Introduction: How to Paint Your Nails

Picture of How to Paint Your Nails

How to paint your nails - this is something everyone knows how to do, right? Nope!

This is a skill I only recently learned how to do properly. I've never been too into painting my nails, but I think that was because I was going about it all wrong. ;)

After extensive months of googling, youtubing and practicing, I feel confident enough to share my nail painting knowledge. :D

Once you know how to paint your nails the right way you'll probably want to do it more often!

Step 1: What You'll Need:

Picture of What You'll Need:
  • nail polish
  • base coat (if using a dark or crazy color - this will keep you from dyeing your nails!)
  • clear top coat
  • fingernail clippers
  • cuticle trimmers/stick
  • a file
  • cotton swabs/rounds
  • nail polish remover

As far as nail polish, I really love Covergirl, Essie and Milani. They're the brands I use the most often. Sephora also has a nice line of polishes called Sephora by Opi.

I always use Opi's Natural Nail Base Coat for the base - it goes on smooth and dries fast! Lately I've been using Sally Hansen Insta-Dri top coat and loving it, too.

Also, if you haven't tried glass files, you should! They last forever and work quickly. They're all I've used for the past few years. :)

Step 2: Tips for Painting Your Nails

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Keep in mind that what you are about to do is going to take forever - give yourself at least an hour. Before you start this endeavor, do the following things:

  • eat a snack
  • use the restroom
  • if you have long hair, tie it back
  • make sure you have a nice beverage nearby
  • find something to entertain you that won't require you to touch things
  • convince your cats they are not allowed to help you paint your nails

Seriously. If I don't do these things I almost always mess up my nails by trying to accomplish these things. :D

This time was especially precarious due to camera operation.

It's also always best to paint your nails on a well lit, clean and flat surface. I never have any luck painting my nails when my hand is not resting on a flat surface. You get the wobbles, which leads to getting nail polish alllll over your finger.

Step 3: Prep Work!

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Before you paint your nails, you need to do a little prep. If you're currently wearing nail polish, take that off before starting this step.

First, push back or trim any excess cuticle. If you do this right after a shower it works best! You could also soak your hands in a little warm water to ease this process.

Then trim and file your nails. (make sure they're completely dry, otherwise you could damage them!)

FInally, go over your nails with a little nail polish remover - this will clean and prep them for painting.

Step 4: The First Coat

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You will be tempted to put on a thick coat of nail polish to speed up the process. Don't do it! The thicker your coats, the longer they will take to dry. A thick coat of polish can take up to 20 minutes to dry, while a super thin coat can dry within 5-10.

I am a huge advocate of three thin coats of polish instead of one lumpy thick one. :D

Now here's the major thing I learned about painting my nails properly:
DO NOT take the polish all the way to your cuticles or the skin at the sides of your nails.

Leave the tiniest amount of space around the bottom and sides of your nail unpolished. They will look nicer, chip less, and require hardly any cleanup at the end. You can see in the photo above that the polish is very thin and ends before it hits any of the skin surrounding the nail.

Step 5: How to Check to See If Your Nail Polish Is Dry

Picture of How to Check to See If Your Nail Polish Is Dry

After you've put on a coat of polish, you'll probably want to keep touching your nails to see if they're dry.

Instead, try this trick:
Touch your polished nails together - if they stick to each other at all, they are not dry yet. If they don't feel tacky at all, they're dry and ready for another coat!

Just be sure to do this with a light hand - pressing too hard can smudge them, too!

Step 6: Additional Coats

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Chances are you will need at least two coats of nail polish. Sometimes you'll need three! For this polish I always do three.

You can see above the difference one coat of polish makes. :D Hence me encouraging you to do thin, even coats instead of gloopy ones!

Make sure that your additional coats are thin, that the polish does not touch the skin, and that you give them enough time to dry before adding more polish.

Painting over polish that's not entirely dry can lead to smudges, bumps, and dents later on!

Step 7: The Top Coat

Picture of The Top Coat

I like to use a top coat if I want to keep the polish on for a while. When I don't top coat my nails, the polish never lasts as long - 2-3 days tops before I see chips.

When I top coat my nail polish, it can last a little longer - more like 5 days. :D

You'll only need one coat of top coat. Make sure to completely cover the polish. Also - make sure to take the top coat over the edge of your nail. I also cover the polish with top coat first and then swipe the nail polish brush across the end of my nail. It helps seal the end which will keep the polish there looking nice for longer.

Step 8: Clean Up!

Picture of Clean Up!

Once you're done, you can clean up any nail polish on your skin by dipping a q-tip into nail polish remover.

Now go sit somewhere for a little while longer without touching anything. Smudging your nail at this point is a really upsetting thing to do. I should know, I do it almost every time. :D

You can also use an eyeliner brush for even faster cleanup! Click here to learn how to clean up your manicure.

Step 9: Additional Tricks

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  • if you smudge a nail badly, try pressing down on the polish with a clean but wet finger. Sometimes you can flatten out the smudge and let it dry and cover with one more coat of polish.
  • my mom swears by spraying cooking oil onto wet nails if you need them to dry pretty fast - she does it all the time! So if you find yourself in a pinch, try that!
  • I like to run my nails under cold water instead - they don't harden as fast, but it's less messy.
  • if you're going to do be painting your nails a really dark color, it's always a good idea to use a clear coat before applying the polish. It will lessen (if not prevent!) the staining that can occur from dark polish.
  • on the other side of the spectrum, if you're going to be applying a bright polish, start with a white base coat.
  • make sure to go easy on the nail polish remover! Removing polish all the time can cause your nails to get dry and brittle. Even non-acetone remover is nasty stuff. It's the only downside to frequent nail painting!

