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Grab a nail buffer, and get to work. You want the surface of your nails smooth and even before you paint them. Then use a nail file to shorten and shape your nails. Aim for rounded edges with a semistraight top. To get them, start filing at one edge of the nail, then continue in one direction over the top and to the other edge.
Relax for a few minutes while you soak your fingers in some warm, soapy water to soften your cuticles.
Massage a dab of moisturizing oil into your cuticles, let it sink in for a few minutes, then use an orange stick --you can pick one up at your local drugstore -- to gently push your cuticles back.
Massage your favorite lotion all over your hands so they feel silky-smooth.
Start with a clean slate; you're about to turn those digits into a work of art. Soak a cotton pad in polish remover -- go easy on your nails, and opt for a nonacetone formula. Swipe the cotton pad over your nails to remove dirt and oils and nudge off any old polish.
Sit straight up with your hands placed flat on the table. This gives you the best angle for painting your nails glob- and smudge-free.
Apply a light coat of clear base for a streak-free finish. Let it dry for one minute.
Paint on two coats of your favorite polish, with a minute for dry time between them. Use light brush strokes, and grasp the brush right at the middle of the cap to get better control over it. Use three brush strokes -- one down the side of the nail, another down the middle and then a third down the other side.
Glide on a layer of clear topcoat to soften any little streaks or mistakes and keep your manicure looking prettier for longer. Resist the temptation blow on your nails: Basically, the condensation from your breath moistens up the polish and makes little bubbles. Not a good look, plus they can turn into big chips later. Just be patient, and you'll have perfect polish every time.