Great nail art can turn plain nails into a look-altering fashion accessory. When you go a little further by adding some dimension to your client’s nails with crystals, spikes or stones, you leave them with a reimagined, eye-grabbing overall ensemble.

Creating nail art with embellishments certainly involves tricky techniques, but the results can elevate a manicure to make a bold statement. Here’s a guide to help you use embellishments to create stunning nail art.

Choices, Choices, Choices

From crystals to rhinestones to metallic spikes, there are countless options for embellishing nails. When picking your poison, ask yourself a few questions: Do I want to reuse the embellishments? Do I want a crystal or metallic shine? Am I working on natural nails or enhancements? The answers to these questions will dictate which embellishments are best for your clients’ nails.

For a reusable sparkle, use authentic Swarovski crystals, which can be removed and reapplied because acetone will not damage or alter them. If your client is looking for a disposable option, apply rhinestones or gems, as these will easily dissolve in acetone. Does your client want an edgy, metal look? Choose from the endless options of studs and spikes to create an unforgettable design.

Enhanced nails can generally handle larger embellishments than natural nails, and discussing enhancement options and expectations should be a critical part of your client consultation. For example, you might recommend a customized nail enhancement set to hold a pointed-back, chaton cut crystal, an embellishment that wouldn’t be ideal for a natural nail.

Once you’ve chosen your embellishment, it’s time to consider your adhesive options.

Find Your Foundation

There are a ton of mediums for adhering embellishments to nails, but the ideal ones are gel polish, hard gel or a special adhesive used specifically for crystals. Your choice of an adhesive medium will largely depend on the size of the embellishment, the design layout and whether you use a natural nail or enhancement as foundation.

For natural nails, a gel polish top coat is usually sufficient to hold flat-back designs or pixie-/micro-size pieces. If you’re adhering a chaton cut, a larger embellishment or pieces 9mm and above, use a hard gel or special adhesive for a stronger hold.

The Perfect Placement

When placing your embellishments, think of yourself as a jeweler. Seal the pieces in with the idea that you are holding the crystal, pearl or stud in a setting, which usually comes in the form of clawed edges or a complete top covering. Be sure to seal the edges of the nail embellishment instead of covering the top, especially if you apply anything with facets. Coating the facets with a topcoat or gel will cause them to become dull and lifeless.

Do your research! Look closely at jewelry to gain inspiration for placement and color combinations. Use a color wheel to determine what colors complement or contrast each other. Examine rings and necklaces to see how smaller gems often support larger pieces, making the whole embellishment more secure. You can adapt this knowledge to nail art to create strong, beautiful embellishment work.

The Business of Embellishing

Finally, make sure you have determined a pricing structure for nail art with embellishments on your salon menu. Whether you price per element, by design or based on time, having a set structure in place will enhance your professionalism and help you cover the costs of longer service without surprising your clients with extra charges. And when you’ve finished your masterpiece, encourage your clients to share pictures on social media — your nail art is sure to leave everyone in awe!