Full Name: Danielle Costantino
Hometown: Cranston, R.I.
Salon: Gel Essentialz
Preferred Nail Art Medium: Gel-polish
Favorite Nail Trend: I love how artists are taking risks with unconventional nail shapes.

I have been working as a nail technician for about three years, two of which have been at Gel Essentialz. My eyes were really opened after starting at Gel Essentialz. The culture of our salon revolves around creativity and education. It’s the perfect place to grow both creatively and professionally! What I might lack in experience I make up for with enthusiasm and passion for my craft. Being a nail tech isn’t just my job, it’s my creative escape. I’ve never been passionate about anything like I am with nails. I am very thankful I found my niche, because it is rare to love your job. I am starving for knowledge — I want to learn everything I can. I want to build more than a career but a strong foundation for my family.  I would like to educate, distribute, compete, and even invent for the nail industry one day. Professionalism is my top priority.

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Final Challenge: CND



We were asked to create a cohesive collection of 50 nails (5 sets), for fashion designer Johnson Hartig of Libertine. The nails were to be created for his Fall 2015 fashion show. Although we couldn’t see any of his patterns, colors, or sketches, he gave us a few hints as to what his inspiration was behind this secret new fall line. He wrote that he was inspired by Dadaism and surrealist artists.


After taking my previous research about him into consideration, I decided to design my nails based around Johnson’s likes with aspects of Dadaism and surrealism. After watching my video from Jan, I knew I was moving in the correct direction. I formed my collection based around primary colors —colors that will pop on the runway. I also wanted to add plenty of bling, metallic elements, and lots of gold. And I’ve created my first collection! I pushed myself to use all the awesome new things I’ve learned throughout this competition.


For my first set of nails, I took inspiration from Johnson’s home. Between works of art in his home and his actual interior design elements, I came up with the geometric checkerboard nails. I used bold primary colors and black with very clean and precise lines. I used the advice of Jan Arnold to step out of the box. I added oversized wire lettering coated in gel to thicken and color the letters to pop. I used magnets to attach the lettering to the nails for easy on and off access. I also intended for the lettering to be worn from the index finger to the pinky. I added handmade skulls with crystal eyes to the top of each letter “i.” Both Johnson and one of his inspirations, artist Damian Hierst, love creating blinged out skulls, so I created some of my own.


For my second set, I created a set inspired by Libertine’s past styles and also used Dadaism and old propaganda as inspiration. I created the nails using a fresh water color effect, I also used newspaper clippings, which I have a rainbow tie-dye effect. After adding shimmer to the nails, I coated in gold foil flakes, as we all know, Johnson loves gold. Adding oversized pin-like pieces gave the nails that random Dada-esque feeling. A cute yet goofy pic of Hartig is pictured in a handmade acrylic frame with bling. It is also held on with a magnet. The heart-shaped pin is also made with clippings from Libertine’s website.


The third set of nails are a black set with lots of runway appeal. I used the fact that Johnson runs a green company, using vintage clothing to make works of art. I sculpted black leaves from acrylic and added tons of Swarovski bling to the pieces. Next I added a metallic brushed look and free dangling gold chain. I thought it was a cool and chic interpretation of “being green,” which would pair well with any dressy pieces from the new collection. I also know Johnson loves gold sequins so I used gold hexagons to create the thumb nails in this set. It gives a cool illusion from near or far.


For my fourth set, I wanted to tie in all designs. So I used the primary colors I used in the first set, with the gold chain and foil elements from both the other two sets. I created a color block pattern on half the nails outlined in a raised foil effect. I also connected each nail with chain giving it a chic jewelry look. I added the same mixture of Swarovski bling to this set and also sculpted an oversized peace sign and blinged that out also. The Dada movement is a peaceful, creative movement. Johnson is a big advocate for Peace throughout the world, which he travels frequently.


For my final set, I wanted to push the envelope as Jan advised. I created a water color painting in the background. Followed by the Dadaism goo spreading over the traditional look. I painted an eye peeking through the goo. I symbolized myself with this eye. It’s so hard for me to create art without the boundaries of modern opinion. That is why I admire Johnson so much! I want to break the stigma that I can only create neat, organized, balanced artwork. I am stepping out of my box in this competition and it feels very freeing. I added an array of elements. I wanted it to feel like I small piece of Johnson Hartig was on this set. His love for fine art, Chihuahuas, sugar skulls and flowers. I used the rainbow newspaper I used in my second set to create a hard gel sculptured rose. I also sculpted a sugar skull Chihuahua head, which is worn above the nail as a cuticle ring, hovering over the nail. I took the definition of Libertine and encased it in hard gel and created an all seeing Dada-istic eye. I really enjoyed creating this set without any limits.


