Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Stamping For Beginners

As you may know, I recently started stamping, and I'm pretty happy about that. It was a calculated risk, because I'm not exactly the most coordinated gal, but I've had some success with it. I'm a natural researcher, so while I waited impatiently for my kit to arrive, I must have looked at 50 tutorials. Last weekend I did some simple flower stamping, and that process made me think about the things a new stamper might want to know.

First, here are some great resources:
Lacquer or Leave Her's Nail Stamping 102 post is fantastic. I tend to prefer a wordier blog style with lots of pictures (nooo! really?), and this post both shows and tells the process clearly and gives some great tips on what polish brands stamp well.

For those of you who are more step by step picture people, Nail Art 101 (who I love, by the way) have a good visual step-by-step with a few tips thrown in at the end.

Finally, for our audio-visual learning types, this video from Elleandish hits the basics in 4 minutes or less. She's using a stamper almost identical to mine, which was cheap and works great.

I've also started picking up a few of my own best practices for nail stamping. In the images here, I'm wearing Sally Hansen Insta-Dri in Going Grape and stamped with Sally Hansen Hard As Nails in Pumping Iron. I usually shoot for more opaque polishes to stamp, but I wanted a more subtle, faded look to compliment Going Grape's amazing duochrome effect. Robin Sparkles shows how well metallics can look in a stamping design in her Valentine's design video. Here are my own tips for those of you in the same boat as me:

- For me, one of the challenges has been figuring out what colors to use together. Black and white are always winners, but try colors in the same family for an elegant effect, like a dark green over seafoam or deep aubergine over lilac.
-Stamping is a great way to get mileage out of thickened polishes, too- thicker polishes stamp really well. For more pronounced designs, every black and white I've tried have worked fine, and Julep cremes have worked well, too-Gayle stamps like a dream.
-Roll the stamper all the way across the nail rather than trying to dab on the design. I'm constantly half stamping, so be careful about that.
-Sometimes I use more than one design and stamp twice on different parts of the same nail to make a look that's all mine.
-Finally, I always use a thick coat of quick dry topcoat before stamping. Then if I mess up, I swipe a q-tip dabbed in acetone over the design and almost never have to redo the whole nail, even if it takes two or three tries. Seal it all in with another layer of topcoat, and you've got it.

Isn't Grape Going fabulous? I'm falling madly in love with Sally Hansen duochromes. What stamping techniques have you picked up, and which stamping looks do you still covet? What polishes are made for stamp art?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Lacquer Legion: Glam Glitter Flames

This month's Lacquer Legion prompt is Glam, which I was super excited about! After running through a dozen ideas in my mind, I decided to keep it simple: muted tones with a little sparkle, using one of my most glamorous polishes.

As tempted as I was to glitterbomb the heck out of this prompt, I've always found glamour in simplicity, a la Kaley Cuoco, J Lo, and Isla Fisher's sparkly nude gowns. These flames are Julep Love, and the base is Rimmel Lasting Finish Pro in Bare Naked, my favorite nude. Love is a special edition polish with a glamorous gold top, lending it the perfect street cred for a Glam mani.

Wanna see some more pictures? Ok!

I admittedly went a touch crazy with the photos, but capturing this mani was a little difficult because of the monochrome color scheme-plus I tried my hand at outdoor photography this time.

Love was a free gift with the February Maven box, and since then has not been available to purchase. As of right now, though, you can pick it up in one of their Mother's Day gift sets. Will you be participating in Lacquer Legion this month? Even though I got impatient and leaked mine early, you still have time to create nail glam and post it to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with hashtag #LLGlam on April 28th. Tag me at @SecretNailBlog on Twitter so I can see your art!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Gradient Practice

I've expressed my love for glitter gradients before, and lit up Twitter with googly eyes over the Nailasaurus gradient tutorial, but my own non-glitter gradient technique hasn't quite found its rhythm yet. This week I practiced my gradients, and while it's still not perfect, I've made a little progress.

I started with a sparkly pink gradient that came out much better than I thought it would. I used two Sally Hansen Hard as Nails in Champagne and Sally Hansen Diamond Strength in Rose Amore. Rose Amore is the perfect opacity and consistency for gradients, but Champagne wasn't a great match as far as texture, especially since it was an older bottle. The colors worked nicely together, though. Coming off of a massive fail on an ambitious attempt at the coveted nude/midnight blue gradient, the discovery that a dab of Champagne on the ends made a beautiful shifting gradient was a happy accident.

My second gradient didn't come out very well, even when I threw glitter at it- and I thought glitter could salvage anything. For this one I used two new colors (well, one new and one just new to me): Sally Hansen Insta Dri in Quick Sand and NYC In A Minute in Robin's Egg Blue. I've not been crazy about the In A Minute polishes I've tried because of the thin formula, but I figured this would make them fabulous for gradients, which was true. This one just didn't work out well, even with a sparkly ribbon of Julep Joelle to try to smooth out the look.

