Monday, September 19, 2011

Soak off Gel Water Marble and Peek-a-boo glitter

This next tutorial is a two-for-one special, LOL.  Within the video for the water marbling, I give you a quick how-to on doing a Peek-a-boo glitter design.  

Water marbling...... Well, let me say that I am the queen of suck when it comes to doing this with regular polish.  So, if you are like me and gave up on the idea of water marbling, give it another try with the gel polish.  It's much easier, and if you mess up you just wipe it off and start over!  

Personally I like to do this over a completed manicure.  That way, if I mess up and/or hate the way it came out I can easily wipe it off and try again without ruining what's underneath. I've done it this way and it came out fine and wore as well as any other manicure.  I usually just do this as an accent nail or two.  Another advantage to doing it over a complete manicure - it can spice up a mani you are getting bored with.  

In addition to your regular nail supplies you need a small cup with some room temp water (I use bottle water because I live on a well and our water sucks, LOL), lots of extra paper towels handy, and some toothpicks or manicure sticks.  

Since I like to do this over a completed manicure, I recommend doing a start-to finish manicure.  I do like having a base color, as some areas of the water marble may be sheer and color would show through a little bit, so use something complementary.  Alternatively you could do just base and topcoat with no color in between, or do just one layer of color instead of two.  

Water marble nails:

  1. Open all your bottles of gel polish you are using and line them up around your cup in the order you want to drop them into the water.  
  2. Drop the color into the water
    1. The first drop will spread out the most, and will almost disappear onto the water surface because it's so thin
    2. The next drops wont' spread as much, and you may have to shake the cup gently to get them to spread a little
    3. Hold your brush close to the water and just let the drops fall.  You don't want to touch the brush to the water as you can contaminate your polish then.  You also don't want to let the drops fall from too high above the cup, or they will just sink right to the bottom and not spread out
    4. I usually do 2-3 rounds of my colors
  3. Make your design
    1. Take a toothpick, manicure stick, dotting tool or whatever you want to use, and make your design.  You can carve out from the outside in toward a center point, in from the center toward the outiside, etc.  Whatever you want to do!  
  4. Dip 1-2 fingers at a time, depending on the size of the cup you are using and your design.  
    1. You want to dip them in with our nail plate parallel to the top of the water and the design, as much as possible
    2. try to do this in one smooth motion into the cup
  5. With your fingers still in the water, clean up all the excess polish on the surface of the water with a toothpick, manicure stick, etc. 
    1. It's going to form a gloopy mess on the stick
    2. This is why you need plenty of paper towels handy to set this messy stuff on top of!  :)
  6. Clean up your fingers
    1. I use a paper towel to wipe off the bulk of the mess on my fingers
    2. You can then take a manicure stick and clean up around the cuticle and sidewalls
    3. wipe a cotton pad or ball with alcohol over your fingers to remove any remaining gel before you cure.  
  7. Cure for 2 minutes in a UV lamp
  8. Apply Top it off, cap free edge, cure 2 minutes

The Peekaboo glitter nails:
This is something you can do as a complete manicure when you are first doing it, or something you can do as an add on over a previous glitter mani when you get bored with it (is it even really possible to get bored with a glitter mani?  LOL).

I've also done this to make a french with glitter tips.  Instead of adding glitter only at the tip, I will do the whole nail as glitter, then add a color and carve out the smile line.  It makes a much smoother and cleaner smile line than when I try to just add a tip of glitter.  The whole manicure ends up being smoother as well when done this way.  And you can carve out whatever you like as a design, leaving the glitter "peeking" out from under the color.  
  1. Start out with your basic glitter manicure: base coat, 1-2 coats of color and then glitter scrubbed into the tacky layer
  2. Now you can proceed one of two ways
    1. Apply top it off and put your color over it, carve design, cure and topcoat again
    2. Simply apply color over the glitter instead of top it off first, carve design, cure color coat, and then apply top it off and cure
  3. Either way you want to do this, when you apply your color coat, just make it a nice, thin layer
  4. Take a small brush dampened slightly with alcohol and carve your design out of the color
    1. You can also use a toothpick, corner of a manicure stick, dotting tool, etc. 
  5. You may want to flash cure each nail for a few seconds as you go.  
    1. If you let it alone too long the nice crisp line will start to blur a little sometimes
    2. If you have very small/narrow areas you carved out, the gel polish will try to self-level those right back together.  
  6. When you are done carving your design, cure in the UV light 2 minutes
  7. Add top it off, cap free edge, cure 2 minutes.

