Wash your hands to get any dirt and grime off your nails.
Trim any overgrown cuticles with a pair of cuticle cutters and push the shorter ones back with an orangewood stick.
Cut your nails if they're a bit longer -- leave a bit of extra length to give you room to file -- and file them into the desired shape. If you want your fingers to look long and slender, opt for an oval or more pointed nail shape. To create width on your fingers, go with a rounded or square shape instead.
Apply the base coat of polish to your nails. This coat isn't going to be seen after you're done, so stick with a clear coat. Wait for it to dry.
Apply your polish. You might want to stick with a solid color -- a neutral makes your nails look more natural, while a bright, bold color really packs a punch -- or use multiple colors on your nails. A French tip style is clean and classic; use a light pink shade as the main polish color and paint on a white tip just along the top of each nail. Add glitter or jewels to your nails to feel really dolled up and make a big statement. Wait for the polish to dry.
Paint a clear top coat over all of your nails. This covers the rest of the polish, creating a sort of barrier and protecting it from chipping or wearing off.
Play around and try out different styles for different occasions. You don't even have to make all of your nails the same color -- put a different color or pattern on each nail for a really funky, unique look.
A cotton swab dipped in nail polish remover helps get rid of any little smears or marks you may have made on your fingers while painting. The small tip of the cotton swab gives you the most precision and prevents you from accidentally rubbing any polish off your nails.