25. Cat and mouse nail art

How to create short acrylic nails that look good

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Stilettos, coffin, almond, so many beautiful long nails that your clients want with more than enough space to let your creative juices flow. And in comes the client who wants a super short overlay with nail art. For some a dream come true, for most individuals a nightmare.

But fret not, in this article I will give you handy tips and tricks on how to create short acrylic nails that will allow you to create beautiful natural looking short acrylic nails and even add some nail art too!

1. Use the right tools

When doing any set of nails, having the right tools is very important to create a comfortable work environment for yourself and to allow you to work in the fastest, most effective way possible.

When doing short nails it might be a better option to opt for a smaller-sized acrylic brush as a larger brush is great for one-bead placements on long nails, but it takes quite a bit of practice to get the liquid-to-powder ratio right on small nails. You will most likely end up wasting a lot of product before mastering these types of nails. When working with nails that are so short and even tiny, you can easily use too much monomer and pick up a larger bead of product. This will cause you to flood the cuticles and will waste so much of your product and time. Placing too much product on the nails will also cause them to look thick and unnatural.

When painting the nails with gel using a smaller brush can help. I have clients who have extremely small nails, and simply using the brush that comes with the gel polish will be way too big for some of the nails.

2. Filing and more filing!

Creating the perfect shape and thinning out the nails are so important for creating natural-looking nails. De-bulking is a top priority. Leaving a tiny apex is a must, but your nails should never look artificial.

Make sure that the cuticle-area and sidewalls are clear of the product. Thin out the top of the nail and make sure that the cuticle area is thin and flush you don’t want any annoying ridges. Having a thin free-edge is also very important and looks oh so good!

3. Less is more

Remember that you have a very small surface to work on so not only should you use a very little amount of acrylic but when it comes to the encapsulation of something like glitter you have to make sure to only apply a thin layer of glitter and then encapsulate it with acrylic, remember that if your glitter is applied too thick you won’t be able to file it down as filing glitter causes it to lose its shine and colour.

The same goes for confetti glitter, dried flowers and nail decals like fruit or hearts. You have to ensure that you work in very small amounts of product. If your encapsulated product like the glitter is built too thick you will end up having to remove everything and start over or risk having thick nails with matt glitter.

When using something like gel polish it’s good as a rule of thumb to not apply thick layers on the nails. With small nails, you have to make sure to wipe the brush enough times on the bottle before applying it to the nails. Too much product will easily flood the cuticles and sidewalls, which will leave you with a rough unprofessional-looking application.

4. Tips for proportioning nail art to fit on small nails

When faced with a super tiny canvas you might feel like it’s impossible to do art. That is however not the case. It will take time, patience and concentration but it is possible. What I like to do it to map out on the nail where I want everything to be like eyes nose mouth the top of the head, etc. This will allow me to include everything on the nail rather than starting to draw and realise I ran out of space.

You can always draw the image with a pencil first and then start painting with gel. Whatever makes your process easier. Remember that when drawing something small details can easily be lost, so use small amounts of gel at a time to prevent lines from flowing into each other and destroying details.

Ways that you can practice painting small art is printing out small nail templates and practising your art on there. This way you will be ready when faced with small nails and won’t be stressed and uncomfortable.

5. Shaping short nails

When shaping short nails I usually try to convince my clients to go for more natural shapes like square, round, slightly oval, tapered square or squoval. Shapes like coffin, stiletto or almond can easily look strange and unnatural when working with super short nails.

I understand that some clients have their hearts set on something when they book an appointment. But it is your responsibility as an educated, experienced nail technician to advise them correctly. They will after all be a product of your work. So if their nails don’t look correct to your standards, it’s your salon’s name that will be tarnished.

6. Working on unconventional short nails

When you’re faced with a client who has severely bitten nails, it is always a good idea to keep the length to a minimal. You will have to make use of forms to sculpt part of the nail bed and the free edge.

When sculpting nails like these it is important to remember that the nails are weak and need extra support to prevent them from breaking and damaging the nails even further. Therefore you will have to build a slightly higher apex on bitten nails even if it doesn’t always look extremely natural.

Don’t get me wrong the nails should never be super thick and look as if a ball of acrylic has just been stuck to the nail. It should still be filed to perfection with just a little bit higher apex.

It is also important to remember to work very carefully with bitten nails as not only the nails will be thin and brittle but so also the sidewalls and skin surrounding the nail. It will take time for everything to heal and get back to normal. So take extra care when pushing back cuticles as not to harm the client.

Just like with any other set of nails, doing short nails takes time and practice. Make sure you are ready when someone presents you with such a set of nails.

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