You'll see below a little video I've made for you, with the ever-patient help of Mr. Reluctant Femme.
(As a former film student, I take RIDICULOUS delight in using the absolute cheesiest, tackiest effects I find for these videos)
As with my last video, I've also done up a pictorial version for those of you who can't/don't want to sit through eight minutes of me waffling on like a Play School presenter. The video is really the best way to get a handle on what I mean when I say "dabbing" on polish, but I hope the pictorial gets it across at least partially.
First, you'll want to get together your supplies.
A) Obviously, you will need a bottle of indie polish. You might like to check out my Buying Guide! In this instance, I'm using Glinting Lodestone from Femme Fatale Cosmetics, which is sadly now discontinued.
B) Personally, unless it's REALLY opaque, I like to use a plain base colour underneath the indie polish. Some polishes don't need it, and you'll notice in my reviews I always make a point of noting the ones that can be worn without "undies" (undies being a slang term for colour worn underneath). Not only do undies give the polish opacity, it can also help highlight the glitters. If you don't use a base colour with an indie polish that has a slightly transparent base, like a jelly polish, you need to get every layer perfectly smooth otherwise it ends up looking patchy, instead of like stained glass like you want it to. If you put a plain colour on underneath though, it masks any patchiness, and makes layers looks much smoother than they might actually be. Which is a long, defensive way of saying *I* like to have a plain base colour as well as the indie polish. I'm using a Max Factor Glossfinity navy blue.
C) Nail polish remover, for taking it all off again if you fuck it up royally, or cleaning up the edges if you don't. I'm hooked on Lab Muffin's acetone/glycerine homemade remover, largely because it's cheap and effective, but also because I get to purchase large quantities of dangerous chemicals. You'll also need a brush for cleaning up the edges. Don't use a really nice brush, because the acetone will WRECK it. Any cheapy brush will do, but I do prefer one with short, stiff bristles. It seems to whisk the excess polish away a lot easier.
D) Topcoat, to seal all your hard work in. Some really glitter heavy polishes dry quite gritty, because they're essentially a layer of glitter stuck to your fingernails. There are lots of different topcoats to choose from, so that's going to have to be a whole other post, but suffice to say if you're trying to smooth out a really glittery polish you want to get one that's quite thick and oozy, to get in between all the sparkles. The polish I used here isn't that gritty, so I just used my usual fast dry Glisten & Glow HK Girl.
Now, it's time to get applying!
I try to do each nail in three strokes. Start from the middle bottom, as in Fig. 1, and drag upwards. Then go back to the same middle spot and drag upwards again, but this time swerving to the left, as in Fig. 2. Then finally go back to that middle spot one more time, and swipe upwards, swerving this time to the right as in Fig 3. THEORETICALLY this will cover the whole nail, but realistically you'll probably have to go back and do some dabbing to make it look really good.
Once you're happy with the general coverage, pour some of your polish remover into the lid of the polish bottle, or another small (acetone safe) container. Grab a little brush, and dip it in the remover, as in Fig 4. It will probably soak up quite a lot of remover, so it's best to dab it on the back of your hand (or on the couch, if you're a grot like me), before using it. Once you've dabbed the excess remover off, just gently run the brush around the very edge of the painted area of your nails, as in Fig 5. and 6. It takes a bit of practice and a steady hand to do this without just taking all the polish right back off again, so don't give up if you get it wrong the first time!
Once you're happy with your base colour, give it a little while to dry. If you don't, it's likely the glitter layer will pick up still wet portions of the base colour and it will end up all lumpy and cloudy. While you're waiting, it's often a good idea to give your bottle of indie polish a gentle roll between your hands to loosen up the glitter a bit and get it all mixed in nicely. Some polishes need to be shaken, or sat upside down before use due to heavier glitters that sink to the bottom, and if you think you'll need to do this it's best to do it before you start messing with the base coat and all the rest of it. If you shake polish right before you put it on, it will be all aerated and you'll end up with bubbles in your polish once it dries. Which SUCKS. So give it time to settle.
After your base coat is dry (or at least, dry enough) and your indie polish is ready to go, it's GLITTER TIME!
Now this is the bit that really is most understandable in video form. But I'll do my best with mere words. With really glitter heavy polishes, I like to use a technique called "dabbing", to get as much glitter on the nail as possible. This involves picking up a nice gooey blob on the brush, as in Fig. 1, plopping it on the nail, and then gently sort of pushing it around. The motion is somewhere between pushing and patting; it's important to be generous with the amount of polish you use when using this method, otherwise you'll end up with a hella bumpy manicure. So get a good blob, and just smooosh it around until it's in the same shape as the base colour underneath.
Depending on what polish you're using, you might need to do two or even three layers of polish to get the amount of glitter you want. It's important not to rush when you're using the dabbing method - because the layers are relatively thick, it can get quite squidgy if you don't leave sufficient dry time between layers. Personally, I usually only do two layers, because I'm impatient, but I've seen people get amazing results from some more patience and some extra, thinner layers.
If you get any stray glitters or base escaping, you can go back with your little brush and polish remover and clean up again. Once it's all sitting pretty, slop some topcoat of your choosing over the top. Some glitter polishes will need more than one layer of topcoat to come out glassy smooth, because they will dry gritty. Some polishes only need the thinnest coat and it's like stained glass on your fingers. You'll have to experiment with that for yourself!
And with that, we're done!
I hope this helps some of you enjoy the glittery goodness that is indie polish!