Click here to see Danielle’s inspiration on her Pinterest board.


Click here to watch Danielle’s final video.

Week 10: Gel II


It’s our last weekly challenge! And I could not be more excited! We were asked to take a cue from Gel II and their temperature-changing gel line, which I have and use often, and capture the feeling of heat and cold with our nail art. Originally my mind automatically went generic. Beautiful sunsets in arctic and tropical locations. But it’s our last challenge and I wanted to think outside the norm. After several days of brainstorming, it hit me when I was speaking to a client about the challenge. Disney’s movie “Frozen”! My son is a big fan of the movie, as is the rest of the world. My personal favorite part is when Olaf the lovable yet naïve snowman breaks into song and dance. In this particular song, Olaf’s Summer Song, he explains his yearning to get out of the cold and enjoy a summer day. He is so cute in explaining all the amazing summer activities he would take place in, however he has no idea what would really happen to a snowman in the summer heat. So I chose to bring this song/scene from “Frozen” to life in my nail entry.


Click here to see a step-by-step tutorial of how Danielle created these nails.


Click here to see Danielle’s HOT and COLD Pinterest inspiration boards.

Week 9: SuperNail


After some major thinking, I decided to go with an underlying boy verses girl theme. I’ve had plenty to relate to in that department lately. So I researched many male and female heroes and villains. I paid close attention to the story lines and tried to find one that I could relate to. I finally came across the lengthy power struggle between a sassy red headed, vine shooting villain, and a stern, emotionless hero. How perfect. I focused on Poison Ivy’s relationship with her love, Batman. Although, he says he cares for her, he never takes her seriously because of her villainess past. And no matter how many times Batman betrays her, or dismisses her love for him, she is still in complete love with him. But today she’s standing up for herself and getting revenge for all the hurtful things he has done to her throughout the decades. My unconventional tools were, industrial double-sided tape, a soft baby tooth brush, embroidery thread, and Manga illustrating markers.


Click here to see a step-by-step tutorial of how Danielle created these nails.

Week 8: Gelish


I am a big charity person. I am always looking for new ways to give back. I love being able to give back through my passion. At the start of NTNA I was interviewed by the local news and vowed if I was blessed enough to win, I would donate the prize money to single parent families, needing housing. When presented with the opportunity to bring awareness to a worthy cause I was ecstatic. Another cause that is very close to my heart is Breast Cancer Awareness. I lost my grandmother to breast cancer two years ago. She was 63. My good friend recently lost her sister to breast cancer this past summer; she was only 26. Breast cancer does not discriminate. It sneaks up on people when they least expect it.


I chose to create my design around a charity organization based in Rhode Island. It is called The Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation. This particular foundation stands out to me because of the services they provide. They focus on the victims and survivors. They provide tons of amazing services for women and their families. “It is our sincere desire to help everyone who has been touched by breast cancer, and our passion is born out of our personal experiences with this disease. We are here to help you through your breast cancer journey with love, support, information, and resources. Whether you are newly diagnosed, a survivor or you’ve lost a love one to this terrible disease, the staff and volunteers of The Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation are here for you. We are committed to helping you restore mind, body and spirit through healing arts programs, education and support.”


On top of the amazing work they do every day, they have a gigantic event each year. It’s called “Flames of Hope.” It is an event in Rhode Island that pretty much everyone takes part in. Survivors, current fighters, and their friends and families are honored in front of the entire state. A huge ceremony at the state house kicks off a 5K charity run. By night, the famous downtown Providence waterfires are joined by a parade of survivors carring tourches. As the flames flow through the city, the suffering, pain, and struggles of so many are released. It is a breathtaking scene, and that is what I tried to capture in my nail design. I used gel, acrylic, gel-polish, and acrylic paint pens to create my masterpiece.


Click here to see a video tutorial of how Danielle created these nails.

Week 7: It’s So Easy


I was so excited when I read the challenge and was able to spend some time on a steampunk set! For those who don’t know, steampunk has a growing community in the sci-fi genre. Victorian fashion is mixed with industrialization and modern-day elements. We were asked to create a set of five wearable nails, and photograph them on a model. They asked us to think outside the norm, and offered us bonus points for using materials that aren’t intended for nail art.


