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I paint a coat of a pale pink varnish over the whole nail (a Rimmel French Manicure one - they have a few shades but any pale pink will do).
Then I use Rimmel's white tip varnish to carefully paint on the tip. This nail varnish has a thinner brush than normal ones which makes painting the tip easier - I found it only took one or two practice goes before I could paint them neatly on.
I'm seriously cack-handed but found using the Sally Hansen Hard as Nails French Manicure Kit gave a really professional-looking result. It comes with these little sticky strips that you use to separate the tip from the rest of the nail before painting the white tips. I bought the Sheerly Opal one as the pearlescent effect hides any little mistakes well, and looks lovely too. Think I got mine from Boots for around a fiver.
1. Clean nails (no base coat), swipe white polish over tips (doesn't have to be neat)
2. Use small, stiff brush dipped in nail polish remover to tidy up your tip lines to desired 'smile' line (Leighton Denny sells one in his French manicure kits, but small eyeshadow or lip brush would work). Leave few minutes to dry.
3. Paint base coat over entire nails
4. One or two coats of pale pink/beige colour of choice
5. Quick dry top coat like seche vite to seal the lot