Techniques to Create Half Moon Manicures

Don't settle for typical colors, either. Take a risk!
Don't settle for typical colors, either. Take a risk!
trec_lit/Flickr Creative Commons

The half-moon manicure isn't a new invention. It dates from the 1930s and 1940s. Think of it as a reverse French manicure where the lighter contrasting crescent is located just above the cuticle instead of on the tip of the nail. It's a relatively easy effect to create with a little practice, and it can make your nails look bold and distinctive. If you have a special occasion coming up, want to show off that new engagement ring or just need to feel feminine and elegant, give half-moon nails a try. Here's how:

  1. Trim and file your nails. The half-moon look typically calls for a rounded or even slightly pointed nail shape. Think talons and you've got the idea.
  2. For the best results, wash your hands in soapy water and clean your nails gently with a soft bristle brush before applying polish. You'll remove dirt and any oily residue that could keep the polish from making a strong bond.
  3. Apply a coat of polish to your nails as you would normally. Use the nail polish color you want to show in the crescent shape.
  4. Allow the polish to dry completely. (Moving to the next step too soon is one of the quickest ways to ruin your specialty manicure.)
  5. Apply a stencil sticker, hole punch reinforcement or nail guide to each nail. There are a number of products you can use. Basically, they're all designed to mask a crescent shaped area at the base of each nail. They're like mini-stencils held in place with a mild adhesive. (The hole punch reinforcement is actually an office supply product sold as an adhesive dot with a round hole in the center. To use it as a stencil, cut the dot in half and position it at the base of the nail.) The idea here is to cover up the first color so it isn't painted over with the second color. When the stencil is removed, the first color is visible as a crescent at the base of each nail
  6. Press each stencil sticker firmly in place to keep polish from dribbling underneath. The width of the crescent is a matter of personal choice, but it is important to make the crescents on all your nails about the same size.
  7. Apply a second coat of polish to your nails in a color that contrasts with the first coat in an attractive way. Let the polish dry completely.
  8. Apply a third and final coat of polish. You know the drill -- let it dry completely.
  9. Remove the stencils.
  10. Apply a clear top coat to your nails. This is an extra step, but your polish will look better longer when you give it a layer of protection.

If you have a steady hand and an eye for detail, it's possible to create the crescent shape without using a stencil. It takes a lot of practice though, and we don't recommend it if you haven't tried this nail design before.

If all this sounds like a lot of work, you can take a sneaky DIY shortcut. Dita Von Teese and the Kiss nail brand have created a half-moon press on nail kit that will make it easy to complete a half moon manicure in minutes. The kit is only available with white crescents and red lacquered uppers, but hopefully there'll be more options on the market in the near future.

Related Articles


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  • Foster, Linda. "Do-It-Yourself Manicures at Home." Everyday Health. 7/29/09. (5/23/12).
  • Matlin, Jessica B. "The Half-Moon Manicure - How to Nail It." 5/25/09. (5/23/12).
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