I’ve been posting about acrylic 3D art more often lately (or trying to at least!), and I mentioned I would do a bit of a how-to post, well, here it is! This won’t explain to you how to do full acrylic nails, as I don’t do those myself. Instead I will explain to you which supplies you need and how you go about making (super kawaii!) 3D art for your nails (or other surfaces). Get ready cause it’s going to be a bit of a read!
Keep in mind I am not a professional! I’ve made this post as an aid to people starting with acrylic or are interested to learn more about the technique and supplies necessary. If you are serious about getting started with acrylic art please make sure you do extensive research, follow a course or get tips from a professional.
I’ll start with the supplies! There’s three basic things you’ll need, acrylic liquid (monomer), acrylic powder and the right brushes. Basically the technique works as follows, you dip your brush into a small glass or jar which holds the acrylic liquid, you then pat your wet brush into the powder which immediately forms a ball of acrylic on the tip of your brush. Then you either place that ball on your nail and start shaping it (into a petal for example) or pat it into a mould.
- Acrylic Monomer – There’s many different brands when it comes to liquid, they range from cheap to really expensive. I would say, see what you have available locally or online and don’t compromise. You’ll have to invest in a decent monomer, cheap almost always means less quality in this case. The one I use is from EzFlow, I also have this one from Born Pretty Store but I prefer to use the EzFlow Q Monomer as I find the smell is less strong and the quality is a lot better.
The downside of doing acrylic art is the scent, the acrylic monomer has a very strong odour. You need a well ventilated room when doing acrylic or practice outside.
- Acrylic Powder – Powder will determine the colour of your 3D art. The powder I use is from Born Pretty Store. I use the 18 colour set (pictured above) which is very cheap and I also use the more expensive DIVA brand sets they have, the regular and shimmer/glitter set. I haven’t found a huge difference between them, they both have really nice colours but the quality I would say is mostly similar. The jars in the 18 colour set are on the smaller side but the colours you get are stunning. Look around and find a fun set of colours that will work best for you.
- Acrylic Brushes – Brushes are hugely important, especially when you will be doing sculpting, you need specific acrylic brushes with a very fine tip. I use this set from Born Pretty Store but they have many different ones. I recently ordered a more expensive range of brushes from them, so I am looking forward to see how they compare to the set I have now. Sable hair brushes are usually the best.
- Dappen Dish – You need a jar that holds the acrylic monomer, a glass dappen dish is the one that’s used most often. Acrylic monomer will melt regular plastic so glass jars are a better choice.
- Moulds – If you prefer to sculpt then you won’t need these. I think they are a fun tool to help you when you get started. Even before you can even dream about sculpting, these will give you great results very quickly!
- Brush Cleanser – It’s important to keep your brushes clean! If you take care of them they will last you forever. After doing acrylic you will sometimes get left with small hardened pieces stuck in your brush, I use this brush cleanser by Born Pretty Store which does an awesome job at removing those bits. You can also soak off the pieces in acetone, but this will dry out your brush and might damage it, so using a specific cleanser will be less harsh on your brushes.
- Cloth or Paper Towels – I put these under optional but you definitely need to have some paper towels on hand while doing acrylic. After you’ve placed your ball of acrylic on your nail you will need to wipe off the excess liquid from your brush. This will keep your acrylic from getting too wet.
- Clear Top Coat – Acrylic 3D designs will dry matte so you will need a topcoat (or uv sealer) to make sure your design is glossy. Any clear top coat will work. I’ve used different ones and they have all worked for me.
- Nail Glue – When you make 3D pieces in moulds or not directly on top of your own nails you can attach them later on with glue. You can also use clear top coat as adhesive.
- Nail Files – Preferably ones with a rough grit, to remove 3D art you can either fiddle and get it to pop off, or file and soak off the pieces. I do not recommend to try and remove them with the first method, occasionally it will come off easily but more often you’ll pull off the layers of your actual nail. I learned this the hard way… If you’ve placed 3D art on all of your nails you will probably take just as long to remove them as you did applying them so keep that in mind. File off as much as you can, soak off the rest in acetone. If you don’t want to run the risk of damaging your nail, use full nail tips and apply the acrylic on there.
- Nail Drill – If you’ll be doing A LOT of acrylic 3D art a nail drill will make the removal process a lot easier and a lot less labour intensive. I’ll be writing a review about this nail drill from Born Pretty Store in the next coming weeks if all goes well.
- Soak Bowl – If you’re going to soak off the last remaining bits of acrylic you’ll need something to hold the acetone so you can soak your nails. The foil method works too so this is completely optional.
Next I’ll briefly explain how to prepare for and apply/remove 3D acrylic pieces. First you make sure you have all the supplies you are going to use near you. Set out a glass dappen dash and fill it with acrylic liquid, grab your brushes, make sure you have paper towels and choose the powder and/or moulds you’re going to use.
- Filling moulds and applying 3D pieces – wet your brush in the acrylic liquid and softly dab onto the surface of the acrylic powder, wait for a few seconds until the ball on the tip of your brush is completely smooth. Now you can place the ball inside the mould, you’ll need several balls depending on the size of the mould. Once you’ve completely filled it up, wait for 30 second up to 1 minute. The acrylic should still be slightly bendable but not wet. Paint your nails with clear polish or apply some glue to the area where you want your piece to go. Carefully remove the flexible acrylic piece from your mould and apply on your nail, pressing down all corners so it sits completely flat on top of your nail. After a few minutes the acrylic will have hardened completely, now you can apply a glossy topcoat!
- Sculpting 3D pieces – as this is a more difficult technique make sure to do a lot of research, acrylic sculpting looks easy and fun but definitely takes a lot of practice. It works pretty much the same as filling the moulds only you’ll place the ball of acrylic directly on top of your nail and start shaping it with your brush. The possibilities with sculpting are endless, the only limit is your own creativity!
- Removal process – I’ve explained this briefly in the additional supplies section. Grab the roughest nail file you have and start filing on top of the acrylic piece. Check regularly to make sure you haven’t hit your nail beds. Once there’s a thin layer (1mm or so) left, grab a bowl and fill it up with acetone to soak off the leftover pieces of acrylic. Make sure to moisturise your cuticles and nails afterwards! This process can be quite labour intensive but it’s a lot safer than trying to pop off the pieces as this could damage your nails.
I hope that covers most of it! If you have any questions for me please leave them in the comments and I will reply to them. If necessary I’ll make a Q&A post with all of your questions. In any case I hope you can expect more acrylic 3D related posts from me in the future. I just need to find the time, and good weather. If you enjoyed reading this post or found it helpful please let me know in the comments!
Posted on: June 21, 2012