A close-up shot capturing a woman's hands elegantly extended towards a nail technician, showcasing a variety of nail polish samples, tools, and design inspirations at a nail salon.

How To Ask For The Nail Design You Want At The Salon

Getting your nails done at a salon can be an exciting and pampering experience. However, it can also be intimidating trying to communicate exactly what nail design you want to the technician.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Bring reference photos on your phone of the designs you like, point out specifics from the photos, and ask the technician if they can recreate it for you.

Be open to suggestions if some aspects may not work for your nail shape or length.

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through everything you need to know to ask for and get the nail design you want during your next salon visit.

Come Prepared with Photos of Nail Designs You Like

Search places like Pinterest, Instagram, and Google Images to find designs you’re drawn to

Looking through nail inspiration online is a great way to discover new designs you may want to try out. Sites like Pinterest, Instagram, and Google Images make it easy to browse thousands of stylish nail art ideas.

Search for keywords like “short nail designs”, “fall nails”, or “ombre nails” to find looks you love. Save or bookmark images that catch your eye so you have a collection to show your technician. Looking at different examples will help narrow down the colors, shapes, and styles you’re attracted to.

Save photos on your phone to show the technician examples of shapes, colors, and styles you like

Once you’ve found some nail designs you’re interested in, save the photos right on your phone. This makes it super easy to access them when you’re at your appointment. Your nail technician will appreciate seeing the examples so they know exactly what you’re envisioning.

Focus on saving pictures that showcase the details you want, like certain nail shapes (almond, coffin, square, etc. ), cool color combinations, artistic patterns or textures, glitter or rhinestone accents, and more. Point out specific elements in the photos that appeal to you.

This gives your tech a clear idea of what to recreate on your own nails.

Look for designs that will work with your nail length and shape

When browsing nail inspiration, pay attention to the nail lengths and shapes featured in the designs. Choose photos of styles that will realistically work with the natural length and shape of your own nails. For example, long stiletto or coffin shapes won’t turn out right if you have short nail beds.

Similarly, intricate nail art and details often look better on longer nails. Simple French tips or single color polish is better suited for short nails. Considering your own nail proportions will help you select designs that can be properly customized just for you.

Communicate with your manicurist if you want to try new nail lengths and shapes to achieve the look you want.

Point Out Specific Elements from Your Inspiration Photos

Show the technician 1-2 photos and point out particular aspects you want incorporated

When you come prepared with inspiration photos, be sure to show your nail technician 1-2 images max and verbally point out the exact elements you want incorporated into your design. This clear communication is key for getting your dream nails.

For example, you may say “I love the shape and length of the nails in this first photo, but want to incorporate the pink and white color scheme from the second image.” Give the technician time to study both photos in detail while you explain which parts inspire you.

For example, you may like the color palette from one photo and the shape from another

Inspiration photos allow you to mix and match elements from different nails that appeal to you. As we discussed, you may fall in love with the baby pink and white colors featured in one sample design, but prefer the almond shape featured in another.

Be very specific when calling out these details to your manicurist. For instance, tell them: “Can we please do a medium almond shape for the nails, with ombré shading from blush pink to white?” This clear guidance gives them direction.

Verbally call out shapes, colors, embellishments, etc. that you want them to recreate

While inspiration photos provide a helpful visual, you’ll still need to verbally call attention to any shapes, colors, lengths, embellishments or other features you want incorporated.

For example, while pointing to a photo you may say: “I’d love to emulate the round shape and neutral colors in this manicure, but use some small rhinestone details like in this other image here around the cuticles.”

Giving as many precise details as possible about the elements you wish to combine allows your technician to perfectly recreate your dream nail vision! They may also suggest tweaks to make your design idea even better.

Be Clear About the Overall Look You’re Going For

Give the technician context like if it’s for a special event or vacation

Let your nail technician know if you’re getting your nails done for any special occasion like a wedding, graduation party, or upcoming tropical vacation. Discuss the event details and theme colors so they can envision the full context and recommend designs accordingly.

The more background you provide, the better they can nail (pun intended!) the style you want.

Explain if you want something subtle and natural or bold and eye-catching

Before your nail appointment, decide if you prefer understated nails blending nicely with your outfit or flashy stunners taking center stage. Communicate your preferences clearly so there’s no confusion.

