Nail Art Design Tips: By a Nail Artist who has done Fashion Shows

My beautiful Sundown Marathon themed nails, designed by Ann Lim.

My beautiful Sundown Marathon themed nails, designed by Ann Lim.

Check out good nail art design tips from a talented artist, who does it for a hobby, right here.

Beach themes with seashells, mermaids, palm trees, bubbles and blue and flamingoes are currently some of the hot trends in nail art – according to 34-year-old Ann Lim, who is passionate about nail art as a hobby.

This nail artist also shares that gel nail polish has advantges over the standard polish.

And this multi-talented research administrator also does occasional fashion runway shows, as the lone manicurist and her nail designs has been featured in editorials and publications.

I recently talked to Ann about her interesting hobby. Here is what she said. 

How did you get interested in nail art?

Looking through magazines and trying to replicate the perfect polished nails at home first inspired me to get into manicure. Nail art just naturally came into the picture after that. Nails with art can be seen and admired by the wearer easily.

Furthermore, it accompanies the wearer 24/7 unlike makeup, clothes and shoes that need to be changed daily. In a way, the return of investment (ROI, that is, the return on the cost per wear), with nails is higher and this appeals to the kiasu Singaporean in me.

[Photo Credit & nail design: Ann Lim]

[Photo and Nail Design By Ann Lim]

Why do you enjoy nail art?

Like I mentioned above, nail art can be seen easily and the ROI is high. It helps me relieve stress from my work. Unlike painting on canvas, nails are small and the art can be completed in a few minutes or within the day if it’s complicated.

Looking at someone’s face light up as he/she admires her/his painted nails and knowing that for days to come, the smile will come whenever the nails are seen – really motivate me to continue doing this. The same goes for fashion projects where the nails compliment the outfits and/or the ad campaign and make the designers really happy.

What are the inspirations for your nail designs?

My main source of inspiration would be nail magazines, Instagram accounts of international and local professional nail techs/salons, fashion and science.

Recently, I customised a set of nails for a friend who does neuroscience research in Australia. Originally, she wanted the sweet and feminine designs widely available online, but I suggested something personalised and perhaps related to her field of research. She then sent me pictures of Purkinje and spiny cells, from which I drew inspiration and created a set of black and white nail designs on nail tips.

[Photo and Nail Art by Ann Lim]

[Photo and Nail Art by Ann Lim]

She will be wearing the nails tips when she presents her work at a conference later this month! With nail tips, she doesn’t have to wait for the polish to dry and they’re re-usable. Perfect for researchers who have to keep their nails short because they wear gloves all the time.

So my inspirations can come from anywhere.

Do you need to be artistic to do nail art?

Personally, the short answer is no and this is coming from a person who had borderline results for art in school. It would be great to be artistically inclined but it’s not a prerequisite because nail art can always be copied from existing designs.

For painting, one needs patience and steady hands – oh wait, scratch the ‘steady hands’ because most people have a non-dominant hand. Badly painted nails (i.e. where one accidentally brushes polish on skin) can be cleaned up easily with a brush and nail polish/remover. So, I find that patience and perseverance are maybe needed for this hobby. If not, there are always nail wraps (thin vinyl or plastic film that covers the whole nail plate) available though – and they are really nice too!

Any recommendations on nail polish types and brands to use?

Ann Lim at work at AFF Audi Fashion Festival. [Photo Credit: Joyce Liu)

Ann Lim at work at AFF Audi Fashion Festival, 2010. [Photo Credit: Joyce Liu)

For normal nail polish, I use a variety of brands for different colours and I don’t have a preference. However, I do recommend using a good base coat and topcoat. Nailtek foundation is a good base coat – there are different types to cater to strengthening different nails.

For topcoat, I use Seche Vite as it is self-levelling, dries fast, hard and shiny. The one downside of Seche Vite is that it shrinks a little when it dries, so the trick is to use it when the coloured nail polish is semi-dry, to minimize shrinkage.

I understand that you use gel polish. What advantage does this have over the standard nail polish?

