The term “clear nail polish” usually doesn’t evoke very much excitement—until now. Thanks to the clear nail designs we’ve been seeing all over Instagram lately, we’re discovering how majorly versatile—and yes, exciting—clear polish can actually be. Between bejeweled creations and negative-space nail art, clear polish is the perfect blank slate for both crazy-imaginative designs and super-subtle ones—and that’s the beauty of it.
If you prefer polish, you can rest assured knowing a clear base will help your manicure go the extra mile. And the possibilities are endless (and just as practical) with gel, dip powder, and acrylics, too.
Below, find our 45 favorite, ultra-imaginative clear nail designs we’ll be recreating nonstop from here on out.
With the right nail-art tools, you can do pretty much anything—including making your manicure resemble the night sky. For this clear, colorful version, pick your favorite hues and some sweet star stencils.
A few delicate gold dots and some clear polish is all you need to recreate this look at home.
When recreating this look at home, try applying gold nail stickers or appliques if you lack the steady hand to paint these tiny dots with polish.
Instead of going the traditional route, with black and white checks, this patterned design utilizes the nail’s natural color, pairing it with bold and vibrant blue.
Just the Tips
Meet the modern update to French tips. With a clear, dip manicure, you can try these abstract tips with any shades you prefer, but we’re partial to this ultra-chic, black-and-white version created with acrylic color.
Gold and Silver Confetti
Ring in the New Year (or another big occasion) with a swipe of clear polish and a dusting of gold and silver confetti. For a bolder look, try Nails.Inc’s Star-Shaped Nail topper ($8).
Queen of Hearts
An accent nail with a negative-space heart—with the same hue throughout the rest of your manicure—will be a sweet surprise every time you look down. This one was pulled off with gel polish.
As far as we’re concerned, you can’t go wrong with a black-and-white nail pattern—but you can make an even bolder impact by adding negative space to the equation, like in this wavy, artistic design.
Red and White Swirls
Red and white swirls (with a different design on each nail) could almost work for the Fourth of July. But any time of year is a good time to rock this abstract look (and don’t be afraid to experiment with different colorways).
Swipe of Color
A clear base provides the perfect counterpoint to a swipe or dab of rich aubergine and orange. Alternate the colors and placement of the polish so each nail has a different look.
It’s a mooood. (Sorry, we had to). Cow print has been trending for a while now—in clothing and nail art—and this clear, gel version with negative space is one of the chicest iterations we’ve seen.
A Pop of Color
We’re all about color-blocking, especially when negative space and abstract lines are involved. And don’t be fooled by the autumnal hues—this minimalist mani works year-round.
Simple Negative Space
Keep things clean and simple. A navy-blue hue combined with negative space is classic and chic—and a tiny, barely noticeable appliqué dotted in the middle is the perfect finishing touch.
Curved Half Shape
Spruce up the top half of your nails with a curved half shape in a multitude of neutral colors—while leaving the base of your nails crystal clear.
Abstract With Jewels
Here, the clear part of the nail takes center stage, quite literally, while an abstract white pattern stands out around it. The finishing touch is a small dot appliqué at the bottom of the nail.
Sweep of Gold
If you’re a minimalist with your nails, try a simple sweep of gold polish over clear polish for a slightly more-exciting option with major pizazz.
Over a clear coat, try micro-strokes of a nearly-nude color to mimic the arch of your nail tip for something simple-yet-striking.
Bursts of Color
This clear mani—complete with a plethora of bright shades separated by lines of negative space—is making us happier just looking at it.
Swirls and Colorful Tips
This stunning design sees curved lines or swirls on two nails, plus color tips on two, and a strong base color and the final nail. It’s a fun way to mix things up and not have to commit to a single design.
Add Some Sparkle
Make an impact with bold, dark hues contrasted with clear polish—and feel free to add some sparkly appliqués for good measure.
Make a minimalist statement with a bold, wavy stripe in crisp white over transparent, glassy nails.
With a cow print on the tips and a leopard print on the cuffs, these negative-space nails are an animal lover’s dream.
Clear nails, silver tips, can’t lose. The trick here is to keep the silver line rounded and elegant, and ensure the base is painted with a clear gloss, which gives the entire look so much sophistication.
