French manicure designs are anything but boring. The simple technique was originally all about making the nails look healthy, like a “no makeup” look but for the nails. At some point, things went a little more extreme. Instead of soft, nude nails with a slightly brighter tip, we started rocking pink nails with stark white tips.
While this more dramatic version of the style goes in and out of fashion, both the demure and creative takes on French nail designs always look good. We’ve selected some gorgeous inspirational photos of French manicures, so you can pick your favorite. You can attempt to recreate it yourself or bring it to your manicurist!
Some of these nail designs are simple and classy, while others are artistic and unique. Whether you’d rather stick to the original look or give a twist to the classic style is totally up to you. You can even experiment with all of these designs!
1. Classic French Manicure
We have to start with the classic, of course! This variation on a French manicure works pretty well because, while it’s not ultra-subtle, it’s also not over-the-top. It’s simple and elegant!
The tips themselves are very white, but they’re not too long, and they have a soft, slightly rounded edge rather than an extreme smile line. The base is nude rather than pink, which keeps this French manicure on the more natural side. A final layer of glossy topcoat gives a glamorous and healthy touch.
2. Silver-Tipped French Manicure
Changing up the tips is one of the easiest ways of playing with a French manicure, and it can have lovely results. The silvery French tips in this look add a festive touch, but they don’t require any additional effort! It’s the kind of enhancement that works well in the holiday season.
This can be a great design all on its own, but the three-dimensional flower appliqués on the accent nail transform it into something even more beautiful and feminine.
3. French Manicure with Silver Designs
Adding an accent nail is a great way to make a French manicure more interesting. In this design, the nails with the French manicure are filed into an almond shape that seems a little more dramatic and elongated thanks to what’s called a smile line. This is when the line of demarcation between the French tips and the base is very rounded, like a big smile.
The accent nail is simple, with two thin, horizontal strips of silver sandwiching a thicker strip of glitter polish. However, this design adds a chic and modern touch to the manicure.
4. French Manicure with Silver Half-Moons
Half-moon designs are sometimes referred to as a “reverse French manicure,” so it’s a busy but intriguing choice to combine them with French tips. The look works thanks to the added line of white around the half-moons, which marries them to the white tips.
Creating this kind of design is a simple process, although it requires some finesse. First, the manicurist completes the French mani, and then, they add the silvery half-moons. If you’re trying it at home, a rounded nail sticker can make it easier to achieve that perfect shape.
5. Black and Pink French Tips
Now things are getting a little fun, with a French nail design in an unusual color combination. The base is more of a bubblegum pink, as opposed to the more common nude pink. This cheerful color looks extra striking against the slim black tips. It’s a fun design on its own, but the accent nail adds an industrial touch with a raised tread-like design over matte black nail polish.
6. White Bunny French Nails
This French manicure design keeps things cute! The bunny design on the accent nail is pure camp with a fluffy glittery tail. It’s a whimsical touch, while the rest of the manicure is classy and glossy with squoval nails to contrast against the rounded smile line of the white tips.
7. Flower-Covered Gel French Manicure
There’s a lot to unpack in this pretty French manicure that brings to mind fine china. Most of the nails are painted with a typical French manicure, albeit with a steeper than usual smile line. What makes it unique is that instead of being glossy, this design has a matte, antique finish. This pairs well with the blue flowers that were applied to the accent nails over the French design, reminding us of the loveliest tea set.
8. Chevron French Tips
This edgy twist on French tips helps to really elongate the nails. It gives the illusion that the almond-shaped nails (in this case, extensions) are sharper than they really are, without forcing you to risk accidentally scratching anyone or stabbing yourself.
These kinds of tips are done with just two free-handed strokes that meet at the center to create that sharp chevron shape. Keeping the lines straight requires a bit of practice, but it’s a simple method.
9. French Nails with Jeweled Accent
This ultra-glossy French manicure would be memorable ever without the jewel accent nail! However, it’s undeniable that the accent makes this design transcendent. At the center, a row of jewel and pearl appliqués gleams, while the surrounding vertical lines of varying thicknesses add a marbled effect.
10. French Nails with Rhinestone Accent
Now, this jeweled accent nail is even more dramatic! The abundance of rhinestone appliqués coating the nail is anything but subtle or delicate. Instead, they have an armor-like vibe over the accent nail, which adds a powerful contrast to the classy French tips.
11. Simple French Nails with Sketchy Accent
Sometimes, the most delicate nail designs are the prettiest. That’s definitely the case here with the sketchy floral design decorating the accent nail. The French manicure itself is a simple one, with a nude base that keeps things soft. This makes the contrast between the nude nails and the black and white sketch on the accent nails even more intriguing.
12. ‘Crown It’ French Mani
If you feel like a princess, you might as well let your French nails show it! This lovely manicure features a square nail shape, while the tips themselves have a very round smile line. This combo is anything but demure, which makes the accent nail even more audacious. The crown-like design at the base of the accent nail is intricate and feminine, with a row of jewel appliqués glamming it up.
