36 Manicures That Will Nail The Checkerboard Trend

If you've been on the manicure side of Instagram or TikTok recently, you've probably noticed a classic, ageless nail design making its way back into the nail world's top trends. Yep, we're finally hopping on the checkerboard nails train, and this versatile style isn't one that will go away anytime soon.

You can pull off a checkerboard nail no matter what type of manicure you have, and the beauty of checkered manicures is that there are infinite ways to do them. You could do it subtly on one nail or as a French tip on all your nails — and the color possibilities are endless.

You can also dress up your checkered nails for a night out on the town or go conservative with them when you're working at the office this week. If you're ready to hop on the checkered nails trend, look no further: We've got 36 checkered manicure looks to inspire you the next time you're headed to the salon.

Do it with other shapes

A fun way to make the standard checkerboard pattern a little interesting: Bring other shapes into the mix. You could go all yin-yang-inspired, like with the hearts in the photo above. And when you pair that design with your typical checkered nail, it'll take a double take to realize your checkered nails are a bit outside the norm.

Go glitchy

Go all matrix with your mani when you ask your nail tech to make your checkered nails glitchy! This effect is typically done by drawing red and blue on either side of a shape. It'll add a bit of trippy-ness to your nails, perfect for when you're looking to make a statement or you just want a manicure none of your friends will have.

Don't forget your toes

The next time you want to get a checkered manicure, go all in and get your toes done, too! We're seeing checkered fingernails everywhere, but checkered toenails are a different story. Get a checkered pedicure the next time you're going out in strappy heels or when you're looking forward to a chill Saturday playing lawn games with friends.

Use multiple patterns

You don't have to go all out with your checkered looks — why not combine them with another design you've been wanting to try? You could use the same colors for a checkerboard design and some squiggly lines, or you could totally contrast them, like in the photo above. When it comes to mixing different designs, you're only limited by your own creativity.

Incorporate other designs

If a standard checkerboard pattern is just too simple for your taste, feel free to take it up a notch by incorporating other designs. Take the above strawberry pink checkered nails, for instance. The decorative strawberries on the corners of the checkered pattern aren't overwhelmingly obtrusive, but they do a great job of adding some visual interest to an otherwise relatively simple nail. 

Checkerboard the tips

If your go-to nail style is a French manicure, you're in luck — you can checkerboard a French manicure, too. This is a great way to dip your toes into the checkerboard trend without going all out. You could make it stark by sticking with the standard black and white, or understate it a little by two-toning your favorite color. 

Paint your feelings

Wear your heart on your sleeve — or on your nails. Go beyond the standard checkerboard pattern by letting your other nails showcase your mood. Of course, if you're super dedicated to the checkerboard idea, you could always draw smiley (or frowny) faces on top of a checkerboard pattern. You do you.

Use lots of color

If you can't commit to just two colors, don't. There are no rules when it comes to checkerboard nails. Rock the Skittles nails trend, pick every color you want to use, and go wild on your nails. You don't even have to match each hand if you don't want to — be as eclectic as your heart desires. 

Make them wavy

Is the standard checkerboard too neat and tidy for you? We get it — you like to go with the flow a bit more, and you want your nails to reflect that. You can still adopt the trending checkerboard nails design; just make it a bit wavy! Warping your checkerboard design will give you a more fluid look that nobody else will have. If you want to be extra crazy with it, only warp one checkered nail on each hand and keep the rest with your standard checkered design.

Do them in neutral

For an understated look, go neutral with your checkerboard nails. Lighter neutrals (like the above white and tan) won't scream for attention, but when they are noticed, it's for good reason. This dainty, elegant take on the checkerboard nail is a great one to wear for more formal events.

Do each hand a different color

If you want to jump on the checkered nail trend and the mismatched manicure trend, why not pull off both of them at once? Do each hand in a different color checkerboard pattern — you don't have to commit to just one colorway for your manicure look. 

Split it up

Want to really wow your friends with your nails? Then don't commit to just one pattern. Why not split your nail down the middle and do contrasting patterns on either side? You could adopt a little checkered and houndstooth moment. Keep both sides with the same color scheme if you want them to blend together a bit better, or do entirely different colors for a bold look.

Do it around the outside

Who said you have to deck out your whole nail in a checkerboard design? Certainly not us. If you want to do a delicate checkerboard that's hardly noticeable at first glance, do it around the outside of your nail, like in the photo above. You could make it a squiggly pattern around the outside or go simple with a little crescent moon checkerboard vibe. 

Make it matte

Checkerboard is checkerboard is checkerboard, but checkerboard matte is a different look entirely. Painting a matte finish over your checkerboard nails is a great way to instantly make them a bit edgy and outside the norm. Wear a matte checkerboard nail when you want everyone to know you mean business (but you also have a playful side). 

Do them for spring

When the spring flowers begin to bloom, do your nails to match, and incorporate some checkerboard along the way. Quintessential spring colors like light blue, orange, green, and yellow are great to employ here. When you want to go all-out with your spring theme, incorporate some flowers into your nails, too, either by drawing them onto your checkered design or letting them have their own space. 

Do a big checkerboard

Sometimes, a small checkered design can be hard to paint on, especially if you're doing your own nails. When you want to get used to drawing the design, start off by painting a larger checkered design on your nails. To simplify it further, let one of the checkered colors be just your natural nail. Keep practicing and making your squares smaller each time you do it, and you'll be able to paint a standard checkered pattern in no time. 

Go classic black and white

All you no-nonsense babes out there will probably love the standard checkerboard design and colors. It's an easy pick when you can't decide between other colors, or you're not sure what other fashion moments you'll have going on. After all, black and white go with pretty much anything. 

