Behind the Scenes: A Feather in Her Cap

Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based nail artist Melanie McCulley was the editor's choice winner for our 2014 Cover Tech Contest.

Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based nail artist Melanie McCulley entered our 2014 Cover Tech Contest. Two of her images were finalists, but ultimately neither was chosen by the readers to grace the January cover. The team here at NAILS loved McCulley’s feather nails image so much that we decided to award it with the “editors’ choice” award and place it on this month’s cover.

<p>Melanie McCulley, left, created this month&rsquo;s cover with a team of artist friends, including stylist Kendrick Osorio, photographer Odessy Barbu, model Vlada Varnavskaya, Well Manicured business partner and consultant Melinda Milner, and makeup artist Katie Cordero.</p>

McCulley offers manicures, pedicures, and airbrush tanning at her salon Well-Manicured, but she also does freelance and on-set work throughout Los Angeles. For her Cover Tech Contest entries, she worked with a team of talented artist friends to create the looks. “Being an artist, I love incorporating color and texture into my work,” McCulley says. “Feathers were a huge trend this year on the fashion runways, so translating that trend onto the nails made sense.”

Here’s how you can do these nails:

1. Complete a regular gel-polish manicure service using the color of your choice. (Do not apply top coat yet.) When choosing your base color, the lighter you go the better you’ll be able to see the details of the feather. McCulley used Gelish Medieval Madness.

2. Apply a thin layer of clear hard gel to the nail, covering the entire area. Choose your feather. Begin to fit the feather on the nail bed and press in with an orangewood stick. The excess will be hanging off of the end of the nail bed.

3. Cure the nail in an LED or UV lamp. (McCulley does one finger at a time, switching back and forth between hands.)

4. Once cured, use small scissors to trim the excess feather off the end, getting as close as possible to the free edge.

5. Next, use your gel brush and apply another thin coat of clear hard gel, swiping upwards in the same direction as the feather fibers. This will give it more of a protective coating and secure it in place. Cure the nail. Take a 240-grit file and lightly file and shape the surrounding edges, smoothing any overhanging feather. You can use black gel to fill in any inconsistencies in the feather on the nail tips and cap the free edge. Once you’ve reached the desired blended look, cure the nail. Finish with one thin coat of Gelish Top It Off. Cure, and remove sticky residue with alcohol or nail cleanser.

<p>A closer look at the materials McCulley used to create this month&rsquo;s cover.</p>

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