Nail art can often be quite extravagant, but if you are looking for something more classic, a black and white color palette is the way to go.

Here are 11 elegant black and white nail art ideas to try out, each one easily customizable so that you can put your own personality into the design.

Classic Polka Dots

Polka dots are one of the most classic patterns out there. If you opt for a black and white palette, polka dot nail art takes on a much more sophisticated edge.

Wondering how to create the polka dots?

There are a few different tools that you could opt for…

The first is a nail dotter, which is designed for creating small dots for nail art. Alternatively, if you would like to use something that you likely already have lying around the house, a Q-tip, bobby pin, or even a toothpick with the pointed end filed down would work.

Whichever tool you choose to use, simply dip this into the nail polish and, with a steady hand, dot this onto your nail.

If you want the dots to have a similar placement on each one of your nails…

Start with the first dot directly in the center of your nail. Then, create dots around this, and work your way outwards.

If you really want to mix things up a bit…

Add in an accent color, such as in the image above. Red always works so well with black and white, and will help your nails to stand out even more.

Subtle Polka Dots

If you like the idea of polka dots but would prefer a design that is slightly more subtle, this one is a great alternative.

Rather than painting each nail in polka dots, paint just one. Then, with the nail next to it, paint just half the nail with polka dots, and leave the rest white.

Can’t decide between black on white or white on black?

They both work equally well, so give them both a try and see which you prefer. You could even do both, alternating the colors on each finger.

Fading Polka Dots

Here is one last take on the polka dot design…

Since you already know how to create polka dots on your nails, this is another fun black and white look to try.

All you need to do is start creating your dots at the top of each nail, beginning with larger sized dots.

Then, as you work your way down, use smaller tools to create smaller dots, leaving the tiniest ones for when you are about three-quarters of the way down your nail.

Trendy Horizontal Stripes

When it comes to fashion, black and white horizontal stripes seem to always be on trend, making this a great design to apply to your nails too.

This design does take a bit of patience to create, but the effect is most definitely worth it.

Ready to get started?

Here are the steps to follow:

  • Make sure that your nails are clean and dry, and then apply a base coat
  • While it is drying, place a piece of tape onto a cutting mat, and then use a knife to slice this into long, thin ribbons. The width of the ribbons should be the same width that you want your stripes to be
  • Cut the strips down so that they are just wider in length than your finger
  • Paint your nails with a couple of layers of white nail polish and then wait for this to fully dry
  • Apply the ribbons of tape horizontally to each nail, making sure to press down firmly so that there are no air bubbles trapped beneath
  • Paint your nails with a black nail polish, using two coats for a deeper color
  • Wait until your nails have dried and then remove the tape. If there are any gaps in your black lines, use a thin brush or a toothpick to fill these in with more black polish
  • Finish off with a top coat to seal all of your layers in 

A Black French Manicure

While a black French manicure would traditionally feature black tips with a pale pink or nude base, you could add a bit more contrast by applying a white base instead.

Whatever you choose to do, paint your whole nail with this color, but leave the tips bare.

Place a French manicure nail stencil onto your nail, just below the tip, and then use black nail polish to paint the tops of your nails.

Carefully remove the stencils from your nails, and then leave your nails to dry.

Once fully dry, apply a top coat to each nail. 

Want to mix this look up a bit?

Try painting some of your nails fully black, or add in a few black dots below your black tips.


Are you feeling artistic?

If you are good at drawing freehand, then this is such a fun, creative style to try.

Wondering how you would manage to draw on your nails in such detail?

The secret to this is a nail pen. These come in a variety of different tip sizes, from thicker tips to extra fine, enabling you to have so much control over the lines that you draw. 


These tuxedo-inspired nails have such character, and are actually quite easy to pull off.

To begin with, you need to apply a white nail polish to your whole nail, and then wait for this to dry.

Now to create the tuxedo tips…

You have two options here; using stencils or painting them on freehand. While using stencils will likely give you cleaner and smoother edges, painting them on freehand is definitely faster, so long as you have a steady hand and will not need to keep correcting mistakes.

Once you are done with the tips, it is time to move on to the “buttons”.

