32 Accent Nails That Will Inspire Your Next Mix-And-Match Mani

Sometimes you want to add a design to your nails, but it feels excessive to go for five done-up fingers. When you're craving just a little something extra but don't want to go overboard, an accent nail is the perfect solution. An accent nail (or nails) is when a nail or two is styled with a different color or design from the rest of your manicure. Accent nails can add major personality to an otherwise simple nail look, but they're faster to do (and cost less at a nail salon) than most intricate five-nail looks. 

Accent nails come in both minimalist and maximalist designs, from simple dots and stripes to intricate motifs and 3D nail art. You can really take this nail inspiration any which way, using free-handed drawings, adorable patterns, nail stickers, and rhinestones and gems to express yourself. This means there are plenty of options you can try for both at-home and professional manicures. The ring finger nail is a popular choice for an accent nail, but all of your fingers are fair game. Want to mix up your manicure but not sure where to start? There are plenty of eye-catching accent nail looks to choose from — we have proof.

Red hot heart

Hearts are a popular nail art motif, and we totally understand why. They can represent both friendship and romance — and where would we be without love? Basic hearts are also a simple design to do, but while a plain heart is adorable, it looks even better when the tails of the heart cross at the bottom, like this fun design above. You can either match the shade to the rest of your manicure or choose a whole new color altogether.

French tip

If you're looking for a minimalist accent nail design, then a multi-color French mani is the one to choose. The French manicure is a classic that goes with literally anything and is suitable for both day-to-day wear and special events. This design idea is one way to create a subtle accent with a switch in hue that will make one nail really pop. You can opt for a classic white French manicure and then a pop of color for the accent nail, or vice versa, with colorful French tips and a white accent nail.

Little gem

Another subtle accent nail look, this gem accent nail is minimalist but adds so much to a simple manicure. The blushy nail design makes it very trendy, with a milk nail base and an eye-catching neon pink hue. Though tiny, the gem immediately draws your attention, and best of all, it's an incredibly easy look to recreate yourself with some nail jewels.

Floral accent nail

When it comes to nail designs, pretty flowers will always be in style. There are tons of gorgeous options when it comes to floral designs, and the blooms in this inspo look have a particularly romantic feel. Their simple and delicate appearance makes them the perfect pop of fun for a plain green solid mani. While this nail design would look beautiful on all five nails, it has a more toned-down look when it's just painted on two.

Head in the clouds

Take a nude manicure to the next level with some cloud-inspired accent nails. This nail design doesn't stray far from the elegant look of a classic nude manicure but adds a bit more oomph. The wispy clouds look absolutely dreamy, and it's a delightful accent nail idea if you're going for a coquette or romantic aesthetic. The white cloud design perfectly compliments the warm nude base, giving an all-over neutural vibe you can wear with any outfit. 

Heart pattern

A manicure almost always looks cuter with more hearts, and this one proves our case. The heart pattern is sweet and romantic, especially in the deep romantic red. While the ring finger is popular for an accent nail, this manicure shows how great accent nails can look on other fingers as well, especially a middle and index finger pairing. Though each nail is different, these two still stick with a theme, with one little heart pattern and one larger heart-inspired French tip.

Festive accent

An accent nail is perfect for a festive motif: It brings the holidays or a special event to your nails while keeping your manicure relatively simple. Decals on each nail might look too busy (and in the case of using festive characters, it can look a tad childish as well). Not to mention, many of these nail designs can take a long time to do, so an accent nail helps you get the look while saving time.

Plain accent nail

If you're going for a patterned manicure, one way to add an accent nail is to go the exact opposite route. A plain accent nail can really stand out if the rest of your nails are adorned. To tie the manicure together, match the plain nail with an element of your other nails. For example, this manicure uses a matching base color to the rest of the manicure to create an accented look that isn't too bold (you want people to focus on the patterns, after all).

Sparkle motifs

Want to add some sparkle without working with sparkly polishes or glitter? A few individual sparkle drawings are the right pick to get the glittery vibe without having to pick up a new nail polish. A few multi-color polka dots add to the colorful and fun feel of this manicure.

Plain heart

You really can't go wrong with a plain heart accent nail. The easiest way to get the look is to choose a different color for the heart, but there are other creative options as well. For example, this manicure opts for a heart in the same color as the other nails but on a sheer base. This makes the heart stand out without switching up the color palette, and the difference in white shades gives this nail look a romantic and dreamy feel.

Minimalist stripes

This nail look is modeled after candy canes, but you can take basic stripes in all sorts of ways. Play with stripes of different thicknesses, colors, and sizes to get your unique look. This manicure is another one on this list that sticks with one color, using a natural base to create an accent nail without adding a new shade.

3D detail

An accent nail is the perfect place to add a 3D detail. After all, some of these details can get in the way, so it makes your life easier to stick to one nail. That being said, not all 3D designs have to be big and out there — this 3D nail is simple enough for everyday wear. It adds a dimensional accent, but it won't get snagged on things in your day-to-day life.

Floral pattern

A floral pattern is pretty but can look too busy if it's on all your digits. One way to tone down this manicure idea is just to add the pattern to an accent nail or two — or in the case of this manicure inspiration, on an accent nail and as patterned French tips. The end result is stunning, with an air of subtlety as well.

Bejeweled accent nail

This bejeweled accent nail transforms this simple French manicure, taking it from plain to a whole lot more fun. The gems add a little color and a lot of texture, but keeping them to a French tip shape helps with cohesiveness. If you love your traditional French mani but want to elevate it for a special event, a bejeweled nail is a stunning choice.