Comments

ruagaqbuw (author)2016-11-28

You're not Ever supposed to use a nail clipper on you natural nail. It may cause a spit in your nail they you may not want. I would just use the glass nail file. It gives you the right amount of precision with the right amount of pressure.

Anna360 (author)2015-05-16

Hi

Erica key (author)Anna3602016-04-05

Hi

Erica key (author)2016-04-05

It is coll make it on paper.

awesomenessoverload (author)2015-12-22

Thank you so much!

I have to attend a party and my nails aren't looking that attractive!

I will surely try this!

LindaS111 (author)2015-11-05

Dip q tip in remover when you are done with polishing to remove extra polish that might have gotten on skin.

mlaiuppa. (author)2015-10-25

You don't use a base coat? I always use a clear base coat. That way I can get away with two coats instead of three.

I also do the rim tips of my fingernails to seal the edge.

ForTheLoveOfFood (author)2015-10-12

ur cat is adorable!

Goodhart (author)2014-12-30

Tried 2 brands, and was a little sloppy around the cuticles, but then, this WAS a first try.

jessyratfink (author)Goodhart2015-01-20

Not too bad at all for the first try!! Love the color too :D

P.S. Good to see you around here!

Goodhart (author)2014-12-30

THANK YOU ! This has a lot more detail than what I was finding on youtube. Pics to follow

1BigKid (author)2013-12-16

Thank you! Great job, I can't wait to try this!

classicS128 (author)2013-08-07

Great tips i love it!!!!

PennyPoet (author)2013-04-23

This is a great step-by-step description. I never thought of 3 coats before, but it's a good idea. And the tip about an initial clear coat before applying a dark nail polish is excellent - I hate those stains after removing the polish. Thank you ! I'm going to invest in a glass nail file 2moro.

hkstickney (author)2013-04-23

I just have to say, I really like the picture of the lady with the big red lips!!

jessyratfink (author)hkstickney2013-04-23

Haha, thank you! That's Mamaw. :D

gabbix (author)2013-04-22

" convince your cats they are not allowed to help you paint your nails " hahhaha so funny, but so true! It is also true for dogs :)
I loved your Instructable, big hug from Argentina to you and your lovely white cat!

plsera69 (author)2013-04-22

I was just wondering, does using binding help at all with chipping? I am deciding whether or not to purchase some. Thanks!

star folder (author)2013-04-21

HI, yes, great information and good photos. I LOVE the OPI products. I begin with 'Chip Skip', and it realllllly makes a difference. In between the coats, I use another OPI product called, 'Drip Dry' drops put on with an eye dropper ( that comes with it), and within 5 minutes a second coat can be applied. And then with a top coat, my polish will last up to 10 days, with housework and yard work. Next time, I will try having my hand on a flat surface - that I haven't tired, and I do get some smudges on the edges. Lately I have been using a dark color with very fine glitter in it. (I use a base coat first, too), but the removal has been hard. However, I have found a very handy way to remove the polish. It requires 5 of the cotton swabs and 5 pieces of aluminum foil about 3 x 3 inches. Soak all of the swabs with remover and put one on each nail of one hand, and wrap each finger with the foil, making sure there is good contact with the nail. Wait at least 5 minutes, and remove, and it's like a fake nail coming off! Use the other side of the swab for the other hand. Very little touch up of remover in needed. Maybe you could make an instructable of this.

caityjay (author)2013-04-21

You have GORGEOUS nails, just thought I'd say :) Thanks for the 'ible; it's great! <3

rbryan3 (author)2013-04-21

Thanks! p.s. you have pretty nails, and I love that shade of polish!

vitamatta (author)2013-04-21

This is a beautifully shot instructable! And I agree 100% about keeping the polish away from the edges. It takes a steady hand but it easier than the clean up after. I really like Scotch Naturals polish. It's water based and has basically no smell. It's pricier and requires an extra base coat but is worth it to avoid the chemical headache. Thanks for the great tips!

vgarrett (author)2013-04-21

I thought I was the only one who did this!

wildviolets (author)2013-04-21

looks great and great ideas to share....wonder if I could maintain mine after doing yard work the way I do...haaa Thanks for sharing...

egw1945 (author)2013-04-21

Great How to. Thank you.

Mynevere (author)2013-04-21

Thanks for this instruction! I've been painting my nails, and getting them done, for years. Never hear, or thought, about *not* taking the polish all the way to the skin. I also like the idea of prepping the nails with polish remover. Makes sense! Thanks again!

K!LL Sw!t€h (author)2013-04-19

Very handy!Brofist to you!

HollyMann (author)2013-04-19

Excellent tips! very useful as summer arrives! Now if my hands were as pretty as yours and nails as long - that would be great too! :) I paint my nieces nails often too ...so this helps!

Wynd (author)2013-04-18

I also use the top coat as my base coat before color ~ I don't get stained nails [varies depending on the color brand], and it comes off super easily when I need to remove :)

I'm going to look for glass nail files now, they sound awesome :D

doodlecraft (author)2013-04-18

Wow, you have beautiful hands and nails! Thanks for the insight here, I realize I've been doing things wrong for years! (Which is probably why I don't paint my nails often...) Awesome! :)

Penolopy Bulnick (author)2013-04-17

I love that color!

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Bio: part of the Instructables Design Studio by day, stitch witch by night. follow me on instagram @makingjiggy to see what i'm working on! ^_^
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