- Use protection: If there's only one trick here that you actually use, it should be this one. Use Scotch tape, nail guides, or cut some donut-shaped stickers in half — whatever works for you. Also, make them slightly less sticky by pressing them on the back of your hands once or twice. That way they don't take any polish off with them.
- Give it time: One of the most disappointing things is doing a great job with the tips and then accidentally ruining the whole shebang because the polish hadn't completely dried. So wait, wait, and then wait some more. It's worth knowing that your polish is really and truly set.
- Go tip first: This isn't intuitive. (After all, it seems like the color at the ends of your nails should go "on top.") But starting at the tips of your nails makes the process faster, especially if you're not using a second color, just pink or clear topcoat. The obvious exception is when your nail bed shade is going to be darker or more opaque than the one you use on your tips.
- Brighten up: Using a bright color on your nail beds gives your manicure an edge and makes it easier to see your lines.
Photo: Jennifer Graylock