Acrylic Nails

Design Your Nails: An advanced discussion for building that perfect nail

The purpose of this article is not to tell you how to do nails, but rather how a professional nail artist can do better nails; technique steps in applying nails that are familiar to the artist have been left out in favor of a more technical approach.

All acrylic nail products are two part chemical systems derived from a family of chemical is known specifically as mono acrylate esters (liquids) and polyacrylate esters (powder). Note that some have confused polyacrylate ester with polyester, Polyester is not only an undersirable but impossible chemical from which to form nails. Its use as it relates to nails is a misnomer.

The chemicals, when mixed together, create a chemical chain reaction between the two chemical parts that result in a third new material; that of the sculptured nail

The characteristics of this third new material are largely determined by the chemical engineer who develops the monomer and polymer components. However, the user can also have a significant effect on the sculptured nail materials. Each two part acrylic system will have optimum strength, adhesion, color, integrity, flexibility and long term durability dependent upon the use of the proper ratio of liquid to powder, room temperature, surface temperature receiving application, as well as numerous lesser random factors. The point of all of which is to say that although you may consider your self an accomplished acrylic nail artist, some acrylic nail systems incorporate the most complicated chemistry used in the beauty industry. Following manufacturers instructions is an essential starting point from which you must develop a sensitivity for how the particular acrylic nail system you have chosen was chemically engineered to work.

Nail Design

I know of no better system of reference points in use that describe so accurately and consistently the proper design of a nail as the following developed by Ladyfingers five years ago.

To begin with, the length of the nail is describe in three sections, where section A is at the base of the nail, section B is at the free edge directly above the hyponychium and C is the tip of the acrylic nail.

The relationship of the sections is very important and is described as follows: A comes up to B, and B comes down to C.A and C are on the same plane.

The width of the nail is then described in five sections.

-- 1 and 5 are the vertical sides of the nail, from A-C

-- 2 and 4 curve up the nail form A-C, the mid points of which are approximately 45 degrees in relationship as 1 to 2 and 4 to 5.

-- 3 is the top center line from A to C.

The most important relationship between the sections is: 1 is equal to 5 and 2 is equal to 4 from A to C, and 3B is the highest point.

If you are not already using this method then doing so by picturing the drawing in your mind while working through a set of nails will all but assure you of a natural look that is consistent through all 10 nails. By following this method, you will also have the strongest geometric

Shape consistent with natural looking nails for strength and durability.

On Application

The brief notes on application to follow will emphasize common pitfalls and suggestions for improvement of common nail problems.

First, become familiar with the acrylic system you are using by “playing with it” on a flat slick surface, or with some products where safe, on the back of your own hand. Determine styling time (time from application to beginning of setup). See what happens when you vary the ratio of liquid to powder. Does the product flow out over the nail or is it designed to be patted into place?

Before proceeding, make sure you have accomplished the proper ratio of liquid to powder on your brush by successfully working through the manufacturer’s directions and description of the product mixture.

For example, the product I manufacture is properly mixed when the pea-shaped ball the brush tip looks dry, white and powdery, generally ready five seconds after pick up. (Brush size is equally important. Some products work best with a thin hair, flat brush others with a thicker hair, pointed brush.)

From this point, the proper order of application can become a matter of professional preference. However, time is money and efficiency in the use of the reference points mentioned is necessary to achieve high quality work in commercially acceptable time.

In this interest, I suggest you build the tip from B to C first (very thin), A to B section next at the back of the nail near the cuticle (over lunula), and B to C last at the free edge of the nail.

When applying acrylic product, press and release the mixture onto the nail plate. Then wipe your brush and proceed by pressing or patting the product into place with the belly of the brush…not the tip. The belly is usually midway between ferrule and tip, and is the fattest or thickest at this point. Remember to always maneuver the product with the belly of the brush.

When building the tip at C, do not attempt to build the B section where product is thickest; leave that for the third section application. Think strictly of building the nail down from point B to C. Make sure you have identifiably vertical 1s and 5s, and that they are equal or even.

Apply A section with a 1/32-inch margin all the way around the cuticle. This is done to prevent a ledge or build up at the cuticle that will become noticeable as the nail grows out. Also, this will reduce any problems of adhesion as it tends to reduce the working action of the cuticle and natural oils that can cause lifting.

The line of acrylic around the cuticle should be as thin as two coats of polish. Also, be careful that you mixture is correct at this stage. Adhesion is largely controlled by this section’s proper application. If you have problems with adhesion, try varying the mixture at A. Again, do not try to build section A to B. Concentrate on building up from A to B. Make sure that the product is not wet enough to run under the cuticle.

Section B should be released at the free edge of the nail and fill in between section A and C. With the belly of the brush, press the product into the gap from side to side. Build a slight dome to the nail so that B section is clearly the highest point of the nail.

All this point, add a little product at the extreme edges of B at point 1 and 5 to reinforce the nail at common breaking points.

Make sure that sides at 1 and 5 are vertical and equal in appearance from A to C; make sure also that 2 and 4 are equal; add a little product if necessary to make them so. Check to make sure that 3B is the top of the nail.

Now, brush the nail from cuticle to nail tip to blend the three sections. If the product has already begun to set-up use a small amount of product and brush with the belly of the brush over the top form the cuticle to tip. (Important: at this stage, do not use a polish stroke.)


Holding the emery board the correct way is essential in mastering the finished nail. It is important to remember that 95 percent of all the filling is done from the top of the nail. Most novice nail artists over file those precious 1s and 5s that are needed for the most natural look and support. So remember, do not over file underneath the nail.

I hope I have helped you with these advanced techniques in nail sculpturing. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call Ladyfingers or attend one of our classes.

Renee von Salm has been involved in the nail industry for nearly 10 years, as nail artist, salon owner and president and director of educational services for her firm Ladyfingers.

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