The last gradient is the one I was the happiest with. This round, I followed the Nailasaurus method faithfully. I gave Robin's Egg Blue another shot with a favorite, Sally Hansen Insta Dri in Lively Lilac. Robin's Egg Blue looked mint green in the store, and I still think it's too greenish for the name, but it's quite nice, which I couldn't tell so much in the other gradient. It is thin, so excuse my smudgy cleanup. I finished it out with a floral stamp (from plate to-12 at the link) using Julep Gayle, which stamps wonderfully.

I still need some practice before I can get the flawless gradients I crave, but we're off to a good start!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Deer Season Camo Nails Tutorial

Disclaimer: Some products used in this post have been provided to me for my honest review.

Today I have a fun and easy how-to for my country girls: deer season camo. But first, a confession. This is not a design I would normally wear. I am a classic yuppie girl. I don't even know when deer season is. My partner has decided that he'd like to try hunting, though, so when these cute little deer head decals arrived from Nailed It Decals, I saw it as an opportunity to show an interest (it will probably be the last time, but hey...). These decals are so, so easy to use! What draws me to this shop is that in addition to the standard chevrons, hearts, and stripes, they have decals that are different enough from the standard that you probably won't find them anywhere else. Where else can you find decals to show nail love for this kind of hobby (or, if you're more like me, pay tribute to your favorite hunter)?

I started out with an accent nail base of Nicole for OPI in Naturally with a thin coat of Julep Maren, a leftover from the previous manicure (I've been a master repurposer this week), to girlie it up a little. I painted my other nails with a new polish, Sephora for OPI in Caught With My Khakis Down, an army green creme.

To get my easy camo background, I used a two sided dotting tool with one side bigger than the other.

I wiggled stripes of Caught With My Khakis Down about halfway across the nail using the larger side of the dotting tool, a few on each side.

I gave them a minute to dry, then followed up more wiggly stripes directly next to the green ones in Revlon Bare Naked, a slightly pinky nude, also with the large side of the tool. I made a point to make some of the nude lines longer and some shorter.

Finally, I used the smaller side of the dotting tool to accent the lines with Sally Hansen Black Out. I didn't overthink this part, I just added black lines and swoops anywhere I wanted to give the design some dimension.

After putting a quick dry topcoat over my camo design (mostly because I'm impatient), I pulled my decal off with a pair of tweezers and carefully placed it on the nail. Since my accent was my index finger, I used the medium sized of the three sizes included on the page. I used my cleaned off dotting tool to carefully press the decal down on the nail, then covered it with two coats of topcoat.
My decals, tweezers, and super sophisticated postcard-in-a-baggie polish palette

Isn't it cute? I'll admit, I didn't think this was one I'd keep on for long, but the pop of pink and unexpectedness of this design won me over. If you're looking to create a deer season mani of your own, you can get these decals in a color of your choice here. Be sure to use discount code SSNB20 to get 20% off of all of your Nailed It Decals orders, and show me your designs on Facebook and Twitter!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Weekend Nails: My First Stamping Adventure

My first stamping kit arrived this week! After 6 weeks of waiting, I had scared myself a little bit-had I waited all this time and ordered all this stamping stuff only to discover that I'm not coordinated enough to stamp? Luckily, after a few practice rounds earlier this week, I can report that I'm happy with my results for my first attempt.

I love the old Sailor Jerry style of tattooing, so I was pleased to find these adorable sparrows on a stamping plate. This color scheme is based on one of my own tattoos, with the gradient nails mix and matched from the other designs on this playful plate.
My ink-spiration
For the other hand, I played with freehand lettering, paying homage to myself and my sweetie with our first initials.
For this design, I used Nicole for OPI Naturally with Julep Maren as a sheer topper, Sally Hansen XTreme Wear in Blue Me Away, and stamped with Sally Hansen XTreme Wear in White On and Black Out. Stamping isn't nearly as difficult as I feared, though you do have to be fast, which I typically am not. I put a quick dry topcoat over my polish before stamping as well, to both prevent smudges and allow me to get away with gently wiping off the design if it didn't come out well. I'm happy with the result, and with practice I'll get better.

Now that you've seen my mani, look at all my stuff!

TEN stamping plates! Six striping tapes! Five pages of stickers and decals! French tip guides! I went nuts. Shipping takes foreeeever, but the Born Pretty Store prices are fantastic, and I'm very happy with the quality of the products. I also got decals this week from Nailed It Decals for a great NOTD design, and picked up a new polish that I think will be a surprise favorite. I officially have more inspiration than I know what to do with!