Thumb accent nail

While the thumb isn't the most popular choice for an accent nail, it's really a digit you should consider, as proven by this nail look. It's the most subtle choice — it's generally easier to notice an accent detail on one of your fingers compared to your thumb. However, thumb nails tend to be wider and often bigger than your other nails, so it's a good spot to try a larger design.

Delicate butterfly

Butterfly-inspired nail art always has a charming and whimsical touch to them, and their huge array of bright colors makes them the perfect accent piece. You can truly make a butterfly design match any nail shade, or of course, go with a classic but distinctive monarch butterfly. To make it look like the butterflies are in mid-flight, draw partial butterflies like in this nail look. It makes it feel like you captured a snapshot of the butterfly mid-flutter.

Gingham print

The preppy style is well in its comeback phase, and you know what that means — gingham prints. If you lean towards a more neutral preppy wardrobe, then one place you can add this classic pattern is on your nails. Patterning all five nails might feel like too much, especially if you have a minimalist aesthetic, so the solution is just to style one or two accent nails in gingham instead.

Fun accent nail motif

When we think of produce designs on nails, we usually think of juicy fruit-inspired designs like cherries and lemons, but why not go wilder with the idea? This corn motif is creative but somehow still beyond adorable. Now, a corn cob on each nail might feel goofy, so to keep it somewhat professional (and oh-so-adorable), we recommend placing a unique motif on one accent nail paired with a plain manicure.

Animal print

Most of us have a strong opinion on animal print (and it's an opinion that might change depending on our current tastes). Whether you love it or hate it right now, you can't deny that it makes a stand-out accent nail design. You can stick with realistic or neutral shades or opt for a bright color like hot pink, which really leans into animal print's often tacky reputation in the best way.

Negative space design

A negative space design is a creative way to add some excitement to a basic motif. This negative space heart has a distinctive look compared to a regular heart. To create similarly sharp lines, you can use a nail sticker, painting over the sticker and then peeling it off when the polish is dry.

Eye pattern

A symbol that fends off negative energy, the evil eye is a common motif for jewelry. One other way to wear the evil eye is on your nails. While it may not be too obvious at first, this small and dainty evil eye design is a great way to incorporate the symbol on your mani without being too flashy with it. 

Bedazzled heart

Want to create a simple bedazzled nail design? A heart is the way to go. It's basic and small enough that you can fit it on one accent nail, and since there's no freehand drawing necessary, it's one you can try on your own. You can either opt for a plain heart design or paint the inside of the heart a different color, like in this inspo photo.

Little daisies

Itty-bitty forever-trendy daisy nails are a go-to when it comes to floral manicures — they'll never truly go out of style. Daisy nails work for every occasion, from your everyday nails to a summer wedding look. A daisy accent nail keeps your manicure subdued overall. Since daisies have such a simple shape, they'll also work with a range of colors and patterns.

Extra sparkly nail

You don't need to go all-out to sparkle and shine — a glittery accent nail is all it takes to make a statement. A full-on sparkle look might be daunting if you're not used to it, so a sparkly accent nail is one way to try a similar look. Plus, it gives you more room to be creative with the rest of your manicure, mixing sparkles with patterns that might not work on a glittery base.

Star sign

It can be hard to think of original nail designs, and while flowers and hearts are gorgeous, sometimes you just want to switch up the theme. One personalized idea is to draw your star sign symbol. There's no need to paint one on each nail — just an accent nail will get the message across.

Detailed pattern accent nail

An accent nail is a fabulous way to highlight a pretty pattern. Nail art is time-consuming and can also be pricey. Save time and money by choosing one accent nail rather than adorning all your fingers with a detailed pattern. In a way, doing so also makes the pattern stand out more since it's a distinctive feature against a plainer backdrop.

Fiery flames

Match your nails with your fiery attitude by adding a flame design. This nail look is just plain hot and is the one to try if you're looking for a baddie manicure. There's no need to stick to traditional fiery colors, either. Instead, opt for trending shades (like this silver chrome) to get an even more stylish finish.

Swirl and sparkle

There are quite a few intricate designs on our list, but sometimes, it's good to bring it back to the basics. A simple swirl design is whimsical with a bit of a retro feel, particularly if you choose the right color palette. Its unbusy look makes swirls a great accompaniment to other designs, like sparkles and gems.

Charming mushrooms

The cottagecore aesthetic is all about the simple life — and if you're all for the cottagecore vibe, that means you should embrace minimalism in your nail look too. An accent nail is a lovely way to add a cottagecore motif (like little mushrooms) to your manicure while keeping it toned down. Earthy tones like the green French tips capture this style's nature-loving feel.

Sweet cherries

All fruity manicures are sweet, but cherry nails steal the spotlight for a reason. Cherries have made their appearance in fashion throughout the decades — they keep coming back because they're so vibrant, aesthetically pleasing, and solidly embedded in pop culture. Bring a vintage feel to your manicure with cherry accent nails, of course, paired with a chic white base.

Heart French tip

Heart nails don't need to be basic. There are plenty of ways to use this simple shape in imaginative designs, like as a heart French tip. When painting a patterned French tip, you don't need to make it completely even. Unlike regular French nails, bringing the design further down on one side can make the look more unique, as shown in this inspo manicure.

Polka dots

Polka dot manicures have a vintage charm to them, but there is such a thing as too many polka dots. On all five nails, you might end up with a pop-art-inspired look, which is fabulous if that's your goal. However, if you're going more vintage and subtle, a polka dot accent nail is plenty.