Beauty

Minimalist nail art: 15 chic upgrades to the classic French manicure

Posted by
Helen Booth
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Recent catwalk trends in nail art have proven tricky or even impossible to recreate at home, so we're relieved to hear that, across the Channel, French women are keeping things simple.

"The so-called French manicure isn't actually French - the look that we've come to call the French manicure is actually more common in America," explains Lucile Deschamps, General Manager of The Nail Kitchen in Paris. "Parisian women generally keep their nails short, and love red or neutral shades of polish.

"French women also love being able to do their nails at home, which means any nail art has to be very elegant and simple," says Lucile. "For example, you could paint one accent nail in a contrasting colour or use a single colourful polish to create a French manicure with a contemporary twist."

Luckily for us, minimalist nail art and simple manicures are a big deal right now – geometric nails, negative space designs and half moon accents are everywhere and providing us with endless ideas.

To recreate these looks at home, you might want to add a few tools to your collection – Scotch tape can be used to create many designs with straight lines, while dotting tools will come in handy for spotty looks. Super thin nail art brushes will allow you to paint fine details, and guide stickers are great for creating all sorts of geometric designs.

So line up your favourite nail polishes, then scroll our line-up of the simplest nail art designs and minimalist manicures around - along with tips for recreating these looks at home. 

Main image: lesimoneblog.fr

  • Gold half moons

    Get the look: Apply a base coat followed by two coats of a pink-toned nude polish. Wait until this is dry before using ring binder reinforcement washers to section off half moons at the base of each nail and fill in with gold polish. Remove the stickers while the polish is still wet, and finish with a top coat once dry.

    Image: @paintboxnails

  • Reverse french

    Get the look: Paint all nails in your base colour, wait until dry then section off the bottom third of two accent nails using tip guide stickers. Apply your second colour to the upper part of each accent nail, then seal with a top coat.

    Image: @jinsoon

  • Half and half

    Get the look: Paint nails with a base coat, wait until dry then section off the lower diagonal half of each nail using Scotch tape. Fill in the upper diagonal section with a colourful polish of your choice, remove the tape while the polish is still wet, then seal with a top coat once dry.

    Image: @misspopnails

  • Red dots

    Get the look: Apply a neutral base coat, then use a dotting tool to apply a circle of red polish to each nail, in a slightly different place each time. Finish with top coat.

    Image: @zsebidentron

  • Multi-colour tips

    Get the look: Apply a base coat followed by nude polish, then use a small nail art brush to freehand a brightly coloured rough square onto the end of each nail, using 4-5 different colours in total. Finish with a top coat.

    Image: @sally_hansen

  • Mix and match

    Get the look: Apply a base coat then section off the top half of each nail with straight tape. Apply your first colour to the upper part of the nail then remove the tape. Once dry, use circular ring binder reinforcement washers to section off a half moon at the bottom of your nails. Fill in the half moons with your second colour and remove the stickers. Apply a top coat to finish.

    Image: paintboxnails.tumblr.com

  • Heart tips

    Get the look: Apply a base coat then dip a small nail art brush in nail polish. Apply two careful strokes of polish to the tip of each nail. Clean up any wobbly lines with an orange stick dipped in nail polish remover, and finish with a top coat.

    Image: @deborahlippmann

  • Nails cubed

    Get the look: Apply a base coat followed by two coats of your first colour. Wait until dry, then section off a square on the upper part of each nail with tape. Paint the second colour and remove the tape while the polish is still wet. Finish with a top coat.

    Image: paint-box.com

  • Minimalist black and nude nails

    Get the look: Paint nails with a base coat followed by your favourite nude shade, then add a black stud to the base of the nail. Depending on your preference, either finish with top coat at this stage or wait until this coat is fully dry before using a set of French manicure guides to add black nail polish to the tips of your nails. Finish by sealing with a top coat.

    Image: sonailicious.com

  • Triangle mani

    Get the look: Apply a base coat and pale pink polish, then use Scotch tape to section off a slim triangle on each nail and reposition as necessary. Fill in each triangle with black polish, and remove the tape while the polish is still wet. Clean up any wobbly lines with an orange stick dipped in nail polish remover, then finish with top coat.

    Image: doorsixteen.com

  • Simple dots

    Get the look: Paint nails with a base coat followed by two coats of pale pink polish. Wait until dry, then use a dotting tool to add a single black dot to the base of each nail. Finish with a top coat.

    Image: lesimoneblog.fr

  • Updated French manicure

    Get the look: Paint your nails with a base coat and use French manicure tip guides to fill in just beyond the tip with a nude shade. If you have a steady hand and very slim paint brush, you can follow by free-handing thin white lines at the very tip of your nails and again where the base and nude coats meet (if not, wait an hour then use tip guides). Finish with a top coat.

    Image: @aliciatnails

  • Gold strips

    Get the look: Section off a central line on each nail using tape and fill in with a coat of gold polish followed by a coat of gold glitter polish. Remove the tape while the polish is still wet, and finish with a top coat once dry.

    Image: honestlywtf.com

  • Geometric layers

    Get the look: Apply a base coat, then tape off an angled section at the top or side of your nail. Paint your first colour, lift off the tape while the polish is still wet and wait until dry before adding another section. Continue to section with tape and fill in with polish until you have your desired look, then finish with a top coat.

    Image: sofeminine.co.uk

  • Contemporary French

    Get the look: Apply a base coat then section off your nail tips using guide stickers. Use a colourful polish to fill in the tips, then remove the stickers while the polish is still wet. Apply a top coat to seal.

    Image: @chelseaqueen

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Author

Helen Booth

Helen Booth is a London-based writer, digital editor and part-time maker who loves interiors, crafts and keeping tabs on trends. She also co-founded the weekly newsletter Lunch Hour Links.

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