One of my best water marbles:
The colors just all worked so nicely together, and it looked great over the holo-y background because in the sheer areas you could see the blue holo underneath.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Spectraflair Franken Manicures

Spectraflair is a holographic pigment.  It's actually intended for automotive paint and industrial uses.  That being said, here's my disclaimer:

It is recommended that you use a mask when dealing with Spectraflair.  If I were making large quantities of anything and had dust flying, I would.  I don't feel it's necessary to franken a tiny amount of gel polish.  I have several other "car paint pigments" and I've not had any fingers turn green and fall off, I've not had any reactions, etc.  However, if you are concerned or not comfortable using this, DON'T.  I am not recommending anyone try this or use any other product that isn't intended for use in nails or cosmetics, this is just my personal experience and what I do.  

Spectraflair is a very, very, VERY fine powder that has a holographic effect.  It actually comes in a few different particle sizes, from 20-35 microns.  What I have currently is the 20 micron size, but I'm trying to get some of the 35 micron size, as it is supposed to be a bit more blingy.  

The Spectraflair isn't a super-bright, obvious holo.  Indoors or not well-lit areas it just looks shimmery.  Outside or in well lit indoor areas however, it creates a very nice holo effect.   The holo effect is more predominant when used over a black base or other very dark color.  

I've mixed Spectraflair into Structure gel and also into a few colors of gel polish.  It seems to work fine either way.  With the structure (or you could use TIO), you can mix a tiny amount to make a more sheer topcoat, or you can mix a slightly larger amount in to get an opaque silver color.  Either way, the amount you need is REALLY tiny!  

For this Manicure I mixed up the Spectraflair with Gelish's Up in the Blue
Here is a close up of one of the nails:
 Here are some other samples I've done:
From left to right: Spectraflair mixed into Structure to make opaque, Spectraflair mixed with black and painted over a black base coat, Spectraflair mixed into Gelish Up in the Blue (I used a bit too much spectraflair here, but it came out great when I did the manicure), Spectraflair mixed with Gelish Exhale

Here is a the video on mixing spectraflair with Structure, but again you can use any color you want to mix with.  Or, you can apply any color polish, then use clear mixed with spectraflair as a topcoat over it.  :)

Rockstar (or glitter) Nails & Toes

Next up I have a tutorial for how to do Rockstar nails/toes (or Glitter nails/toes).  

It's a really, really easy process!  It's just like doing a regular mani or pedi, just with one extra step - you scrub glitter into the lefty tackiness of one of your layers!  Yep, that's really all there is to it!  

  1. Prep your nails as usual - file and shape, do your cuticle work, clean off any dirt or filing dust, etc.  
  2. Apply dehydrator and let dry a few seconds
  3. Apply bonder if you need it and let dry
  4. Apply thin layer of base coat, cap free edge, cure 1 minute in UV lamp
  5. Apply a thin layer of color, cap free edge, cure 2 minutes.
    • What color you choose is up to you, but I recommend using a color that's similar to your glitter color.
    • For Example here I used a dark metallic silver because I was using silver glitter.  If I was using red glitter, I might use something like Gelish Hot Rod Red or Stand Out
  6. You can apply a second layer of color if you want to, but if you are covering the whole nail with glitter as we are here, it's not really necessary.  
  7. Using a small brush dampened slightly with alcohol pick up some glitter and gently pat and "scrub" it into the tacky layer
    • Keep picking up the glitter and scrubbing it in until the whole nail is covered
  8. After the entire nail is covered, take your brush and quickly brush back and forth and from top to bottom to brush off any excess glitter.  This also help make sure all the glitter pieces are laying flat.
  9. If I'm using a larger size glitter, like 0.008" or larger, I generally will apply a coat of Structure gel over the glitter to help smooth it all out.  Alternatively, you can use two layers of topcoat if you need it.  
  10. Apply top it off, cap free edge, and cure two minutes.  
    • It has been recommended that you use a separate topcoat for glitter work so you don't end up with glitter mucking up your topcoat.  
    • Personally, I haven't had an issue with this and have never used a separate topcoat.  Applying a layer of structure after the glitter would be done with a separate brush, thus your topcoat bottle brush would be protected anyway.  
    • If a rare piece of glitter does end up in my topcoat brush, I just wipe the brush with a clean paper towel and it's fine.  I'm still using my original bottle of topcoat that I bought almost a year ago.  

Nars Orgasm Blush and Black Funky French

Hello Everyone!  So my current manicure is a funky french with a custom color that I mixed up using Nars Orgasm blush.  I use black for the tips.  It's a very fun mani!  

