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How to Shape Your Nails

One of the most important steps in a manicure is the shaping of the nails. And if you’re wondering how to shape your nails like a pro, you’ve come to the right place!

With insights provided by our very own J Flow Nail technicians, this article discusses all of the points you need to know about nail shaping, from the selection of nail shapes, the shaping process, and the challenges faced during shaping.

First off, there are seven primary nail shapes, each with its distinct characteristics.


  • The nail tip is shaped almost at a right angle without creating a curve. 

  • Recommended for those that prefer shorter nails.

  • Caution is needed because of the sharp corners.


  • A shape that softens the right angles of a square shape by adding some roundness.


  • A shape with overall roundness. (like the outer part of the circle when cut into quarters)

  • Wonderful for cute nail art like pastel pink.

  • Highly versatile and works wonderfully with a large variety of designs.


  • The shape has roundness not just at the tip but also on the sides (egg shaped). 

  • It has the effect of making fingers appear longer and slimmer.

  • Can produce a super elegant look with French nails.


  • Similar to the oval shape, but the tip is sharper.

  • Recommended for those who want to make their nails appear longer or to prevent nail splitting.


  • A long shape with a squared-off tip. 

  • The width of the nail bed and the tip are the same, with the middle part being wider.

  • It creates the illusion of elongated fingers and a slimmer nail bed.

  • Requires a bit of length to produce, but results are stunningly fashionable.


  • A long and sharply pointed shape, giving an impression similar to stiletto heels. 

  • Similar to almond nails but even more pointed.

At J Flow Nail, we have a particularly high volume of requests for the almond shape. However, we often see that customers actually want more of an oval shape when we explain the differences between the types. 

Depending on the art, we tend to recommend certain nail shapes: an elegant look might go well with an oval or square shape, while a shorter round shape might suit a cute pop style. 

We determine the optimal nail shape through consultation with the client, where we take note of their desired nail length and nail art. Often, the design is chosen before finalizing the shape.

A nail file is an abrasive tool used to shape the nails. It is used by nail technicians to smooth out rough edges/tips of the nails and to adjust the length of the nails with precision. Nail files can be made from three different types of material: glass, metal, and emery board. Each nail file type has its benefits and drawbacks. 


Metal nail files are durable and effective for quickly reducing nail length. However, their abrasive surface can be too harsh for thin or weak nails, potentially leading to splits or cracks. Their rigidity offers less flexibility in shaping compared to softer files.


Glass nail files, sometimes referred to as crystal files, offer a gentle filing experience. They are finely textured and can seal the keratin layers at the edge of the nails, preventing splits and peeling. The main drawback is their fragility; glass files can break if dropped, and they tend to be more expensive than other types of files.

Emery board:

Emery boards are the most commonly used type of nail file. They are disposable, making them a hygienic option for nail salons that service multiple clients. Emery boards have a gritty, abrasive surface that can vary in coarseness, suitable for different stages of nail shaping. They are flexible, allowing for precise control when shaping the nail. However, they wear out more quickly than metal or glass files, making them less durable than the others.

At J Flow Nail, we mainly utilize Emery Boards for our services. We recommend Emery Boards over metal or glass files because they are inexpensive, can be used in a hygienic manner, and are the easiest to file with out of the three.

Now that we’ve gone over the different nail shapes and tools, we can start discussing the actual shaping process.

Points to Know:

  1. File the nail at a 45-degree angle

  • You should file at a 45-degree angle to the nail bed as filing at this angle helps shape the nail properly.

  1. Do not go back and forth when filing

  • Make sure to file in one direction as filing in a back and forth motion may cause the nail layers to split.

Start by filing the nails from the outside towards the center. By going from the side towards the center, you have more control over the shape and allows for you to create and even nail shape. As you are working, make sure to keep note of the center part of the nail. By using the center of the nail as a reference, you can achieve a more even and balanced shape when filing.

Additionally, a goal you should aim for when shaping the nails is to make it look straight when viewed from the side like on image ③ below. 

You can see how the red line is straight. This is what you want to follow, while the blue is what you want to fix by filing.

The technician works from the sides first, to ensure the most control over the final shape.

The nail is filed such that it is straight, looking from the side, and has the desired shape.

Challenges and Solutions

Common shaping challenges include naturally distorted or damaged nails. Particularly difficult shapes or damaged nails may require silk wraps for repair or the use of artificial nails. Cracked nails or artificial nails may be bonded with glue, but we prefer to stay away from it due to its harmful effects (we will cover nail glue in a future article). Shaping such nails for gel application requires appropriate skills and close consultation with clients is crucial, especially for challenging shapes or damage.

Thank you for taking the time to delve into our nail shaping guide. It's our hope that the expertise shared by our J Flow Nail technicians has laid a robust groundwork for you, covering everything from selecting the perfect nail shape to navigating through common shaping challenges.

Additionally, we're excited to announce that we have an array of additional guides and lessons in the works, covering more sophisticated tips and techniques. These resources are designed to take your nail artistry to new heights! So, keep an eye out for what's coming next!

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