So when planning out my design I focused on the “wearable” aspect. I knew I wanted to create an antiqued layered look. I wanted some of the nails to resemble a magnifying glass by encapsulating industrial items (snow globe effect). I also used layering to draw interest to my nails. I used a combination of gel, gel-polish, gel art paint, decoupage, Swarovski crystals and tiny watch gears and mechanisms to create more dimension. I also created some moving elements to my nails. (What’s the point of adding gears if they can’t add movement to the piece? I wanted to create an intricate set, that you could gaze at and still keep noticing more elements. All while keeping them classy and easy to wear. I expect my art to come back in the same way it left. Adding too many large chunky elements could make the nails look heavy and hard to wear on a daily basis. I didn’t want to take away from the daintiness of my Victorian vibe.


Click here to see a video tutorial of how Danielle created these nails.

Week 6: Dashing Diva


In planning my design, I thought about the reasons I would personally use a decal. 1. If I was behind schedule and I didn’t have time to hand-make my nail art. (Time-saving for nail techs.) 2. I am usually drawn to decals that are intricate or difficult to perfect when hand painting. (Things like lace, chevron, geometric patterns, etc.) 3. I usually look for a set of decals to have many different designs in the package. (Not a fan of 20 decals of the same exact design or that are completely covered in rhinestones.) I like to use decals on one or two nails and save the rest for other occasions. 4. I also wanted the decals to be profitable from a sales standpoint. I didn’t want to do anything too “seasonal” or “niche.” I wanted my design to appeal to a large variety of people, all throughout the year. 5. The decals should also be a design that could be trimmed or custom sized without looking like something was chopped off.


For those reasons I decided to go in a crisp, clean, modern direction. Something where the design has to be perfect or the slightest variation or defect will draw too much attention. I have an eye condition called amblyopia. It causes my eye muscles to work individually, which means they switch back and forth. Because my vison is different in each eye, I have a lot of trouble with depth perception. I never noticed how challenging it was until I became a nail tech. Painting straight and even lines is especially difficult for me. So choosing this style of design was very far outside of my comfort zone. The clean lines of my design would save nail techs (me included) tons of time versus painting by hand. After looking through my own Dashing Diva collection and getting a feel for what the company might be looking for, I decided to go with a neutral palette with a pop of color. This palette of nude, black, and white is a personal favorite of mine and I always get a tremendous increase in social media response when I use these colors. I also wanted to add the modern element of negative space, with a tinted twist. To create my look I used a combination of gel-polish and acrylic paint to create my designs. I wanted to add bling to the design to enhance the contrast of the look, but I didn’t want to go overboard in case someone actually wore all 10 decals. I used a variety of Swarovski crystals and neon studs to match my bright accent color, giving it the perfect amount of sparkle.


Click here to see a video tutorial of how Danielle created these nails.

Week 5: Entity Beauty


For this week’s project, we were asked to use Entity’s ad campaign from their first year to inspire a set of nails. They are supposed to be a set we would want to wear to their 10th year anniversary party. So first I wanted to do some research on Entity as a company. They are branded in such an elegant way. Everything is light and muted; it’s subtle but gets their point across. They use fonts and a logo that compliment that. Entity is about beautiful timeless nails. The ads were minimalistic as far as the nails. They used a soft French manicure to create imagery. Each ad had a theme adding to the focal point of the nails. (I’m glad I avoided my urge to go in an angel vs. demon direction. I think it would be way too much.) Each ad had movement. Tons of movement. Whether flames or silky fabric blowing in the wind, the ads definitely evoked a feeling of elegance and movement. So I knew which direction to start thinking. My second task was to look into the history of a 10th anniversary. Ten years is definitely an admired milestone from a business perspective. You’ve made it. You are no longer a fresh start-up company. People know your brand, trust it, and recommend it. It’s a great achievement! (Congrats ENTITY!) A 10-year anniversary also is known as the diamond anniversary. So I knew I wanted to incorporate lots of bling. In olden times, it was known as the metal or aluminum anniversary. So, I wanted to add lots of metallic tones also.


After researching and starting my concept I knew I wanted to keep it clean. The Entity ads all had a French, so I wanted to incorporate a French into at least some of my design. The ads all had some element of movement, so I knew I wanted to create a flowy illusion. I liked the feeling the feathered ad gave me, so I knew I wanted to incorporate a small wearable feather. I also liked the fabric ad with the pearls, so I knew I needed to include some pearls. I knew I wanted to include Entity’s logo. And I knew I needed to add the elements that represented a 10-year anniversary (diamonds and aluminum). We also needed to use a combo of mediums, so I used hard gel, gel-polish, acrylic, and art paint. I used a marble technique to create movement on some of the nails. I added some raised elements, like an acrylic number 10, pearls and crystals, and a handmade acrylic feather. I kept the color palette muted to keep the overall feel of the Entity brand.


