10 fresh French manicure design ideas that update the classic mani

White tips are back, baby! This French manicure design inspo will take the old-school nail look into 2021

Karen David, fashion detail, attends the premiere of 'Lily & Kat' at the Vista Theatre on March 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California, French manicure design
(Image credit: Tibrina Hobson/Getty)

Call it cheugy all you want, kids: the French mani is back. But these days, the basic French manicure design that you've seen on the likes of Cher Horowitz, Carmela Soprano, and every prom princess ever has been upgraded for 2021 thanks to cool color combos, new shapes, and bold designs. 

The French manicure actually isn't French at all: The nail design—comprising a neutral, nearly sheer base punctuated with a clean, curved white tip—was concocted in Hollywood by Jeff Pink, the founder of the ORLY nail brand, in the mid-1970s. After he took the versatile look to Paris and painted it on runway models (hence the "French" name), it became the go-to manicure for megawatt '70s stars like Barbra Streisand and Cher, and its popularity continued through the 1990s and early aughts. 

Now with nostalgia running rampant and '90s fashion and beauty trends back in vogue, the white-tipped mani has made its grand return, popping up on the influential hands of Kylie Jenner, Hailey Bieber, and Gigi Hadid, to name only a few. 

These days, you can go classic (though an almond shape freshens things up more than a stuffy squared-off mani) or try out one of the more modern French manicure design ideas below. Happy experimenting!



10 new French manicure design ideas to try

1. Side French manicure

It's a simple but substantial change: rather than curve a thin line of white polish across the natural tip of your nail, refresh the style by dragging the tip diagonally across the side of the nail. In the traditional beige-and-white combo, it will still match any outfit, but look more effortlessly cool than the classic. 

2. French manicure with color

If you're too colorful for plain-Jane beige and white, update the French manicure design by swapping out the white tip for vibrant shades. You can go all-in on one hue—a pop of neon yellow, say—or opt for an ombré application with varying degrees of one color, like this sunset color scheme. 

3. Gold French manicure

Give 'em the old razzle-dazzle with a metallic-tipped French manicure. Just sub out the regular white for a gold polish like Essie's "Good as Gold." Paired with a nude base, it's still minimalist with just the right amount of shimmer and shine. 

Ulta Beauty, Essie Metallics Nail Polish in "Good as Gold" ($9)View Deal

4. French manicure with design

Drips, dips, curves and swerves—who said that the tip of a French manicure had to be straight? Instead, play around with the silhouette and shape of the French mani, whether you're into waves, scalloped edges, or a pointy V-shape. 

5. Reverse French manicure

It's a French manicure after a trip to the Upside Down: rather than the nail's tip being given the star treatment, it's the bottom of the nail that gets a moment in the spotlight. To try on the trend, simply paint along the half-moon at the base of your nail in a contrasting polish. 

6. Black French manicure

Give the preppy original a moody makeover by substituting black nail polish for the traditional white. The look gets even more interesting if you play with textures here, whether you opt for a glossy black polish or a matte formula like Chanel's Boy de Chanel. 

Chanel, Chanel Boy de Chanel in "404 - Black" ($28)View Deal

7. Double French manicure

It's the double rainbow of French manicures. You'll love the double French if you're into the negative space nail look—keep the two parallel, carefully painted curves more separated if you want more negative space. If you want things more subtle, keep the lines closer together. You can also play with the thickness of each line, for an even more individualized look. 

8. A naked French 

Want to go totally minimal? The naked French mani is the one for you. Rather than the classic white stripe, the nude version layers two neutral polishes, one as the base and one as the finishing tip. Like the black French, using contrasting textures can totally change up the look. It's barely there but still makes an impact. 

Olive & June nail polish in "MM" ($8)View Deal

9. American manicure

We know, technically, the French manicure is already an American manicure, but the nail style that's known as an "American manicure" differs slightly from the French. Rather than the stark white tip of its Franco cousin, the Yankee version opts for a cream or off-white tip finished with a clear or neutral nude painted over the whole nail, making it overall more subtle looking than the French version. 

10. Glitter French manicure

Perfect for a wedding, birthday party or simply a festive Tuesday, this glitter design is a French manicure for sparkle lovers. Paint the glittery line on the thinner side to keep things looking smart and modern, not gaudy. 

Christina Izzo
Christina Izzo

Christina Izzo is the Deputy Editor of My Imperfect Life. 


More generally, she is a writer-editor covering food and drink, travel, lifestyle and culture in New York City. She was previously the Features Editor at Rachael Ray In Season and Reveal, as well as the Food & Drink Editor and chief restaurant critic at Time Out New York


When she’s not doing all that, she can probably be found eating cheese somewhere.