  1. Do the basic prep on your nails first - have them clean and shaped, cuticle work done, etc.  
  2. Next is to mix up the custom color that I used for the nail bed.  For the video below I'm only doing one nail that I broke and needed repairing, so I'm using a very small amount of product.
    • Place a small amount of Structure on a piece of tin foil.  For this I used 2 little blobs of stucture, and one would've been more than enough really.  For a full manicure I use 3-4 blobs.  If I were using a bottle polish color, I use 8-10 drops for a full 2-coat manicure.  That of course will vary depending on the length of your nails.  
    • Using the end of your mixing stick, scrape a small amount of the Nars blush onto the top of your little blob of gel.  Mix it all together.  You can always add more if you want it to be darker or more pigmented
  3. Now that your color is mixed up, start working on your nails
    • Apply Dehydrator and let it try a few seconds
    • Apply bonder if you use it and let it dry
    • Apply base foundation gel, cap free edge, and cure 1 minute in a UV lamp
  4. Now it's time to apply your custom color
    • Using a gel brush, scoop a very small amount of the color you made off the tin foil and apply it thinly, just like you would Structure alone or a pot-style gel.  The viscosity of the Structure is a bit thicker than regular Gelish, so it can take some practice.  
    • Apply a thin coat, cap your free edge and cure 2 minutes.
    • Apply second coat, cap free edge and cure 2 minutes. 
  5. Next is to apply the black tips.
    • I used EZ Flow Gelez Pitch Black, because it's what I have.  Other blacks are Gelish Black Shadow, Shellac Black Pool, ACG Swag, RCM Black Stretch Limo, etc
    • Wipe most of the polish off the bottle brush and apply a VERY thin layer of the black to the tip of your nail.  Don't worry if it's not a perfect smile line!  You'll clean it up next.  Make sure to cap your free edge.
    • Dip a small brush into a bit some alcohol, and wipe the excess off the brush - you only want it damp, not dripping.  
    • From the center to the edges, clean up and smooth out the smile line
    • Cure for 2 minutes in a UV Lamp
    • Repeat for a second coat - the second coat often doesn't need much if any cleanup, because you have a guide you are already following from the fist coat
  6. Apply Topcoat
    • Apply a thin layer of Top it Off over the whole nail, cap free edge, cure 2 minutes
  7. Finish
    • Wipe with alcohol to remove the tacky layer
    • Apply cuticle oil

Here is the video.  You can see it also on YouTube

Videos now up on YouTube!

Ok, Ok.  So, I know I said I wouldn't be doing any videos for a couple of reasons, but I decided to give it a shot anyway.  My editing isn't so good, and I'm having to use a crappy old camera for the video because I cannot find the charger to my digital camcorder, and my regular video program I use to convert videos from my DSLR isn't working for some reason - hubby says missing a codec or something.  Sigh.  So, at any rate, crappy old digital camera in movie mode and Window's movie maker for the editing, but it does an OK job.

I just thought it would be easier to show you guys some things than try to just explain them.  I will go through the step by step here and also link to the videos.

for future reference, this is my YouTube Channel.  :)

I will go back and add videos to previous posts when I get videos done that relate to those posts.  :)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How to do a soak off gel manicure

OK friends, here is how I do my soak off gel manicures.  This includes shaping, prep, and the gel polish itself.  I started with Gelish, and use the same process for my manicures no matter which brand of color I am  using.  

An important thing to keep in mind is that cuticle is not what most people think it is.  It is not the skin that surrounds your nail, it is skin that grows over the nail plate and can be invisible until you go about trying to remove it!  If you've not had or done a proper manicure, there could be a lot of cuticle that you didn't even know was there!  It just depends.  Some people seem to have very little cuticle.  You should also never go about nipping or cutting the skin around your nails with "cuticle nippers".  The ONLY time I ever use them is to take care of the occasional bad hangnail.  

I also recommend watching the basic video on how to apply Gelish.  There are many on YouTube, and mine is linked at the bottom of this post.  

