Stay true to your style

Trisha Johnson of Shelby Township, Mich., has entered many of NAILS’ competitions and won the 2017 Mural contest. “My best advice to consider before entering any competition is to be ready to dig deep, remember who you are artistically, and stick true to your own style.” Johnson also advises to not take things too seriously: “It’s really supposed to be fun, so don’t forget your sense of humor!”

2nd Place winner Kadee Brown's 2017 Mural Contest entry.

2nd Place winner Kadee Brown's 2017 Mural Contest entry.

Mini Masterpiece Deadline: May 9, 2019

See past entries.

Celebrity Face-Off Deadline: July 10, 2019

See past entries.

Mural Contest Deadline: December 10, 2019

See past entries.

NAILS Cover Tech Contest

Gather a good team

Every August, NAILS announces its Cover Tech Contest. Entrants submit their take on a NAILS cover concept in hopes of being featured on the January cover. 2017’s winner, Celine Cumming, says staffing is everything. “Getting a good photographer and model is absolutely key. If you plan to have your model’s face in the image and not just her hands with a prop, then you should also source a good hair and makeup artist. You can be the greatest nail artist in the world, but if you don’t have a good team to work with, your final image will be lacking major qualities. You really have to source people who can complement your work with theirs.”

Cover tech contest deadline: October 1, 2019

NAILS Next Top Nail Artist

NTNA winner Tracey Lee's cover.

NTNA winner Tracey Lee's cover.

Stay Focused

NTNA is an online and social media-based contest that pits top techs from all over the world against one another for an elimination-style competition. In the end, three techs are left standing, going on to compete at a major trade show. Prizes include a NAILS cover, a trip to New York Fashion Week, cash, a trophy, and a position on the masthead as NAILS guest editor.

Season 3 champion Winnie Huang advises potential competitors to prepare for a long-term commitment, as the contest can run from May (preliminary rounds) through the fall (regular play), and bleed into early 2018 (the final rounds). “Compete, but with yourself! Value personal growth and remember why you entered in the first place,” says Huang. She also urges techs to read the rules carefully for each weekly challenge, be flexible, and make good use of time.

Check out the current contest at


Plan, brainstorm, test

The Professional Beauty Association allows entries from nail, hair, and makeup professionals from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to enter the North American Hairstyling Awards. To win Nail Professional of the Year, nail techs must submit photos that showcase the harmony between hair and nails. Entrants can demonstrate their talent for nail art, embellishments, or salon-style nails. 2015 winner Reiko Omae says that in addition to planning and brainstorming, testing is also key. “Sometimes an idea in your mind doesn’t translate well on the nail; it’s worth knowing before it’s too late to correct the design,” says Omae. Another helpful tip from Omae is to step away, then come back to the look later. By doing this, you can see what can be pushed in terms of design.


Challenge yourself and know the rules

Held in the U.K., Sydney, and now Houston, this non-biased, non-product-related competition accepts techs at all skill levels. “All techs are judged by the same criteria, but are placed through scores in the correct ranking in their correct division,” explains organizer and Scratch editor-in-chief Alex Fox. “Come with an open mind, enthusiasm, self-belief, and fire in your belly. Come with the desire to experience something different, life-changing, and challenging,” says Fox.

Head judge Elaine Watson says it’s all about the rules when it comes to competing. For a novice, rules are obviously important, but they’re equally as important for a veteran who has competed in another contest with vastly different rules. Watson also advises looking at how rules are interpreted. Deadlines:  August 1 (Sydney), September 15 (London)

Getting Started

In It To Win It: If you’re considering entering a nail competition, here are some general rules of thumb.

> Start small if it’s your first time competing. Trying your hand at the NAILS Mural Contest before jumping into something like NTNA can give you an idea of what skills need improving. Likewise, entering a competition at a smaller show as opposed to an international one can get your feet wet.

> Invest in winning tools. Make sure you have the right equipment from nail art brushes to a good camera to ensure success from conception to completion.

> Talk to fellow techs. Reach out to others who have competed before to get honest answers and advice.

> Train. Much like running a marathon, you can train for a competition on your own in the salon or with a group. Joining online groups such as 3-D Fanatics on Facebook can provide the support and training you need for game day.

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