To create these, use the same method mentioned above for polka dot nails – using either a dotter, bobby pin or Q-tip dipped into black nail polish and dotted on to the nails.

Finish the look off with a top coat.

Wondering if a top coat is really necessary?

Not strictly, but a top coat does prevent your nails from chipping or peeling. It will also strengthen them, and can extend the life of your manicure by over two weeks.

Marbled Nails

The marbled trend has been huge recently, making it no surprise that marbling is now being seen on nails too.

Think it looks complicated?

Well, it isn’t easy, but once you get the hang of the technique, it will not take you too long to create this look.

Want to give it a try?

Follow these steps:

  • Apply a base coat, and then follow this up with two coats of a white nail polish
  • Using an extra fine dotter or a rounded end of a toothpick, dot some black nail polish onto your nails, making sure to keep the dots as small as possible
  • Use the white nail polish that you applied at the start to create white dots over the top of the black dots that you just created
  • With a detail brush, swirl these black and white dots together in a free-form way, to create the marbled effect. If the marbling detail is not looking as smooth as you would like, dip your brush into some nail polish thinner or alcohol, and then use this to swirl the dots together
  • Apply a top coat, opting for a matte finish if this is what you would prefer 

Checkered Nails

Checkered nails are so stylish, and are really such a stand-out design.

You have two options when it comes to creating this look; using the brush that comes with your nail polish or using a nail pen.

Either way, you will need to begin with a base coat, followed by a couple of layers of a white nail polish.

Then, using either a brush or a nail pen, draw on two small vertical lines at the bottom of your nail.

Join these lines together at the top, so that they form a square, and then draw another square a little way above this. Fill both of these squares in with black.

Then, draw on some more squares coming out from the corners of the squares. Fill these in so that you create the checkered pattern.

If the edges of your squares are not looking clear enough, use the white nail polish again to neaten these up.

Finally, apply a top coat to seal all of this in.

Minimalistic and Modern

This is quite a fun and edgy nail art design, and is perfect for those who appreciate a more minimalistic aesthetic.

Begin with a base coat covering your whole nail, and then apply some white nail polish over the top of this. Start at the top, and then stop when you are about three quarters of the way down your nail. Move the brush down diagonally, so that it meets one of the corners at the base of your nail, leaving the other corner bare. You may need to apply two coats of this.

Now, on to the black…

Using a thin striper brush, draw a vertical line down your nail. Feel free to experiment with the placement of this line on each nail, as that will give this design more personality.

Now, using a nail dotter or a Q-tip, dot a small amount of black nail polish onto each nail, again varying the placement of this.

Finish the look off with a layer of top coat.

Matte and Geometric

Matte nails have been all the rage lately, and this look makes the matte stand out even more, thanks to the bare strips running through it.

This is an easy design to create, but you will need to use either stencils or tape to block out the “strips” running along your nails.

Before doing this, apply a base coat, and then apply the tape, pressing down firmly to ensure that there are no bumps or air bubbles beneath, as this will detract from the smoothness of the finished lines.

It is completely up to you whether you opt for straight strips, curved strips, or anything else, and feel free to experiment with the placement of these strips too.

Now, paint your nails with a matte black and white nail polish, alternating the color you use on each nail. If you would like to keep this design looking more subtle, then it may be best to stick to just black, omitting the white.

Once you are done, remove the tape and allow your nails to completely dry before applying a top coat. It may seem easier to remove the tape once your nails have already dried, but doing it beforehand will help to ensure that the edges of your lines and smoother and cleaner.

Nail art is such a fun way to inject some character and personality into your nails, and they can really add a whole new dimension to any outfit. Going with a black and white color palette will keep your nails looking elegant and sophisticated, and will also pretty much guarantee that your nails will match with any outfit you pick out.

Don’t forget…

When creating any sort of nail design, make sure that your nails are clean and dry, and that your cuticles have been pushed back. It may be tempting to apply an oil or a lotion to your fingers first, but this can make it harder for the nail polish to properly stick to your nails, so save the lotion for after you have applied your top coat.

Whichever nail art design you decide to try out, remember to have fun with it, because that is what art is all about!