Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Louboutin Summer Florals

As much as I love them, nail art joy cannot be sustained on rosettes alone. There are tons of hibiscus stamps and stickers out there, but freehanding these big, cheerful flowers seemed like an easy option for a sunny summer floral.

For my hibiscus flowers, I used a dotting tool to create five heart shaped petals with Julep Laree, the pink used as my primary mani color. Then I used a tiny flat brush to soften the middles of the petals with Model's Own Golden Peach, followed up with a few dots and a cute little stamen with Julep Nessa (also the background color on my accent nail). I added a few dots as needed in the background, and my bright Hawaiian print was done! 

This mani is all about color fusion. Nessa, Laree, and Golden Peach are all complex polishes with a golden undertone that gave the finished result a soft glow. But wait! There's more!

You may recall my fascination with the Louboutin mani- polishing the back of the nail as well as the front. While I've tried it a few times, I've had limited success. This time, I used Golden Peach to create an all-around tropical look, and it came out pretty well. I used my tiny flat brush for this as well, and used reenforcers (the little circle stickers you use for repairing torn notebook paper holes) to protect my frontside polish while painting on two subtle coats. I had a little chippage and blotchiness, but with such a soft, shimmery color, it doesn't bother me too much. Golden Peach is a color that I haven't really warmed to as a primary shade, but it looks perfect here and is a match made in Heaven with gold infused Laree. I'm also in love with Nessa, but yellows look weird on me. The combination of two colors I can't quite get a handle on with Laree, a color that's on the short list of polishes I could wear every day if I had to, made for a very satisfying mani! 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Lacquer Legion: Trekker Galaxy

When the Lacquer Legion declared Fandom as July's prompt, I may have squealed out loud. As you may have read on the Story of This Blog, my first serious nail art undertaking was Star Trek fan art. At the time I wasn't taking photos of my nails, but it was fairly simple-red nails with one yellow and one blue accent nail featuring the Starfleet insignia. For this month's Lacquer Legion mani, I decided to recreate that vibe using one of my very favorite techniques: galaxy nails.

Galaxy nails never get old for me, and are another technique that I tried very early in my nail art adventures. They come in endless variations, always look spectacular, and are ridiculously easy. I'm also fascinated by space (I'm obsessed with the "The Planets" manis that Nichole at Pretty Girl Science has been posting-but I'm obsessed with PGS anyway), so I end up staring at them all day. For this set, I went outside of my norm and used a deep purple, Julep Padma, instead of black as my base. Then I went crazy with colors, infusing a little turquoise this time with my usual array of white, pinks, yellow, and barrage of multi-sized glitter "stars." I used bits of sponge held precariously with tweezers, but a friend recently sent me a tutorial that used an eyeshadow sponge and looked even easier, so I think I may pick up some cheap ones to try that next time. Then I used a striper to shape out my Starfleet insignia in Sally Hansen Color Foil Sterling Silver and outlined in black (which, incidentally, is why the purple background instead of my usual black-to ensure my outline would stand out). Unfortunately, the gloomy Indiana weather made it really difficult to get a decent shot of the colors in this mani, so I was stuck with one that had a big, ugly shadow across the bottom as my best photo of the color scheme. Figures.

While I was tempted to do something more dramatic, like my Wonder Woman themed ComicCon nails, for this awesome prompt, a recreation that pays homage to my nerdy nail art roots just felt right. Plus...galaxy nails!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Great Polish Giveaway!


Hey everyone, it's my first Rafflecopter giveaway!

Here's the deal: Nail Polish Canada is giving away up to 200 bottles of polish to one lucky winner, and each polish is nominated by a nail or beauty blogger from NPC's massive selection. I'm not Canadian, but NPC kinda makes me wish I was! After seeing this giveaway (and entering myself) at Polished to Precision, I got in on the fun by nominating one of my favorite polishes, A England Sleeping Palace. Sleeping Palace is a gorgeous plum holo that you may also remember from my Lucky Star mani. It's stunning in one coat, stamps well, looks great in gradients, and is easy to clean up. It's a polish all star. You can see why I was eager to help someone else get lucky by throwing Sleeping Palace into this amazing prize package.

