FAQs (as of December 2014)

Hi everyone! While I’m on vacation, I thought I’d write a post that answers some questions I’ve gotten about my nail art. In addition to making this post, I’m going to add an FAQs page to my blog so that this content is easy to find in the future. I hope the answers are helpful!

How often do you change your manicures?

On average, I change my manicures once every 5 days. Most of the time, my manicures could still look good after five days, but I change them anyways because I want to do something else. However, I am more inclined to keep the more intricate and time-consuming nail art on for a longer period of time, like a week. My work schedule and upcoming events also strongly influence how frequently I change my manicures. If I’m busy, my manicures stay on longer. If an event is coming up, I’ll often change my nails to suit the setting.

What products (base coat, topcoat, cuticle care, etc.) do you use?

The topcoat I almost always use is Sally Hansen Insta-Dri. It comes in a red bottle that’s inside of a box, and can be easily found in just about every drugstore. It’s hands-down the best one I’ve ever tried: it is relatively cheap and easy to find, dries quickly, doesn’t give me “shrinkage”, doesn’t contain toluene, leaves a glossy finish, and gives me great durability. While it can smudge nail art a bit, usually my manicures are pretty dry by the time I apply topcoat and this isn’t a problem for me. I swear, every time I try a different topcoat, I always always come running back to Sally Hansen Insta-Dri because nothing else compares to its perfection.

I’m much less committed to my base coat than I am to my topcoat. I’ve tried several, and many of them work equally well. Zoya Anchor is the one I’m using now (and I like it very much), but other ones that I’ve tried and like include Orly Bonder, Sparitual LacquerLock, and Revlon ColorStay (which, very sadly, has been discontinued). As for cuticle care, I haven’t done much investigation into different options. The only thing I’ve tried is Burt’s Bees Cuticle Balm, and it seems to work well for me. I apply it every few days to my fingers and massage it into my cuticles. This seems to work well for keeping them smooth and intact. That, and not peeling away broken skin at my cuticles.

Do you have a favorite nail polish brand? What do you recommend?

There are several brands of nail polish that I like at both drugstore and salon price points. I’m not going to name any names here, but you can probably figure out some of them if you read my posts. Generally, I like the brands that consistently apply well, give me great durability, have a fantastic color selection, and aren’t horrendously expensive. I suggest that you try different brands of nail polish to figure out your personal favorites, since a lot of my brand choices are subjective and opinion-based. Durability, for instance, is pretty variable from person-to-person, so what lasts on me (and influences my polish purchases) may be different from other people.

Have you ever completely used up a bottle of nail polish?

Yep! I’ve completely finished exactly one bottle of nail polish: L’Oreal Wishful Pinking. It’s a sheer pink that works well as a French manicure polish, and so I use it every time I do a French manicure. I’ve also used up several bottles of base coat and topcoat, but I’m not counting those as “polish colors”.

How do you think of nail art ideas to do?

My ideas come from many sources. I’d say the biggest source is probably the internet/nail art blogs/Instagram – basically, other nail artists. There are so many wonderful ideas on the internet! Other times, I’m inspired by one nail polish or a group of polishes, and figure out a nail art idea that uses it/them. I like doing this for different collections of nail polish, such as from subscription boxes, because I like exercising my creativity in this way.

I also ask my family and friends for ideas because I like their input and use it. My boyfriend has been the source of many of the ideas for my manicures; he will usually say a few words like “scary trees” or “dark blue with moons” (in the gallery) and I’ll turn that into something. My friend Kimi, who is also into nail art, comes up with a lot of ideas too. Her ideas are usually pretty fleshed-out, down to the specific polishes to use. She came up with the Disney series, for example. My mom has also helped me out with some nail art ideas. Usually, her ideas are classic and toned-down, like this subtle framed manicure.

How do you make such clean-looking nail art?

It’s a combination of the right tools, lots of practice, and a few tricks. I worked up to the skill level I’m at now over time, starting with figuring out how to use Q-tips and continuing from there. Less than a year ago was the first time I tried doing freehand nail art, and  looking back I can see how much progress I’ve made. Of course, the right tools make a huge difference in getting the results I want; I talk about that more in my next question. Small nail art brushes have made my life a whole lot easier! As I’ve gotten more practiced at nail art, I’ve picked up some tricks along the way too. One of the first things I figured out how to do was to make nail art stencils. I also figured out some ways to correct my mistakes that really help things to look tidy. I’m going to post tutorials on those two methods eventually, hopefully in the next year.

What tools do you use for nail art? Where do you get them?

I have an arsenal of various sizes of brushes at my disposal, some dotting tools, and a few household implements that I use to do nail art. The dotting tools and some of the brushes came from Amazon, while other brushes came from Michael’s or Sally Beauty Supply. I frequently use Q-tips in nail art to disperse glitter or to make diffuse clouds, and makeup sponges to make gradients. Sometimes I’ll use sticker paper, which can be found in office supply stores, to make stencils for certain designs.

Do you demo your ideas before you do them on your nails?

Absolutely! Most of the time – and especially for difficult designs – I will try out my nail art ideas before attempting a full manicure; I refer to this process as “prototyping” in my head. If I want to see how the elements I want to include in my design fit together, then I might sketch it out on paper. Sometimes, I want to see how the polishes will work together in the design, and so I’ll try out my ideas on one or two nails or I’ll paint a piece of paper. This  allows me to truly tell if I can execute the design based on how the colors of the polishes look together, how opaque they are, what kinds of formula issues they have, etc. Based on how the prototyping goes, I might change which polishes make it into the final design, add or delete design elements, or modify my polishing process to accommodate some polish formula considerations.

Do you do your designs on both hands? What does your right hand look like?

Yes, I always paint both of my hands with the same design, or at least a highly similar one. As a dominantly right-handed person (I’m not ambidextrous), it’s easier for me to paint and photograph my left hand than my right hand. All the same, I consider it a worthy challenge to paint my right hand with the same design as my left, and so I do. Someday, I’ll do a post featuring my right (“Cinderella”) hand…someday…

How long does it take you to do nail art?

A looooooooong time. I’m very slow at doing nail art, and I take a lot of breaks in between steps. I’d say my nail art between 1-5 hours, depending on difficulty. Sometimes if I’m doing something really hard, I do some steps one day, like making a gradient for the background, and I’ll finish the rest of the design the next day. One of the reasons I take a while is because I always paint my right hand with the same design that goes on my left (see the previous answer). Since I usually leave my manicures on for more than one day, the time investment in both hands is worth it for me.

That’s it for now! I hope this post has been interesting, maybe even helpful. Thanks for reading!

– Emi

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