I think the main reason why people now prefer gel polish is that it dries instantly! The wearer can immediately dig into bags for wallet or keys and wear their covered shoes without ruining the polish.

[Photo and Nail Art by Ann Lim]

[Photo and Nail Art by Ann Lim]

Generally, gel polishes last without chips from anywhere between 7-24 days but I have had friends who chip their gel polish after a few days, so it’s user-dependent. I like gel for painting nail art because it will only dry after curing under a special lamp, I can take my time to adjust my art without the paint getting dry and lumpy.

What are the new trends in nail art?

Beach themed nails, with seashells, mermaids, palm trees, bubbles, blue and green colours are flooding my Instagram feed. Fruits are also a perennial favourite in summer – especially the pineapple this year. Another interesting trend is flamingoes – the pink bird with cute skinny legs –perching on nails this season too!

How expensive is this hobby?

This hobby is relatively low cost but it can get expensive with time, if you let it. My nails were first painted with the random bottle of polish lying around the house and subsequently, with cheap polishes that cost $1 to $2.

Some cheap polishes had bad brushes for painting and I think using them really helped hone my painting skills because if I could use those to paint a nail set of nails then it was just a piece of cake with other polishes. Friends also pass me their half-used bottles of polish that added to my ever growing stash. I started out doing simple nail art like painting dots with toothpicks.

[Photo and Nail Art by Ann Lim]

[Photo and Nail Art by Ann Lim]

Gradually over time and with disposable income, I started investing in better polishes and tools so that I could do more complicated nail art. Now, I use professional salon grade gel polishes, cleansers, art brushes, cutting tools, lamps, etc., all of which add up to a four-figure total.

My professional nail tech friends say I’m crazy whenever I show them my purchases and chide me for not making it a profession or business.

So why don’t you want to turn your nail art into a full time job?

The thought has crossed my mind many times, with prodding from my friends and relatives to start a nail salon or a home based business.

I’m always a bit resistant because I do it free for my close friends and relatives, yet I don’t have people queuing outside my house and banging down my door. (Just so no one comes asking for free nails after reading this, I do charge reasonable fees for doing nails for strangers, though).

At the end of the day, I also love my day job despite its many challenges. I’m trained as a researcher and a thinker, so with me facilitating research work, ranging from hiring staff and purchasing equipment to developing strategies that will bring a greater good to the world – is something I’d still like to do – unless a compelling reason for me not to or a really interesting business project emerges.

[Photo and Nail Art by Ann Lim]

[Photo and Nail Art by Ann Lim]

I understand that you’ve been involved in fashion shows too. Tell us about these.

Though I do enjoy painting nails for individuals, I also relish the challenge of painting for interesting projects like fashion shows (I’ve done four runway shows alone so far) and editorials. I’m proud to say that for each show, I was the lone manicurist working on 18-22 models and I always managed to finish working on all the models before the hair and makeup teams were done.

It’s not all glamour backstage at fashion shows because nails are almost never done at a dedicated station, but during hair and makeup, with the manicurist squatting on the floor trying to avoid getting hair sprayed in the face.

For one of the shows in 2013, instead of painting on natural nails, I made about 400 nail tips to fit 18 female models. The nail design was a nude polish with the art school’s logo at the tip. All communication on the colour and design with the fashion director was done via Facebook messages/messaging. I appreciated the autonomy and creative freedom I was accorded, which allowed me to produce some of my best client-work.

Close Up of my Sundown Marathon thumbs.

Close Up of my Sundown Marathon thumb nails.

As there isn’t much information in the local nail scene about large scale nail tip production or runways shows, I did a lot of research on how to make the tips, store them and even the best types of adhesive to use. It was back breaking work but looking at the photos and getting feedback at the end of the show about the nails really made my day because in a fashion show, nails are always the afterthought.

For editorial work, I did an ad campaign as part of a student’s graduation project. He sent me his mood board and I just ran with it – creating white porcelain nails for the professional photo shoot. It was inspiring to see the passion and effort on his part to get a professional team for a student project. I’d love to do more editorial work.

What tips would you like to share with aspiring nail artists?

Practise. Practise. Practise.

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