I start practicing about a month before each competition. I have a pool of practice models I pull from and I schedule at least one practice session for most every weekend leading up to the competition. When I don’t have a live model to practice on, I practice on myself. And if I only have a few minutes I’ll practice on forms.
I do this a lot actually, almost every day — at the beginning of my working day, in between clients, and at the end of the day too. Practicing on forms allows me to practice bead size, product control, and smile lines. I just tear off a form from the roll, leave it on the backing paper, and start sculpting. They put those lines on the forms to use as guidelines, and you can use the finger cutout as your smile line guide.
Here are some examples for you. I don’t worry what the “nail” looks like, I only focus on the smile lines. I did these after work, and you would think that after doing nails all day I would be warmed up already. Not true, and this is evident in the image. Reading the “nails” like a book, you can see how much better they get as I go along.
And that is why you must practice.
Smile lines are of utmost importance in a competition. The judges will tell you that smile lines are the first thing they look at (probably because it is the first thing to jump out at you). Smile lines are something you cannot hide, so they need to be good. So go practice.