For example, say “I’m attending a garden tea party this weekend and want soft, feminine nails with delicate flowers.” Or “It’s my birthday and I’m going clubbing – give me dazzling nails that sparkle under the lights!” This guidance helps technicians customize just for you.

Mention if you prefer minimalist designs or want lots of details and embellishments

Minimalists and maximalists approach nail art very differently! Be clear which camp you fall into. If you love negative space and simple shapes, say “I prefer clean, minimalistic square nails with one focal point.”

But if bling and complex designs excite you, ask for what you crave: “Please give me textured nails covered in glitter, gems, and metallic foil with intricate patterns.” This clarity prevents disappointments like expecting an ornate manicure but getting plain solid colors.

Give adjectives like fun, elegant, edgy to describe the overall vibe

Mood board words like fun, elegant, edgy help set the tone for your manicure. For example, “I’m attending my company’s formal gala and want elegant, classy nails featuring pearl accents.” Or “It’s Halloween and I’m dressing as a vampire – give me edgy blood-red nails with spiderwebs and bats!”

Adjectives paint a picture so your technician knows exactly which direction to take your nails. Feel free to show inspiration images too. The more descriptive guidance provided, the better the final product will match your vision.

Ask About Recommendations Based on Your Nails

When getting a new nail design, it’s important to consult with your nail technician to get their expert recommendations. Here are some things to keep in mind during the consultation:

The technician may make suggestions based on the length and shape of your nails

Nail technicians are trained to assess the length, thickness, and shape of your natural nails. They can then recommend nail art and designs that will complement your nails’ natural features. For example, long coffin-shaped nails can handle intricate designs, while short square nails may look better with minimalist art.

Certain designs may not work as well if you have very short or long nails

If you have very short nails, elaborate nail art like 3D designs or floral motifs may be tricky to execute. Similarly, if your nails are extremely long, intricate patterns can be hard to fit onto the nail surface. Be open to your technician’s advice about the best options for your nail length.

Be open to the technician’s expertise and input on what will look best

Your nail technician is a professional who understands nail shapes, trends, and techniques. Value their years of experience and listen to their suggestions about what nail designs will be most flattering for your hands.

They may advise against certain ideas if they know it won’t have the look you want.

Have a conversation and collaborate to come up with a design you’re both happy with

Getting your nails done should be a collaborative process between you and your technician. Explain the look you’re hoping for, but also be open to the technician’s ideas and expertise. Meet in the middle to come up with a design you both feel good about.

This will ensure you walk away with a stylish manicure that fits your personal taste.

Provide Feedback Throughout the Process

As the technician starts applying the design, speak up if anything looks different than expected

Communication is key when getting your perfect nail design. Don’t be shy about voicing your opinion as the manicurist starts working. If the shape, length, color or any other aspect looks off from what you envisioned, politely speak up right away.

The technician wants you to be thrilled with the end result, so they’ll appreciate the feedback to get the design just right.

Politely ask them to make tweaks and adjustments until you’re fully satisfied

Remember that this is your nail service, so it’s absolutely okay to ask for tweaks and changes during the process. If the French tip is thicker than you wanted or a flower looks different than the inspiration photo you provided, let the technician know in a kind manner and ask if they can adjust it to your liking.

Small refinements as they work can make a big difference in achieving your dream manicure or pedicure.

Voicing your preferences along the way gets you the end result you really want

Don’t wait until the technician has finished to decide if you like the nail design or not. Gently guide the process each step of the way by communicating your preferences for shape, length, embellishments and more.

According to a recent survey by Nailpro Magazine, over 85% of nail technicians appreciate input from clients during the service. So speak up about any desired tweaks or adjustments so you leave with a manicure or pedicure you absolutely love.

Remember, this is your nail design – it’s ok to gently guide until it’s perfect for you!

Some clients feel shy or hesitant about speaking up during their nail service, but it’s completely fine to provide feedback throughout. Always do so gently and politely. Think of it as a collaborative process between you and the technician.

Describe the vision you have for your manicure or pedicure, from the shape details to the colors and art. The end goal for both you and the nail technician is for you to be thrilled with how your nails turn out. Don’t be afraid to communicate any desired changes until your nails are perfect!


Getting the nail design you want doesn’t have to be intimidating with the right preparation and communication.

Come armed with inspiration photos, point out specific elements you like, and clearly describe the overall look you want to achieve.

Collaborate with your technician and provide feedback throughout the process to end up with your dream nails!

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