  1. Shape all nails:
    • Using a 100/180 grit Zebra file (my favorite one) I shorten my nails if they are too long for my liking and shape them.  I prefer a squared or squoval shape, so that's what I do.  do whatever you prefer.  I most often already have this step done, as I do this before I remove my old manicure usually.  For some reason I find it easier to do it that way, and in the process it breaks the seal at the free edge making soak off easier
  2. Remove cuticle from all nails:
    • Place a small amount of cuticle remover around the edge of my nails.  Let it set there for 1 minute.  
    • GENTLY push back the cuticle on the nail plate with a cuticle pusher. 
    • After this, I use a Curette GENTLY in a small, circular motion all over the nail plate and around the lateral and proximal nail folds (the skin surrounding the nail) to remove any additional cuticle.  
      • It really helps to get into that area, especially if you have any deep nail folds.  I thought I was doing great at removing cuticle until I got this tool and realized just how much I was missing! I highly recommend if you don't know how to use this tool that you google some information on it and watch some videos on you tube.  Search for Cuticle Work on YouTube and watch some of the first videos that come up.  
    • Most cuticle remover needs to be deactivated with water.  Since I don't do a wet manicure (meaning I don't soak or wash my hands) I just use a paper towel that I dampened with water before I start to wipe my nails and the surrounding skin off when I am done with my cuticle work.  
  3. Buff the nail plate on all nails:
    • Not everyone does this, and it's not a recommended step in all Soak off gel systems, so keep that in mind.  
    • I use a 320 grit soft block buffer and just lightly go back and forth across my nails to remove the shine, nothing more.  I'll also usually smooth the free edge where I've filed to shorten and shape.  
  4. Clean all nails:
    • Take a cotton ball with a little alcohol on it and wipe the surface of my nail clean.  This cleans it from any filing dust and any dirt that might be there. 
  5. Dehydrate the nail plate:
    • On whichever hand you are doing first, Apply Gelish pH Bond over the entire nail plate and let it dry (It dries very fast)
    • Alternatively, you can use swipes of alcohol and then acetone soaked cotton balls to do this, as that is basically what pH bond is
  6. Apply Bonder only if needed:
    • I apply bonder (Gelish Pro Bond or similar, acid-free bonder) only to the tips of the nails I have problems with tip lift with.  
    • Bonder does make removal slightly more difficult, but if you have eliminated all other possible causes of lifting, and using bonder works for you, then I say go for it.  This is only my opinion.
  7. Apply Base Foundation Gel:
    • Wipe almost ALL product from the brush on the sides of the bottle.  
    • Using a scrubbing motion, apply foundation to the entire nail plate in a very, very thin layer. 
      • This scrubbing motion with very little product keeps the layer very thin.
    • Cap free edge by swiping brush along free edge of nail
    • Use the light around you and look at your nail from different angles to make sure the entire nail is covered.  
    • Clean up around the cuticle and sidewalls if you get any on your skin with a manicure stick or fingernails of your opposite hand
    • Cure for 1 minute in a 36 watt tunnel lamp
  8. Apply color coats:
    • Thinly and evenly apply color coat by placing brush in middle of nail, pushing back toward the cuticle before pulling the brush to the free edge.  
    • After covering the nails cap the free edge
    • Clean up any gel on skin and cuticle area with manicure stick or fingernails
    • Cure 2 minutes.  Very dark colors may need 3 minutes.
    • Apply second (and 3rd if using) coat in same fashion and cure again.
  9. Apply Top It Off (TIO):
    • Thinly apply top it off to entire nail, ensuring the entire nail is covered.
    • Cap free edge
    • Remove any gel that has gotten on skin with manicure stick or fingernail
    • Cure 2 minutes.  
  10. Remove tacky layer:
    • With alcohol on a cotton ball, wipe nails and free edge to remove the residual tacky layer
  11. Repeat:
    • Repeat Steps 5-10 on your other hand.
  12. Apply cuticle Oil:
    • Brush or drip cuticle oil (depending on the applicator you have) on the skin all around all your nails and massage in gently.

Soak off gel nails - what you need to get started

One of the questions I see asked most commonly by newbies to Soak off Gels (SOG's) is "what do I really need to get started?"

Many of the items you need can be purchased at a drugstore, local Sally Beauty Supply or Ulta store, or other open-to-the-public store.  If not, there are plenty of places online to purchase them.  I personally do not use the Gelish cleanser or their remover product, so if you notice they are missing from the list below, it's because I just don't use them.  There are some products here that I use, but you may not need or want to.  There are also products I use that aren't listed here, as I don't use them all the time - they have a more specialized purpose and will be covered in other tutorials.  

The links I have listed here are in most cases what I actually have, or some variation (i.e. full size vs. Sally's Mini).  In other cases it is just to give you an example

These are the tools and things I use when doing a basic SOG manicure.   They are not really listed in any particular order, sorry.  