Click here to see a step-by-step tutorial of how Danielle created these nails.

Week 4: INM


I thought the theme this week was awesome! I am constantly reminded of my heritage. My family owns a few authentic Italian restaurants, and even an imported Italian specialty store. So every time I go in there I feel the Italian and Greek ties. There is a large population of Italians living in Rhode Island and we are known for our amazing restaurants and quality authentic food. I first considered making plates of food, but I wanted to focus on the actual location of my heritage. This part of the globe is so alive! The greens are greener and the blues are breathtaking. When you see pictures of Greece and Italy, it makes you want to jump into the bright blue ocean. For my project, I decided to go with a globe theme. I wanted to create a realistic feel with different textures. I used a marbleized, layered effect on the nails and finished them with a glossing gel. I used acrylic for my countries and I used a matte finish to give the piece some depth. I added Swarovski crystals to the landmasses to show the capital cities, Rome, Italy and Athens, Greece. I finished my globe off with a gold compass. I created a politically correct flag for each country. And I added a handmade banner to pull all the pieces together. I created some vines and acrylic flowers native to that region of the world to add an aged effect.


Click here to see a video of how Danielle created these nails.

Week 3: ORLY International


This challenge was definitely just that, a challenge! It took me a few days to even decide on a design. Once I figured out if I should go in a traditional style or an artistic style, the rest of the process began to come together.


I knew I wanted to focus on LA fashion. The entire world looks to the privileged people of Los Angeles to show us what’s trending. I believe that fashion is a major staple in the LA community. Most people will probably choose Hollywood. But I wanted to go in a different direction. I designed my nails to showcase the fashion capital of the country. Rodeo Drive is everything that is fashion. It’s been around for generations, it’s vintage. It’s just as popular today as it was 20 years ago, which is trendy. And it is rapidly moving forward. With each season, it is resurfaced with new ideas and styles. It is modern. I hope you enjoy my French Manicure style LA Nails.


Click here to see a step-by-step tutorial of how Danielle created these nails.

Week 2: Bio Seaweed Gel


I really loved this challenge! I normally use gel, but I was excited to try a fantasy style. Rather than creating one huge sea monster I researched the names of Bio Seaweed Gel’s new colors, and with the given theme I wanted to broaden the idea pool and take an “under the sea” approach. I wanted to create five individual sculpted pieces of art that are all unified “under the sea.” I wanted to give each nail tip a different type of texture, created by different gels. People tend to think gel is a sticky mess waiting to happen, but with three easy tips you can turn gel into an artistic friend versus a foe. Tip #1: Only pick gel up on one side of your brush. When you’re applying gel to a surface, do NOT touch the brush to any area you don’t want gel in. Even if you barely graze the cuticle the product will pool into that area. Tip #2: Use the proper viscosity gel for the job. Thick gels are good to sculpt and build with, self-leveling gels can fill in gaps or smooth an area out. Tip #3: Whichever gel you choose, remember you can always flash cure! It’s like having a “save button” in the nail world. It definitely helped me with my Seaweed Safari nails.


Click here to see a video of how Danielle created these nails.

Week 1: Young Nails


In a time where everyone is always busy and rushing around (usually with their eyes glued to some type of technological device), there isn’t much time to be creative. So when you decide to create art, it cannot be rushed. I chose to use the motto “Art Takes Time.” I figured it was appropriate for me since my clients and coworkers are always reminding me how much time I spend on each client. My response is usually, “art takes time.” I try to create a mini masterpiece on each client. Art is my way to express myself and it’s the only mental escape I have nowadays. For my Week 1 challenge, I tried to create a mural with a colorful backdrop. To enhance the beauty of each color I chose to paint the back ground with water colors. Next, I used acrylic paint to create some items that indicated the time portion of my theme. I also added a flower to represent the natural beauty of God’s artwork. Lastly, I added my motto. This was my first time creating a nail mural, and my first time using only paints (with no gel products). It was definitely a challenge for me to get acquainted with acrylic paint, but I would like to thank NAILS, CND, and Young Nails for pushing and inspiring me to step out of my comfort zone. P.S. Art takes time!