How To Paint Your Nails For A Perfect Manicure Every Time

Avoid expensive salons with the perfect at-home manicure.

woman painting her nails Zivica Kerkez / Shutterstock

There's nothing as satisfying as perfecting your own manicure and painting your nails beautifully every time you sit down with a bottle of polish. But as wonderful as it sounds, it's difficult to create manicure-like fingernails each time.

Whether it's painting your dominant hand, dealing with messy polish, or painting uneven nails, there are several obstacles that get in the way.

Fortunately, we've come up with helpful tricks and hints to help you learn how to paint your nails and master the effortless and perfected manicure.


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How To Paint Your Nails For A Perfect Manicure

1. Use cuticle oil.

While also making our cuticles healthy and growing properly, cuticle oil benefits the entirety of the nail by providing a solid foundation.


Nails that have been properly moisturized with cuticle oil are likely to become more flexible, which aids in the strengthening of both the nail and the nail bed (preventing brittle and dry nails).

2. Use hand cream.

While many think hand oil is purely for hand use, it's also a crucial step in nail care management.

Applying hand cream to the nails on a daily basis can help retain moisture into the cells on the nail. By doing this, we're able to keep the nail from cracking and weakening.



3. Try collagen.

More than the physical application of beauty products, there should be beauty products we ingest on a daily basis. One of these daily beauty supplements should be collagen.


Full of amino acids (which help aid in nail growth), it's a pillar in creating healthy and strong nails, which eventually leads to the perfect manicure.

By consuming collagen, not only are you promoting length in your nails, but you're boosting your immune system, and avoiding weak nail beds and brittleness.

4. Gather your supplies.

Once you're ready to start painting your nails, collect all the items you need.

These items include:

  • nail polish
  • base coat
  • clear top coat
  • fingernail clippers
  • cuticle pusher/trimmers/stick
  • a file
  • cotton swabs/rounds
  • nail polish remover

5. Choose quality polish.

Splurging a little extra to purchase quality nail polish is important. Not only will you avoid putting toxins on your body (look for formulas that are 3 to 5 free — the higher the number, the better it is for you), but you're paying for long wear and color payoff quality.


Cheap nail polish tends to either run or clot when exposed to the air. But some of the quality brands that produce great polish include:

  • Essie
  • OPI
  • Butter London
  • ZOYA
  • ORLY
  • Lauren B Beauty
  • Flora 1761
  • Smith & Cult
  • Deborah Lippmann
  • Lechat
  • Der Me Lect

To help extend the life of your nail polish (when it's over a couple of months old), add a drop of nail polish remover to the bottle to thin out the formula.

6. Consider trying easy-to-use polish.

There are some polishes on the market that are meant for those that need a little assistance when applying polish.

Spray-on polish: To create the ultimate, perfected manicure try a spray-on polish, like China Glaze's nail spray. While the formula sticks to the nails, it washes right off of the nail beds and surrounding skin surfaces.


Press-on nails: With the many different perfected styles, cuts and trims of nails, it's hard to master the desired "look" without the help of a manicurist. By using press-on nails, you're creating the ultimate desired look without the hassle, time, and money commitment.

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7. Prime and prep your nails.

First, take off any polish already on your nails, then move onto your cuticles. This is much easier to do if you soak your nails in warm water beforehand, then gently push back and trim any excess cuticles.

Second, trim and file your nails into the shape you desire: square, almond, round, coffin style, or any other shape you like. Then, add a primer.


The purpose of a primer is to help polish adhere to another surface, versus applying it directly to our nails. This evens out nail texture and prevents our nail's natural oils from preventing the polish from sticking to the nail.

Just like we prime our face before foundation or our eyelids before add eyeshadow, we should prime our nails before applying a rocking polish shade. To prime your nails, you can simply swipe a cotton pad of polish remover, rubbing alcohol, or even white vinegar over each nail.

8. Buff the nails.

Buffing your nails before you start painting is the only way you will get that salon-quality mani you yearn for.

Grab a nail buffer and use the fine grit side over the surface of the nails, slightly buffing them. Don't take too long on this process because you don't want to over-buff; this can lead to thinner nails.




9. Use a base coat.

Base coats should always be applied when painting your nails, especially if you are choosing a dark color. A base coat stops the polish from staining your nails.

So, apply a base coat and let it dry before applying the nail polish of your choosing.

10. Apply the polish in layers.

While making sure your hand is on a flat surface, refrain from putting on a thick first coat of polish. This will make your nails seem bulky.


What you should do instead is use thin coats and apply them in layers, drying fully between each layer. Make sure each layer is a thin coat of polish.



A good way to check if your nails are fully dry is by touching your nails together instead of your fingers. If they feel tacky, they still need more time to dry.

Pro tip: if you are adding any embellishments or nail art, wait to do this in the tacky stage of drying. If you have negative space on your nail, use masking tape to keep it clean.


11. Use a top coat.

Top coats are important when applying polish because they act as your last barrier between life struggles (like peeling oranges, opening containers, getting into your car — really anything).

The formula acts as a sealer, locking in color and preventing knicking and cracks. Additionally, some top coats act as finishers, adding high shine/gloss or matte.

12. Remove excess polish.

We are all not gifted with a steady hand, so there will be some polish on your skin surrounding the nail. The best way to clean this up without having to wait for it to dry and pick at it is with an eyeliner brush dipped in nail polish remover.

Sweep the brush over your mishaps and watch it slide away in awe. This will leave you with a salon-looking manicure at home that others will be jealous of.


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Elizabeth Blasi is a New York-based lifestyle and travel writer who is often seen with a suitcase in hand, jet-setting to her next location. Her work has been featured on Elite Daily, Yahoo Lifestyle, Good Housekeeping, and more.