Colored Gels May Be the ‘Cure’ to Slow Drying Polish

Use gels for long-lasting color

Handpainted designs are also possible, although they present more challenge, even to experienced nail artists, because gels are self-leveling. This is an advantage because it eliminates lumps and uneven surfaces. When creating detailed nail art, however, you must plan ahead and work quickly. Otherwise, the gel will level, causing images to blur and colors to run together.

Carmella Reeves, of Carl’s Hair Salon in Gretna, Louisiana, says the speed is worth it because, once cured, the design lasts for a long time. And, she says, you can experiment with designs. If you don’t like something you’ve done, or you make a mistake, just wipe off the gel with a tissue before you cure and start again.

Gel art increases service tickets anywhere from $1.50 to $5 for every nail with art. The price depends on your area and the complexity of the design. Although the price seems low, the profit margin is high when you consider that the simplest design takes one to two minutes from start to finish. And clients will appreciate the affordability of nail art – especially those who could never afford airbrushed or handpainted nails before now.

The technicians we spoke to say gel art sells well in the salon, and they promote it by wearing designs and displaying tips with different designs at their stations. Clients can choose a design they like and have it applied.

You can create the same art with gels that you can with polish and paints, says Nissen. Use stones, feathers, decals, striping whatever you want.


Gels are noted for their easy application, high shine, and durability. Following are general instructions for applying colored gels and creating gel art. The technique is for a UV light system, and you should consult the manufacturer’s instructions for your particular system.

  1. Prepare the nails. Buff, clean and prime the nails.
  2. Apply clear gel. Apply a thin coat of clear gel to cover the entire nail and nail tip.
  3. Cure. Place each hand under the UV light for the recommended time.
  4. Apply colored gel. Cover the entire nail. Check coverage on sides and free edge. Remove gel from skin and cuticle with an orangewood stick.
  5. Cure. Place each hand under the light for the recommended time.
  6. Apply second coat of color. This second coat of colored gel is optional. Apply only if a deeper base color is desired. Do not cure if you are going to do gel nail art (See steps below).
  7. Cure. Place each hand under the light for the recommended time.
  8. Apply clear gel. Apply a thin coat of clear gel over the entire nail.
  9. Cure. Place each hand under the light for the recommended time.
  10. Finish the nails. Apply cuticle oil and have the client wash her hands.


Gel nail art is relatively simple even for novices. To create the art, do steps 1-6 above. Do not cure the gel. Then proceed with the following instructions.

7) Apply thin bands of contrasting color gel. Use a thin detail brush to apply diagonal stripes of one or more colors. Bands must be applied over an uncured base coat of color.

8) Clean brush. Wipe the brush clean on a non-fibrous pad saturated with brush cleanser.

9) Stroke brush in opposite direction. Lightly draw the brush perpendicular through the gel stripes. This brush stroke actually develops an airbrush effect. The gels flow together to create an interesting design. The longer you wait before curing, the more the colors will blend together.

10)   Cure. Place the nails under the light for the recommended time.

11)   Apply striping, stones, or do freehand art. Apply any other forms of nail art you wish on the cured, tacky surface. The tacky surface will secure striping and stones. Freehand art should the tacky surface helps prevent gels from leveling too quickly.

12)   Cure freehand design. Cure the freehand design if it was created with gel. If you used paints for the freehand design, allow time for the paint to dry before proceeding

13)  Apply clear gel. Apply a thin coat of clear gel over the entire nail surface.

14)   Cure. Place each hand under the light and cure for the recommended time.

15)   Finish the nails. Apply cuticle oil and have the client wash her hands.

You can use different color combinations and different brushstrokes to vary the design. Clients will enjoy the creative custom-look, and they’ll love the short amount of time it takes.

Artificial nail systems offer something for everyone – clients and technicians alike. Myers now offers gels as part of her service menu. “Some clients changed over immediately and now swear by gels,” she says. “Other clients prefer to stay with the service they were already getting. But even some of them, my polish problem clients, have colored gels applied over the other product because they like what they get.”






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