The second step is, in my opinion, non-negotiable! This fantastic L'oreal base coat is the best base coat I've ever tried, and believe me, I've tried many. Manicures are notoriously short-lived for me. I've tried all kinds of "long-lasting" polish, even the guaranteed no-chip that you get from the salon. Even that is really pushing the limit if it lasts ten days. And the down side to the no-chip Gelish nails is that they aren't that much fun! You can try to paint nail art on those, but they naturally repel it.
When you apply this Quick Dry Base Coat, you only need one coat. It feels like it takes a while to dry, but the truth is, it remains a tad bit tacky to the touch, with an almost gritty undertone to it. This is intentional, and the reason this base coat is so good. It's designed to keep the manicure and the nail bonded to each other, and believe me, it does the job. Like any manicure that is not well-cared-for, the final design may wear and chip after while, but this base coat does a better job of keeping the bond strong than most other base coats do.
The next step to this manicure is to gather the tools and colors that you want to use. I wanted to use a light baby blue and black, for sharpest contrast. The tools I needed were masking tape and zig-zag scrapbooking scissors. I used Sally Hansen Pure + Smooth nail color. As a personal note, I generally prefer Essie colors, but every time I go to the store in search of this sweet baby blue, the Essie version is sold out. So
Once your base coat is to your preference (with Essie, it takes approximately two coats, while with this Sally Hansen color, it takes about three), you should begin preparing your masking tape for the French tip. Again, I chose the black color to have the crispest contrast, but when you're working with such opposing colors, you do have to be very careful to not feather the colors under the tape. There's a delicate balance because pressing the tape down on your nail too hard can cause the base color to come up. I usually wait at least 30 minutes before applying the sticky tape to my base color, just to be on the safe side. This can give you time to experiment with your tape pieces.
Once you're ready to start applying the guides to your nails and painting the tips, you can either apply the tips to one hand at a time, or if you have some time to spare, one nail at a time. I like to do one nail at a time myself because then I can be sure that each one is perfect. I do often apply the guide all at once though. Painting the tip is actually quite simple. You can apply as much polish as needed in the first coat, and often subsequent coats are not necessary. Just remember to double check that before removing the guide because it will be really hard to try and tape the guide back on once you've removed it! Don't forget to remove the tape VERY gently so as not to pull off the base color beneath, or the French tip where it overlaps the tape slightly.
When the French tip is complete, you can double check any lines that need to be fixed or made more defined, because sometimes those lines can feather a little with the removal of the tape. This is also a good time to work on the retouching that may be required wherever the masking tape has pulled up some base color.
If you want to do a cute design like the one I chose for my accent nail, you can either mask out the main line of the ribbon and free-hand paint the bow with an art brush, or you can free-hand it with a nail art pen. I've done both. I love these nail art pens! They came out this year though, and they're quite expensive. I suspect they're being discontinued already because I can seldom find them anymore. I got this one at Target where it had been reduced to $7 (yes, reduced!) and there were only a few color options available where they used to be pretty extensive. Let me know if you find them for sale anywhere! I'd love to know if they're still around! They make painting designs a lot easier for those with an unsteady hand or those who are in a big hurry.
Before you can call this manicure "complete," you need to add your topcoat! This is especially important if you're using the nail art pen, because the texture of the polish is a little different from the rest of the nail. Also, where you've removed the masking tape, your French tip may peel away slightly, and this top coat is the perfect way to keep it secure. (Remember your French tip doesn't have that added protection of the base coat like the rest of the nail. I have considered trying to do a base coat under the tip as well, but haven't yet. I will let you know when I do!)
Here is the finished product! Let me know if you try this design, or if you have your own cool design you'd like to share on my blog! Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to contribute, or leave a comment below. I'd love to see your own fancy manicure creations.