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Whether you love them or hate them, the french manicure is here to stay.

If you like the look of the traditional white tip, however, there are many simple ways to make it more interesting. One of my favorite methods include making use of those sheer duochromes that require numerous coats to even remotely resemble bottle color.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, though, let me break down the easiest way I’ve found to free-hand a french manicure.

You may have heard this described as “moving the finger, not the brush.”

I like to think of it as getting fingerprinted, you know, by the police. Place your finger on the ink pad, then on the form- rolling from extreme right to extreme left (or vice versa) in one smooth movement.

The last time I got fingerprinted, I was updating my greencard. (I was born in Canada) There was no inkpad, only a computer with a touch-sensitive screen. The concept, however, remained the same, because the fingerprint could only be read clearly with a smooth roll of my finger across the screen.

This same smooth rolling motion serves as the foundation of this freehand french manicure:
*left side

left side

You’ll have to excuse my one-handed pics.

Since my husband draws the line (no pun intended) at merely enduring my polish addiction, there is no way I could coerce him into photographing pictures that may subject other innocent husbands to further fume exposure.


I suppose, in keeping with the theme, a “mug shot” analogy might also work…=]

right side

This rolling motion can be used to apply the french base, whether it is white or not, as well as to accent the look with a ribbon of color or a stripe of glitter.

far right edge

There are definite advantages to mastering this method of application:

  • you can stop buying the guide stickers. (or devising other substitutes out of address labels and the like)
  • avoid the frustration that accompanies the use of sticker guides when they remove previously applied layers of polish. (or leak polish under the guide itself)
  • the little bit of a “ledge” that is built up once the guide is removed is no longer an issue as the freehand layers tend to be thinner and blend in easily with the application of a topcoat.
  • if you do not have a Konad, do not have french tip image plates or they don’t seem to work for you, this is another alternative.
  • you can easily use whatever shape you choose to change the look of your nails. (Some of my nails have a more curved border between the pink and white, so I can either add curve to the others, or flatten the line as I see fit.)

I prefer to keep my nails, from cuticle to tip, relatively the same length, so when I wear darker colors, they appear approximately uniform. This means the nails with shorter nail beds have longer nail whites, and so on.

The french manicure can be used to somewhat disguise the discrepancies in length, and the stripes only enhance the illusion.

Here are my nails with a base coat and one coat of sheer polish to even out my overall tone.
*peach nails

I started out with a sheer peach base (Misa Romantic Peach)

Here is my basic french manicure with Misa Heaven White for the white.

right hand: classic french (natural light)

Add a bit of color, (and a smudge off my index finger, some over-zealous cuticle-nipping on my middle finger) and Voila! Snazzy french manicure!

From pinky to thumb: Misa Pink Champagne, ChG Passion, Misa Radiant, ChG OMG, Omega striper art brush holo glitter

snazzified french (natural light)

With flash, for dramatic effect.


classic french (flash)

Maybe not as dramatic as I thought…=]

snazzified french (flash)

Now, for those of us who prefer the funky french manicure, this too can be made snazzy with a little bit of striping.

The base black was Misa I will Survive on thumb and index, OPI Thrills in Beverly Hills gold glitter on middle, ChG Sexagon holo glitter on ring and ChG OMG on pinky.

left hand: funky french (natural light)

(Not sure where my natural light snazzified pic went…)

funky french (flash)

(Ack! The peach base turned yellow for some reason in this pic- sorry ’bout that!)

snazzified funky french (flash)

For the striping accents, from thumb to pinky: Omega striper art brush holo glitter, ChG OMG and Misa I will Survive black for the rest.

Now, to clarify, I do not go out, sporting the various colors you see here, all at one time. This was for demonstration purposes only.

One final thought: since my nailbeds tend to be stained, even slightly, I rarely do a french manicure without the assistance of my Seche Bright. It is an optical brightener that looks clear on the nail, but freshens up both the color of  the polish and “pinkens” (if that’s a word) my skintone from the dingy orange to a more palatable blush.

