Gorgeous nails, good composition, and a photogenic reptile — those are what earned Rolla, Mo.-based nail tech Sarah Petersen a coveted spot on this issue’s cover. We were so taken with the image — one of three Petersen submitted to NAILS’ annual Cover Tech contest — that we selected it as our “editors’ pick.”  “I have been trying for the cover in this contest for three years,” says Petersen. “It’s all I talk about with my clients and family. I do several photo shoots throughout the year to prepare for it.” This year, preparation involved a trip to a nearby pet store to pick up a baby alligator. “You can buy one for $99. I just rented it for an hour — I gave them $20,” she says.

The alligator idea just came to her. “I knew I wanted to use an animal, and I wanted to do something different. I started asking around to see if anyone knew where I might be able to find an alligator. As soon as I located one, I started thinking about the shape and design of the nails. I didn’t actually know what I was going to do for sure until I did the nails for the photo shoot. I was doing two different shoots in the same day, so I wound up only having time to do one hand.”

Having a living prop isn’t always easy, so Petersen was happy to find the little guy was cooperative. “They brought two out for us, just in case one wouldn’t cooperate. The other one actually bit the pet shop owner, but their teeth are small and clear, so it’s almost like a bad paper cut. The pet shop owner said they like their belly rubbed when they get wiggly.”

Her model for the shoot was her sister Ashley Mayer, who owns Salon Legacy where Petersen works as a booth renter. It took her about an hour to sculpt the nails using OPI Absolute. She’s grateful to her “amazing and creative” photographer, Bobby Burger, for his input

Here’s how you can do these nails:

1. Apply forms to nails that have been prepped. Sculpt the acrylic to a point. Shape and buff the nails.

2. Apply green circle decals with gold glitter polish. (She used China Glaze Gold Enchantment.)

3. Paint green lines with polish. (She used China Glaze Cherish and OPI Simply Smashing.)

4. Apply black lines and gold glitter. (She used China Glaze Liquid Leather.) Finish the nails with OPI Gel Top Coat.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.