Saturday, 23 March 2013

How to prep and paint your nails

Painting your nails, and doing nail art, is all about being creative. There are so many different techniques and tricks to help you have gorgeous nails. I'm really lucky to belong to a great group of vegan, polish-loving ladies and I have learnt so much from them, as well as from bloggers/youtubers. I get asked for tips by my bookish friends (hey, Magan!) and thought I’d share some of my thoughts and some great posts by fellow polish bloggers.

Prepping your nails

Firstly, I am not a fan of soaking your nails. I read about waterless manicures a couple of years ago, and treated myself to one with a Sydney-based manicurist, and that was when I quit having my nails done in salons (not that I was getting them done professionally very often), plus, it’s way more fun to do your nails yourself. Here’s a great article in Nail Mag on why some manicurists are moving away from soaking nails pre-painting. Basically, your nails will hold polish better if you don’t soak them, and we’re always told that water weakens our nails, so skip the soaking!

I start by removing any polish on my nails. If you’re wearing a glittery polish and are finding it hard to remove, try the foil method as shown here on Lacquerheads of Oz. Cut three cotton rounds into four segments, so you have enough for each nail. Add remover to them, place on your nails and then cover your nails with a small piece of foil, and scrunch it so it stays on. Wait about five minutes (watch tv, or listen to an audio book while you wait) and then remove the foil and the cotton pads. If there’s still polish use the pads to work it off the nails, it will be much easier. Wash your hands and you’re done. If you’re doing this step and not painting your nails, apply cuticle oil and hand cream to add moisture back to your skin and cuticles. Try Butter London Handbag Holiday Cuticle Oil and Botani Olive Hand Cream - both of these smell so good!

About once a week I use Butter London Melt Away CuticleEliminator. I paint it onto my cuticle and along the sides of my nails, wait a few minutes and then use a bamboo stick to push back my cuticles and then I wash my hands to remove any dead skin and residue.

Dry your nails and then you can move onto filing. I found out about glass nail files a few years back and wouldn't recommend anything else. They are popping up everywhere but if you can’t find them at your local shops, you can buy them on ebay. File in one direction, not back and forth. If I am filing the nails on my left hand, I file from left to right in a horizontal motion along the tips of my nails, sometimes rounding the corners so they’re not too pointy. I do this until I have my nail tip even and smooth. I file in the opposite direction when doing the nails on my right hand. Not sure what shape you want? Check out these two posts on nail shapes: one by Kayla, the other at Passion for Polish. I find square/squoval to be my preference but you can try a few out to see what suits your natural nail shape.

You can choose to smooth the surface of your nails with a buffer, you can pick up the muli-sided ones which are handy, but don’t do this too often as you might make your nails too thin. I tend to do it once a week, especially if I have flaky tips because if you leave these flakes on, they'll lift up after you've painted your nails, taking the paint with them and will leave you with big chips in your mani.

Finally, make sure your nails are clean, with no oil or residue on them. You might want to wash them one more time and dry them on a clean towel or paper towel.

Painting your nails

Apply your base coat. I like Zoya Get Even Ridge Filling base coat. Lift your brush from the bottle and as you’re lifting it out, drag the edge of the brush closest to you along the inside and edge of the bottle’s neck to remove excess product. Then use the opposite side of the brush to apply the base coat – this goes for applying polish too. Thinner coats are always better than thicker coats.

Allow your base coat to dry and then you’re ready to apply your colour. I tend to go with 2 coats of colour, again thinner coats work best, don’t apply thick coats. Here is a really good post over at Lacquerized with a graphic to show you a good way of applying polish neatly. The more you do this, the better you’ll get at not getting polish on your skin or your cuticle.

If your nails are long enough, you can choose to wrap your tips with polish. This can help your mani last longer, though I find that my manis get too much wear and tear to last for more than a day or two, even if I do this. Here’s a great tute by The Polished Perfectionist.

