. It’ll be wide at the bottom and very skinny at the top.

What should I do if my nails are short?

If your nails are on the short side, you can ask your nail artist whether gel or acrylic extensions are best for your nails. You can also get recommendations for cuticle oil and other products if you’re interested in growing and strengthening your natural nails.

Length is needed to get the most out of unique nail shapes like coffin or stiletto. Even if you’re not looking for extra long nails, nourishing your nails is a good idea regardless. Healthy nails create a base that’s less likely to chip or crack.

How can I find the best nail shape?

StyleSeat nail artist Bree’Ana Melick says you should consider your lifestyle and functionality of the nail shape, along with your own personal style and personality. “As an artist, I will also recommend a shape depending on the client’s nail bed type, whether long, short, wide, or skinny, and their experience wearing extensions.”

All of these factors can help you decide whether you should opt for an oval shape if you work a lot with your hands or if it’s practical to get long stiletto nails.

Coffin is a classy, cute, durable shape that most women can work with, while stiletto is a bit more sassy, fierce, and bold. Stiletto can be more difficult for most women to work with, especially considering longer lengths.

Bree’Ana Melick

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to find your best nail shape:

  • Your style: Do you want a flashy style? Are you getting your nails done for a special occasion?
  • Nail art: Do you need space for a specific design? Do you have inspiration in mind to show your nail artist?
  • Lifestyle: Do you work with your hands a lot? Does your workplace have a strict dress code?
  • Finger and nail bed shape: Do you want a shape that’ll elongate your fingers? Are you looking for a shape to balance out the width or length of your nail beds?
  • Nail strength: Are your natural nails strong? Do you need acrylics or gel to strengthen them for a longer shape? 
  • Cuticle shape: Does your cuticle shape look round? Are your cuticles visible?

What are the strongest nail shapes?

Relatively short and wide nail shapes, like round and oval, are strong since they typically span the width of your natural nail bed and are less likely to snag.

What are the weakest nail shapes?

Long and narrow nail shapes, like stiletto, coffin, and ballerina, are weaker since they’re normally narrower than the natural width of your nail bed. Length can also make your nails prone to damage since they’re easier to snag, leading to chips and breaks.

The process of getting artificial nails can also weaken your natural nail. It involves filing down your natural nail during application and exposure to acetone during removal. Taking breaks in between manicures and long, intricate styles can help your nails recover.

Some styles are more flattering than others. For example, people with wide nail beds may want to consider an oval or almond shape. The slenderness and length can help balance out your nail beds’ width. But the choice is always up to you.

Melick encourages clients to try a new shape if they’re on the fence. “Many of my clients are coffin-wearing girls, but a few have fallen in love with stiletto and/or almond after recommendations from me when they were on the fence of choosing,” she says. “Most times they just say, ‘You pick!’ They trust me, and it works out well.”

If you’re still having trouble with nail shapes, you can bring inspiration photos to help your nail artist understand what look you’re interested in. They can also give you recommendations based on the state of your nails and the answers to some of the above questions.

Taking the time to find a great nail artist is a great investment when you need to refresh your nails. Not only are you looking for someone who can create your dream nails, but you also want someone you trust for advice and who can help you leave the salon with confidence.

Peruse our community of nail artists to book your next manicure.