12 Unique Ways to Wear a French Manicure

Modernized versions of the classic design.


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The French manicure is the little black dress of nail designs—it’s chic, classic, looks good on everybody, and just works. But sometimes even a classic can start to feel a bit stale. Enter: the French manicure 2.0, a reimagined version of the staple design that goes far beyond its simplistic structure. If you’re looking for some nail salon inspiration, keep scrolling for our favorite unique French nail designs you can copy from the comfort of your own home.

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French Half-Moon Combo

Elevate an otherwise ordinary French mani by adding a half-moon design that mirrors your tips. For a starker juxtaposition, pair a neutral base with a deeper detail hue. For this look, editorial nail artist Alicia Torello used Chanel’s Le Vernis polish in shade 907 Rouge Brun

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Triangle Tips

Swap out traditional rounded French tips for a more geometric take on the classic. Here, celebrity nail artist Hang Nguyen opted for two overlapping right triangles. Pro tip: To make sure your triangles meet perfectly in the middle and keep lines sharp, use tape as a stencil to guide your brush.

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Sweet on Swirls

For a low-effort, high-impact take on the classic French, simply add some squiggly, swirling lines on top of a bright-hued French. We love the purple-seafoam green combo seen here, but anything goes!

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Go for the Gold

London-based celebrity nail artist Pria Bhamra is known for her unique designs and epic nail art—and these gorgeous gilded tips are no exception. To get the look at home, pick up some gold foil for nails like this Eseres kit, which comes with six different shades of customisable metallic nail foil chips.

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Outlined Ombre

Ombre tips add some much-needed life to an otherwise standard French manicure. Best of all, they’re actually pretty easy to achieve from home. Using two to three colors, brush straight lines on to a wedge makeup sponge, starting with the lightest color at the base. Don’t worry if the colors overlap a bit as you brush them onto the sponge—it’ll actually help create a more seamless fade.Then, simply blot the sponge onto the tips of the nails and continue gently blotting until you’re happy with the result. Repeat the process for each nail. Voila!

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Day-Glo French

For a heaping dose of fun, grab your favorite neon polishes and use a different one hue for each tip. We love the Salon Perfect’s Dippin’ Dots collection shades used here, but any combination from your own stash works just as well.

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Double Down

A double French is an easy way to spice up a basic manicure without getting too technical. While stencils can definitely help create those straight, smooth lines, a steady hand and great detail brush can be just as effective. We like to go for two similar hues, as seen with this pink and red combo (perfect for Valentine’s Day), but the choice is up to you.

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Put On a Happy Face

After your classic French manicure has dried down (it has to be completely dry!), add a circle to a nail or two—this will act as the base for your smiley face design. Let dry, add in the eyes and smile, and apply top coat for a high-gloss, long-lasting finish.

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Switch It Up

Another beginner-friendly take on the staple is going for colored French tips on one hand and a classic single-color manicure on the other. The key is to use the same color on both your tips for the solid-color hand. It’s simple but elevated and creates a cohesive look.

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La Vache

Moooove over, basic French (we had to). Add some strategically placed brown blobs on top of your white tips for what we’re called the French cow (or La Vache). It’s surprisingly easy and seriously fun.

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Be Your Own Star

Add some color and sparkle to your mani with a smattering of multi-colored stars (giving us Taylor Swift Midnight vibes). Dot different metallic hues to create the base of your stars, then add some (literal) silver linings to complete.

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When in Doubt, Keep It Simple

Switching things up doesn’t have to be difficult! According to Nguyen, it can be as easy as a simple swipe of black. The result is an edgy, chic take on the French—no one has to know it took you all of five minutes!

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