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How To Paint Your Nails Properly

Updated on March 1, 2018
sparkleyfinger profile image

Lynsey loves trying out beauty tips and products, often making her own products and enjoys sharing anything useful that she finds!

Painting your nails properly can have a massive effect on the overall look of your at-home manicure. A rushed job can look messy and childish, so it is worthwhile putting a bit of time and effort into it. If done properly, your nail paint can last 7-10 days.

As a recently recovered nail biter, I have made up for lost time experimenting with my shoebox full of nail varnish! In this hub, I will reveal to you the secret of salon results from a home manicure, no matter what kind of varnish is used!

I must point out that I am not a nail art expert, but since I stopped nail biting around 6 months ago, I have painted my nails every colour combination you could possibly think of, perfecting the method each time!

If you simply follow these 5 steps, you will have evenly distributed, long lasting, chip resistant nails.

1- Remove Residue

Using some nail polish remover, gently remove any residual nail varnish, oils or creams fro the nail area. If the nail Polish is particularly thick, soak in the remover for 30 seconds to penetrate the layers, then wipe off with cotton wool- this prevents over-rubbing and possibly thinning the nail.

If there is any staining left on the nails, you can usually remove this using lemon juice and/ or whitening toothpaste- personally I don't see the point unless I am using clear nail paint.

Sinful Colors 10-piece Surprise Nail Polish Set
Sinful Colors 10-piece Surprise Nail Polish Set

Sinful colours are really highly pigmented, so make sure you use a base coat. However, they do a brilliant range of amazing colours at an affordable price. I would recommend these.


2- Apply The Basecoat

The base coat is a necessary step for a number of reasons:

  • It prevents staining from the colour of the varnish.
  • It strengthens the nail and prevents snapping.
  • It smooths ridges without having to file and thin the nail.
  • It allows better application of the nail colour.

Apply a generous amount, and allow to dry thoroughly for the best protection to the nail.

3- Apply Nail Colour

How you apply the colour is a personal preference, but my technique ensures an even distribution with no over painting of a particular area.

  • Paint from the bottom to the top
  • Start on one side of the nail, then the other, then finally, the middle.
  • Apply in thin, even coats.
  • Allow to dry thoroughly between coats.
  • Don't worry too much about smudges- these will be removed later.

4- Apply Effect

Apply any special effects at this stage- you could experiment with glitter, nail stamps, polka dots, feather effect, velvet or silk effect, nail beads or diamante's- it really is up to you!

Remember to apply any effects per the product instructions.

After this has dried, use a cotton bud (q-tip) dipped in nail varnish to remove any excess nail colour on the fingers- being careful to avoid getting any remover on the nails themselves.

Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Nail Coat, Clear - .5 oz. oz
Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Nail Coat, Clear - .5 oz. oz

This is my favourite top coat. Dries any polish quickly and also protects, giving a finish like gel polish. I only use Seche Vite topcoats, as cheaper ones don't protect my manicure.


5- Apply Top Coat

This is probably the most important step to ensure a long lasting finish. A top coat is important for a number of reasons|

  • It smooths the final appearance of the nail
  • It can give a nice shiny effect- giving the appearance of a gel nail colour.
  • It stops the colour underneath chipping.

I recommend a good quality top coat, and this again is a recent lesson I have learned. I was recently gifted a bottle of Seche Vite top coat, and I am a convert. This particular product penetrates the nail colour underneath to form a solid gel like coat that simply does not chip. I now grow bored with my colour, whereas before I had to redo my nails after a few days due to chips.

Be aware that a top coat should not usually be used with certain effects, such as velvet effect or some 3D nail effects- check the effect instructions for further information.


Now that you know the secret to a salon quality manicure at home, you can experiment and perfect your own method of application. There are plenty of inspirational ideas for nail art on Pinterest to keep your nails decorated for a while, and you can rest assured that your chosen designs will last as long as you want them to.

Will you be trying this 5 step method?

See results

© 2014 Lynsey Harte


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    • sparkleyfinger profile image

      Lynsey Harte 3 years ago from Glasgow

      Lol!! I'm actually pretty sure it was my gran! Hahahaha thanks for the view, votes and comment!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      I wonder who -- I mean what -- caused your nail biting? ;-) Congrats on stopping. I liked your tips here, AA doing a good job yourself can save a lot of money! Voted up and more.

    • sparkleyfinger profile image

      Lynsey Harte 3 years ago from Glasgow

      Thanks! Yeah the profile pic was when I had stumpy nails... Couldn't keep the glitter on them :-p I know, the set is nice! If I didn't already have a shoebox full of varnish, I'd probably buy it lollol! Thanks for the visit and comment!

    • Suzanne Day profile image

      Suzanne Day 3 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      Love your profile pic which is somewhat related to this hub! Thanks for the useful information and that SHANY Nail Art Set is quite brightly coloured nailpolish for all occasions. Voted useful.

    • sparkleyfinger profile image

      Lynsey Harte 4 years ago from Glasgow

      Thanks btrbell ! :-) glad it could help!

    • btrbell profile image

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you! Just in time! I need to do my nails today! Congrats on stopping nail biting! Up+

    • sparkleyfinger profile image

      Lynsey Harte 4 years ago from Glasgow

      Thanks for your view and comment jasmeetk :-)

    • Jasmeetk profile image

      Jasmeet Kaur 4 years ago from India

      interesting hub!!