Unappreciated Polish Reviews

I love nail art. However, my polish hoarding + nail art love= a large cross section of polishes that I've never actually seen. My Houndstooth post brought this to light when I realized I had never really worn Julep Mona long enough to get a feel for it before that mani. Maybe it was time to return to a few of those colors I haven't yet given a fair shake. Get ready, this is a long one...


First on the docket is Julep Octavia, a "smoky indigo creme." You may remember it as a supporting player in my glittery dripping paint design and nautical nail art. You may also remember that I wasn't initially too impressed with Octavia as a standalone color. But much like Octavia Spencer (who is my guess for the namesake of this color), as it trickled into my nail art I began to suspect that Octavia is a power color who deserves a chance to be a leading lady. When worn alone, you really get to see the range of this color, from a dark midnight blue to cheerful deep grape. It's a great blue "neutral"- understated, but not ordinary.


When I first tried Mariska in my April Maven Review post, I was optimistic. The finish was a little odd, but I was willing to try it again sometime. Unfortunately, a full manicure has brought me to the conclusion that this color is not me at all. Without a topcoat, it's matte, which brings down the loud factor...but it's not shiny! With a topcoat, it's a neon orange that reminds me of traffic cones. The barely-there shimmer disappears with topcoat as well.  The formula is ok; it feels thick when you're putting it on, but I still have visible nail line after two coats. Sadly, Mariska will be relegated to neon accents and supporting Peyton Manning with Broncos fanicures.

Making Waves-Sally Hansen Triple Shine

I bought Making Waves secretly hoping it would be a dupe for Nicole by OPI American Ocean, a favorite polish from years ago that I think has since been discontinued. Making Waves is a little greener and more duochrome than I remember American Ocean being. It's very sheer, mostly green, with an interesting lavender sheen in certain light that gradiates into a chrome blue. It reminds me of fish scales (in a good way). One unpleasant surprise- I scratched my head too soon and my polish wrinkled. I guess I'm spoiled-my topcoat usually dries hard in 5 minutes or less. I gently pushed down the wrinkles with my finger, applied one more coat of polish to the ruined nails, and topcoated again. I'm not sure if I just got impatient or if this polish is a little more resistant to quick drying topcoat because of the multiple layers needed. I'm guessing it's a little of both. I like the possibilities of this color for layering and nail art, but I probably won't wear it on it's own very often.

Wined Up-Sally Hansen Insta Dri

It was love at first sight with Wined Up. Deep red was a staple color that went by the wayside for me when I started doing nail art because it tends not to play well with other colors and finishes. A deep, shimmery burgundy, this color is near perfect. It's rich, but not "vampy," a term that instantly turns me off  when I see it in polish reviews- not typically my style. I've absolutely loved every Insta Dri polish that I've tried, and this one is a stunning color with great 1-2 coat application. The chrometastic shine from the topcoat really puts it over the top. Cleanup was a little messy; the red color and sticky shimmer particles made my cuticles look inflamed, but by morning the remaining red tinge had rubbed off of my skin. I could definitely see myself wearing Wined Up when I'm short on nailspiration but don't want to go bare.

Naturally-Nicole for OPI, Selena Gomez

This is a color I've always had mixed feelings about, and kind of still do. I got Naturally and Pretty In Plum ridiculously cheap from the Selena Gomez collection. I've worn Pretty in Plum as a headliner, and I love it. Nicole by OPI polishes are a bit of a weakness for me; they were the first "designer" polishes I ever tried, and for a while the only way I could get them was for my nail tech aunt to get them for me at the beauty supply store. Some teenagers beg adults to buy them cigarettes, I begged them to buy me nail polish. I was thrilled when they went mainstream, but my budget means I have to buy them conservatively. Naturally jumped at me in bottle, but wasn't my cup of tea on the nail. So it sat, occasionally pulled out for an accent, but, appropriately, always a bridesmaid, never a bride. I would describe Naturally as Barbie pink. It's kind of bright, but not a hot pink. It has a little bit of shimmer, almost invisible on the nail. It's nicer than I expected, but I still think it's not a full mani color for my skin tone. Application wasn't great either, I needed three coats to even out the streakiness. It would look great under Julep Maren, which is a pearlier, sheer Barbie pink that I absolutely love. One plus: cleanup was excellent on this color. This is probably the neatest looking mani all week.

