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How to Paint the Perfect Nail

When it comes to professionally painting a nail, it’s not a case of just slapping it on and hoping for the best...

Laura Camilleri

How to Paint the Perfect Nail

When it comes to professionally painting a nail, it’s not a case of just slapping it on and hoping for the best. That simply won’t do…….And won’t help to retain any clients! We all want to create flawless nails that look immaculate each time, this is a skilled technique, that once mastered will put you at thet op of your nail game.

Flooding the cuticle, painting the skin, brush strokes and uneven coverage are all problems you may encounter if you aren’t applying your polish with precision. You may have had previous nail training and need to brush upon your skills or just be painting your own nails through lockdown at home.

From here on in, you need to forget all of your old bad painting habits and teach yourself how to create a perfectly polished nails by following these steps:


It all starts here……. You could be using the very best polish on the world, but of your preparation isn’t spot on, problems will arise along the way.

The nail should be perfectly filed to your clients desired shape and free from any dust. Cuticles need to be pushed back and trimmed if required. Any cuticle left on the nail plate can look uneven, messy and also cause lifting when it comes to gel polish. Light buffing may also be required prior to applying if you are using polish (check manufacturer’s instructions), the nail will need to then be cleaned and free from dirt and dust.


This will be down to your client, although we can give our professional opinion if needed.

Did you know that dark colours on short nails can actually make them appear shorter in length? Something to bear in mind if your client is growing their nails out and is conscious of the length.

Colours tend to be mostly seasonal, with darks and glitters being most popular through autumn and winter months. Spring and Summer see the arrival of Corals, Pastels and Bright’s. That’s not to say that someone wouldn’t want a pastel at Christmas and a navy in the summer, but majority of the time colour choosing follows this pattern.  It’s always a good idea to have a nice range of nudes, they are popular all year round.


Getting a good grip on your clients fingers will keep them steady for you and allow you to manipulate the finger as you work the polish onto it. Always make sure that your clients fingers are resting on your hand and you don’t work over them…… it’s so frustrating when you accidentally smudge them! If you’re painting your own nails you will need to use other fingers to hold back the sidewalls.


First, look at your brush, you will notice the stem of the brush is flat. Make sure the flat edge of the brush is always used when applying polish. Now look at your clients nail plate, you will notice is its curved on top, down into the sidewalls. You will need to alter the angle of your brush when painting so it sits on the nail plate flat at the sides.

The amount of polish is also so important. Varnish differs to gel polish and you will also see a difference in consistency and pigment from brand to brand. Getting confident with your brand is something that will take practice to master. Too much product can cause issues such as flooding, lifting and uneven cures (with gel), whilst too little gel can look messy, uneven and leave brush strokes.


We want to aim for the three stroke method. This will ensure good coverage and minimal mistakes.

  • Ensure you have the correct amount of polish ony our brush and hold it flat.
  • Apply the brush ¾ of the way up the nail plate and slowly push up to the cuticle, then stroke down to the free edge.
  • Now, starting at the top to the left, watch the outer corner of your brush on the left hand side and sweep from the cuticle and round and down to the free edge. Holding the sidewalls back will help you get nice and close without touching the skin.
  • Repeat this on the right hand side whilst watching the right corner of your brush. This will give you a nice flush line at the side.
  • You will then need to cap the free edge to maintain the manicure for longer with less risk of chipping or lifting. Remove any excess polish from your brush so you don’t get a lump on the end. Capping the free edge is best done with your brush pointing down and sweeping across, using the brush on its sides can create brush strokes on top.

These steps should first be used for the base coat, then 2 colour coats (some brands/colours may require 3) and then the top coat. If you are using varnish and not gel, the top coat should not be pushed up in the centre stroke so as to avoid moving colour. Instead you will apply starting at the cuticle and stroke straight down to the free edge. Gel Polish will always  be pushed up on the top coat and every coat, otherwise flooding could lead to lifting and increases the risk of product reactions if it touches the skin.

Accidents happen and we’re not going to be perfect on our first attempt. This will take practice and patience!

If you get any product on the skin remove it with an orange stick by swiping it off the skin and wiping onto some couch roll. If it is varnish you are using and the colour has stained the skin, you can use some non-acetone on a nail art brush or cotton wool around the end of an orange stick to remove it before you paint the top coat.

REMEMBER to work on someone else’s nails and charge them you MUST be qualified and insured. BC Beauty Training run a number of different nail courses to choose from. We can discuss all aspects of starting up a business, alongside all the essential nail knowledge you will need to become a successful nail technician.

Good luck and happy painting!

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