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How to Paint Your Nails at Home: A Step-By Step Guide to the Perfect Manicure


Photographed by Zoey Grossman for Vogue Arabia

“I really like having cute nails and I really can’t go out in public,” says singer Taylor Swift while giving Todrick Hall a glitter manicure in her documentary, Miss Americana. Painting your own nails is a tough skill to master—but Swift proves it’s doable, especially when you might be stuck at home with hands that seriously need some TLC. Here, Sarah Gibson Tuttle, the Los Angeles-based founder of Olive and June, breaks down the ultimate DIY guide for flawless digits in no time.

Set Up

Gibson Tuttle advises finding a space in your home where you can get comfortable. “This is your moment of self-care,” she says. “Go slow and really take your time.” Find a flat surface to work on and, should you need a little background noise, the pro suggests calling your BFF or streaming a show while you paint.

Prep the Nail Bed

First, make sure you have the right tools in place. “With proper prep, an at-home mani can last 7-plus days,” Gibson Tuttle explains. Before picking up any polish, ensure nails are cleaned and any old color is removed.


“It’s all about the 90/10 rule,” Gibson Tuttle explains of her shaping method. “90% of your shape comes from your nail clipper; 10% from filing.” For best results: “Use flat edge clippers to cut your nail into your desired shape, then, gently smooth out the edges.” Once the shape is set, the pro suggests wiping the nail surface clean with nail polish remover, since “excess oils can interfere with your polish.”

Cut Cuticles—Carefully

Gibson Tuttle advises DIY-ers to trim hangnails only. Then, “using your buffer, gently glide the cube back and forth along the edges of the cuticle to erase dry skin and smooth things out.” As for cutting down your cuticles, the pro advises against it. “Trimming can create more hangnails, jagged edges, and even cause infection. Yuck!”

Paint the Town

While struggling to paint her own nails, Gibson Tuttle came up with the ultimate solution for steady strokes. Meet the Poppy: a no-slip rubberized cap designed to fit over any polish bottle for a smooth application, even with your non-dominant hand. When it comes to color, first apply a base coat and wait a minute or two until it dries. For the color, “start with a center swipe of polish, then swipe on either side,” she explains. “Waiting 5 to 10 minutes in between coats makes a world of difference. It will decrease the chance of bubbles and it dries faster, I swear!”


Once the color is fully dry, apply a clear topcoat for shine and finish. To extend the life of your manicure, Gibson Tuttle recommends applying the same protector daily. ” It acts as a layer of defense against everything your hands are interacting with,” she notes. And don’t forget the cuticle serum. The expert suggests adding an oil or hydrating serum to the area daily. “Not only will it make your mani look like you just stepped out of the salon, but it will make sure you don’t pick (or bite!) around your nails.”

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