How to File Your Nails: Easy Step-by-Step Guide

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Filing your nails is a crucial part of doing your nails. Whether you’re having a manicure or just changing your nail polish colour, you’ll always need to file your nails; however, for some, it’s not as easy as it may sound. Filing your nails is harder than it sometimes seems, as some shapes are harder than others. If you’re looking to know how to file your nails, here’s a guide.

In this post, I’ll be sharing how to file your nails, an easy step-by-step guide. This will help you get your desired shape using the right technique and make sure it’s done safely and healthy for your nails.

How to File Your Nails: Easy Step-by-Step Guide

Filing your nails is quite simple once you get the hang of it, but you do need to use the right technique to ensure you file your nails properly, but you don’t damage them in doing so. Here’s an easy step-by-step guide on how to file your nails:

What you need:

Nail clippers

Nail file

Cuticle oil

1. Decide what shape you want

Before you begin to file your nails, you need to decide what your desired shape is. Your nails will have a natural shape that you’d genetically get; this shape is typically square or round.

Due to this, it is much easier to create and maintain your natural shape when it comes to filing your nails, as your nail is much more used to that shape, and it’ll always grow back into its natural shape. Not only that, but your natural shape is the most flattering shape for you as it’ll compliment your hands the best.

Having said that, there are many other shapes you can try out; you don’t need to stick to your natural shape purely because it’s your natural shape; if you’ve seen a shape you prefer, then, by all means, give it a go.

It is, however, recommended to get your nails shaped by a nail technician if it is your first time with a new shape, just to ensure it is done properly and the shape is correct. You can try it out yourself if you aren’t worried about it not being perfect; this is only a recommendation.

The most common shapes are coffin (also known as ballerina), square, squoval, oval, round, almond, and stiletto. These are the most trendy shapes, and most nail technicians will be able to provide them.

2. Cut your nails before

Now you’ve decided what shape you want; you need to cut your nails to the desired length. Cutting your nails will help shape them better and keep them to a reasonable length for your specific shape. However, if you are already happy with the length of your nails, then you can skip this stage; it is completely personal.

If you want almond, coffin, or stiletto shape, cut down the side of the tips. This helps to enhance the shape and makes the sides clean, giving it a more professional look. It also makes it easier to get the shape quicker, as filing on its own will take a while to get more of the structured shapes.

If you’re filing acrylics, then it is crucial to cut the nails done, as this helps start the whole process as the tip doesn’t have any shape, and they’ll be a long length, so cutting them down and in the outline of your desired shape will help you.

3. Filing your nails 

Filing your nails may seem like a simple thing, but if it’s done wrong, it can cause many issues, so it’s important to get it right and understand how to do it before you give it a go. If you can try to practice first, you can do this on artificial tips or press on nails; this will help you ensure you have the right technique or are happy with the shape.


When filing your nails, you need to start from one of the outside corners and file towards the centre. You don’t want to file back and forwards; it should be a short, quick motion, always going back to the outside corner to start the filing motion again.

Once you’ve got the desired shape and length on one side, file from the opposite side using the same short motion towards the centre again.

Make sure to take your time and go slowly; you don’t want to rush it as if you file too fast, you may misshape the nail or take too much length off. If you go wrong, it makes it harder to get the shape you want, so you may have to change it or go for a shorter length.

Once you’ve got to your desired shape and finished your manicure, make sure to apply cuticle oil to your nails. Filing can be very drying to your nails and hands, so applying cuticle oil will help replenish and rehydrate them.

What not to do when filing your nails

There is only one thing you want to avoid when filing your nails. You do not want to file across your nails back and forth in a sawing motion. This can be really damaging to the nail as it can fray the nail. This will leave them very weak and prone to breaking as the friction against the nail is too harsh, and the pressure caused breaks the nail. If this is constantly done, it can leave lasting effects on the nail bed and even your cuticles, leading to long-term nail issues.


Once you’ve understood the technique of how to file your nails, it will be much easier to do, and you’ll find that getting your desired shape gets easier each time. Keep checking what you’re doing to ensure the shape is right, and it’s even on both sides. As I said before, take your time while filing your nails as it’s easier to see what you’re doing, you can always change a few things, but you can add back if you file too much. 

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