Fingernail Tattoos Take The Tiny Tattoo Trend To The Next Level

From the bold and traditional to the dainty and discreet, tattoos have never been a one-size-fits-all body modification — until now. Enter fingernail tattoos, a hot ink trend that bridges the gap between the heavily tatted and those who prefer to keep their tats tiny or, better yet, temporary. 


As their name suggests, fingernail tattoos are small tattoos etched into the top layer of the nail. While a licensed tattoo professional will still use a standard tattoo gun to apply your artwork, the gun's needles shouldn't pierce through the fingernail to the nail bed underneath. Puncturing the nail bed will increase your risk of post-tattoo complications, which makes finding an experienced tattooist critical. 

Because the designs are delicately engraved into the outermost layer of the nail, this process is relatively painless — about the same amount of discomfort as getting an acrylic manicure for the first time. Moreover, because the tattoo gun doesn't pierce the skin to create an open wound, these trendy tats typically require less aftercare than their skin counterparts. Fingernail tattoos are only semi-permanent. As your nails naturally grow out, so will the tattoo. Eventually, you'll be able to trim off the design and start over with a clean slate. 


Fingernail tattoos are a pain-free form of expression

The pain associated with tattoos can deter hesitant individuals from committing to new ink, but luckily, fingernails are one of the least painful places on the body to get tattooed. These tattoos are also highly customizable, allowing you to opt for one finger or all ten. 


For those new to tattooing, choosing one nail to design is a great way to acclimate yourself to the process. A singular starburst on the thumb is a funky way to add some ink without having to go all-in on your design choice.

These tiny tats naturally grow out with your nails

Fingernail tattoos' ability to grow out with your nails is both a pro and con to this fashionable ink trend. On the one hand, you have the flexibility to be tattoo-free in months. On the other hand, this can drastically affect the look of your fingernail tattoo as your nails grow. 


Imagery that depends on the outline of the cuticle, for example, won't have the same effect as the nail grows out. For a great, long-lasting design, try single images that will retain their appearance even on grown-out nails. 

Opt for clean, geometric lines

The options for tiny fingernail tats are as virtually endless as their skin counterparts. The more minimalistic the design, the quicker the tattooing process typically becomes. Clean lines and dots are a subtle way to decorate nails for around two to three months. 


Moreover, minimalistic designs have the bonus of discreetly changing shape as you grow and trim your nails. A series of dots and lines like the ones pictured here can shift with each nail trim to get even more wear out of your tattooed mani.

Or go for dainty nature-based fingernail tattoos

Minimalistic doesn't always have to mean geometric. Another popular take on this tattoo trend is fine-line imagery of flowers, butterflies, and other dainty symbols. A pop of extra color in the flower's center adds dimension to this particular design. 


Fingernail tattoo ink has the advantage of not spreading the same way it does in the skin. A small flower design might look thick and misshapen after years of the ink spreading under the skin. But on a fingernail, the design retains its petite look for as long as it's on the nail.

Show off a lucky hand with card-themed fingernail tattoos

Other minimalistic tattoos that aren't geometric or botanical include small designs like card suits, astrology and Zodiac symbols, or numbers. Card suits offer an opportunity to incorporate colors other than black, like these pops of bright red. If you wanted to do a full deck, you could even utilize the thumbnail for a tiny ode to the Joker. 


Additional tabletop game designs could include domino dots, Dungeons and Dragons dice, chess or checkers pieces, or imagery from your favorite board games. (Think Candyland, Monopoly, Clue, or any other game you enjoy.)

Try an elaborate set of fine-line fingernail tats

Alternatively, a tattoo artist highly skilled in fine-line work can create more elaborate designs. This set of tattooed nails took inspiration from popular Mehndi (or henna) designs. Mehndi designs are commonly used in India, Nepal, and other South Asian countries for ceremonial purposes, like weddings. 


Another great option for a Mehndi-inspired mani would be to choose a reddish-brown tint to match the henna ink used to stain the skin. These highly embellished designs typically mean a longer time in the tattoo chair, but the result is well worth the wait.

Feature your favorite books, films, or television shows

Like traditional skin tattoos, tiny fingernail tattoos are a stylish way to express your interests, hobbies, and passions. This set of Harry Potter-themed nails perfectly encapsulates the Potterverse, featuring the house crests, a golden snitch, and, of course, Harry Potter's signature glasses and scar. 


With the right tattoo artist, you can feature virtually any book, movie, or television show you hold close to your heart. From "Doctor Who" to "Twilight" to "Pokemon" to "Star Wars," the possibilities are endless and are — quite literally — at your fingertips.

Use fingernail tattoos as a way to extend hand tats

Fingernail tattoos are a great way to extend designs on the hand down onto the nails. If you opt for a hand and fingernail tattoo at the same time, be aware that the aftercare process will be different. Skin tattoos require daily moisturizing and reduced sun exposure until they're healed. 


Fingernail tattoos aren't nearly as fussy. A layer of topcoat can help preserve the look of your tiny tattoo, just like a topcoat helps protect your polish from everyday scuffs and nicks.

Try a different take on the traditional knuckle tattoo set

If you enjoy the look of knuckle tattoos but aren't interested in tattooing your actual hands, fingernail tattoos are a great way to achieve the same look temporarily. Or, if you've already used up the real estate on your knuckles, this allows you to add a bit extra. 


Whether you go for an empowering "Boss Lady" set or something different, this bold form of lettering achieves the classic tattoo style without pain or permanence — not to mention no itchy fingers while the tattoos heal.

Combine fingernail tattoos with your go-to mani

For the best of both worlds, try a fingernail tattoo and manicure set combo. In this dazzling set, the tattoo artist etched the words "Stay Woke" and two evil eye designs onto the nails. Then, they added blue gemstones and a white gel overlay. 


Grown-out nails are more noticeable when the manicure features full nail coverage, but this artist had a clever workaround. Adding a white strip behind each tattoo near the cuticle allows the artist to re-fill this set without covering up the nail tattoos.

Actual fingernail tattoos can restore confidence and a positive self-image

While fingernail tattoos can mean small, symbol-filled manicures, they can also mean actual fingernails. Cosmetic tattoo artists can create life-like fingernails for those missing their nails due to injuries, congenital disabilities, or otherwise. These cosmetic fingernail tattoos can help individuals regain confidence and feel like themselves again. 


No matter how you decide to rock a fingernail tattoo, the key is to find a trustworthy, reputable artist who can give you a helping hand in bringing your manicured vision to life.