HOW TO START
Remove your old nail polish. Dip a cotton swab into some nail polish remover and remove all of your old nail polish, even if it's clear. Be sure to remove traces of polish from all the corners and cracks, since you'll be able to see other colors through the pale French mani polish.
If you're wearing acrylics and wish to do the French manicure on top, use appropriate polish remover and don't let it soak into your nails for too long.
Note that acetone nail polish remover can dry and damage your nails, so you may want to choose a remover that doesn't contain this chemical.
Trim your nails into your preferred shape. French manicures look more striking with longer nails, so you don't want to trim them too close to your fingertips. Use nail clippers to trim uneven spots and make sure all your nails are the same length.
File and buff your nails. Use a nail file to finish shaping your nails so that they each have a smooth, crescent-shaped edge. You can file your nails into a square or round shape, depending on your preference. Use a nail buffer to buff the surface of your nails.
When you file your nails, don't push down, as this can damage them. You want to gently drag the file across your nails.
Push back and trim your cuticles. Use an orange stick or cuticle pusher to push your cuticles back. Clip off any hangnails or bits of dead skin with a cuticle cutter or small nail scissors. You may also massage some cuticle oil into your nails at this time. After applying cuticle oil you could put a few drops of rubbing alcohol on your nails. Make sure not to put on too much or it can cause your nails to turn brittle.
Apply the base coat. The base coat of a French manicure is usually pale pink, cream, or clear. Start by painting a stripe down the center of your first nail, then two more stripes on either side. Paint from the cuticle to the tip, with the brush angled forward. Fill in the entire nail using smooth, even strokes. Continue painting the base coat on each nail of both hands.
Allow the base to dry thoroughly and apply a second coat. Make sure the base is completely dry before proceeding.
Paint your nail tips with white polish. Making sure your hand is steady, paint white crescents on your nail tips. The white polish should stop right where the whites of your nails stop. Allow the tips to completely dry, then apply another coat if you wish.
Add a clear top coat to protect the look of your freshly painted nails. Using a top coat will help the manicure last longer, too.
If you're not so great at painting a straight line, you can make your job a bit easier by using a French manicure kit, you can use the crescent-shaped nail guides to make sure your tip paint goes on neatly.
Using other kinds of tape might ruin the base coat, so stick to either painter's tape or the nail guides that come in a kit.