French, acrylic, gel, squoval… If you’re not familiar with nail technology, then the terminology can feel like a foreign language. But, not to worry because we’ve created a guide to the types of manicures a nail tech can offer so that you can become one of the pros in no time!

General Nail Prep and Rules

types of manicures

Before any manicure you should:

-Soak the nails in warm water 

-Remove remnants of old nail polish, then file and buff the nails for a smooth base

-Ask the client if they have any known allergies eg.latex

-Have a consultation about the type of nail shape and design they want

-Clip the nails down and gently push the cuticles back to neaten the edges


TOP TIP: Don’t cut the cuticles because this can hinder nail growth and cause them to grow back harder.

  • 10 x Files Pack

    Add to basket
  • Cuticle Pusher

    Add to basket
  • Gel Remover

    Add to basket

What are the different types of manicures?


Manicures come in all shapes, sizes and designs. The main types of manicures are:


  • Acrylic 
  • Gel 
  • Dip powder


Whatever your client opts for, it’s essential to be clued up on every kind of application, so we’re going to take a look at each one in-depth. 


Acrylic nails have become increasingly popular in recent years as people strive for impressive manicures, with plenty of length and precision. 


For acrylic application, you’ll need a variety of equipment to get started. Check out our blogs on Nail Technician Equipment for an extensive list of everything you should have in your kit. 


The benefits of acrylic nails:

-Durable and hard to break

-Large surface area to create intricate nail art 

-Can create super long nails easily 


You can apply acrylics with extension tips or shape them yourself with acrylic overlay. Extension tips are applied to the ends of the natural nail with glue and cut down to the desired length. Acrylic is then applied over the top, from the base of the nail to the tip of the extension, and filed down to create the basic nail shape. 


For the application of acrylic overlay, nail forms are applied under the natural nail to act as a guide for shaping the acrylic. Once a general nail shape has been achieved, a file is used to create more precision and clean up the edges of the nails. 


Acrylic nails can be formed of coloured acrylic or clear acrylic with a gel polish colour over the top. 


Acrylic nails are dried under a UV light for a glossy finish. After the application, apply cuticle oil to soothe the nails and add extra shine. 

  • Neon Orange Coloured Acrylic

    Add to basket
  • Pastel Purple Coloured Acrylic

    Add to basket


types of manicures

Gel nails are often used to create a more natural-looking manicure, although you can offer hard gel extensions too.


The benefits of gel nails:

-They cause less damage to the natural nail than acrylics

-Much quicker to apply

-Protect natural nails from dirt and pollution 

-Can create nail art with different colours


A base coat should always be applied before colour, to prep the nail and create a smooth base. Once applied, a colour of choice is painted over the top in layers and dried under a UV light to create a glossy finish. 


You can purchase gel nail polish in a wide variety of colours, including neons and shimmers.


Gel extensions are created using hard gel. The application technique is similar to that of acrylic, except gel is more flexible and easier to work with. Gel extensions are perfect for clients who want length but enjoy the benefits of gel nails.  

  • Gel Polish Start Up

    Add to basket
  • Nylon Gel Brush

    Add to basket

Dip Powder

A less mainstream option, dip powder nails are created by dipping the nail in a fine loose powder that adds pigment. The nails are dipped and coated with a clear polish multiple times until the desired level of pigment is reached.   


Although this is a quick and easy process, the main issue with dip powder nails is hygiene. There are significant problems with dipping multiple fingers into one pot of powder, so it’s hard to perform this type of manicure if you have a lot of clients. 

  • Acrylic Dipping System Accelerator 14ml

    Add to basket
  • Acrylic Dipping System Brush Saver 14ml

    Add to basket
  • Acrylic Dipping System Complete Kit

    Add to basket
  • Acrylic Dipping System Set

    Add to basket

What are the different nail shapes?

types of manicures

Whether you like long talons or prefer a classic, short look, there’s a nail shape out there for everyone. Practice different nail shapes so you can offer all of them to your clients. 


Coffin nails, (not as scary as they sound) are associated with the funeral prop because they taper off at the end and have a flat tip, just like a coffin. This shape is extremely popular and you’ll find it’s a regular request at the salon. 


Stiletto nails are for the extroverts amongst us who want fierce nails to match their personality. A lot of people like to go suuuuper long with their stiletto nails; however, they can look just as good at a shorter length too. 


Square nails are self-explanatory. Get the nail file at the ready, because this shape is all about sharp, precise edges. 


Round nails create a cute, natural look and are often paired with nude colours or french manicures for a soft and girly effect.


Oval nails are similar to rounded nails, but they taper more at the tip, while squoval nails are a more boxy version of the oval.


Lipstick nails aren’t very common and are certainly not to everyone’s taste, but they’re worth a mention. The tip of the nail finishes at a diagonal angle, mimicking the shape of a lipstick bullet.

What are the different nail styles?


types of manicures

Play around with matte polishes to create different textures. Use a mixture of matte and glossy nails in one manicure to make it look more interesting.  


Metallic and foil nails are pretty easy to get to grips with once you have the equipment. Use foils like gold leaf to create pretty designs and accent nails. Metallic polishes and chrome powders will add an extra touch of glamour to an otherwise standard manicure. 


Transparent nails are a super popular trend at the minute and look impressive when embellished with rhinestones or other accessories. 

  • Neon Crush Glitter

    Add to basket

Acrylic Sculpting

Acrylic sculpting is perfect for creating 3D designs that will really wow your clients. It’s a pretty advanced skill to learn, so it’s better to get to grips with the basics of acrylic application before attempting this. With practice, you can sculpt anything from roses to bows.


Nail Art 

Handpainted nail art is an impressive service you can offer to clients. From flowers to intricate patterns and designs, you can practice painting anything you like. It’s a good idea to learn popular designs; for example, flames have been a recent trend on the nail scene.  


The french manicure is a classic design that has remained popular for decades. A twist on this classic is the French fade. This is created by blending coloured acrylics into one another, so it can be a little trickier to perfect if you’re a novice at acrylic application. 


Similarly, ombre nails are created by blending different coloured acrylics into each other for a bright and stunning effect. 


Rhinestones are perfect for making any manicure look expensive and to create an eye-catching 3D effect. They’re great for special occasions or for when you fancy injecting some glamour into your nails. 

  • Coloured Acrylic Nail Art Paint

    Add to basket
  • Dotting tool set

    Add to basket
  • Ombre Sponge Applicator Nail Art Tool

    Add to basket

Now that you know all of the different styles, shapes and types of manicures a nail tech can offer, it’s time to get started! Posh Nailz offer level 3 and NVQ level courses in nail technology which will help you gain a professional qualification. To find out more, head to our training page.