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16 Colorful French Mani Ideas to Brighten Up Your Nail Game

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When it comes to nail trends we love, few have the resilience of the famed French manicure. Long nails, short nails, square nails—the classic white tip was easily the most asked-for nail look of the late 90 and early 2000s, where its versatility made it a go-to for everything from everyday wear to weddings and runways. In short, the French mani was it. Over the past decade or so, the French mani’s popularity slowly faded, with more intricate nail art designs, three-dimensional embellishments, and graphic shapes taking center stage, But, just like all timeless beauty trends, the French mani’s comeback power knows no bounds, and it’s finally ready to reclaim its worthy place in the spotlight. 

And the best part? French manis of today offer plenty of ways to get creative with your nails. While we’ll always hold a special place for those perfect lines of white polish, colorful french manicures—from pretty pastels to bright neons and rainbow nails–are all welcome to the soiree. We’re talking flashes of pink, chic black French moments, swirls of color, and so much more.

Ready to add colorful French manis into your nail design rotation? Continue reading for 16 super fun ideas to brighten up your mani game. 

But first, here’s a little multicolor French mani inspo to get started:

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1. Pastel Double Ombré

Just when we thought we’d tried every possible ombré nail look out there, TikTok came through with the slightly psychedelic, super cool double ombré. Simply put, it’s your classic ombré base, with a French tip carved out and painted with the same colors, but reversed. The result is almost an optical-illusion—with nails that look so three-dimensional, you can’t help but stop and stare.

Our Pick: PRETTY WOMAN Nail Polish in Lovesick is a soft, pastel pink that’s perfect for every day solid manis or beautiful ombré looks. 

2. Pink to Orange Ombré

When it comes to brights, neon pinks and oranges are a match made in mani heaven. Wear them against a nude base for a look that truly pops. Paint your base first, let it dry, then paint half of your French tip in bright pink, and the other half in orange. Use a clean, thin brush to lightly blend them toward the middle for a cool, gradient effect. A high shine top coat adds that final touch of glam.

Our Pick: COLOR CLUB Nail Polish in Seriously Disturbed is the highly pigmented, bright neon polish of your dreams. 

3. Ultra Thin French

Whether you’re a nail art minimalist, or you’re just dipping your toes into playing with color, this super subtle colorful French manicure is a perfect way to add some life to your looks. If you’ve ever tried to DIY a French manicure, you know getting those lines perfectly straight can be a pain. Try a silicone nail stamper—the most genius application invention since the Beautyblender was created for makeup—to make your French mani a breeze. Just apply a swipe of polish to the stamper, then press the edge of your nail along it for a fool-proof line. Wipe off polish, pick up another pastel, and keep going until you’ve got a pretty, rainbow French mani. 

4. Gleaming Gold

One thing we love about a French mani: It goes easily from casual to glam and everything in-between. If you really want to turn heads, choose a soft base coat and dip those tips in shining, gleaming gold. It’s the perfect way to guarantee your mani is always party-ready.  

Our Pick: FORMULA X Nail Polish in Revved Up is a gorgeous gold with a subtle rose tint with a brilliant shine.

5. Rainbow Base

Multicolor manis always top our list. Choosing one (or 10) colors you love is not only super fun and freeing, it saves precious time at the polish wall. For this colorful French, pair your base shades with their neon counterparts—, for example, soft pink and bright fuschia—for a cool, monochromatic-meets-rainbow effect.

6. Brown French

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If you love a more natural-looking French mani, a swipe of nude or brown on your tips will take yours to the next level. It’s sleek, subtle, and slightly understated, but will add a chic touch to all of your looks. Choose a shade a few darkers than your skin tone, or go bold with a deeper hue—the sky’s the limit. 

Want to choose the best nude polish for your skin tone? Check out our guide here!

7. Yellow and Green Stripes

Stripes are always a fun touch to add to your favorite nail looks—and here, bright green and sunny yellow make an eyecatching pair. Paint a thin line of green at the tip of your nail (that handy silicon stamping tool will make it super easy), then follow the curve of green color with a stripe of yellow directly under it. We love a sheer, natural-looking base to make sure your bright French design pops. 

