How To Do Your Own Japanese-Style 3-D Nail Art and Not Glue Your Fingers Together

When I started getting into nail art, I REALLY got into nail art. Like stayed up until 3am poring over Tumblrs and blogs, eventually landing on archives from the Tokyo Nail Exposition--an annual event in Japan where nail techs turn out mural-like talons and glue anything from pearls and rhinestones to mini plastic Hello Kittys on nails. I decided I, too, needed to have bizarre shapes glued on my fingertips. Flat was not enough. It was time to go 3D. Envisioning bedazzled, Harajuku-type bows artfully dotted across my nails, I ordered a sets of rhinestones and various colored pearls, flowers and bows, that came with their own bottles of nail glue (which would soon prove my demise). However, my ambitions were greater than my abilities and the first attempt was a disaster.
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When I started getting into nail art, I REALLY got into nail art. Like stayed up until 3am poring over Tumblrs and blogs, eventually landing on archives from the Tokyo Nail Exposition--an annual event in Japan where nail techs turn out mural-like talons and glue anything from pearls and rhinestones to mini plastic Hello Kittys on nails. I decided I, too, needed to have bizarre shapes glued on my fingertips. Flat was not enough. It was time to go 3D. Envisioning bedazzled, Harajuku-type bows artfully dotted across my nails, I ordered a sets of rhinestones and various colored pearls, flowers and bows, that came with their own bottles of nail glue (which would soon prove my demise). However, my ambitions were greater than my abilities and the first attempt was a disaster.
My inspiration

My inspiration

When I started getting into nail art, I REALLY got into nail art. Like stayed up until 3am poring over Tumblrs and blogs, eventually landing on archives from the Tokyo Nail Exposition--an annual event in Japan where nail techs turn out mural-like talons and glue anything from pearls and rhinestones to mini plastic Hello Kittys on nails. I decided I, too, needed to have bizarre shapes glued on my fingertips. Flat was not enough. It was time to go 3D.

Envisioning bedazzled, Harajuku-type bows artfully dotted across my nails, I ordered a sets of rhinestones and various colored pearls, flowers and bows, that came with their own bottles of nail glue (which would soon prove my demise).

However, my ambitions were greater than my abilities and the first attempt was a disaster. I kept dropping the tiny rhinestones and underestimated the difficulties of having normal-sized nails as opposed to the acrylic talons seen online. And did you know that nail glue is basically super glue? Dries just as hard and fast. I definitely glued two of my fingers together and ravaged my cuticles trying to unstuck myself (note: if you spill nail glue on yourself DO NOT PICK AT IT. You’ll rip your skin off. Let it sit for a few hours and just keep washing your hands; eventually, it’ll flake off). Defeated, I decided to try again when I was better prepared.

Attempt two was much better, though a learning process: -- First, I polished my nails entirely instead of frantically trying to stick things on before they dried (I used Forever 21's Summer Salmon and Wet N' Wild's basic black for my two-tone look). -- While they dried, I set out the pearls, bows, and flowers for easy access. -- Because my prior battle with the glue frightened me, I decided to try sticking the pearls on with just polish. I used drops of clear coat on top of the base. This was a success, overall. But then there was the giant flower on my thumb. I braved the nail glue again, this time dipping a pin in it and lightly dabbing my nail. Easy does it. Nail glue is not to be messed with. This was also a success. When finished, I covered everything in a thick layer of top coat.

The final result

The final result

Now came the challenge of not messing it up. The pearls and bows, by and large, stayed on with just their polish bonder (provided the top coat was thick enough—on nails where I skimped they popped off and I had to re-apply). They don’t stick out too much and are only severed by banging into things (after a rather raucous night out, I only lost 3 pearls. Not too shabby). The giant flowers, however, required reapplication. After a second hefty dose of glue they stayed put, even when washing my hair. I’m usually a little rough on my nails but by paying a little attention the manicure stayed intact. Really, the polish was the big problem—I unwisely used cheapish polish, and that made it fall apart faster. Lesson: when doing a manicure meant to last awhile, choose your polish by longevity, not by color.

Overall, I deemed my DIY 3-D art a success with room for improvement. I learned nail glue is easy to chip off when it's applied on top of polish and isn't so scary when you're careful, so I'll likely do my next mani with all glue to make it last longer. And once you get used to shapes on your nails, it isn't so hard to make it last. I can't say I'll be fixing cartoon characters to my tips any time soon, but at least I know it's posible to whip up a stunning display of my own without flying to Japan (or spending tons of money).