28 Dark Academia Nail Ideas For A Moody Schoolgirl Manicure

For those of you who don't already know, dark academia fashion, like light academia, draws inspiration from vintage literature and Greek art and history and has an element of gothic style. It's all about plaid and pleated skirts, fitted blazers, and romantic looks that would grace the cover of any gothic novel. Imagine retro Ivy League halls and students carrying stacks of books, both educational and mysterious. As fashion stylist and image consultant JenniLee told Reviewed, "I would describe it as a boarding school meets goth enthusiast." For an older reference to the inspiration behind this look, think of "Dead Poets Society." For something more modern, look to "Harry Potter" and "Wednesday."

Want to capture the dark academia aesthetic with your manicure? Stick to moody schoolgirl basics, like browns and grays, and add in a little Wednesday Addams charm with spooky graveyard designs or elements that scream "Harry Potter life." From edgy to cutesy, you have lots of options in terms of color or theme for infusing your nails with that spark of dark academia magic.

1. Feeling celestial

Celestial imagery has a definite dark academia vibe. Who doesn't love spending time lying on a blanket and looking up at the night sky, trying to identify constellations? These nails strike a dark, witchy note, but also evoke a whimsical sense of nature, education, and wishing upon a star. We adore the gold moons and stars in this set, and you could easily incorporate other planets, such as a playful little Saturn with its iconic rings.

2. Haunting nails

Even Harry Potter encountered phantoms, from haunted bathrooms and beyond. Ghosts aren't limited to Halloween, so you can embrace them all year long if you're aiming for a fun vibe with your dark academia look. We adore the glittery purple details on these nails, but you can customize the colors to match your own style, whether it's a retro orange or an earthy green. The most adorable feature of this set is the surprised faces on the ghosties!

3. Black hearts

Dark academia plays with dark colors, and black is as dark as you can get. However, just because you like to wear black and paint your nails the same shade doesn't mean you don't have a heart. In fact, this Instagrammer wears her heart on her nails. This would look cute even if all the nails had hearts on them, or perhaps the black nails had gray hearts — the ideas are endless.

4. A smokey gradient

This Instagrammer said they wanted a manicure that resembled a "smokey effect," and we think the artist nailed it with this design. Whether you see a gradient going from black to clear, some sooty nail tips, or a smoky haze — it's all befitting of a gothic and dark academia look.

5. Creepy crawlies

Whether bugs are your chosen familiar or you simply like to study these fascinating creatures, they make a great choice for nail art when it comes to the darker side of academia. The black and green combo here looks fantastic and throws off some real "Beetlejuice" vibes. You could also change up the color scheme with brown bugs or black nails with green bugs. Or even get a little more detailed with the insects themselves!

6. Centered snakes

Are there any Slytherins in the house? The precious snake on the middle finger of this set is so cute and cuddly (if you're into that sort of thing). We love the pale pink tips on a few of the nails, which add a somewhat innocent feel to the whole look that even a Hufflepuff could appreciate. With silver moons and black and silver stars, this nail design also draws on the celestial realms, so even those who lean more towards a witchcore aesthetic for fall can appreciate the look.

7. Like amber resin

While the creator referred to these as "woody jellies," we believe they resemble fossilized sap, also known as amber stones! They have a whimsical and dark appearance, and we can't help but imagine a petrified mosquito trapped within them, which we hope the artist might consider making in the future. The shades of brown and orange they exhibit also make these nails fit the dark academia aesthetic.

8. It's a bug's life

Can't get enough insects in your life? We've discovered another bug-themed set of nails sure to inspire you. We love the simplicity of this manicure – black with some glitter. However, the addition of a life-like bug adds an extra burst of creativity that really makes the design stand out. Not only will this satisfy your inner entomologist, but it also provides a bit of a surprise factor, as some people may wonder if your little friend is real!

9. A look of darkness

We love the spooky vibes here, which make us want to pack for a picnic in the graveyard. The design serves up a delightful blend of Halloween and fun in the cemetery. While it may seem more fitting for the month of October alone, this gothic romance look could carry your dark academia style into any month of the year.

10. Matte and shiny black

These nails are elegant and understated, with a dark look suitable for the office or the classroom. The creator simply painted their nails with a matte black color, then applied a shiny clear coat on the top part – a simple design and chic way to wear black nail polish that gives the impression of being much more time-consuming than it actually is.

11. Like a rainbow in the dark

Who says rainbows always have to be associated with sunny skies? Not us. We love the colorful rainbow mixed with black on these nails. In addition to its Pink Floyd vibes, it ranks high on the creativity scale thanks to the different looks on each nail and the rainbow sprinkles in the dark polish.

12. Black and white Christmas

Because even the darkest souls love a little holiday cheer, this wintry set of nails makes for a great dark academia pick. With glistening snowflakes falling from the sky to cute little white Christmas trees speckled on one nail, even the darkest hearts can get into the winter spirit with this inspirational look. Using a deep green instead of black would look fantastic as well.