Use contrasting colors

On the flip side, a checkered nail design is an excellent opportunity to showcase your love for big, bright, bold, contrasting colors. You could do an orange and purple checkered design for a look that'll really stand out. If you want to go the extra mile, use different contrasting colors on each hand (or every other nail if that's more your vibe).

Use different tones of the same color

For a fun (yet still super put-together) twist on the classic black and white checkered nail, just use two tones of your favorite color to design your nails. You could two-tone a different color on every nail or use the same two colors for all your nails. For bonus points, match your nails to whatever monochromatic outfits you know you'll be wearing that week. 

Only do one finger

Not sure if you want to fully commit to the checkerboard look yet? Don't worry; you don't have to! To dip your nails into the checkerboard waters, just do one finger on each hand at first. If you find yourself obsessing over that nail while your mani lasts, the next time you go to the salon, checkerboard all of them in either black and white or whatever colors you're loving right now.

Use some glitter

We love a good glitter mani, and the checkerboard trend is no exception! When you want a glitter checkered nail look, you can go as big with it as you want. Find two colors in a glitter shade to go all out with the glitter look, or pick just one subtle shimmer shade for an understated checkered manicure. 

Mix checker and tartan

The checkerboard trend is cool and all, but the next time you checker your nails, why not throw a tartan pattern into the mix? Tartan is a fun and slightly more intricate take on the checkerboard pattern. To incorporate it seamlessly into your mani, checker all your nails on each hand except for one; on that nail, make a tartan pattern that uses the same colors as your checkered pattern. 

Make it stand out

If you only want to incorporate checkered print on one or two nails, make sure they stand out by contrasting them with the rest of your nails. To pull this off well, we recommend doing the standard black and white checkered design and making the rest of your nails in a bright color. This will bring your checkered accent some attention without making it look too overwhelming. 

Or make it barely there

On the flip side, you could make your checkered design barely noticeable when you sprinkle it into an elaborate mani. Take the above subtle checkered French tip, for example. It's not very noticeable at first glance, but it provides the perfect accent to a wacky set of nails. 

Theme your checkered nails

If you're not sure how to incorporate a checkered nail into your look, why not theme it? Check out the above checkered white nail, for instance, that's themed with a set of Playboy nails. You could take this moment to showcase your favorite brand, movie, holiday, book, or sports team — after all, who wouldn't be impressed when you show up to your team's next game sporting them on your nails?

Make them retro

If you need some checkered nail color inspo, go full retro with your look! Use one checkered nail to round out a manicure full of retro swirls, flowers, and trippy hearts. Oranges, browns, greens, and yellows are great retro colors to incorporate into your mani; you could use two of those colors for your checkered design or just two-tone one of them. 

Bring back pink and green

While we're on the subject of decades-old trends and designs, who could forget the pink and green era we all went through back in the early aughts? Bring it back by using this timeless color combo the next time you want to get checkered nails. Modernize it by using darker shades of pink and green, or go full throwback with a bright pink and lime green look.

Paint them in ombré

If you want a checkered mani that will really impress your friends, get one in ombré. A pastel ombré checkered manicure is delightfully elegant to look at, making it a gorgeous elevated nail look for any event you may be looking forward to. Use lighter pastel colors for spring or darker jewel tones when cold weather rolls around. 

Tone them down for work

Want to take a checkered mani to a more conservative workplace environment? Tone it down a little bit by picking neutral colors, and consider only doing one or two nails in a checkered pattern while keeping the rest solid. This look isn't too outlandish for any environment or occasion but still gives enough visual interest to not be the least bit boring.

Do a tiny checkerboard

Standard checkerboard designs are great and all, but the next time you want to pull one off, why not do it tiny? A tiny checkerboard can be a bit dizzying to look at, but this dainty twist on the classic checkered nail can elevate it ever-so-slightly for when you want less of a "chunky" nail design. Do a tiny checkerboard on every nail to keep your nail tech busy (tip them well after this one!), or just use it as an accent.

Make it '70s

Harken back to a classic decade the next time you do a checkerboard pattern by incorporating '70s colors and swirls into your designs. Muted blues, oranges, and pinks are great colors to use in this look, and a wavy checkerboard will fit the theme better than your standard straight-edged checkered nails. 

Doodle in the squares

If you want some checkered nails that break the standard checkered mold, why not draw shapes in some of the squares? You could draw flowers for spring, hearts for Valentine's Day, leaves to welcome fall, or little wreaths around Christmas time. You could match the color of your design to the rest of your nail or pick a color that totally contrasts if you want the design to really stand out.

Or just draw over them

You could also think outside the box (literally) when it comes to drawing designs on your checkered nails. Don't keep them in the square — use designs as overlays to your checkered nails to slightly tone the checkered pattern. Make the designs cover as much or as little of the checkerboard as you want, and for bonus points, theme the color of your design to the season you're in. 

Make it drip

For an abstract checkered nail look that will have everyone swooning, check out this rainbow drip design on checkered nails. Make a colorful drip cascade over the standard black and white checkerboard, or flip the script and have black and white drip over a colorful checkerboard to really throw your friends for a loop. 

Do it in chrome

Calling all galactic-loving nail babes: Checkered nails have come for you, too, and they're here in a big, bold chrome. When you want a futuristic checkered manicure, chrome it up with some chrome nail stickers or your favorite chrome polish. You could do a chrome checkered design on part of the nail, like above, or deck out your whole nail for a reflective look you won't be able to get enough of. 

Use more than two colors

Even though your standard checkerboard only has two colors, that rule doesn't have to apply to your nails. The next time you want to rock checkered nails, pick out more than two colors — especially if you just can't make up your mind. To keep your look simple and put together, pick one colorful shade and keep the rest neutral. Of course, you could also go all out in a bunch of contrasting shades if you wanted!