How to Apply Nail Polish

You may not always want to, or be able to, make it to the nail salon for a fresh coat of nail polish. Or perhaps you just like the convenience of doing your own nails at home. 

The right nail polish application technique will make the difference between average and amazing. With some patience and practice, you can learn to do your nails at home. And your friends will think you popped into the salon for a fresh mani. 

Our mission is for you to have beautiful nails you can be proud of, so we’ve decided to help. We compiled this easy-to-follow guide to teach you how to apply nail polish, like a pro.

What This Article Covers:

How To Apply Nail Polish

With so many stunning nail polish colors to choose from, we know you would like to master this art right away. here are the simple steps to follow to properly apply nail polish.

Step-By-Step-Guide for Applying Regular Nail Polish

Items You’ll Need:

  • Nail Polish Color 
  • Nail Polish Remover
  • Nail File/Buffer
  • Base Coat
  • Top Coat
  • Cotton Balls 
  • Q-Tip


how to put nail polish

  1. File your nails to smooth out any rough edges. And, if necessary, lightly buff the surface to remove any ridges or grooves in the nail, before wiping the nail clean with a cotton ball. The nail polish will not look professional if your nails are not smooth and even.

  2. Apply a basecoat. This protects your nails from staining, and also helps the nail polish to spread evenly over the nail surface. Dip the brush into the bottle. Ensure that at least half of the brush has a base coat on it. If necessary, wipe excess polish against the inside of the bottle.

    You do not want to apply it too thick. Start at the base of the nail and work upwards towards the tip. Be careful not to go onto the nail cuticle. Only three strokes are needed. One on the left side of the nail, one on the right side, and the last one along the center. 

  3. Wait a few minutes for it to dry. Apply the nail polish color of your choice, using the exact same method as for the basecoat, in step 2. Only three strokes, not too thick, taking care not to get polish on the cuticle. 

    Once the coat of polish is dry, you’ll see if you need a second coat to make the color bolder. Once again, follow the steps above.

  4. If you have a bit of polish on your skin, do the following. Clean the edges of skin around your nail, with a q-tip, dipped in nail polish remover. This is how to prevent nail polish from getting on your skin. Take care not to go onto the nail, or you’ll remove the polish you just applied.

  5. Once the last coat of polish is dry, and you have cleaned the edges around your nails, it’s time for the top coat. Apply this using the same method as for the base coat and color polish. The top coat seals your manicure and keeps it looking good for longer.

If you aren't keen on buying a base coat and a top coat, we have just the product for you. Our versatile Top To Bottom is ideal for use as a base coat and a topcoat. 

how to put on nail polish

If you want to know how to apply nail polish on your toes, you can use this same method. It helps to separate the toes, to prevent nail polish from getting onto the surrounding skin. If you do not have specialized separators, you can use cotton balls for this purpose. 

How To Properly Apply Gel Nail Polish

Follow our step-by-step guide to nail polish application, and your nails will look the best they ever have. Make sure that you have all the items you need, before starting to apply nail polish. And wash and dry your hands first, so that you’ll be working on clean nails. 

Step-By-Step-Guide To Gel Nail Polish Application

Items You’ll Need:

  • Gel Nail Polish Color 
  • Nail Polish Remover
  • Nail File/Buffer
  • Base Coat For Gel polish
  • Top Coat For Gel Polish
  • Cotton Balls 
  • Q-Tip
  • UV/ LED Lamp


Follow the exact same procedure as for regular polish, but with one exception. The gel polish will not air-dry like regular polish. It has to be cured, after each nail is painted, for 30 seconds under a UV or LED lamp. 

Do this with the base coat, color polish, and also top coat. Gel polishes will not dry unless you do this. 

Tips To Make Nail Polish Application Easier

Nail polish can be fun, but it can also be messy. Follow these simple tips to make your mani a salon-quality one.

Follow These Helpful Tips For A Professional Result 

Matte vs Gloss

Nail polishes come in glossy and matte finishes. If you prefer a matte look, you will need to apply a matte topcoat. How does matte nail polish work

Glossy nail polish is shiny because it has a very flat surface that reflects light. Matte topcoat polishes have a texture that is slightly uneven at a microscopic level. Therefore, they do not reflect light and do not appear glossy. 

how to apply nail polish perfectly

If you would like to try the matte finish for yourself, our Matte Top Topcoat is ideal. One or two coats of this over your favorite Orly lacquer will transform it into an elegant matte look. 

Things To Do When You Apply Nail Polish

  • .Be sure to seat yourself at a table, with your hands resting on a tray or towel, placed on the flat surface of a table or counter. Working with a steady hand on a steady surface will give you more control over the brush. 
  • Use high-quality nail polish products from a reputable retailer. The end result depends greatly on the quality of the polish. Quality nail polishes contain less harmful substances, and can even offer your nails strength and protection. 
  • Always remember the 3 strokes rule. Three slightly overlapping strokes, moving from base to nail tip. Too many brush strokes will produce a messy and uneven result. And you’ll end up with uneven nail polish that is too thick.

how to polish nails

  • Choose a topcoat from our range of treatment topcoats. Our Sec’N Dry is a quick-drying topcoat for girls on the go. And Won’t Chip, as the name implies, offers more resistance to chipping so your mani looks better for longer.

how to put nail polish on

Things Not To Do When You Apply Nail Polish

  • Do not skip the buffing and base coat step. Buffing removes ridges and cracks in the nail. And the base coat provides a smooth foundational layer for your nail polish to stick to. This is how to keep nail polish from streaking, as the polish will adhere better on an even base. 
  •  Do not be tempted to apply nail polish in one thick coat instead of two thin ones. The end result will be lumpy and you will only have to remove it and reapply it. Most polishes only need one coat, with a base coat and a topcoat. But bolder colors may need two thin coats.
  • Do not shake regular nail polish in an attempt to thin it out. If it has gone thick in the bottle, there are products you can use to thin it out. But not too much, or the polish will not have the right consistency for a good manicure.

In Conclusion

And there you have it. Simple instructions on how to apply nail polish. We are sure you can’t wait to get started. 

So order your favorite regular or gel polish today. We have all the items you need to apply nail polish like a pro.

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