How to do a French Manicure

A French manicure is perfect for any occasion. French manicures are modest and simple yet chic and sophisticated. More often than not they are clear nail polish with a white stripe at the tip. For such an urbane and elegant look it is a fairly simple style to achieve, which is probably why it remains very popular to this day. Wherever you go, the most asked for and popular choice in salons is still the french manicure. If you need to look your best, and want your nails to match that, then an understated french mani is the perfect look. No matter what age you are, this timeless manicure will always be suitable.

Follow this tutorial to get the perfect french manicure.

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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.

Applying the Polish

1. Apply the base coat. The base coat of a French mani 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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. And your done! The perfect manicure.


For an even bolder look you can use acrylic or gel nails to give them some extra length (or let them grow if you prefer) and your french manicure will be even more arresting.

If you’re looking for some design ideas for your french manicure, check out the French Manicure Designs page. Below you’ll see some tutorial videos to help you getting the best manicure you can.

French Manicure Tutorials

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