Generic Acrylic Nail Application Guidelines

Nail product manufacturers spend a great deal of time in research, development and testing prior to releasing a product. The type and combination of chemicals in any given nail product line are designed to work together as a complete unit in order to achieve the best possible results. Every manufacturers line of products have their own nuances and because of this, mixing products from different lines may result in various forms of service breakdown. For long-term wearability, always use complete systems when applying artificial nail enhancements. Always follow the manufacturers instructions and read and understand the warning labels on all your products.

My first recommendation is to follow all the steps of preparation as outlined on the Nail Preparation page.

Proper preparation prevents problems and is vital for achieving optimum results and preventing service breakdown. It is one of the pre-enhancement services that allowed me to charge $80.00 for a full set and $45.00 for 2-week maintenance.

Application Procedure

air-in-brushPour a small amount of monomer into a dappen dish — use only what you will need for the particular service you are performing. Totally immerse and ‘swish’ your brush in the monomer to thoroughly wet the hairs and to remove any trapped air that may result in bubbles in the finished product. Air bubbles compromise the strength of the product and can lead to service breakdown.

brushesAs you remove the brush from the dish, flatten hairs on both sides to shape the brush for sculpting and to drain excess liquid from the brush. Now you are ready for sculpting.

dappendishMore monomer = a larger bead, less monomer = a smaller bead. Dip the brush into the monomer according to the desired bead size. For a small bead, slide the flattened brush down the side of the dish and submerge only the tips of the flags (the darkest hairs) into the monomer. For a larger bead, moisten the entire flag area of the brush.

pick-up-beadDraw a line in the powder to the depth of the liquid line on your brush. The longer the line, the bigger the bead. Allow the monomer to surround the polymer particles. The bead should be medium in size and a medium-wet consistency. A medium-wet mix ratio will not immediately ‘melt’ down, it will have a slight ‘textured glass’ appearance, and maintain its shape when placed on the nail, tip or form.

press-press-pressPlace the bead at the smile line and in the center of the natural nail. Press the bead with the flags of the brush to flatten and separate the bead, then stroke to the extension edge. Press either side of center to flatten the bead and stroke to the extension edge, being sure that the level of product is evenly distributed. This section will be higher at the smile line (upper arch) and tapered to all edges.

follow-thruAs you smooth with the brush from smile to extension edge, it is important to ‘follow-through- with the stroke in a downward motion.

white-tipWith the entire section 1 covered from side to side with product, the remaining 2-2 1/2 minutes of working time can be spent on perfecting the smile line for symmetry.

smilePerfect the line when the product is very wet. Use a fluid motion to actually draw in the smile. Use baby presses to perfect the line and to ease the product further into the corners of the smile. Use ‘prep’ on a dedicated prep brush to clean up the smile line on the nail plate if needed.

section-2Pick up a medium size, medium-wet consistency bead (pink, clear or natural) and place on the nail surface just behind but still touching your previous section. Press the bead to flatten and stroke to smooth and blend with section 1. Continue in this manner until the entire section is blended and smooth.

section-3Pick up a small, medium-wet consistency bead and apply to section 3 in the same manner. Be sure this section tapers into the nail plate to avoid a ridge of product at the cuticle line. Leave a tiny margin all around the cuticle and sidewall line free of product. This will allow the product to properly shrink when cured (polymerized) and create an air-tight seal to the nail plate.

brush-anglesPressing and smoothing will assure total product control, eliminate bubbles in the product, allow for complete contact of the product to the natural nail plate, and eliminate excessive filing. Work with the brush flat, and keep the flattened surface parallel to the section you are working on. This means that the angle of the brush will change with each section.


  • Using a 180 or 240-grit soft file, shape the free edge and sidewalls to the desired form.
  • Smooth the surface of section 1, perfect the ‘C’ curve and taper to a thin edge.
  • Perfect the upper arch of section 2 and blend smoothly with section 1.
  • Blend cuticle area flush to the natural nail, but do not over-file the natural nail. Perfect sidewalls to a thin edge and blend with section 2.
  • Remove all dust filings.
  • Apply a small amount of cuticle oil to all 10 nails. Massage into the cuticles and the overlay.
  • With a 360-grit padded buffer, buff the oil into the surface of the overlay to remove scratches and plasticize the surface.
  • Buff to a high gloss shine with a 3-way buffer: black side, white side, then the gray side.
  • Ask the client to wash her hands to remove all traces of oil and buffing dusts.