One coat, no topcoat

Follow SSNB  on Facebook and Twitter for and join the NPC mailing list to enter below, and pop over to Nail Polish Canada to enter again and see the other nominated polishes (which include four other A Englands so far!). You can also enter again on each of the nominating blogs. If you have a blog yourself and want to participate, click here. The contest is open to US and Canada residents through August 15th. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Shaping, Stars, And Chevrons

An item referenced in this post was provided to me. 

Since I've started to get more comfortable with cleanup, I've been thinking more about the other end of the nail: tip shaping. I'm not even close to the even, perfect-ish shaping I want, but I thought I'd share my progress and some of my thoughts and challenges on the subject.
My current "squovals"

I think I've worn all of the "traditional" nail shapes for natural nails at one point or another-I hate to admit it, but it's been more by accident than out of an adventurous spirit. Shaping is more of a panic response to a break than a conscious choice. When my nails get long, I'm reluctant to chop them down for the sake of shape, but refusing to lose any length on some nails sacrifices the overall look. When you look at bloggers like Sam at The Nailasaurus and Sarah at Chalkboard Nails, who have short nails with clean, defined shapes, though, there's hope! Sam has squared nails that look clean and elegant, and make a great canvas for nail art, while Sarah's are rounded, which looks soft and feminine even when she's wearing them short. Alternately, Gnarly Gnails has a more fluid shape-sometimes square, sometimes almond, sometimes much fun! I'm not quite confident enough in my shaping skills yet to make drastic changes. 

L to R: Pointer to ring

Where I run into issues is that my natural nail shape varies from nail to nail. My nails seem to move more toward round the closer I get to the thumb, with my pointer finger being quite rounded and prone to breaks and my ring finger being almost insistently squared. As you can see, even with the progress I've made with shaping (just look at my older posts), the natural tendencies of my nails are hard to overcome without aggressive filing, and my poor nails aren't quite ready for that. I think with a little research and confidence, one day my nails may have that polished (haha) look I crave. Unfortunately, one of the downsides of having natural nails is missing out on that manufactured look and the versatility of changing your nail shape like you change your polish.

By the way, did you see this polish!? The star is Pahlish Raggedy Man Good Night. It's a sparkly grey in regular light, but in the sun it lights on fire. Sally Hansen Insta-Dri in Gone Grey, which is gorgeous on its own too, is the base for this mani. I've worn it under a white holo as well, and it gives a nice, solid foundation that really brings out the best in my holo polishes. After being a little underwhelmed with it on its own, I layered Raggedy Man over black, red, deep purple, and this grey, and this was the clear winner (though the red was interesting too, and definitely worth another look sometime). I accented with my first chevrons, which came out really well. I took my Nailed It chevron vinyl decals and overlayed them on my ring finger, then painted over the whole deal with Sally Hansen Xtreme Wear in Black Out (Summer also has ready made black decals if you'd prefer a no-fuss approach). The vinyl decals left great, crisp lines when I pulled them off with tweezers-easy! I also used Black Out to stamp some stars for a fun mani in a muted more-than-meets-the-eye palette.

What shape are you wearing right now? Which one do you want to try? 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

July Maven Turquoise Nails with Tutorial

I made a huge mess tonight, but I successfully pulled off a long standing item from my wish list: turquoise patterned nails. Growing up in the American Southwest in the 90s means that turquoise, copper, and those obnoxious little flat wooden coyotes wearing bandanas are etched into your being. I still love two out of three. First the mani, then how I did it, then I'll tell you about the rest of my July Maven box.
The technique I used was a mishmosh of online pictorials, Youtube videos, and techniques borrowed from other designs. I started out with the colors: Julep Lissa for my base, with Sinful Colors Nice Stems, NYC Color Robin's Egg Blue, Maybelline Color Club Bold Gold, NYC Top of the Gold Topcoat, Avon Opal Topcoat, and Sally Hansen Xtreme Wear Black Out. Other tools I used were tweezers, pieces of a makeup sponge, hairspray, a Chapstick, and a glass of water.