  • A nail file.  My favorite is a 100/180 grit dual sided, curved Zebra file.   Right now I have a straight one, which also works fine.  It's just preference. 
  • A 120 grit block buffer (optional, but I use it to buff the topcoat before I soak off.  You could also use your nail file).  
  • A 240 or 320 grit polar block buffer (they make several grits in this, so just pay attention so which one you are getting.  You want a super-fine grit. The 320 is my favorite).  
  • Cuticle remover (this is the one I use and I like it)
  • A cuticle pusher.  This is the one I have, but there are much nicer ones out there. 
  • A Cuticle Curette (optional, but really helped me in removing all cuticle from nail plate)
  • Manicure Sticks (Orangewood sticks, birchwood sticks, whatever you want to call them.  Optional, but helpful for many).  
  • Alcohol (70% actually works fine, but 99% is recommended.  Sometimes my local drugstore will have 91%, but not always.  Use what you can find.)
  • 100% pure acetone
  • Cuticle Oil.  I have this one, as well as the CND solar oil and several others.  They all work well so use what you like.  I think consistency of use is more important than which brand you use.  
  • Cotton ball or squares
  • Tin foil or silicone rubber finger protector/thimbles.  (See below for more info)
  • Gelish pH bond (optional.  You can wipe the nail with acetone and alcohol to dehydrate the nail as well)
  • Gelish PRO Bond (optional.  Should only be used if you have problems with lifting polish after you've troubleshooted other potential causes)
  • Gelish Base Foundation (often referred to as just Base)
  • Gelish Top It Off (often referred to as TIO)
  • A Gelish color polish (or other brand if you prefer)
  • A UV light.  This can be a 36 watt fluorescent bulb tunnel lamp (as shown here) or an LED lamp.  Which you choose depends on many factors.  
    • To my knowledge, all brands will cure in a fluorescent bulb UV lamp.  Not all brands will cure in a LED lamp.  For the purposes of my tutorials I will be basing curing times on a 36 watt tunnel lamp, as LED cure times vary depending on wattage.  The tunnel lamp I have looks much like the one I linked to, although mine was an eBay purchase.  I recommend getting a good lamp, as while I got lucky with my Shipped-from-China Ebay purchase, others didn't have as good of luck.
OK, back to the silicone thimbles.  I found these things at WalMart with the office supplies.  They were in a pack of 12 assorted sizes for $2-3.  I cannot find them online on to show you what they look like.  They look sort of like these, but mine are blue and have holes on one side, and are textured on the other side.  I just place the hole side where the pad of my finger is, and leave the closed, textured side on the nail side of my finger.  I have used them many times and they are showing no wear from the acetone exposure.  You can see the ones I have in the photo below of my basic supplies.  

Note the wooden manicure sticks are missing from my photo.  That's because I actually don't usually use them anymore, I just use my nails on my opposite hand to swipe around the edge of the cuticle and sidewalls to clean up.  It was easier when I started though to use the manicure sticks.  Also, those little pump-top bottles hold my acetone (black one) and alcohol (white one).  I got them at Sally's.  

Soak off Gel Nails

I'm going to try to start posting some tutorials here on soak off gel manicures and nail care.  I don't as of yet have pictures of my processes, but hopefully it won't be too hard to follow along without them.  I'll try to do some with photos soon.  I hate being on camera, so photos are probably all you'll be able to get out of me, LOL.  Videos aren't likely at this point, because I think my voice sounds funny on camera and I absolutely do not need the extra 10 lbs it supposedly adds, LOL.  Also, I don't know squat about video editing,  LOL.  

First of all, the disclaimer: I am NOT a professional nail technician.  I am receiving NO compensation for doing this.  ALL of the products I use have been purchased by ME with my own money.  This is just what I do and what works for me.  Trying to do soak off gel nails yourself using my way of doing things or any other is something you do at your own risk.  

I personally feel that this is not an adventure you should embark on without having done a little research, so please, before you begin do some research, watch videos on you tube, visit forums related to doing this, etc.  There is a bit of a learning curve with soak off gel polish, so expect a bit of trial and error before you find what works best for you.  

I use mostly Gelish products, but I do have some things that are not Gelish.  I also have colors that are Shellac, Artistic Colour Gloss (ACG), IBD Gelac, Geleration, Gelez, Red Carpet Manicure, and several others that also include pot-style gels such as Axxium that need to be applied with a separate gel brush.  Since it is what I started with and what I have, my base coat and top sealer are Gelish.  I have experienced no incompatibilities between brands, and use the Gelish base and top with all my colors.  I have a new bottle of ACG base and top as well, which I tested once and also had no problem mixing it will another brand, so I don't forsee an issue when my Gelish runs out.  

So, let the tutorials and information begin!  :)