Our Pick: LAW BEAUTY ESSENTIALS Nail Polish in Spear Me is a long-lasting, neon green polish that’s 13-free—aka made without 13 potentially harmful ingredients commonly found in polishes. 

8. Fresh Brights

Like we mentioned earlier, we love the freedom of applying a different color to every digit which makes this super bright inspo a winner. Choose bright blues, poppin’ pinks, fresh yellows, and lime greens, then paint them against a nude or neutral base—you really can’t go wrong when you embrace all the colors.  

9. Colorful Diagonal French

This diagonal French design with white stripes has an athletic esthetic that makes it a winner in our book. Instead of applying color across the entire tip of your nail, paint it from halfway down one side of your nail, across to the tip of the opposite side. Once dry, use a thin paintbrush to paint a white stripe beneath it for a sporty-cool effect.

10. Spotted Patterns

If you’re into artsy nail designs, you’ll love this modern, terrazzo-inspired French manicure. The best part? You can create it with any mix of colors you like. Start with your usual white tip, then add splashes of color (precision is not key). Then, take a dotting tool or small paintbrush, and place imperfect dots of black polish across the tips of your nails, with some overlapping slightly onto the base. There you have it, your very own work of nail art. 

Our Pick: KASCA Nail Polish in Velvet Black Matte is a rich, deep black polish with a matte finish that’ll add some fun contrast to glossy splashes of color.

11. Faded Pastel Rainbow

The sheer beauty of this slightly faded rainbow mani immediately stopped our scroll. Blending color out to a gentle fade gives nails a light, airy, ethereal feel. Try it with as many colors as you wish— light pastels have a summery vibe (kind of like icy popsicles!) that we'd love to rock year-round. 

12. Aqua and Citrus

For days when you really want to make a splash, try pairing ultra-bright orange with brilliant blue. As opposite shades on the color wheel, they naturally complement each other while totally standing out. Alternate using blue and orange as your nail base, and paint your French tips at varying thicknesses for a playful effect.

Our Pick: AURORA Gel Effect Nail Polish in Safety Orange is a vibrant, juicy orange shade with a gel-like finish (no UV lamp needed) that’ll brighten up your mani in an instant. 

13. Blue Double Ombré

With how beautiful this sky blue double ombré looks, we’re hoping the trend continues to take flight. A light powder or baby blue shade, paired with a vibrant blue will bring this colorful look to life. Tip: Use a shiny top coat on the bottom and a matte top coat on your tips to add even more dimension.

Our Pick: PREETTY WOMAN Nail Polish in Wanderlust is a bright, sky blue you won’t be able to take your eyes off of. 

14. Rainbow Ombré

Two of our favorite nail trends—rainbow and ombré—meet in this pretty, playful French manicure that’s easier to DIY than you’d think. The secret? Applying two polishes next to one another, and using a makeup wedge (yup the kind you use to apply foundation) to lightly dab their edges together until they lightly blend to a seamless ombré. (Check out our fool-proof guide on how to do Ombré nails for more inspo.)

15. Pastel with Half Moons

With glitter polish, fun pastels, and half moons, this mani is a party in and of itself. Let your creativity run wild with any colors, textures, and finishes you like. Try gold, silver, pink, or blue glitter, and add fun embellishments like rhinestones and confetti—there are endless opportunities to have fun with half moons.

16. Classic Red French

We can’t leave the most classic nail color of all time off of this list. From fire engine reds to rich, vampy shades, red add sultry spin to the French mani that’s simply irresistible. Just swap white nail polish for your favorite red hue, or add it on top of white to punch up the color. Finish with a glossy top coat for a French mani that’s just as timeless as the original.

Our Pick: COLOR CLUB Nail Polish in Regatta Red is a long-wearing, chip-free, pro-quality polish in a vibrant red that’s perfect for everyday wear to special occasions.

Want all the best nail inspo and products to create them? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.

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About the author
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Pia Bhattacharya
Pia is a New York-based beauty editor at IPSY with over 10 years experience including editorial, public relations, and copywriting. Her work has appeared in SELF magazine, in beauty and branding for Bloomingdale’s, and others.
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Article Last Updated October 10, 2022 12:00 AM