Tortoiseshell Manicures Are Having A Moment: 20 Ideas For Your Nail Appointment

If you want to try a nail art classic, look no further. Tortoise shell nails have been popular for years, and even though you might not think it, there's actually so much variety to this trend. "Tortoise shell translates so well as people are starting to experiment and gravitate towards the unexpected," nail artist Taryn Multack tells InStyle. And even though you might think this style is something only a nail artist can create, that is far from the truth. "The depth and layers to tortoise shell make this specific look really unique, plus the more imperfect, the better," Multack says.

To get the look, Multack recommends liquefying each layer of brown or black by mixing it with a drop of base coat. "It will make it easier for the brush to move around." Also, don't feel like you need to commit to adding the design to your full nail. Multack suggests painting just the tips, a variation she loved the first time she tried it.

Tortoise shell nail art is an easy way to make your nails more interesting. "It's super fun to create — every set has its own individual pattern," nail artist Amy Rickaby tells Glamour. "It's unique but not overpowering." But if you don't know where to start, we've got you covered with plenty of stunning tortoise shell nail designs.

Classic tortoise shell nails

The classic way to do tortoise shell nails is to paint the design over each nail. Because they are traditionally brown, muted orange, and black, the style looks great with any skin tone. Tortoise nails look best on almond-shaped nails, as harsh square nails contrast the design's fluid shapes. However, if square nails are your cup of tea, feel free to break this rule!

Tortoise shell and neutrals

If going all out with a tortoise shell design on all of your nails seems a bit overwhelming, consider mixing the design with neutral-colored nails. You can opt for one or two accent nails, but a more modern approach to this style is to do the design on one-and-a-half nails. (Yes, we actually mean half a nail.)

Tortoise shell outlined tips

Since the tortoise shell design is so versatile and neutral, it works great when combined with other nail art trends. One trend we can't get enough of is outlined nail tips — a delicate way to accentuate your nail length. This trend, together with tortoise shell nail tips, is unexpected and perfect for spring!

Tortoise shell splatter nails

Since the tortoise shell pattern is all about organic shapes, take this idea further by not painting them all over your nails. Instead, opt for a fun splatter design. You can do this on each nail or go for one or two accent nails to make the whole set more fun. And if you want to add some extra glamour to the look, add a few specks of gold!

Tortoise shell accent nails

If you want to do tortoise shell nails yourself but you don't have the patience to create the design on every finger, two nails on each hand will be just enough. While you can choose any two fingers you'd like, the middle and ring fingers are always safe choices. For the rest of the nails, pick a neutral color that matches the tortoise shell design. We recommend a deep, chocolate brown.

Flowers on a tortoise shell base

Since the tortoise shell nail design is very simple and neutral, you can also use it as a base for more intricate designs. In particular, it looks great with small, brightly colored details on top of it. Since spring is just around the corner, adding a couple of delicate flowers alongside some dots and stars will take your manicure to the next level.

Tortoise shell and green nails

Painting a fun nail art design on our non-dominant hand is easy, but once we need to use that hand to recreate the look on our dominant hand, things get messy. If this sounds like a familiar scenario, we have the perfect solution: do the tortoise shell design on the one hand and a solid color of your choice on the other one. To make the two hands more cohesive, add a solid color French tip to the tortoise shell nails.

Tortoise shell and gold nails

An easy way to elevate classic tortoise nails (not that they necessarily need it) is to add gold specks on top of it. For this, you can use nail foil or a chunky glitter that you will apply in only a couple of spots, not all over. This nail style looks particularly good when combined with layered gold rings!

Tortoise shell and neon tips

Going for unexpected tips is a fun way to have interesting nails that aren't overwhelming. As we already mentioned, tortoise shell nails look great when combined with details of a vibrant color, which is why this fun rainbow tip design looks edgy and on-trend! If the rainbow colors aren't your cup of tea, pick just one vibrant shade and use it on all of your nails.

Gold cuticle tortoise shell nails

Outlining the base of your nail next to your cuticle has been a trend for a while now — and it also works incredibly well with tortoise shell nails. While you can immediately start with this design, we recommend adding the gold cuticles to your nails once they grow out a bit. Of course, this only applies if you're doing gel or acrylics, as regular nail polish won't stay put for that long. Either way, try this look for a fun and unexpected dash of glamour!

Tortoise shell baby French nails

Baby French nails are one of the most popular nail trends this year, and they can also be done in a tortoise shell pattern. Granted, the design is much more subtle and delicate this way, but that makes it perfect for anyone who wants to explore nail trends in a minimalist manner. The easiest way to get the tips super thin is to clean them up with some nail polish remover to get that sharp edge.

Tortoise shell and green flames

Those who prefer their nail designs on the edgy and wild side will love this fiery green tortoise shell look. To start things off, create a tortoise design on all of your nails. Once dry, add neon green flames to them, starting at the nail base and reaching toward your nail tip. This design will definitely not go unnoticed!

Half tortoise shell nails

An unexpected way to combine vibrant colors with the tortoise shell trend is to create a half-and-half design. If you want to elongate the nails, split them down the middle, from the cuticle to the tip. This style looks particularly cool if your nails are stiletto-shaped instead of oval or square.

Tortoise shell accent nails with glitter

To spice tortoise shell accent nails up, add a thin layer of glitter nail polish on top of them. However, to ensure you don't cover the tortoise design up too much, opt for a nail polish with tiny glitter pieces and make sure you spread them out as thinly as possible.

Tortoise shell and blue nails

Since tortoise shell nails have a muted orange undertone, a color that perfectly complements them is blue. While any blue will do the trick, an azure or royal blue is what we would recommend. Since both are very rich, pigmented colors, they will perfectly offset the tortoise shell design.

Green tortoise shell nails

Hear us out. Just because a classic tortoise shell design is brown and black, doesn't mean you can't replicate it in different colors. Yes, this green design might not resemble a real tortoise shell much, but it has its essence. It is created the same way as classic tortoise shell nails — and it's ultra fun, so why not give it a try?

Tortoise shell hearts

Even though Valentine's Day is behind us, hearts are a classic design that you can rock on your nails year-round. An unexpected way to do so is in a tortoise shell design that will have people complimenting your nails left and right. To start off, create little light brown hearts, and once you're satisfied with them, add a layer of clear nail polish and blend in the black dots.

Swirly tortoise shell nails

Since the tortoise shell design is very fluid and organic, it works well when done in spirally and swirly patterns across your nails. We recommend focusing on the actual tortoise shell design first and then cleaning it out or thinning the lines with some nail polish remover and a Q-tip. If you want to take it even further, add a few gold specks!

Tortoise shell and purple nails

Purple is another color that works well with this trend. Try adding it to the tortoise shell design by painting organic curved shapes here and there to give your nails a slight retro '70s vibe. This is also a great solution for classic tortoise shell nails that have gotten a bit damaged; just cover any faulty spots with a vibrant color!

Pink tortoise shell nails

With Viva Magenta being Pantone's Color of the Year and Greta Gerwig's "Barbie" movie coming out this summer, it's not surprising that pink shades are having a huge comeback. If the brown tortoise shell look isn't appealing to you, consider giving it a try in hot pink!