All of these swatches are over Bridge the Ridge base coat and under Julep Freedom Polymer topcoat and were taken anywhere from immediately after polishing to one day after. What colors in your collection have been relegated to nail purgatory? Is there a reason for that, or is it time to let them shine?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Inspired by Doll Fashion

You may notice that today's nails aren't mine-or maybe you won't, because they belong to my mini-me. I try, mostly unsuccessfully, to impart on my kids that not only does good nail care look pretty, but it prevents hangnails, fungus, and other unpleasantness, and my daughter will usually let me have at it if I promise a soon-to-be-demolished paint job at the end. The boy preferred just a clip and file, but he let me give him a once over with cuticle cream (he has lovely nails, I kinda miss when he wanted nails like Mom). True to my own heart, Mini-Me's nail look is inspired by fashion...doll fashion.
Excuse my poor cleanup-I don't like to use pure acetone on Mini-Me

When I asked what color she wanted, Mini-Me presented me with a dress belonging to Draculaura, a doll from the Monster High line. While Monster High as a whole isn't exactly my favorite thing (it was a compromise, I refused to budge on Bratz), the dress is actually pretty cute-a leathery pink with a sparkly tulle layer over the skirt. The color I used to mimic the tulle was Julep Joelle, of course.

The base color was harder. After examining my swatch book, I chose Sally Hansen Hard as Nails in Dahlia. This is a color I like a lot, but have had for a while, so I needed to add thinner, and my application still looks a little clumsy. My choice was confirmed, though, when I accidentally swiped the dress with polish but couldn't even see it after wiping it off with a paper towel. It was a sign!

This color combo is so pretty I may have to use it myself, and Mini-Me seems to have impressive hand modeling skills! Do you ever do mini-manis with your sweethearts? Show them off on Twitter and tag me @SecretNailBlog!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Nails By ChiChi Houndstooth

Houndstooth is a made-for-Weekend-Nails pattern. I've been avoiding it because it seemed a little too difficult to get right. In fact, that has been a theme for me with this pattern. I think it's adorable, but it just doesn't seem to be something I can pull off. Last night though, in the middle of the week, no less, I got brave and decided to give it a shot. When I want to do something difficult, a pictorial is my preferred how-to guide for step-by-step instructions. After examining multiple houndstooth pictorials, I chose one from Nails By Chi Chi, a site I hadn't seen before, and I'm definitely planning to go back there the next time I need inspiration.

For this design, I used Julep Mona, a deep, moody grey, with Sally Hansen XTreme Wear in White On, with the Salon Perfect striper in White Out to create the pattern. I used my regular Mega Shine on top, and tried my new Bridge the Ridge basecoat. I didn't notice any major differences from my normal bases, but I can say my mani is very smooth, even with an unforgiving creme finish. It was surprisingly easy! I was completely overthinking it.

Much like real houndstooth, it's not much to look at close up, but the overall result is both classy and fabulous. Maybe this will give me the courage to try a houndstooth scarf or pair of heels. Have you ever been nail-spired by Nails By Chi Chi? I think the One Stroke Roses might be my next project.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Maven Review and Bow Nail Art

I was really happy with this month's Julep Maven selection. I took my default Classic With a Twist box, and I added a happy bubblegum pink, Maren. "Bubblegum pink" isn't usually style, but what won me over was the blue sheen. That was different, and I loooove it! I had a break, and the cheerful pink looks great on short nails. The other two colors were Caitlin, a cheery strawberry shimmer, and Mariska, a bright orange.
L-R: Mariska, Maren, and Caitlin, no topcoat
I like all three colors quite well, but Mariska wasn't exactly what I expected. It dried to a satiny matte, when it's billed as a shimmer and looked quite shiny in the website swatches. I'm not opposed to the look of it, but I'm interested in how it will look with a topcoat. Caitlin is a little brighter in person, but Maren is close to the color seen in the photos. The blue shimmer ranges from super subtle to a bright electric blue sheen. It's awesome, definitely like nothing else I own. Anyone who loves pink polish needs this color. Caitlin is also a solid bet for pink lovers; it's similar to Sally Hansen XTreme Wear in Twisted Pink, but the shimmer is a little more fine, giving it a glow-y look. Two new pinks required super girly nail art, using Caitlin, Maren, and my white Salon Perfect striper, with Freedom Topcoat and a base of Oxygen Nail Treatment, both from Julep. These colors are all very sheer, so there are three coats used here. You can layer them over white to intensify them, but I thought that took away from the blue shimmer in Maren.

The other item in this month's Maven box was Pore Minimizing Blush in Peach Bellini. I expected very little out of this item; honestly, while Julep polishes are spectacular, I haven't been wowed by their makeup. This morning, I tried it.

Oh. My. Gosh.

I love this blush. Love it. I have alot of trouble finding blush colors that look right with my skin tone and am very hesitant to spend "real" money on it. I figured Peach Bellini would be too light, Petal Pink would be too pink, and I would have yet another blush I probably shouldn't have bought, but this blush looks and feels fantastic! It gives just the right amount of color and compliments my skin tone beautifully. I just might have a new makeup splurge.

What did you think about the April box? If you're interested in trying Julep Maven yourself, click the link above or the cute little Classic With A Twist button to your right for my referral link.