Forget white French tips—we’re exclusively painting ours this moody forest green from now on.
Pops of color mixed with daisies? Yes, please. Plus, with the bases of your nails clear, growing out your manicure will be a breeze.
Ombré and Earthy
This ombré nail situation is executed pretty perfectly—with earthy shades, bold black lines, and clean negative space. We stan.
This half-and-half look is especially bold thanks to the choice of polish. Gold with sparkle is chic enough for evening, and the clear base tones it down so it works for day, too.
Geometric shapes meet negative space in this Mondrian-inspired masterpiece that utilizes acrylics for extra length.
Clear Half Moons
We’ll be dreaming of this clear half-moon manicure for weeks to come. Here, it’s all about the pop of white and the negative space surrounding it (plus the glossy overlay).
This pearl-encrusted look is fit for a bride (or just a nice evening occasion). To replicate the look, use pearl stickers on top of well-manicured and clear-glossed nails.
This neon-hued abstract look sees pink, yellow, and orange abstract swirl patterns on the side of each nail. Keeping the base clear adds an artful contrast.
This unique look seeks pixelated squares over clear nails. You can cut out shapes to keep the lines super strong here or use a toothpick to create the squares.
This look almost resembles paint palettes, with its swirl of colors concentrated at the tip. To replicate the look, choose colors of the season. This look, for instance, would be great for fall.
Marbled Rainbow Lines
This look can be replicated using a variety of nail polish colors. Just create a line down the center of each nail with a different dot of polish, then use a toothpick to draw a line from the base of the nail down. The result will be a rainbow-hued marble line.
This green-tipped design eschews intricate patterns in favor of a rounded tip of rich green polish. You could try the look with any color, but the green provides an especially punchy contrast to the clear base.
This evil eye design is sure to ward off all the negativity. We like the variety of eye sizes (with smaller eyes on the outer nails). Plus, it’s just a fun, youthful look that’s great for summer.
Blue and White Crescents
A swipe of clear base coat goes on first. Then, to replicate this look, you’ll make small crescent shapes in varying shades of blue and white. The result offers a Venn diagram of colors and is super abstract and fun.
A clear base serves as a striking counterpoint to three-dimensional blobs on this artful set. Each nail is a different color, with some of the tips offering further contrast.
This artful look couldn’t be easier to recreate. Just apply a different color of polish to each nail, wait a few seconds for it to dry, then swipe a cotton pad with nail polish remover over the nail just one to two times. While it removes most of the color, leaving the center of the nail clear, color will remain on the outer edges for a unique effect.
Celebrate Pride with these rainbow-bedecked nails, which feature rainbow tips and tiny hearts at the base of each nail.
Black Tips With Jewels
This is a look fit for nighttime. Clear nails get the high-gloss treatment, plus a rounded black tip. The crowning jewel, so to speak, is the silver dot appliqués.
Neon French Tips
This mani utilizes extra length to show off colorful French tips. To replicate the look, try a different color (neons look great) at the tip of each nail.
Marbled Yellow Tips
Instead of just offering a contrast between a clear nail bed and bright tip, this design offers a pattern, using a marbling technique to add further interest. You could cut a fun patterned nail sticker into the shape of your nail tip to replicate the look.
A clear base offers a nice neutral background for zebra stripes. These are painted freehand, so if you have a small enough brush, you can easily try this at home.
This is about as simple but sophisticated as it gets for clear nails. A rounded shape, a few swipes of subtle glitter polish, and you have a design fit for day or night. For a similar look, try Olive & June Nail Polish in Cosmic ($9).
This is about as cute as it gets. Clear nails with the tiniest smiley faces imaginable. Use a toothpick dipped in polish to replicate this look.
Can gel nails be clear?
A clear gel mani is absolutely possible, just to be sure to paint nails similarly to how you would with color. In other words, use a clear base coat, plus a layer or two of a clear topcoat.
Can acrylic nails be clear?
Yes, acrylic nails can be clear and they provide the perfect base for some of the more involved, accessorized nail designs (the heft of an acrylic nail can easily hold nail stickers, sequins, and the like).
Is there a clear nail dip?
Clear dip powder is typically used to protect color during the buffing process but for a clear design, it works to encapsulate small accessories, like sequins or confetti.