Wait until your coats are dry and then apply top coat, and if you wish, quick dry drops.  My fave used to be Zoya Armour, and I still like it, but since I've been doing more and more nail art with different layers I wanted to use a quick dry top coat but not one that smelt really strong or contained harsh chemicals. I chose ButterLondon Hardwear P.D Quick Top Coat even though it is pretty pricey over here. It doesn't smell too strong at all and it is quick to dry. I follow my top coat immediately with Zoya Hurry Up Fast Dry Drops.

If you did get polish on your skin, don’t worry! Take a small make up brush, dip it in some remover and brush it along your skin, wherever you have polish. You can use it to tidy up the base near the cuticle, to give the polish at your nail base a neat edge.  My fave brush is similar to this one from Furless – they don’t use any animal fur/hair to make their cruelty free and vegan range of brushes, yay! I like it because it’s flat and I can move it in a side-to-side motion and not worry that it’s touching my nail.

Done! Keep in mind that are just my opinions and I am not a professional, just a girl who likes painting her nails! The more you read, the more you learn, so google anything that you’re having trouble with, ask a friend, or ask a professional. If you take care of your nails before you paint, you'll get a better result. And you don’t have to do the full routine every time you paint, especially if you’re painting your nails often, skip the filing and the buffing if your nails are still in good shape.

And another tip is to take your time. Even if a polish is quick drying, it’s not fun to paint your nails when you know you have to rush out the door in 30 minutes, especially if you have to get dressed or do things that might involve messing your nails up. Give yourself time and enjoy it, and you'll find it gets a lot easier and it'll be more fun and relaxing, too!


  1. I love this post. My nails are always peeling and ruining my manicure. I have so many of those block smoother things at home (my mother is obsessed with buying me nail stuff) and I never use them. I'm going to give it a try this weekend. Thank you!

  2. This is very helpful. One of my coworkers recently mentioned that an easy way to take off polish if you plan to do your nails often is to first coat them with a thin layer of Elmer's glue. Then paint them like you normally would. She says then they pop right off. The only problem seems to be them popping off before you're ready. No more struggle with sparkles though ;)

  3. Thanks so much for putting this together! I'm trying desperately to get my nails long and strong again after a pretty brutal gel manicure.. I much prefer just doing my own and keeping them healthy. Great advice on removing glittery polish too, I always struggle with that and end up picking/scraping it off and making a mess of my nails..

  4. Great tutorial, Mands! Regular manicures are so cheap here -- usually starting at $12 -- so I used to go at least once a month back in the day. But now that I'm trying to do more myself and use different colors and designs, this is a fantastic guide.

  5. I honestly am SO glad that you decided to share this info with us polish-challenged people! I've been getting better at it because I do it more often now, but I do feel like there's more I need to learn and practice. This will totally help me out!

  6. Great tute! You're so right, I've been doing my nails a little more this year now I'm not at school and am allowed to wear nail polish and it does get easier. I feel like I'm finally starting to colour inside the lines haha :) Fab advice about the top and base coats too - I think it's time I invested in Butter London.

  7. I love how you design your nail polish to make the book you read!! Very cool!

  8. Maggie - great, I hope you find buffing helps, I get lots of peeling and I find it helps to smooth them out

    Britt - I've never heard of that, will look it up!

    Magz - some places are pretty cheap here, too! It's always tempting when I walk buy, but doing it myself is more fun :)

    Alexa - I'm so glad you'll find this helpful :)

    Michelle - BL is a good brand, they're just so pricey here! If you're going with anything, I'd pick the top coat, the base coat might be worth trying, too.

    Alisa - thanks!

  9. This is such a great post! Thanks for sharing.

  10. I love to paint nails.. its a excellent post.. am grateful to read this..

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  12. I have never invested the time into filing my nails but I think that it is now time to start. It is good to know that one should dry nails before starting this procedure. Something else to consider would be finding a file that is portable and can travel well

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