How to Paint Your Nails like a Pro

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Thin layers, multiple coats and a steady hand can help you polish your nails like a professional. Properly painted digits boast a longer life, freeing your nails from those irksome post-polishing chips and smudges. A few pro techniques can help you attain an even polish application and clean, glossy finish.

Creating the Base

A professional manicure begins by prepping your nails and applying the first layer of polish using these techniques:

  • Base coat: A clear base coat preps your nails for the polish, giving it something to stick to and allowing the polish to glide on more evenly.
  • Dot of polish: Place a dot of polish at the base of the nail near the cuticle. Let the polish spread out over the nail on its own before using the brush to spread the color manually.
  • Three strokes: Use just three strokes to apply polish to each nail, swiping to the left, to the right and then down the middle.

Extra Layers

Your painting doesn't stop with that first layer of polish. A few additional coats extend the life of your manicure or pedicure.

Thick globs of polish on your nails simply won't dry evenly. Opt for thin coats to ensure a more even and smooth application -- two or three thin layers should do the trick. Wait about two minutes before applying a second -- or third -- layer.

Use a top coat to seal your polish, applying it in the same manner as your color. When dry, brush an additional coat to the tips, which can further prevent annoying chips.

Polish-Free Skin

Don't let polish all over your skin detract from your manicure or pedicure.

Polish on your skin is most likely caused by a shaky hand -- especially when you're polishing with your non-dominant hand. Steady your non-dominant hand when painting your nails by leaning it against a wall or countertop. If your hand is simply too wobbly, opt to move the hand that is being painted, rather than the brush, to minimize messes.

If a dab of polish does bleed onto your skin, use a cotton swab or lip brush to eliminate it. Simply dip your tool of choice in some nail polish remover and carefully dab the offending spot until it disappears.

Air Bubble Elimination

Air bubbles, which have the potential to ruin an otherwise successful manicure or pedicure, occur in one of two ways:

  • Shaking the nail polish bottle: Shaking the bottle before opening it traps air inside, creating air pockets that lead to bubbles on your nails. Instead of agitating it, gently roll the bottle between your hands.
  • Applying heavy layers: Heavy layers of polish can bubble when you apply the topcoat. Thin layers are key.