The Fool-Proof Way to Do Your Own French Manicure

A good top coat is key.

French Manicure How to Do it Yourself at Home

@betina_goldstein / Design by Camden Dechert

If you hear the words "French manicure," and still picture your high school prom, then you may be surprised to hear that French tips are very much back. Though there are some differences in the modern iterations of this nail style, the gist of the trend remains the same.

"Any design that incorporates a different color that's painted on the free edge of the nail is a type of a French manicure," Dasha Minina, a nail technician and founder of Maxus Nails and BeauticianList, explains. "Many different designs, color patterns, and textures can be incorporated to make a unique version of the French manicure. Recently, nail shapes started playing a role, too."

Still, asking for nail art and doing your own can be intimidating, especially when you consider how many styles of nails (acrylics, gel extensions, powder, dip, gel, shellac, etc.) exist. To get you started, we spoke to Minina and celebrity manicurist Kimmie Kyees to explain everything there is to know about the art of the French manicure.

What's the difference between French tips and a French manicure?

When someone says they want French tips as opposed to a French manicure, Minina says it likely means they want artificial nail tips, which are already painted with a white tip,

A French manicure, however, is when the tips of the nail are painted a different color than the rest of the natural nail. Traditionally, a French manicure would mean a white tip with a nude or pink base color, however, more modern styles include colored tips, designed tips, micro thin, and even negative space French manicures.

Person with accented French tips


What's the best way to do a French manicure?

In essence, the step-by-step instructions for achieving a French manicure are pretty simple. Once your nails are prepped and shaped, apply a base color of polish. Then you paint the tip of the nail. According to Minina, the key to creating a crisp, clean smile line (the contrasting color at the top of the nail) is to use proper design brushes during the process.

Another game-changing hack is to use a very good top coat. "Maxus Nails FINITO top coat is a fast-drying formula that's ideal for nail designs [as it] doesn't drag polish during application," Minina shares. Goodbye, smudged smile lines.

If the idea of professional nail brushes or drawing a perfectly straight line of color on the tip of your nail intimidates you, there are simpler options. "The easiest and most perfect form of French tip at home would be to try Color Street Nail Polish Strips. They're pre-made, pre-dried, super easy to apply, and they will give you the perfect smudge-free French manicure every time," says Kyees.

Still not sure if you want to stray away from a classic French manicure? Check out some inspiration below.

Anti-French Manicure

Minina and Maxus Nails dubbed this the "Anti-French Manicure," and we love it. A darker, thinner tip is the exact opposite of the classic white French, and the addition of the dotted design makes this mani even more interesting.

Bridal Pearl French Tips

This design stays true to the white French tip but rotates it, covering both sides of the nail. A tiny pearl in the small space in between brings together this unique bridal look.

Rainbow French Tips

A rainbow French manicure is so fun because you can play with so many colors. Here, neon colors are outlined in a darker color to match the base tip for an added playful touch.

Tortoise French Tips

For something completely out of the box, try a patterned French tip. This design keeps the tip of the nail white, but brings the drama with a tortoise shell pattern for the base of the nail.

Related Articles