You may skip step 8 if you prefer to use an acrylic sealer rather than buffing to a shine. If the client has requested enamel, proceed to perform The Perfect Polish.

Always book a 2-week maintenance appointment prior to the client leaving. Regularly scheduled maintenance appointments prevent service breakdown and needless or costly repairs.

Discard or sanitize files, dry and store them in a sealed container with the clients name, address, phone number, profile card and any other special instructions for their next visit.

Special Notes

  • Never touch your brush to the clients prepared nail plate or to the skin. Doing so may result in overexposure and allergic reaction from repeated and prolonged contact to the chemicals.
  • Never apply product that is too wet. Too wet a mixture will not properly polymerize and the excess monomer will be absorbed into the nail plate which may cause an allergic reaction that could result in nail plate separation.
  • Never over-file the natural nail plate as this practice will remove too many vital nail plate layers.
  • Heavy grit files, heavy-handed filing or high-speed drills can heat the nail bed in excess of 150° F, resulting in a burn to the nail bed.
  • Never smoke, eat or drink at the nail table to prevent cross-contamination between your food and the products. Smoke will deposit a layer of nicotine (oil) on the nail plate which may cause lifting. Your products are flammable, so keep them away from heat sources and sparks or flame.
  • Proper preparation and application will prevent service breakdown problems.
  • Work in a well ventilated area. Proper ventilation will remove airborne dusts and vapors from the building. Air conditioning only circulates the existing air in a room or space.
  • Wear protective clothing to prevent dusts from settling on your skin.
  • Wear a protective mask when filing to prevent inhalation of acrylic dust filings, and change it often.
  • Take frequent breaks during the day to prevent the possibility of repetitive stress injuries.

The application instructions are the same for a natural nail overlay and for an overlay on an already applied and prepared tip.

Sculpting on a Form

Sculpting on a form requires a different technique in Section 1. When working on a form, Section 1 is sculpted on a slick ‘cool’ surface. Since there is no body heat coming through the form, it will slow down evaporation and set time. The product will seem wetter and take more time to get to a gel-like consistency where it can be pressed and smoothed with confidence. You must use delicate pressure when working with the product in this initial stage.


sculpt-1Place a medium size medium-wet bead onto the form just in front of the natural free edge.

sculpt-2Press the center of the bead to flatten and spread.

sculpt-3Press the bead to the right sidewall.

sculpt-4Press the bead to the left sidewall.

sculpt-5Use the side of your brush to perfect the sideline and to create the lower arch. Perform this same procedure on the other side.

cornersPush the corners in at an angle to narrow the extension edge and/or to create an oval or almond shape.

sculpt-9Using the tip of the brush to clean up the extension outline to a crisp line.

sculpt-10Follow the ‘3-step’ spread & smile technique to perfect section 1 dimensions and to ‘tuck’ the corners to create a deep smile.

Complete the application in Sections 2 & 3 by following the procedures for these sections in the Overlay instructions at the top of this page.

A special ‘Thanks’ to Creative Nail Design Systems for donating the graphics for this page.

Disclaimer: While Hooked on Nails has attempted to make the information in these pages as accurate and informative as possible, it is for educational purposes only and is provided in good faith without any express or implied warranty or guarantees on the final results of nail enhancement product applications performed by untrained or non-professional users. We also make no representations or warranties as to the suitability of this information in your own setting; you do so at your own risk. In no event will Hooked on Nails be liable for any damages whatsoever, whether direct or indirect, consequential, incidental, special, or any claim for attorney fees, arising out of the use of or inability to use the information provided. We strongly recommend that the manufacturers instructions be followed for the product system you have chosen for your personal or professional salon use. H.O.N. 2000