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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tutorial: Half-Moon Manicure

After I posted some pics of my first attempt at a half-moon manicure, several of you seemed interested in seeing a tutorial, so today I'm going to give you a detailed explanation of to how to get this 1940s-inspired look using one very simple and inexpensive office supply.

But before I begin, I want to thank my wonderful former colleague and dear friend for giving me this tip--I had NO idea this would be so easy!

Let's start with the materials needed for this manicure:

You will need:

A good base coat (I use Orly Bonder)
Two contrasting, OPAQUE polish colors (try to pick shades that are opaque with just ONE coat)
Milani Neon Fresh Teal and Maybelline Goody Plum Drop are the two that I chose
A good top coat (for this mani I used Seche Vite)

Let me stop right here and tell you that if you want an AUTHENTIC half-moon manicure, you only need ONE polish color. In the traditional half-moon manicure, your bare nail is exposed. This manicure gets its name from the little white "half-moon" at the base of your cuticle. This is the part of your nail that will be exposed, while the rest of your nail will be covered in polish. Click here for a pic of how this looks.

Today I'm putting a little modern spin on the half-moon manicure because I just think it's fun to use contrasting colors--but please note that the technique I'm going to show you works just as well if you're going for a traditional half-moon manicure (you'll just omit one step).

The final supply you will need for this manicure is the office supply:

Unless you've got an extremely steady hand, these hole-punch reinforcements will be a lifesaver! I bought these at CVS for around $2 but you can find them anywhere that office supplies are sold.

Here's the step-by-step process (you can click on any photo to enlarge)

Apply your base coat to clean, dry nails:

Next, apply ONE COAT of the color you want for the "half-moon" part of your manicure. If this is your first time trying a half-moon manicure, I HIGHLY suggest using a lighter color for the "half-moon" (I will explain why in a second).

Remember: be sure that the color you choose isn't terribly sheer because the goal is to only apply ONE coat for the "half-moon" shade. And don't worry about perfect application with this coat--75% of it is going to be covered up anyway:

Next, apply a thin layer of top coat. Do NOT skip this step (I'll explain in a minute):

After your top coat has dried, it's time to affix the stickers! With your fingernail, try to mold the stickers and crease the natural curve of your nail to really get a good seal (this is actually pretty easy to achieve so don't worry too much about getting it air-tight):

Now for the fun part! Apply ONE COAT of your second color:

Now is the time for me to explain why it's so important to use a lighter color for the "half-moon" and a darker color for the "top" position. If you were to switch this around and put a lighter color on TOP of a darker color, you run the risk of having the darker color show through. Sure, you could use two coats, but here's the problem with that: if you use two coats, plus the base coat and two layers of top coat (remember, you can't skip the top coat step I mentioned above), you're talking about having six or seven layers of polish on your nails. That is just asking for bubbles, peeling, and polish that never dries. Trust me, you don't want that.

After your "top" color is completely dry (I waited 15 minutes), gently and slowly peel off the stickers! Don't worry if it's not perfect--your top coat will even things out considerably:

Now I can explain why I told you to put a top coat over the "half-moon" shade. If I had not done this, there's a good possibility that the sticker would have taken my purple polish off when I peeled the stickers off. So using a top coat BEFORE you apply the stickers is really mandatory. Consider it insurance. Because believe me, you don't want to have to start all over again once you get to this point!

And again, this is why you want to avoid having to use two coats of "half-moon" color and two coats of "top" color. If I were to have used two coats of purple, plus the mandatory top coat, then two coats of teal, followed by a final coat of top coat, it would be a sticky, goopy nightmare. So please, chose one-coat colors that are very opaque and use the lighter shade for the "half-moon" the first time you try this. I promise it will make your experience a million times easier.

And now for the final result:

See how the Seche Vite really levels things out? The line looks much cleaner now, and when I touch my nails, I don't feel a ridge between the purple and the teal.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial, and I hope that my tips make your half-moon manicure experience relatively hassle-free! It might seem like a lot of work, but I swear it's easy. The entire manicure takes me less than an hour to achieve. Not bad, and I think it's such a fun look!

Have you already tried a half-moon mani? If not, are you thinking about giving it a whirl? I'd love to hear your ideas for other color combos!


  1. uber cute color combo! and great tutorial :) i LOVE the milani neons!

  2. I tried it recently with a greige and purple. I didn't use hole punch reinforcement stickers though, so it didn't look as precise. I love the colors you chose. I've got to pick up Fresh Teal--it's gorgeous. You did a great job! :D

  3. Thanks for this great tutorial, G. I am very into vintage beauty, but also like seeing the classic looks with a modern twist. I would not have thought to put the topcoat over the half moon shade before applying the second shade. Good to know.

  4. Awesome. Sounds so easy the way you explain it.
    Nice. I may have to try it one of these days.

  5. Awesome. Sounds so easy the way you explain it.
    Nice. I may have to try it one of these days.

  6. Funny thing you just posted that. Think I need to post a link on my last entry which was a half-moon but I used different stickers.

  7. this is a super cute idea :D Thanks for sharing it with use :D

  8. That is so awesome! Thanks for the tut, G! :-D

  9. Thanks, G! I tried one the other day and didn't use one coat colors and it was a disaster! Now I know what to do to try again. I'm thinking a dark purple and RED would be a good fall combo. The Sally Hansen Salon Plum Luck should one coat over a red pretty well and not have too much show through.

  10. man this look is awesome....I love the and easy...Hmm...And the reinforcement label can also be used for french tip...Nice...

  11. Wow! Your nails look so nice. =) I'm so clumsy at applying nail polish though -I can barely paint my fingernails just one solid color.

  12. This makes it look so easy! I wasn't going to even try to do it before but now I will

  13. Wow I would've never thought of using those enforcements!
    I always wondered how I'll be able to paint the half moon perfectly, now I know :)

  14. What an awesome idea to use the little hole punch sticker thingies!!! Thanks!

  15. Excellent tutorial and your mani looks great! Love it =)

  16. A quick tip that may help the layers of polish issue. Since you only need the half moon color towards the bottom of your nail, you don't need to paint the whole nail with that color. Just do it halfway or a third of the way. That way, you can potentially use a darker color for the halfmoon and lighter color up top as well as lessen the amount of polish on your nails.

  17. Reinforcement stickers?! That's ingenious! I never would have come up with that on my own.

    Thanks for a great tutorial!! You laid it out so easily that I might even be able to do it.

  18. Fuuuuun! I will try this next time I paint my nails. I love it. :D

  19. Awesome tutorial, I'm definitely trying this one!

  20. This turned out to be so pretty! I love vintage beauty! Thanks for the step by step instructions and tips.

  21. Wow how cool is that!!! :) I can't wait to receive Orly's Bonder!!! :)

  22. This is great! It's one of the reasons this is my favorite blog. G, you give us so much- fun stuff like the vintage vault, tutorials, tips on making the best use of cosmetics, shopping pointers, hauls, reviews, swatches, and the list goes on. Thank you very much!

    I also liked schmut's half moon manicure and the use of different stickers so that the half moon could be the darker color.


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