Here, I have only painted the bottom half of my thumb with the Seche Bright to show the contrast. While it looks somewhat strange on half a nail, it is not at all apparent when used over the whole nail.

It also really brings out the white in your nail edge when used alone. If I run out of time to do my planned manicure, one coat of Seche Bright is all I need to feel confident that I look, well, “polished.”
L thumb *

seche bright thumb 1/2 and 1/2



  1. Very good tutorial :) I’m glad to see someone not afraid of the French mani! I don’t understand the hate behind it or fake nails, but that’s another post for another day I guess.

    I love the funky french’s you did the best though! especially the thumb with the glitter line, right up my alley.

    Thanks for the tip on the Seche product, I have never seen or heard of this before, my next trip to sally’s I will have to pick one up :)

    • Since Sally’s inventory can be hit-or-miss, I can’t say if they carry Seche Bright or not.

      (FYI- Sally’s does have a treatment product with a yellow cap that looks similar, but it is not meant to be used as polish topcoat. I remember reading about a bad experience with that one on MUA.)

      I bought it on ebay, but there are others by other brands. I think Color Club has a version, and China Glaze should, too. This just happens to be the one I use and love, and “cooperates” with my Seche Vite nicely. <3

  2. That is so neat! I don’t know if I could be that neat. I’ll try though!

    • Your nails are so gorgeous, I doubt you ever need to “fix” the shape like I do, but you have so many sheers that would accent a french mani perfectly.
      It is MUCH easier when you keep the brush steady.

      If you only keep a small amount on the brush, you have total control and can actually do it in two coats if necessary.

      I hope you do try it and post your results on your blog- I can’t wait! <3

  3. What a fantastic tutorial. Thank you so much. I’ve never had a French manicure. My nails never seem to grow long enough to do one. Thanks for your instruction and I’ll have to try the funky versions.

  4. Thanks for the tip on Seche Bright, must have it! I really like your blog! :)

  5. Great tutorial, thankyou.

    I always freehand my tips and I think the rolling motion works really well. Now, if only I could get it to work so well with Konad….!

  6. Thank you for great tutorial!! :-)
    And I love the funky french!!

  7. I have been trying to find out if Seche Bright is a polish or a top coat or what? Can you use it under Seche Vite topcoat?

    I was afraid it might do the “peel” thing with Seche Vite as a topcoat.


    • Hi Kathy,
      Since I got the Seche Bright without the box, and the bottle doesn’t specify, I would call it a basecoat.

      I use it all the time on its own, over Seche Clear and under Seche Vite with no peeling problems whatsoever.
      It is not fast dry, so it’s not meant as a topcoat, but it “plays well with others” in the Seche lineup.

      The brightening effect it provides lasts only while it is on the nail, but it is pronounced and only takes one coat.

  8. Hey thanks,

    I just sorta wanted to find out what type of product this was before I plunked down the $10 for it.

    • No problem! I love it and would not be without it now…good luck!

  9. Ok so I finally found some Seche Bright. Went to 4 stores (Sallys Beauty – none, Ulta – none, Beauty Express – none, Beauty Brands – JACK POT). This is what I’ve been searching for. I like to do french manicure with bright white tips. Seche Bright makes the nail beds look very clean and clear while the tips just POP like wow!

    • Yay, Kathy!
      I’m so glad your quest was successful! Now I know where I can tell others to find it when they ask- thank you!

      I don’t know what they put in it, but I love the, well, brightening, effect it gives in just one coat! <3

      It can also be used to slightly change the look of regular color polish- BONUS! =]

  10. Great tutorial, you’ve given me an idea for my own funky french mani just by looking at this. Also, thanks for the tip about Seche Bright, will be on the lookout for it.

    • I am glad to provide inspiration, Lachelle.

      I was inspired by Asami’s Royal French Manicure as posted on her My Manicure blog. (This one photo showed me that I could use two totally different colors for a french manicure and I have never looked back.)

      She has tons of awesome designs and very detailed tutorials, as well as beautiful nails which I secretly envy.

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