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How to Do a French Manicure

If you want a chic and polished look, nothing beats a classic French manicure. This style of manicure is easy to do on yourself or a relative at home. Choose a pale pink or clear base coat and make your tips pop with a crescent of white nail polish. For a striking look, let your nails grow long or use gels or acrylics to lengthen them instantly. Give your nails some Parisian flair without spending big at a salon.


Getting Your Nails Ready

  1. Remove your old nail polish. Dip a cotton swab into some nail polish remover and remove all of your old nail polish, even if it's clear. Be sure to remove traces of polish from all the corners and cracks, since you'll be able to see other colors through the pale French mani polish.

    Do a French Manicure Step 1.jpg
    • If you're wearing acrylics and wish to do the French manicure on top, use appropriate polish remover and don't let it soak into your nails for too long.
    • Note that acetone nail polish remover can dry and damage your nails, so you may want to choose a remover that doesn't contain this chemical.
  2. Trim your nails into your preferred shape. French manicures look more striking with longer nails, so you don't want to trim them too close to your fingertips. Use nail clippers to trim uneven spots and make sure all your nails are the same length.

    Do a French Manicure Step 2.jpg
    • If you want to apply acrylic nails, you can trim them down to your fingertips first. After your nails are trimmed, apply the acrylic glue and nails according to the instructions on the package.
  3. File and buff your nails. Use a nail file to finish shaping your nails so that they each have a smooth, crescent-shaped edge. You can file your nails into a square or round shape, depending on your preference. Use a nail buffer to buff the surface of your nails.

    Do a French Manicure Step 3.jpg
    • When you file your nails, don't push down, as this can damage them. You want to gently drag the file across your nails.
  4. Soak your nails. Place your hands in a warm bowl of water, whole milk or olive oil. This softens your cuticles and makes them easier to push back. Soak for about three minutes, then dry your hands with a towel.

    Do a French Manicure Step 4.jpg
  5. Push back and trim your cuticles. Use an orange stick or cuticle pusher to push your cuticles back. Clip off any hangnails or bits of dead skin with a cuticle cutter or small nail scissors. You may also massage some cuticle oil into your nails at this time. After applying cuticle oil you could put a few drops of rubbing alcohol on your nails. Make sure not to put on too much or it can cause your nails to turn brittle.

    Do a French Manicure Step 5.jpg

Applying Polish

  1. Apply the base coat. The base coat of a French manicure is usually pale pink, cream, or clear. Start by painting a stripe down the center of your first nail, then two more stripes on either side. Paint from the cuticle to the tip, with the brush angled forward. Fill in the entire nail using smooth, even strokes. Continue painting the base coat on each nail of both hands.

    Do a French Manicure Step 6.jpg
    • You can buy French manicure kits that come with a classic base coat color, a tip color, and other equipment you can use to create a perfect manicure.
    • If you want to stray from the classic French mani, choose a base color that isn't pink or cream. You could go with red, purple, blue, green, or any other color you like. For the tips, you can use white nail polish or another contrasting color.
    • Allow the base to dry thoroughly and apply a second coat. Make sure the base is completely dry before proceeding.
  2. Paint your nail tips with white polish. Making sure your hand is steady, paint white crescents on your nail tips. The white polish should stop right where the whites of your nails stop. Allow the tips to completely dry, then apply another coat if you wish.

    Do a French Manicure Step 7.jpg
    • If you have a French manicure kit, you can use the crescent-shaped nail guides to make sure your tip paint goes on neatly. You can also create your own nail guides by cutting them out of painter's tape.[1]
    • Using other kinds of tape might ruin the base coat, so stick to either painter's tape or the nail guides that come in a kit.
    • Use white nail polish to paint a tip on the nails. Then use a nail polish remover pen to carefully touch up or shape the area. If you don't have a pen you could also use a Q-tip.
  3. Add a clear top coat to protect the look of your freshly painted nails. Using a top coat will help the manicure last longer, too.

    Do a French Manicure Step 8.jpg
  4. Finished.

    Do a French Manicure Step 9.jpg

Getting the Perfect Tips

  1. Use scotch tape. If you're not so great at painting a straight line, you can make your job a bit easier by using scotch tape. Once your nails are completely ready and are just missing the white tips, put a strip of scotch tape across the top of each of your nails. The tape will block off the majority of your nail, leaving just a small strip at the end exposed. Paint this with your white polish; if you make a mistake, it won't matter since it will just get on the scotch tape instead. When your nails are dry, peel off the scotch tape to reveal your finished manicure.

    Do a French Manicure Step 10.jpg
  2. Use moleskin pads. You know the little round moleskin pads you might use for blisters on your feet? Well, they happen to work perfectly for getting rounded white tips without wiggly edges. When you've finished your nail color (the light pink or tan, whichever you prefer), and the color has dried, put a moleskin pad at the top of the nail, so that only a small portion of the tip is exposed. Paint your white polish over the top of this, and when the paint is dry, peel the pads off. Your white tips should be perfectly rounded, and any mistakes you made will peel off with the moleskin.

    Do a French Manicure Step 11.jpg
  3. Try using white-out. It may sound strange, but if you're having difficulty painting with a white nail polish, white-out (for pen mistakes) might be the perfect solution. Because the application sponge for white-out is square, it makes it easy to dab the white color in a perfect line across your nail tip. Just use white-out instead of white nail polish, and finish it off with a top coat. Nobody will know the difference, and you'll have saved yourself loads of time!, and there you go,you are ready to show off your beautiful french manicure.[2]

    Do a French Manicure Step 12.jpg


Things You'll Need

  • Nail polish remover
  • Cotton balls or cotton swabs
  • Cuticle trimmer
  • Nail buffer
  • Nail trimmers
  • Nail file
  • Cuticle or hand cream
  • Pink, cream, or clear nail polish
  • White nail polish
  • Top coat


  • Make sure your fingernails are clean and nourished for a better look.
  • If you prefer a curved tip, use reinforcement stickers. Place them on your nails while leaving space at the top. Paint only the tip.
  • Make sure that the tips of the nail polish brushes are not thick as this can cause your nail polish to smudge.
  • Use tape before you apply your pink or clear nail vanish to make it easier to apply the white nail polish on the tip of your nail.
  • Use a band-aid and stick it close to the edge of your nail to create a perfect crescent shape. The best part is that you can reuse them.
  • You can use a clear coat instead of the pink.
  • You can use a nail pen to colour your tip, it would be easier to perfect it!
  • Try using a nail sticker and placing it along the white edge of your natural nail, then paint the part above the sticker white.
  • If you can't paint on the tip of the nail easily you could use tape to prevent the gel/paint from accidentally going elsewhere on your nail.
  • Hold the brush steadily in your right hand and move your left hand to create the white tip (and vice versa).
  • Try tying a rubber band over the top part of your nail. This will make it easier to paint a straight line for the tips. When you're done, cut the rubber band off.
  • Can't paint the dominant hand very well? Try getting fake nails and painting them, then applying them!


  • When filing your nails, avoid a sawing motion. This will snap your nails.
  • Use nail polish remover or plain polish in a well ventilated area and try not to inhale the fumes.
  • Avoid using your nails as tools because they can chip easily.

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Sources and Citations

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from How to of the Day