Creating the perfect set of acrylics could be considered an art, but the foundation behind it is found in the science. NAILS breaks down the chemistry behind liquid-and-powder in laymen's terms.
The Goldilocks Complex (Too Wet, Too Dry, Just Right)
TOO WET (too much monomer liquid) — When the monomers link to each other during the chain reaction, they hug each other tightly, causing the nail enhancement to shrink. When you work with too much monomer, all of that extra monomer links together and you have excessive shrinkage of the enhancement (making it prone to lifting, tip cracking, etc.).
TOO DRY (too little monomer liquid) — When it polymerizes, the monomer holds everything together. When you don’t have enough, it’s like trying to make a cake with too little milk.
JUST RIGHT (manufacturer-recommended ratio of monomer liquid-to-polymer powder) — When the monomer polymerizes, it surrounds each bead of polymer powder. The powder works to stop cracks, reinforcing the enhancement. When you work with the correct ratio, you have enough crack-stoppers to create a durable enhancement.
* A note on fast-set acrylics: fast-set acrylics contain more initiator and/or catalyst, which is why they set up faster. You may be tempted to use a too-wet ratio with these products to slow down their setting time. Don’t take this route, because the above rules still hold true. Switch to standard acrylics instead.
* A note on colored acrylics: colored acrylics include additional finely ground colorant powders. This sometimes causes them to need a slightly wetter working ratio, but make sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions first.