How To Do French Tips AKA The French Manicure

Do you love the look of French tips but hate the frequent trips to the nail salon? Don’t worry, I’ll walk you through how to do French tips easily at home. 

What are French tips?

French tips is a classic and timeless manicure that was actually invented in America in 1976. Conceived by Jeff Pink, the founder of the famous nail brand ORLY, this elegant style features natural-looking nails, often with a light pink or sheer base, and clean white lines adorning the tip of each nail.

The simplicity of French tips versus other types of manicures is that they easily complement both casual and formal attire flawlessly. They have become a go-to option for many when attending significant events like weddings or proms but can also be worn every day without feeling too extravagant.

Why are French tips so popular?

French tips have remained popular for several reasons. First and foremost, their timeless elegance and simplicity make them a classic choice that works well with any outfit or occasion.

The white tip adds a touch of sophistication to the nails without being overwhelming or flashy like other nail designs.

How to do French tips – what you’ll need

To achieve the perfect French tips at home, gather the following essentials before you begin your manicure:

1. Nail polish – Choose a sheer pink or nude color for a base.

2. Base coat – This helps to protect your nails and prolong the lifespan of your manicure.

3. Topcoat – A clear topcoat adds shine, seals in the color, and extends the wear of your manicure.

4. White nail polish – For creating the crisp, clean tips that define French tips. Orly makes a great French tip polish combo that takes the guesswork out of which colors to buy.

5. Tape or guides – These tools help create a straight line across your nails for precise application of white polish.

6. Nail file – To shape and smoothen nail edges.

7. Nail buffer – Buffing helps create a smooth nail surface for better polish adherence.

8. Optional: cuticle oil, orangewood stick or cuticle pusher, and cotton pads with acetone-based nail polish remover for cleanup and preparation purposes.

Preparing your nails for flawless tips

Before diving into the fun part, it’s important to properly prepare your nails for French tips. Clean and shape your nails, file them down, and buff away any ridges. Applying a base coat will help protect your natural nails from staining and create a smooth surface for the white tip to adhere to.

How to do French tips

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Prep your nails

Before starting your French tips, it’s essential to clean and shape your nails properly. Dirty or uneven nails can affect the final result of your manicure, so take some time to prep your nails before applying any polish.

Shape your nails

Next, it’s crucial to shape and file your nails correctly. Use a nail clipper to trim them down if they are too long, then use a fine-grit nail file or buffer to smooth out any rough edges.

File your nails

After cleaning and shaping your nails, it’s time to file them. Filing helps smooth out any rough spots or jagged edges, ensuring a perfect canvas for the French tips. Hold the nail file at a 45-degree angle under your nail edge and move in one direction towards the center of your nail.

Buff your nails

Buffing your nails is an essential step in achieving a flawless French tip manicure. 

Apply a base coat

Before you start with French tips, it’s important to prep your nails properly. 

After cleaning, shaping, filing, and buffing your nails, it’s time to apply the base coat. 

How to do French tips perfectly

To apply the white tip, you can use either tape or guides for precision. Here’s how to do it both ways.

How to do French tips using tape

Using tape is one way to create clean and precise French tips. Cut a small piece of tape to size and stick it onto your nail where you want the white tip to end.

Cut the tape to size

Cutting the tape to size is an important step in achieving perfect French tips. You’ll need to use regular scotch tape and cut it down into 10 pieces, one for each nail.

Stick the tape to your nails

Match the curve of your nails before sticking a piece tape onto each nail. I prefer to do one hand at a time. I start with my non-dominant hand, apply tape or guides to all my fingers and then paint with white polish. Once I’m done, I switch and repeat on the other hand.

Apply the white polish

Once you’ve prepared your nails with a clean base coat and put your guides on your nails, it’s time to apply the white polish for that classic French tip look. 

Pro tip: Remember to brush off any excess polish before painting to avoid applying to much laquer to your tips and ending up with a bump on the tips of your fingers.

Let the polish dry

After applying the white nail polish for your French tips, it’s important to let it dry completely before moving on to the next step. 

Peel off the tape

Once the white polish has dried completely, it’s time to remove the tape. Gently peel off the tape from one side of your nail to the other in a straight-line motion.

How to do French tips using guides

Nails guides are easy to use and inexpensive to purchase. In fact, Orly had specialty half moon nail guides that are created specifically for doing French tips.

To apply French tips using guides, place the guide on your nails and paint with white polish, then wait for it to dry before carefully removing the guide with tweezers.

Place the guides on your nails

To create the perfect French tips, you can also use guides instead of tape. Guide strips are adhesive stickers that come in a variety of shapes and sizes to help you achieve a neat and precise white tip without any fuss.

