First, when giving a manicure, you should start by removing any existing polish. You will need cotton and fingernail polish remover. Some heavy duty salon polishes have acetone in them, and will require a heavier type of remover, most polishes, however, can be removed with a basic non- acetone remover. If you happen to have an aversion to cotton (some people do) you can use those plastic jars that contain finger nail polish remover. Most cosmetic companies have there own version of them, like Sally Hansen or Revlon for example.
Next you should soak your hands in water. You may add some oils or cleaning solution to the water, or you could simply use tap water. Allow your fingers to soak for at least five minutes. The purpose of this soaking is to allow your cuticles to soften in order to make it easier to push them back.
Once your fingers have soaked, you should dry them thoroughly before trimming and shaping your nails. Some people like to use a buffer on the nail to smooth it, before shaping. Next, while your cuticles are still soft, use an orange stick to gently press your cuticles back. This will not only give your nails a more groomed appearance, but will also allow your nails to grow longer. Also use the orange stick to clean any remaining debris from under nails.
The next step in giving a manicure is to shape the nails. You may shape your nails any way that you like. Some people prefer to round their finger nails, while others prefer a more squared off look. Whichever you choose, be careful to only use the emery board in one direction. If you go back and forth with the board, it may damage the nail. This may take a little longer, but the results will be worth your patience. Now, you should apply a moisturizer to your hands. There are tons of different moisturizers to choose from. Just pick one that works well for you.
Now you are ready to polish those digits. I would recommend at this point if you are going to polish your toes as well, do the toes first. This way it lessens the chance of you damaging your freshly polished fingers. Before using color, you should first apply a base coat to the nail. This will smooth out any imperfections and help the color bond better to the nail. Wait a few minutes for the base coat to dry, and then apply one layer of color. When applying color, less is more. You don't want to put it on too thick. You can always come back and apply another coat later. Lastly, you may want to apply a clear coat to prevent chipping and add extra shine. Try to sit still and touch nothing for about an hour in order to keep your nails from smudging.