First of all- go to the washroom. Nothing burns my butt more than a beautiful manicure ruined by an impatient bladder.
Make sure you have everything you need, so you don't have to go digging around in a drawer for things with wet nails.
I use the UBER MAT to do my nails on with a sheet of paper towel on top. This prevents any damage to the table due to acetone soaked cotton balls, or slight acetone spillage. It also gives you a surface to wipe off the polish brush if you need to.
After filing and removing old polish, wash and dry your hands. This will help remove any polish residue and filing dust, and if you haven't pushed back your cuticles lately, now is a good time to do that. It creates a smoother surface for the polish to cling to, and it's easier to get a clean line by the cuticle with the polish.
After washing and drying, give each nail a swipe with PH PLUS NAIL PREP. I cut up a paper towel into little squares for this purpose, so I don't run the risk of leaving any cotton fibers on my nails and messing up the polish. This ensures that the nail plate is free of all oils and soap residue, and creates a better adhesion of polish.
If you are using a treatment of some kind, this goes on first, and then the base coat. A great treatment, -if you can find it- is Sally Hansen Nail Quencher. Look for it on Amazon or e-Bay.
Base coats don't take long to dry, so you can usually go ahead and apply your first coat of colour right away.
Most polishes, both main stream and Indie, will begin to seperate a bit after they sit for a while, so you will want to give your polish a good shake about 10 minutes ahead of time, to give any bubbles created by shaking a change to rise to the top and not show in your polish application. Honestly, this is rarely an issue for me.
What you want to do is apply thin even coats to the nail, to prevent bubbling and chipping/peeling. I often polish my right hand first because I am right handed, and awkward with my left hand, I figure awkward AND wet nails is a double whammy. Sometimes I will even polish one hand start to finish before I do the next one.
Start by making sure there is not too much polish on the brush and that most of it is on the bottom bit of the bristles.
With your hand resting on a sturdy surface like a table, place a dab of polish in the center of your nail, not directly at the cuticle, but just a little above it.
Without lifting the brush, push a little of that dab a little closer to the cuticle.(but not right up to or touching it) This will create a nice smooth rounded shape right next to the cuticle. Now drag the brush, without lifting, toward the tip of the nail straight down the center. Now go back to the original center dab, and swipe the brush over, toward the side of the nail creating a smooth rounded edge, and again drag it toward the tip of the nail.
Repeat on the other side, and touch up as needed.
Immediately after the surface of the nail is covered, swipe the edge of the brush, along the edge of the nail tip. What this does is help prevent chipping, and it will also help prevent shrinkage, which I will explain later.
Wait a few minutes in between each coat of polish. This will help prevent dragging the colour ( especially with glitters and holos) and it helps prevent bubbles and chipping.
Go ahead and apply your second coat the same way you applied your first coat. Let that dry for a few minutes, but not too long, especially if you are using a quick dry top coat. Quick dry top coats like GIRLY BITS GLITTER GLAZE AND WHAT A RUSH, are complete lifesavers for me. For YEARS I would paint my nails before bed, and wake up with sheet marks on my nails. I highly HIGHLY recommend them, and never do a mani or a pedi with out them.
Quick dry top coats are meant to go on tacky, semi dry nails. Not dry nails. And, you definitely want to wrap the tips with a QD top coat to prevent shrinkage, as mentioned above.
Shrinkage is when you look at your fresh mani a few hours after you did it, and it seems like all the polish on the tips of your nails is gone. Almost like it wore down, but it's only been a few hours. It's basically because the QD top coat dries so fast, it essentially shrinks and can drag some of the polish with it. This is completely preventable by wrapping your tips (covering the end portion of the nail) with both the polish and the top coat.
Quick dry top coat is also thick. VERY thick. Don't let this turn you off, and don't try to apply it too thin. It is so thick that you might think, oh this will never dry. But it does, and fast. It also dries fast in the bottle and some other brands can get thick and goopy in the bottle in a matter of weeks, or less. The simple solution is to have some polish thinner on hand, and add a few drops to the bottle each time to use it, after you notice it getting thick. This does not affect the performance of the product, but makes it much easier to use.
I use Seche Restore, or the Beauty Secrets thinner sold at Sally's. Just do NOT use acetone or polish remover.
This goes for thinning polish as well.
You do not need any other drying device/lamp/fan/blowing on it or waving your hands frantically in the air. To be honest, this does nothing. In fact, blowing on it, or holding it by a fan can cause bubbling in the polish. And quick dry top coat dries so quickly that by the time you cleanup, it's dry.
Once you are done polishing your nails, dip a tiny brush in acetone and clean up around your cuticles for a neat and professional looking finish, then apply FRAZZLE FIXER CUTICLE OIL.