13. Is that houndstooth?

Houndstooth is one of those fabric patterns that just screams sophistication and causing a bit of trouble at prep school. Featuring rusty gold and black, these nails are perfect for that dark schoolgirl look, giving you the feeling that you borrowed your wealthy mom's favorite cardigan without bothering to ask her.

14. Fall is here

This manicure definitely reminds us of falling leaves. While you aren't restricted to wearing fall-inspired nails only during the autumn months, the dark academia vibes really come alive during those chilly days. We adore the feeling evoked by the brown, green, orange, and yellow combinations of this design. The colors possess a vintage essence and will capture the attention of anyone who happens to glance at your hands.

15. You get a gold star!

Black and gold are classic dark academia shades. Black is dark, while gold adds a little light at the end of the tunnel and reminds us of the cooler months of the year, just like browns, yellows, and oranges. The gold flecks add some luxury to these black nails, and we enjoy feeling like we did a good job with those gold stars.

16. Halloween French nails

The Halloween aesthetic falls squarely into the realm of dark academia, even just with the color schemes that they share – blacks, grays, dark browns, and other deep, rich, and dark colors. This manicure blends a bit of dark and light academia together, but we're here for it. Black, orange, and white with lots of stars and a moon here and there – it's like a fall night looking up into the sky. Just don't forget to grab your sweater.

17. Dark accent swirls

Why stick with basic black all on its own when you can add some accent nails that still have a dark vibe, but also add a little something extra to your nail art? We think these nails are simple, yet elegant, and definitely dark and a bit spooky. This is another look that can easily go from witchy to gothic to dark academia, and beyond.

18. From dark to light

Combine your love of dark academia with light academia accents on your manicure by using multiple shades of colors on each nail. These can range from a nice pale tan to a black thumb. It's a simple manicure, but it still has a creative and elegant look. If you think they're too plain, add some dots, stripes, or something else to each of them to bring the colors together more.

19. The dark side of beauty

Here's another way to wear black nails while adding a little twist and romance to the look. This one reminds us of the rose with its withering petals from "Beauty and the Beast." The roses have a stained glass design, which adds even more gothic whimsy to the manicure. While you can see a bit of the rose peeking up from the thumb, we think you could opt for just one nail with this design.

20. Gorgeous browns

Dark academia has a thing for dark browns, and we have a thing for this manicure. The creator's nails appear as if they were dipped in caramel and then chocolate – yum! This is a distinctive way to showcase a French manicure with a moody twist. It exudes a warm ambiance and evokes a longing for autumnal foliage, spiced lattes, and caramel apples.

21. Dark florals

You can be colorful and dark at the same time, and the floral nails on display here are proof of it. The matte black of this polish looks like a chalkboard, which takes us right into the classroom. The colorful flowers add a happy mood to what might normally be gloomy nails but don't overpower us with too much color. You could follow the lead here and use multiple colors, or opt for one color of flowers throughout.

22. Many moons ago

While we've already had a couple of instances of moons here, we couldn't pass up sharing this glorious set of nails with you. These black nails are adorned with moons and stars in silver, making us think of the night sky. If gold isn't your color, silver looks fabulous with black, and most of us associate silver with the moon and gold with the sun anyway.

23. Vintage inspired

We love the checkerboard and florals on these nails, as they remind us of the '60s and '70s. If you want your nails to have a vintage dark academia look and go well with a pair of tweed bell bottoms, then this manicure is perfect for you. It has a French manicure design, but it also includes pretty daisies that we adore.

24. Bats in the belfry

It wouldn't be dark without some bats, would it? One nail harbors a multitude of little bats, while the others look as though they have silver dripping on them — but those are also bat-shaped! What we love most about these nails is that they are understated, yet so unique once you take a close look at them.

25. Chilly winter inspo

If Christmas trees aren't your jam, you can still embrace the winter theme with some snowflakes. The gray glittery base coat on these nails is dark enough for them to still align with the dark academia aesthetic, while the black snowflakes make the look even more distinctive (because white snowflakes are so overrated). These beautiful nails make us want to cozy up in dark cardigans and riding boots.

26. Spooky browns

We had to add another set of ghosts to the collection when we saw these. They make us think of haunted college hallways and spooky candlelit nights. Imagine walking down the halls of a haunted mansion or private school and seeing strange shadows flitting about – those are the spooky feelings we get from this cute nail design.

27. Gothic designs

There's a reason why goth translates so well to dark academia, and these nails have everything you need to get through the Season of the Witch. Your hallowed school hauls will feel a little safer with sigils to protect you. Hey, did you know black is a safe and protective color as well? The silver drawings on these nails make them pop even more.

28. Perfect in plaid

These will look great with that pleated school skirt, and you can look for plaid faux nails or nail polish strips, which give you an easier way to achieve such a fun and detailed design. Of course, if you're up for a challenge, you can grab the colors that match your favorite plaid outfit and paint them by hand.