French manicures start off the same way as any manicure. The nails and cuticles are cleaned, trimmed and shaped. It’s the painting step that changes with this distinct style.
What defines a French manicure from all other styles are the painted tips of each nail. Though traditionally white, you can use any colored polish for the tips as long as you also use a clean or natural looking base.
To perform a French manicure, simply prepare your nails as usual. Apply a clear base coat to the entire nail and let dry. Take your colored polish, probably white, and paint the tips of your nails. You can paint the tips straight across, but it looks much better if you follow the natural line where your nail turns from pink to white. Let dry.
Apply a clear or slightly pink-tinted clear polish over the entire nail and let dry. Protect the whole project by adding a topcoat polish and, of course, let dry. Remove any smudges or drops using a cotton swab with a drop of nail polish remover.
French Tip Tips
The hardest part of a French manicure is getting the tips to look smooth. An easy and cheap trick for perfect tips is to use masking tape. Tape the lower part of the nail, leaving the tip area exposed. Paint the tip and let the polish sit for a second.
Remove the masking tape before the polish on your nail tip completely dries. You’ll have a perfect French manicure line across your nails. If you remove the tape too soon after applying polish, the polish may drip. If you wait until the polish is dried before removing the tape, you risk peeling off part of the polish as well.
If you have a little extra money, try manicure products that make it even easier to do a French manicure. Nail polish pens are available in a rainbow of colors for quick French tips. Just like using a marker, you sweep the pen across the nail tips to create a smooth line. Let the paint dry, then finish with a clear and top coat as usual.