Here are some hints I have picked up from other blogs in my quest to get better at nails and hopefully being able to do some 'Nails of the Day' (NOTD) posts down the line!
Use nail polish remover to clean any remaining oils, dirt or even hand lotion from the surface of your nails before polishing. Even tiny amounts that you cannot see will cause the polish to not stick and potentially ruin the final result. Nail varnish remover wipes are great for this and if you aren't actually removing existing polish one wipe should do all your nails! I also use a nail varnish wipe on the top of an orange stick to help clean under my nails and feel it makes them even cleaner!
It takes some practice, but try placing the brush on your nail just ahead of the cuticle and gently press down on it, pushing it toward your cuticle line, just stopping short of touching it with polish. Then draw the brush toward the end of your nail, bending the brush over the nail end a little. This will apparently allow you to get a nice clean line of polish along your cuticle and drastically reduce the amount of cleanup needed - but I think I need a bit more practice!
As you paint your nails, you can use the edge of your fingernail (if you have any length to them) to clean up around the very edge of your nail while the polish is still wet. Simply press gently on the cuticle and wipe along the cuticle line, using a sweeping motion. Keep a pad moistened with removed handy so you can keep your 'cleaning' nail clean or you will just spread it around.
Another method that apparently works even better is to use the beveled end of an orange stick moistened in remover to clean up little 'oops' spots. Wipe the stick tip on a nail varnish wipe (or paper towel or cotton pad moist with remover) to keep it clean.
A third method I have seen suggested is to get a lip balm stick and use this to essentially 'line' around the nail to ensure that any stray varnish can't stick to the surrounding skin.
Nail Surface Prep
Use a four-way buffer to remove ridges and smooth the surface of your nails. It is not necessary to go for high shine if you are going to use polish anyway. In fact, the slightly roughened surface of your nails will adhere to polish better, making your manicure or pedicure last longer. Be careful not to dig too much into the nail surface with the buffer or ridges will result when the nail grows out.
Use A Good Basecoat
It's really tough to get a good, consistently smooth finish on your nails if you don't use a ridge-filling basecoat under your color. A few of you are lucky enough to have very smooth nails, but most of us don't, so the basecoat tends to smooth out imperfections, and it gives the polish something to stick to, not to mention that it protects your nails from staining. This is particularly important with darker or more vivid colours as nails can be left stained and it takes forever to get them back to their old selves!
Use Good Lighting
It' difficult to good a good job of polishing if you can't see what you are doing well. Use a good light when you do your nails. If you have good lighting you will be able to see the spots where you missed and be able to fix them right away. (Unlike when I do my nails in bed at night and then the next day see all the streaks when it's too late to fix them! :( )
Roll Your Polishes - Don't Shake!
Shaking a bottle of polish fills it with little bubbles that take quite a while to settle out. Bubbles will result a in less than perfect finish. Instead, roll the bottle between your palms for 30 seconds or so before you use it to mix up the ingredients and give the polish more consistency. In addition to this, store your bottles of polish standing up. This helps keep the tops clean and also reduces leakage and sticking of the cover.
Use A Good Topcoat
Glossy or matte, a topcoat will seal the polish and protect it from chipping and wear. Clear topcoat does not have pigment it in, and so it is stronger than colored polish, and it lasts longer. Many topcoats also speed up drying time, so another great advantage. In the case of a good top coat you will find that it magnifies the color, so your nails will look like they are wet, even when dry. It gives a much sleeker/classier look in my opinion!
Take Your Time
A good result takes time and there is no way to rush it. Wait 5 - 10 minutes between coats so they can set before the next coat, or adding polish will simply pull and partially remove the first coat when you apply it. I find that doing a few thin coats is best as it takes longer for a thicker coat to dry. Even if applying it thicker does mean you need to do less coats overall, does it really matter when it's still using the same amount of varnish??
An obvious hint is that allowing the coats to dry will also speed up the curing time - the point where the polish no longer is susceptible to smudging. Multiple coats of relatively wet polish will stay soft for hours, exposing your mani or pedi to damage well after you thought they were dry and hard. Much as I like to paint my nails, it's no fun having to do a polish job over again. Doing it once is fun, doing it twice is too much like hard work!!
Have you any other hints that you think should be added to this??