I started with a base of Lissa. Lissa was my first "swap out" with Julep's new customized subscription. Lissa's a "tumbled turquoise creme," and probably my favorite of the polishes I picked up this month. It's more blue based than I usually think of when I imagine a turquoise polish, but still solidly in that family. This is one coat (!). It does seem to have some staining issues, so while I very much recommend this color, use a base coat.
Next I sponge dabbed Nice Stems and Robin's Egg Blue across the nails, keeping them close but not quite overlapping. Both are milky blue based greens, with Nice Stems being a little bit darker. Using both marbled my "stones" and added depth.
Then I dabbed Bold Gold over the nails, sometimes in line with the other colors, some separate. It's ok if the gold is a little uneven and globby- with this metallic polish, the final result of heavy handed sponging is "flakes."

Finally, I added my flakies. I was nervous about using both gold and iridescent flakies, but now I wish I had added more. More glitter! I sponged these as well, sticking close to the other polishes, especially with the gold. I'm curious as to how it would look with a light layer of each without dabbing in specific areas, but I think keeping it more controlled allowed Lissa to still have a voice in this mani.

The last step was the one that made me most nervous: the water marbeling. I was almost sure this is where I would trash this promising young manicure. Turns out this is the easiest watermarble ever. Two drops of Black Out in tap water, then I sprayed a spritz of hairspray (rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle will also work, and make sure you're not using one of those hair healthy alcohol free sprays). This busts the black film to the stringy bits that form gorgeous black veins in your turquoise. Dip until you get the look you want. Swiping the Chapstick around the cuticles before dipping makes it easy to wipe off the excess. Unfortunately, I haven't watermarbled in a while, so I only Chapsticked right around the nail and left black smudges all over my fingers. Lesson learned-put Chapstick, petroleum jelly, or tape all the way to the knuckle for easiest cleanup. The biggest risk is getting too much black in any particular area. Very carefully touching the overdipped areas with an acetone dipped cotton swab rescued mine without having to start over.

I'm really happy with these, and very happy with Lissa! The other color in my Maven box was Vicki. It's described as "flamingo pink," I would call it hot pink. Unfortunately, my camera didn't pick it up very true to life. Pretty, and applies well, but a little loud for my mood today.
Lissa and Vicki, dry, no topcoat. If you look close, you'll see a tiny flamingo from a failed stamping attempt.
I also traded out the beach lotion to get Oxygen topcoat. It's not quite as shiny as Freedom, but it has a great texture. I used both the base and topcoat with my turquoise mani (I've been using the basecoat for a few weeks, and while it's hardly the miracle tonic the describe on the website, I like it and my nails seem pretty happy). I've heard rumor that Oxygen topcoat doesn't play well with non-Julep polishes, so time will tell.

What do you think of my second attempt at gemstone nails? And did you switch to the customizable Maven box this month?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Dandelion Weekend Nails: Fun With Finishes

I like shiny nails. Shine is good. Every now and then I get a matte itch, but overall, the shinier the better for me. When I tried on Sinful Colors in Savage, I was beyond delighted with the bright teal toned blue...then horrified as I watched it mattefy as it dried. Sigh. Into the pile it goes. Until last weekend.

