There are 3 basic steps if you want a nice looking manicure.
1.) Apply a base coat.
2.) Apply 2-4 coats of your choice of polish.
3.) Apply a top coat. This can be the same as your base coat, or different.
For me, my favorite products include:
Witchcraft Nail Whitener.
So, for St. Patrick's day I did something really stupid - without a base coat, I applied about 5 coats of bright green nail polish and didn't bother to take the stuff off for weeks. After taking it off, I was astounded to find my nails had been dyed - bright yellow. While nail polish covers it up, I'd like to have natural nails once in a while, so I picked this stuff up hoping it would take away the yellow. It didn't exactly whiten, but has been working quite well as a base coat. I got it from the drug store and I can't exactly remember how much it was but it wasn't expensive - though I wouldn't recommend this product. Just get a base coat.
Revlon Top Speed Nail Enamel in 320, Jaded.
My new favorite nail polish - a perfect combination of minty green and teal. I'm definitely in love. The consistency is very nice and doesn't chip very easily when applied properly. The polish itself is also quite cheap (drug-store cheap). The brush for applying is also really nice, in my opinion.
Revlon No-Smudge Dry Oil.
I sometimes have those issues where I think my nails are dry so I'll touch them and leave fingerprints in my polish. It's rather upsetting. Though this doesn't prevent the gooping or stretching of the polish on your nails, it will make them dry to the touch within seconds, and can be applied to a wet nail. A very cheap product at about $4, this is definitely worth it to avoid those darn prints.
OPI Top Coat.
I'm not really picky about top coats... This one is just the only one I own.
Mani Station Lotion.
This is probably my favorite hand lotion. Ever. It comes out of the tube bright green, which might seem repulsive but the product itself is so good that the colour is completely forgotten. I can't exactly describe the scent of this product but on the front it says "lemon, lime, orange" and then "antioxidant treatment". Though the smell isn't exactly citrusy, it is amazingly fruity and fresh, but not too much. The product's consistency is fairly thin, but when applied and rubbed in it absorbs absolutely amazingly into the skin. I'm a huge fan of it, and though it is kind of expensive (no more then $20, available at Chatters) it is an amazing product.
My finished nails (sorry, terrible macbook photo quality).
For those of you reading... Favorite nail polish colour for spring? Mine's this one.