Polished to perfection: Manicure artists nail elite designs
By JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
Published: Thursday, March 14, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
The canvas is the nail.
Manicurists become artists when creating designs on fingers and toes.
“Nail art is fun,” says Merita Blocker, a nail technician at Alta Villa Spa and Salon, Downtown. “It definitely takes skill and a steady hand and some God-given talent. You have to have an eye for nail art.”
You also have to know your client to be able to gauge if a certain design fits her lifestyle, Blocker says. Nails are a way to express personality. Blocker has customers who have a lot of flair and fashion sense and who love the latest trends in clothing and accessories, so why not dress up their nails, too?
“If someone is more reserved, I am not going to put anything outlandish on them,” says Blocker, who often practices a design on herself and family members first.
Mastering nail art requires an attention to detail, nail technicians say. Manicurists begin by painting basic dots, lines, bows and checkers and add jewels and gemstones.
“You can put anything on a nail,” says Stephanie Lavery, editor-in-chief of Nail It! magazine. “Nail art ... allows manicurists to be creative.”
The traditional French manicure — a pink, beige or nude base with a white tip — now includes different colors such as black, white or even jewel tones and possibly adding some embellishments or doing a reverse option.
Pretty much anything you do to nails can be done on toes, manicurists say.
“Professionals can really take your nails to the next level,” Lavery says.
Nail art is for all nail sizes, say experts at Zoya.
Don't be afraid of nail art if you have shorter, natural nails — simply scale things down a bit, they advise. Highlight a single nail with a focal color or detail to make the trend work for you. When you feel more comfortable, move on to an ombre flow of color, interesting topper, textured polish or fun-colored nail tip/moon combination.
“Some women still like to match (a pedicure and manicure), but it is not necessary,” says Brenda Schuck, nail technician at Sognatore, Downtown. “Find what works for you.
“You can do the tip or the moon, or just highlight one nail with an embellishment,” she says.
Nail trends follow what's on the runway, such as color-blocking, embellishments and jewel tones. The trendy ombre look can be done with a special sponge to create a watercolor effect on nails.
Most manicures start at $25 to $35 and tack on up to $10 more for nail art.
Having the gel and shellac polishes makes for easier creation of amazing designs for manicurists, says Michelle Mismas, founder of All Lacquered Up, a nail-focused beauty blog. She says texture is the hottest nail trend for 2013.
Celebrity influence is big, she says, as is inspiration from Japan, where nail art is huge.
Nail technician Andrea Tomko from Studio Booth in the East End often gets ideas from her daughter, who sees nail designs on Pinterest. Tomko says lots of sparkles and line designs are hot.
“Color is really big now,” says Tomko, who was wearing blue polish with bling on her ring finger. “We are seeing lots of jewel tones. And the party finger is big. That's where you make the ring finger look different than the rest of the fingers.”
Tomko's colleague Susan Smajda says nail technicians can persuade a client to try something edgy.
“People notice nails,” Smajda says. “I have clients who I have gotten to try something new and different, and they come back and tell me they love it.”
Nail art is gaining popularity because women have figured out ways to do it at home, and it is easy to do, Mismas says.
Kits include tools and come in themes from movies, characters and even patterns such as fishnet and lace. Some nail art pens wash off with water, so you don't have to re-do the polish underneath if you make a mistake.
“Nail art has never been more popular than it is today,” says Candace Szpiech, Red Carpet Manicure nail technician. “With the boom of social media and sites like Instagram, Tumblr and thousands of nail blogs, sharing nail art is more accessible than ever. Nail art is an affordable form of self-expression.”
Celebrities Katy Perry and Rihanna frequently post pictures of their own nails, says Szpiech. She says there are amazing textures such as sand, caviar and velvet.
Red Carpet Manicure has a “gems and jewel” nail art kit that provides the tools to create a matte look seen on runways at New York Fashion Week. Red Carpet, based in Long Island, N.Y., sells kits nationwide at ULTA, Target and select other stores. Kits contain everything from glitter, sponges, dotting tools, rhinestones and decals. Websites give step-by-step tutorials outlining how to create specific designs.
“The great part about creating nail art is that it can be as simple as a few polka dots,” Szpiech says. “Nail art has no creative limits or boundaries — it is what you make of it.
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7889.
For those who want to do nail art themselves at home, Catherine Rodgers offers tips in her book, “DIY Nail Art: Easy, Step-by-Step Instructions for 75 Creative Nail Art Designs” (F+W/Adams Media, $15.95).
Some designs include hot-pink zebra, summer citrus and black lace.
Rodgers says the most important thing to remember is practice makes perfect. Don't get discouraged if your first design doesn't come out exactly like the picture. Creating the perfect manicure and nail-art design isn't just about color or pattern. You must allow each nail-polish layer to dry as you complete each step to make the design last.
You also have to make sure your nails are in good shape.
Your go-to nail-art kit should include a dotting tool, a nail-art brush, nail decals, a palette, a top coat, and the nail colors you're using. Dotting tools create dots, flowers, a starry sky and can even enhance designs with a few strategic dots. A nail-art brush is needed for more complex designs, such as leaves or roses. Nail decals can easily be applied using a pair of tweezers. Acrylic paint can be mixed to create a variety of colors.
Before you start any design, wipe your nails with a cotton ball soaked in nail polish remover — even if your nails aren't painted — to eliminate any oil and allow the polish to better adhere.
A base and top coat can also add a professional touch. A base coat will preserve your natural nail and create a smooth canvas to work on while the top coat seals in your design.
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