I've been coveting dandelion nail art for a while, but my attempts have all fallen flat so far. To maintain the airy, slightly vintage look I was seeing in my mind, I whipped out Savage for a flat finish that still had the brightness I needed to draw out the white dandelion puffs. I used my Salon Perfect nail art striper in White Out to make my stems, then placed a dot of Julep Florence at the end of the stem on my thumb. Then I used the striper to create my dandelion head, carefully wiping most of the polish off on the neck of the bottle to keep my dandelion wispy. That's been my problem in the past-designs I had been trying to emulate were more like this one from Nailz Craze, which have to be perfect or they look messy. (In my defense, hers were stamped and I was trying to hand paint the design, so while I was frustrated not to get the look I wanted, I couldn't be too hard on myself there.)

Then I gave my shorter dandelion puffs wispy heads and tapped a tiny dot of Florence at the base of each. Because everything is better with glitter, I used a tiny dotting tool to put a subtle haze of Julep Joelle on my dandelion and the end of my puffs.

Finally, for the last piece of flair, I grabbed a toothpick and used Sally Hansen Super Shine top coat to add a few curls of "wind" to each nail. It's very subtle, but definitely adds to the overall look of the mani. I didn't use a fast dry topcoat because I wanted more time to etch my curls, but I didn't have any trouble with smudging, and Savage dries pretty quickly as well, so no drying issues. I didn't mattefy the dandelions before adding my curls; they maintained White Out's soft flat shine and Florence's touch of high shine.

While not particularly original, I had a lot of fun with this mani. Part of the fun of nail art is that there's often more to it than the casual "oh, I like your nails" observer will ever notice, which is very true of this design. It did feel weird not to topcoat, though-like I was skipping a step. I also liked that I got to do something with Savage, since it's a beautiful color, and the finish is really nice, just not very me. I'll probably wear it again for this type of design since the topcoat curls show up so well. The contrast between the matte, glitter, and shine is so much fun! What do you think? Is mixing textures a fun way to add oomph to a mani, or a time consuming trend that no one notices anyway?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Ode to Orange

My quest for the perfect coral has reminded me how much I love orange polish. Despite my disappointment with uber-orange Mariska, orange based polishes tend to play well with my skin tone and make up the right mix of unexpected and classy for summer nails. Here are a few of my recent orange loving manis.

My most recent orange mani is a playful daisy design inspired by Robin Moses' tangerine daisy accent nail art. I took a more abstract take, using a small dotting tool to shape my messy orange and white daisies. The daisies and the primary color in my mani is Julep Ingrid, a cheerful all-season burnt orange. The base on my accent nail is Julep Florence, with Julep Nessa, Sally Hansen Triple Shine State-mint, a generic Sally Hansen french tip white, and Revlon Jaded Night as the other colors for my daisies.

This one isn't exactly orange-this is my standby Nantucket red, Julep Nan. Nan is a color I just love. The terracotta red shines on its own, but the right partner brings out Nan's burnt orange undertone. I stamped with Revlon Foxy for an understated, slightly shimmery all over pattern.

I'm in love with coral this summer, and Sinful Colors' Boogie Nights was the clear favorite on a recent binge. It looks bright orange in the bottle, but the undertone is sweet and slightly pinky rather than loud. This mani was inspired by Chalkboard Nails "Fizzy French" nail art with OPI's Coke collaboration polishes. Boogie Nights was bright enough to keep the original spirit of the mani, with this playful tangerine influenced coral rather than Coke can red. I used Glitter Gal Turbulence for holo glitter dots in place of the metallic silver "bubbles."

Finally, I went back to the well with a sparkly gradient, using Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure in Peach of Cake and NYC Color Top O' The Gold topcoat for gold flakie tips. I don't have very many CSM colors, but I like their cremes a lot-very smooth and well pigmented. This color is a bit of a chameleon. In low lights and sunlight, it's very subdued. Under florescents, the orange really pops! It ranges from a pastel to a neon depending on the light. Here I wore two coats.

Any polish junkie knows that 'orange' is a very subjective term when it comes to polish. A nontraditional red, coral, peach, or even copper or apricot are all in the right family to offer the same punchy variation on the usual colors as straight orange polishes. What's your favorite "orange"?