Apply white polish

The most crucial step in achieving perfect French tips is applying the white polish. Whatever you do, don’t over apply. If you do you’ll end up with lumpy white stripes on the tips of your fingers. Apply 1-2 thin coats max.

Let the polish dry

After applying the white tip for your French manicure, it’s essential to let the polish dry completely before peeling off any tapes or guides. 

Remove the guides

Once your white polish has dried, it’s time to remove your nail guide carefully. 

Fixing mistakes when applying white tips

How to do French tips

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If you make any mistakes while applying the white tips, don’t worry! Wait for the polish to dry first. 

Wait for the polish to dry first

One of the biggest mistakes people make when doing French tips is not waiting for the polish to dry before fixing any mistakes. 

Use a small brush & nail polish remover

Mistakes happen, and when they do, don’t fret. Using a small brush dipped in nail polish remover can easily fix any errors made while applying the white tip for French tips.

How to apply the topcoat

Apply the topcoat over the white tips using long, even strokes to prevent streaks and bubbles.

Apply the topcoat over the white tips

Once the white tips are completely dry, it’s time to seal them in with a clear topcoat. 

Let the topcoat dry

After you’ve successfully applied the white tips for your French manicure, it’s time to lock everything in with a top coat. 

Add a second coat of topcoat for extra protection

After applying the white tips, it’s time to add a layer of topcoat. This will not only seal in the white polish but also provide extra protection for your nails. 

Finishing touches

To finish off your French tips, clean up any smudges with a small brush and nail polish remover before applying a glossy topcoat for that extra shine.

Clean up smudges

After applying your French tips, it’s important to clean up any smudges for a polished finish. A simple way to do this is by using an angled brush dipped in nail polish remover.

Apply a glossy topcoat for extra shine

Once the white tip has dried, it’s time to seal everything in with a clear topcoat. 

French tips aftercare

Taking proper care of your French tips is important to ensure they last as long as possible and maintain their beautiful appearance.

  • Avoid soaking your nails in water for lengthy periods, especially within the first 24 hours of application.
  • Keep your hands moisturized with a nourishing hand cream or oil.
  • Use gloves while washing dishes or doing any other household chores that require harsh chemicals.
  • Don’t use your nails to open cans, peel off stickers, or perform any other similar activities.
  • If you notice chipping or lifting of the white polish, patch it up immediately with white nail polish before applying a fresh coat of topcoat over the whole nail.

Additional FAQs

How to do French tips

Image via Instagram @setsbychar_x

Below are some frequently asked questions about French tips. 

What tools do I need for French tips?

To create French tips, you’ll need a few essential tools. First, you’ll want to ensure that you have all of the necessary nail care items such as a nail file and buffer. 

What kind of nail polish should I use for French tips?

Some popular brands of nail polish known to work well for French tips include Essie, OPI, Sally Hansen, Revlon, Deborah Lippmann, and Zoya just to mention but a few.

How long do French tips last?

French tips last for about two to three weeks. However, the duration of their wear mainly depends on how well you care for your nails after application. 

Are French tips suitable for short nails?

French tips are definitely suitable for short nails! In fact, French tips can actually make shorter nails appear longer and more elegant. 

Can I do French tips on my own at home?

Absolutely! French tips are a classic and simple nail design that is easily done at home with the right tools and techniques. See the detailed steps above!

What is the best way to apply white tips for French tips?

There are two popular ways to achieve the classic French tip look: using tape or guide strips. If you prefer using tape, cut it into small strips and apply them to your nails, leaving just the tips exposed, then use white polish to create your French tips.

What is the best way to apply the clear topcoat for French tips? 

The best way to apply the topcoat is by using long, smooth strokes from the base of your nails to the tip. 

How do I fix mistakes when doing French tips?

Using a small brush dipped in nail polish remover, gently remove any excess or uneven paint on your nails and reapply the white tip again if necessary.

How long does it take for French tips to dry?

Typically, it can take anywhere from 10-20 minutes for the white polish to fully dry before adding a topcoat.

How often do I need to touch up French tips?

Touching up your French tips depends on how fast your nails grow and how much wear and tear they endure. On average, you need to touch up your French tips every two weeks or so.

Can I do French tips in different colors?

Absolutely you can! The beauty of the French manicure is that it’s incredibly versatile. You can use any color, not just white to create a stunning sophisticated look. One of my personal favorites is red French tips. For massive inspo, check out my article on 58 Swoonworthy French Tip Nail Designs.

Takeaway on how to do French tips

DIY your own French tips is easy. The biggest challenge is nailing the shape of the tips but that’s where guides come in handy.

Even if you mess up, a French manicure using the classic blush and white palette is very forgiving and easy to correct with a little nail brush and some acetone.

So what are you waiting for? Get after it and give it a go!

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