Introduction: French Braid Basics

Picture of French Braid Basics

If you've already mastered the three-strand braid without looking in a mirror, it's time to crack the technique for French braids (in name only, seen for millennia throughout history). They look complex, and up until now you may have been mystified as to how to keep track of all that hair with just two hands, but I promise they're not as hard as they look!

French braids are extremely comfortable to wear, since they distribute tension and weight evenly over your head. They are incredibly practical for securing your hair, especially short hair around your face. In this lesson, you'll try French braiding each half of your hair at a time, so it's easier to see what you're doing in a mirror.

Begin by parting your hair down the middle and securing one half with a clip or elastic, as we'll just work with one half for now.

This Instructable is part of my beginner braids series. If you like this lesson, try the rest!

Step 1: Three Strands and a New Addition

Grab a section of hair at the front, as you did in lessons two and three.

Divide it into three sections and start a crossing-over braid. Complete a stitch or two.

The next time you're getting ready to cross over the section closer to your face, grab an additional bit of hair from your scalp nearby.

Incorporate it into the braid section and cross the whole thing over to the center position.

Step 2: Add Some From the Other Side

Picture of Add Some From the Other Side

Now you're going to the same thing on the other side, near your part.

Use your fingernail or a comb to scoop up a neighboring section of hair to become part of the braided section as you cross it over.

Then do it again on the side closer to your face! Smooth the sections as you go, either with your fingers or a brush.

It's ok if it doesn't look neat; since when was anybody's first attempt perfect? (Or second, for that matter?) We'll reflect and improve upon your technique later in this lesson.

Step 3: Repeat Along the Way

Picture of Repeat Along the Way

Continue braiding along the side of your head, adding hair to each section as you go.

Braid until you run out of hair to add, then braid whatever hair remains. Secure the tail with a small elastic, or criss-crossed bobby pins if your hair is super short.

Step 4: Compare and Reflect

Picture of Compare and Reflect

Now braid the other side! This time, try to keep the sections held more taut, and add smaller sections of hair at a time than you did the first time.

Compare the two braids. What's the difference in the overall appearance, and how did the size of the sections affect the proportions of the braid?

Keep practicing your French braids until you get the hang of it! Try making one French braid down the center of your head. If you have an uneven hairline at the neck, like me, you might prefer a Dutch braid, which is better at hiding that extra bit of hair that always seems to stick out.

This Instructable is part of my beginner braids series. If you liked this lesson, try the rest!


Fuzzy Monkey made it! (author)2017-08-20

In a moving vehicle, at night... haha!
Any tips?

P.S. The second one is on myself so a bit messier.

bekathwia (author)Fuzzy Monkey2017-08-21

Nice work!!

cle0o_143 made it! (author)2017-01-11


Brmbrm made it! (author)2017-01-04

I'm so happy! :D

bekathwia (author)Brmbrm2017-01-04

That turned out awesome!

AuroraK3 made it! (author)2016-12-29

these are on my mom

DianaM139 made it! (author)2016-12-28

I love this braid type.
I always use.

sheabo made it! (author)2016-12-21

Done! Super first try, but turned out ok :)

bekathwia (author)sheabo2016-12-22

That looks great!

himanshi19 made it! (author)2016-12-17

I did it.... :)

SaraR84 made it! (author)2016-12-16

I did it! But my arms are a bit tired now... :-)

bekathwia (author)SaraR842016-12-16

Nice work! Over time your muscles will grow strong and your arms won't feel as tired! =]

JuliaClarke made it! (author)2016-12-01

I've been practising this for a while, but your instructions above are very helpful so this is the best one I've ever done! I don't have hair on the sides so I had to just do a central one (a little lop sided though!) I'm going to carry on practising!

bekathwia (author)JuliaClarke2016-12-08

Looks great!

sarabg24 made it! (author)2016-12-08

My braid!! =)

bekathwia (author)sarabg242016-12-08


JohnnieT made it! (author)2016-10-15

My first attempt. :D

bekathwia (author)JohnnieT2016-10-31

Great work!

christa627 made it! (author)2016-09-20

I tried the French braid a couple times before, but didn't keep practicing. Today when I did it, I left my hair in my usual side-part, so it's definitely not symmetrical... but what happened? One of the dangling braids is evidently backwards in relation to the other, not sure what's up with that :-P! One side is higher than the other, probably mostly due to the asymmetrical part.

bekathwia (author)christa6272016-10-03

When you transisiton from braiding at the back of your head to braiding over your shoulder, you can have a dramatic effect on the way the lower part will hang by twisting or not twisting the braid to continue your work. Pay close attention (or consider rolling video) at this transition time, and notice whether you switch to work the braid from its opposite side, or twist it to maintain the the crossing-over. As long as you do it the same way on both sides, they'll come out symmetrical. =D Looking fab, by the way!

aengleman made it! (author)2016-09-13

Well, they're not perfect, but I've never even come close to a french braid before. A few things that I noticed:

1. Either my dark hair hides the detail or I didn't take enough sections to make the design noticeable.

2. It was similar to doing my nail in that I can work on the left side much more easily than the right.

3. On the right side, instead on laying flat and connecting into the regular braid, the design starts to twist toward my face. :P

When I first looked over the photos and watched the demo video (without the sound on), I was a bit skeptical, but you showed me that even I can do it. Thank you!

bekathwia (author)aengleman2016-09-13

Thank you so much for sharing! Your braids look great! (1)You might notice the detail more in the next lesson on Dutch braids. (2)With practice they'll become more even from left/right and (3)more straight along their length. Keep going! I can't wait to see more of your braids.

belsilene made it! (author)2016-09-07

My first attempt with my "thin hair, unstoppable, tree years old" daughter. :)

bekathwia (author)belsilene2016-09-07

Major props to you! Lookin' fab.

About This Instructable




Bio: Becky Stern is a content creator at Autodesk/Instructables. She has authored hundreds of tutorials about everything from wearable electronics to knitting. Before joining Instructables ... More »
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