13. Matte French Manicure
A matte French manicure can be incredibly fierce! We’re used to this style having a sheen, so the edgy finish makes it extra noticeable. If you also like the slightly raised look of the tips, you can achieve that with a nail dip powder, while the art on the accent nail simply requires an artistic flair and some abstract inspiration.
14. Foil-Tipped Accent French Nails
This is another simple twist on French tips that manages to pack a big punch. The glossy French manicure features a slightly more dramatic smile line, especially considering how it contrasts with the square tips. The accent nails, with a foil-like silver tip, stand out and add a ton of glamour.
15. Geometric Stripe French Nails
The combination of geometric designs and clever little touches of glitter is always compelling. In this design, those little crisscrossing geometric stripes on the accent nail are glamorous and interesting, with timeless artistry. One thing worth pointing out is that while most of the nails in this French manicure have a rounded smile line, the tip of the accent nail is more pointed, which is a thoughtful contrast.
16. Complex Geometry French Nails
This is another geometric design from the same nail artist. It’s a little more complex, with the same design decorating both the ring finger and the thumb. Thin and thick lines come together to create an abstract symmetrical shape, with a silver color filling up some of the empty spaces. It’s a beautiful look that needs a lot of skill but no interpretation.
17. Floral Pattern French Nails
This French manicure is interesting and not just because of the accent. Most of the nails are painted with a flattering nude polish, while the tips themselves are as thin as can be, helping to elongate the nail. Despite the square shape of the nails, the tips are rounded, which softens the look. As for the accent nail, it’s decorated with an antique floral pattern in white, enhancing the softer style.
18. French Nails with Gold and Silver Accents
We think this pretty French nail design would be great for the New Year or Christmas season! The gold jewels arranged in a star-like shape on one accent nail are already celebratory, but the entire thing screams “holiday cheer,” thanks to the sparkling sheen of the second accent nail, which is colored silver. Keeping the rest of the French manicure clean, glossy, and simple helps to keep things grounded.
19. Ultra-Slim French Nail Tips
This is another example of the elongating effect that comes when you keep the white tips short. This French manicure is a little more dramatic than others, thanks to the contrast between the pale pink nails and the warm skin tone – on a different skin tone, it’d be totally subtle, proving that your color choice for the base is very important. A black and white flower on the accent nail adds a vintage, romantic touch.
20. Black French Tips with Floral Pattern
This look is an edgier, black-tipped sibling to the French manicure in our number 17 spot. The delicate white designs were replaced with a punchier black, which gives this French nail art a gothic touch. The silver-tipped black pattern on the accent nail is symmetrical, keeping the overall feel classy and feminine, despite the harsher color.
21. French Nails with Sunflower Accent
It takes a true artist to create such a gorgeous accent nail design. The sunflower accent nail is the real star in this manicure, with a life-like design. The center of the sunflower is textured, thanks to slightly raised beads, while the petals are pure perfection, thanks to a painterly approach to nail art. It’s an artistic design that takes a lot of work, so it makes sense to keep the rest of the manicure a simple, elegant French.
22. French Nails with Rectangle Designs
Tiny rectangles are all it takes to add an abstract, minimalist vibe to your French manicure. The totally classy French becomes something whimsical and chic with the smallest geometric touch. The rectangles themselves can be achieved with white nail strip stickers (you can find them in a kit like this), or they can be drawn freehand with a small brush, although that requires a lot of practice.
23. French Nails with Subtle Gold Accent
The gold accent on this French manicure has the same effect as a delicate gold necklace worn with a simple but elegant dress. The gold design is utterly abstract and unusual, and yet it’s also very sophisticated. It’s a subtle touch that really only stands out because the French manicure on the other nails is so simple and elegant.
24. French Manicure with Foil Accents
Accent nails are great because they allow us to combine trends however we wish. The eye-catching shine and drama of foil silver nail polish is a ton of fun, but when applied to every nail, it can be overwhelming. As an accent in combination with French nails, however, it’s just the right amount of moderation.
25. Jeweled Base French Manicure
If you love the idea of combining jewels or gems with a French manicure, here’s another way you can do it. The small, clear jewels were applied right up against the cuticle, at the bottom, in a simple row that reminds us a bit of a tiara. This ultra-simple technique can be done at home, easily!
26. Black French Tips with White Stripes
The black French tips in this design are interesting since they’re slightly thicker and straighter than what we normally see. This manicure would be a little overwhelmingly dark, but thin white stripes under the tips add a lightness to it. The only exception is the accent nail, of course, where an X design overlaid with a silver ring under the tip adds a bondage-y touch.
27. Black French with Floral Accents
The romantic floral design on this French manicure adds the most delicious contrast to black French tips. The black and white design has an old-school feel that’s enhanced by pearl appliqués, while black tips are a thoroughly modern touch. It’s the kind of past-meets-future French manicure that’s sure to be remembered.
Photos via @whiterabbit_beauty, Instagram