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Full-Set Acrylic: Tip Overlay

These instructions will work for any type of tip: full well, half well, colored, clear or white French Manicure type tips. Also, any color acrylic may be used: natural, clear, translucent (pink, beige, apricot) or Pink and White together for a permanent French Manicure look.

The following are general instructions and will work with most acrylic systems. However, you should always refer to instructions from the manufacturer of your brand of acrylic for application skills specific to that acrylic brand. Also, see our Nail Tech 101 for detailed instructions on some of the technical skills described here, such as: prep, primer, tip application, forming acrylic balls, finish work, etc.

But first, here is an step-by-step Acrylic Nails tutorial by John Hauk

Acrylic Step-By-Step Instructions

    • Prep: Perform customary nail preparation techniques for nail enhancements. Wash hands, remove polish, push back cuticles, remove shine from nails, dust nails, apply pre-primer (sanitizer, dehydrator, pH balancer, etc.).
    • Apply Tips: Size and apply tips. Cut to length and file to desired shape. Blend seam and remove shine from nail tip as needed. Dust and sanitize nails.
    • Prime: Apply primer sparingly to natural nail and allow to dry thoroughly.
    • Apply Free-Edge: Pick up a large ball of powder and roll it onto the free-edge area of nail. The consistency of this ball should be dry enough to hold its shape when worked. With the belly of the brush pat and push the acrylic into shape. Taper the acrylic so that it is thinner at the free-edge than it is at the stress area. * If doing P&W’s, then this ball should be made from white powder. With the side of the brush, form a smile line where the pink of the nail body and the white of the free-edge meet.
    • Apply Cuticle Area: Apply a small ball of acrylic near the cuticle. Gently pat and push to move the product so it tapers toward the cuticle. This ball of acrylic should be of a wetter consistency so that the product works and flows easily, but not so wet that it runs into the cuticle. Keep the product at least the thickness of a business card away from the cuticle to prevent lifting. *If doing P&W’s, then this ball should be made from clear or pink powder. (Also see Alternate Methods below.)
    • Apply Stress Area: Pick up a medium sized, wet ball of acrylic (same color as cuticle ball if doing P&W's) and place in between the first two areas. Stroke the product over the entire nail to build-up and reinforce the stress area while creating a smooth finish. Check the nail from all angles to analyze the shape and structure. Apply additional balls as needed to build the arch to provide strength and beauty to the nails. (Also see Alternate Methods below.)
    • Finish Work: File both sides of the nail groove and the free edge of each nail. Shape and contour the surface of the acrylic and bevel the free-edge and cuticle areas.
    • Buff Nails: Use a block buffer or electric file to produce a smooth and even surface. Oil or buffing paste may also be used. For P&W's continue with a 3-way buffer to produce a high shine on the nails.
    • Post-Service: Have client wash; polish nails if desired. Take payment and schedule fill appointments.

Alternate Methods

Zone Sculpting

Some manufacturers refer to the nail in zones. The free-edge is referred to as zone 1, the stress area as zone 2, and the cuticle area as zone 3. Instead of using one ball of acrylic at the cuticle area, some techs prefer to use 2 or more smaller balls.

Alternate Method 1


Some techs prefer to reverse the order of steps 5 & 6: Apply stress area acrylic ball first, then cuticle area. Check nail and apply additional stress area balls if needed to build arch.

Alternate Method 2

Apply a ball of acrylic in the center of nail at the stress area and then pat it to the right. Apply a second ball of acrylic over the first ball in the center, and then pat it out to the left.