I have always thought of nail painting as something of an art form. To me and a lot of other people, nail painting is so much more than slapping on some color and going about your day.
As an artist, you need certain tools to create your masterpiece, right? While you may be laughing to yourself because you know my nails are far from anything that could ever be labeled "masterful", I'm still learning and improving at this point :)
***pics to come later***
Step 1: Preparing the canvas (lol)
1. Removing your old polish
Unless you want to revive that mani with some nail art or a coat of glitter/shatter/water marbling/etc, you have to remove your previous paint job and do it well. You have a lot of options out there, and there is something to suit everyone.
Acetone vs Non Acetone:
A lot of people avoid acetone for various reasons: its too drying, acetone is "dangerous", etc. For one thing, when using acetone to remove your polish, its not dangerous. If you're worried, don't use it. If you're not, try not to use it if you have a cut on your hands, but otherwise, its safe. Be careful when using, that you don't spill it, it will discolor/degrade some plastics and polymers. My fiance's laptop will attest to this lol
As far as removing power, acetone is great. No polish remover is "good" for your nails, and acetone cuts down the exposure time in a big way. If you try to remove a glitter polish with non acetone remover, you will be busy for a looooooooooooong time. There are recipes out there for adding glycerine and other things to pure acetone to cut the drying effects. Acetone is necessary when removing acrylics, gels, glitters, basically anything other than a basic creme is better removed with at least SOME acetone.
IF YOU HAVE ACRYLICS, GELS, SHELLAC, WRAPS, FIBERGLASS, ETC, (anything "fake"), DO NOT USE ACETONE ANYTHING TO CHANGE YOUR POLISH! Acetone is meant for breaking down these materials. Stick with non acetone, but still try to limit your exposure.
Some people complain about yellowing of the nails when using acetone, but I'll get to that later.
I use the Beauty Secrets 100% pure acetone from Sally's in the clear bottle. They have some other formulations in pink, blue, and maybe purple too, but i don't know what the difference is, honestly. Non acetone remover infuriates me. It takes twice as much, if not more, cotton balls and a VERY long time with a lot of effort.
Cotton balls vs Felt vs Twisty Sponges and the Foil Method
Some people have had great success with felt. Me? I'm like WTF with felt lol. It hardly seems cost effective when a giant bag of cotton balls is like, $2. I prefer the super jumbo cotton balls because 1) it takes too many with the little ones and i can use the same large one for more than one nail vs maybe two regular sized ones per nail and 2) without a fancy acetone dispenser, the mouth of the bottle is too large and acetone gets errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrvrywhere.
I USED to use twisty sponges (the remover in the jar with the sponge you stick your fingers in lol). The reason i don't use this anymore is 1) its awkward to hold, and as such hurts my fingers that aren't using it because the mouth of the jar is wide and my hands are small. 2) the sponge gets dirty and useless very quickly, and "gently shaking it" to clean the sponge is a waste of time. 3) it doesn't do a great job, especially on the edges of your nail where your skin meets the nail plate 4) The acetone gets filthy and overtime works really poorly.
The foil Method is awesome for removing glitter and other stubborn enhancements (nail glue, wraps, fimo slices, etc).
Step 1. Soak some cotton balls in acetone
Step 2. Place the cotton balls on your nails (one at a time, obviously), and wrap tightly with tin foil
Step 3. Chillax for ten minutes or so=
Step 4. Remove foil, press down on the cotton firmly, and while pressing, pull the cotton down your nail. The glitter should slide right off :)