French Illusion Nails: A Mesmerizing Twist on the Classic Manicure

Illusion French manicure in shades of purple

These days, our nails are as much a part of our ensemble as our clothing, shoes, and accessories. That’s why new nail art trends are constantly popping up to take everyday looks to a whole new level. From half-moon manicures and milk bath nails to double French manicures and velvet nails, 2022 has been stamped with more than a few memorable nail looks. And now there’s one more to add to the list: Illusion French nails—which have an astounding 48.8 million views on TikTok.


What Is an Illusion French Manicure?

Also known as an optical illusion French manicure or reverse ombré French manicure, an optical illusion French manicure is designed to make you do a double-take. While it features the classic French design, the base and tip of the nail are polished in inverted colors. But that’s not all: An ombré technique is employed to make the transition between shades a little trippy.

Fortunately, many nail artists have now hopped on the trend, sharing videos detailing how to recreate the optical illusion mani. While it’s unclear who originated the look, many Instagram and TikTok users tag @brushedbyb_ and @reallyhotgirl as their inspo.

Generally speaking, manicurists and TikTokers say to begin with an ombré base. To create your ombré, paint each side of your nail a different color and use a damp sponge to blur them in the center. Once dry, use a fine-lining nail brush or French manicure nail stickers to section off the tip and reverse the fade in the same fashion. Don’t forget to finish with a top coat.

Now that you know how to create an illusion French manicure, it’s time to get inspired. Ahead, find 15 ways to experiment with the popular nail look.

01 of 15


Maroon and Chartreuse French Illusion Nails

Magenta and Chartreuse French Illusion Nails

One look at these statement optical illusion nails and “Maroon” is playing in our mind. (IYKYK.) To recreate this French gradient, try using the Hermès Les Mains Hermès Nail Enamel ($45) in the shade Rouge H and essie’s Handmade with Love 8-free Vegan Nail Polish ($10) in the shade Piece of Work.

02 of 15


Slate Gray Illusion French Tips

Slate Gray Illusion French Tips

Hoping to hop on the trend with as little effort as possible? This slate gray illusion French manicure was actually made by layering the Color Street Smoke and Mirrors Nail Strips ($14).

03 of 15


Marigold French Illusion Nails

Marigold French Illusion Nails

Here we have a versatile optical illusion mani that works as well for a beach vacation as it does for rolling up to Thanksgiving dinner. The marigold yellow and white nail look is bright and beautiful. To recreate the exact look, use Lights Lacquer Nail Polish ($11) in the shades Paper Snow and Coney Island.

04 of 15


Toasted Matte French Illusion Nails

Toasted Matte French Illusion Nails

Not all illusion French manicures are glossy as can be. Just look at this moody matte nail look that brings images of toasted marshmallows to mind. If you don’t have matte polish on hand a matte top coat, like the Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Nail Polish 102 Matte Top Coat ($9), can transform any glossy nail look into a shine-free masterpiece.

05 of 15


Evergreen French Illusion Nails

Evergreen French Illusion Nails

How seamless is this evergreen fade? It’s bringing visions of Fraser firs to mind—and just in time for the holiday season. To perfect the arch of your tips when recreating this nail look, use the Orly Half Moon Guides ($5).

06 of 15


Barbiecore French Illusion Nails

Barbiecore French Illusion Nails

Ever since Barbiecore hit big earlier this year, we’ve had our sights set on all things pink—including this pretty illusion French manicure. For a similar high-shine finish, you can’t beat Olive & June’s Super Glossy Top Coat ($9).

07 of 15


Gray Velvet Illusion French Nails

Grey velvet illusion French mani

ICYMI: Velvet nails are becoming more and more popular as we enter into the cooler months of the year. It makes sense, given how stunning and festive they are. Admittedly they’re also a bit trickier to perfect, so you may want to enlist the help of a pro for these.

08 of 15


Purple and Gray French Illusion Nails

Purple and grey illusion French mani

Craving a pop of purple? Here, the manicurist used OPI Infinite Shine 2 Long-Wear Lacquer ($13) in Medi-take it All In and Peace of Mined.

09 of 15


Nutmeg Illusion French Mani

Nutmeg Illusion French Mani

This warm brown illusion French manicure is made trippier by how subtle the color differentiation is. When trying to mimic the look, opt for polishes that are only one or two shades apart.

10 of 15


Nude Illusion French Tips

Nude French illusion mani

Here’s another subtle illusion French mani. Best of all, here you can see that even on short nails, the gradient nail art looks nothing short of head-turning.

11 of 15


Lavender Haze Illusion French Mani

Lavender haze French illusion mani

This pale purple and white gradient is perfect for winter. (Psst: If you click here, you’ll even see a full video tutorial for recreating an optical illusion French manicure.)

12 of 15


Teal and Green Illusion French Mani

Teal and green illusion French manicure

Excuse us while we swoon over these mermaid-inspired teal and green illusion nails. While the manicurist doesn’t share the names of the exact shades, they do detail the application process so you can watch it come to life in real-time. (See here.)

13 of 15


White Illusion French Manicure

White Illusion French Manicure

For an icier illusion French mani, you can use a combination of sheer and opaque polishes. That goes for any color pairing, too.

14 of 15


Grinchy Green French Illusion Nails

Grinchy Green French Illusion Nails

Gearing up for the holidays, perhaps you’re looking for a bold take on the nail trend. This glossy, jelly-like nail idea certainly fits the bill with its Grinch-inspired palette.

15 of 15


Blue Ombré Illusion French Tips

Blue Ombre Illusion French Tips

Last but not least, check out these blue ombré illusion French tips. The color works as well for summer as it does for fall and winter, making us certain that it’s worthy of your next manicure appointment.

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