How to Paint Your Own Nails

I’ve mentioned more than a few times on here that I love painting my nails. It’s kind of a double-edged sword. I think painting my nails is a great stress reliever, but chipped nails gives me terrible anxiety. I seriously carry around nail polish with me at all times in case some of the polish chips. 
Over the years, I’ve perfected the art. Now I’m not a huge fan of nail art, so it’s really not that hard to do a simple manicure at home. It’s also so much cheaper than going to a salon. Only when I need a little pampering or I’m going to an event or I’m with a friend will I pay to get my nails painted. I’d much rather do it myself!
Here’s my method:
ONE | Remove Polish
 I used to paint my nails at night, but I had way too many nights where I got sheet marks on my nails. Now I remove my polish at night and then paint in the morning. Though it might not be true, I also like to give my little fingers a nice break from paint… even if it’s just for a night! I use regular nail polish remover from the drug store and cotton rounds. I soak the cotton and press it against my nail for a few seconds. Then I swipe and repeat as necessary. Sometimes, if I’ve used red polish, I pour remover into the cap. Then I dip a q-tip into the cap and press the end of the q-tip into the edges of my nails. (Those parts are tricky!)
TWO | I wash my hands. ALWAYS. I have a serious issue with how the nail polish remover makes my hands feel. Then I use lots of lotion. (See, that’s where removing at night comes in handy! Lotion on your nails can interfere with polish.)
THREE | I’m right handed… BUT my left hand shakes really badly. Even though I should be better at painting my left hand, my fingers will NOT hold still. I always start with the brush in my right hand my left hand on the table. This is something I do for my shaky hand, but it actually really helps with painting in general: I press my hand firmly onto the table. I paint from my pinky finger to my index finger. Then I turn my hand 90 degrees so that my fingers hang off the table and my thumb is perpendicular to the edge.
FOUR | Then I switch to painting my right hand. Same method, same technique.
FIVE | I go through with the same method to do a second coat. (For some colors, like lighter shades… I paint a third coat!)
SIX | No matter what, I have to sit still for at least ten minutes. Even when they feel sort of dry or look dry, the nails can smudge the minute you tap it. Dents, smudges, smears…. not pretty. One solution I’ve found that works the best, are these quick dry drops. Amazing. I still sit for a while to ensure the polish has hardened. 
SEVEN | If I’m going somewhere important and need my nails to really be amazing, I use the Julep Freedom Polymer Top Coat. This stuff makes your nails feel tougher than, well, nails. It prevents chipping, works really quickly, and is way cheaper than getting Gel or Shellak. Even better? It’s a piece of cake to remove when you actually want to remove it.
What are your tips for painting nails? Do you prefer DIY or salon nails?

PS Step 8 is Instagramming your new nail color! Just kidding… sort of.
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These are really great tips! I personally prefer doing my nails at home because I only paint my toe nails. One tip I always follow is to give my nails a quick trim before I paint to make them look nice and polished!



I also like doing an at home mani/pedi. I use the same quick dry spray as you can use at the nail salon. It smells hideous, so have some venilation. I always paint my dominant hand first, right. That way my left hand is not painting while it can be easily smudged. Sometimes I wear cotton gloves over my hands after they have been slathered in thick hand cream. Rebecca

Ashley L.

Great tips! I am like you-I paint my own nails unless I have a big event or I'm with friends.



I love doing my own nails since it's so much less expensive. But I do get my toe nails done a lot since its such a pain :/

Great post 🙂

AJ | TheAJMinute


Nail polish is my obsession! Here are my favorite tips: the "jelly sandwich method" (just Google it), and wrapping my tips. If I wrap my tips (lightly brushing polish on the tips of my nails), I find my polish lasts a lot longer. I also love Orly Bonder as a basecoat.

Playground Prepster

I have a super shaky left hand too – in high school science labs, I knew I'd never be a surgeon! I go back and forth on whether I like my nails painted or not – right now they're covered 🙂


I just tried the CND Vinylux because I am also obsessed with chipping and hated how the gel started ruining my nails and I had to go to the salon. I am already a big fan. Made it a few days with no chipping. I couldn't find it in the NYC area but ordered from Amazon and it was here fast.

Stephanie Bartolomé

There are times when I'm really stressed out and take it out on my nails. When that happens, I usually take a week off from colorful nails and just use a strengthening/growth treatment in the morning and a night. I sometimes even bring the bottle with me and paint them whenever I have some down time in the city!

My nails didn't grow well for 3 months after I got tips for New Year's. Never again. I prefer my natural nails, thank you very much!

Really love your tips! I'm going to pick up the Julep Polymer Top Coat later today. Have you noticed there's, like, a Sephora on almost every corner here in NYC?

Mia Moore

I have really awful nails naturally, so keeping them painted covers that up and also makes sure I take care of them at least once a week! My main tip is to make sure you're not neglecting your cuticles!


I would love to know how to do it but I am really clumpsy and tend to do on a salon, always! I live in Brazil and here is pretty common to go to a salon. But I confess that I would rather do at home because being at a salon always feel like a waste of my time.


In my opinion, the look of polished nails completes the whole image. You have given some very helpful tips that can be incorporated into a weekly routine. My tip, do not scrimp on base coats and top coats. Secure the health of your nails by investing in great products.

Sarah Berkov

The best top coat I've ever used is Seche Vite, you can get it at any beauty supply store. It's like $10, but my nails are dry within about 10-15 minutes and it's pretty good at preventing chips.

Meghan H

Thank you, thank you, thank you. For some reason I can't ever paint my nails myself… I don't know why, I always smudge them or chip them within a day, which makes me anxious too 🙂 This is amazing, thanks