Dry-Brushing: A Tutorial (31DC2016)


The second-to-last daily theme in the 31 Day Nail Art Challenge (holy cats, we’re almost there!) is a tutorial.  In the three years that I’ve been participating in this challenge, I’ve never fully understood whether the prompt calls for you to follow another nail artist’s tutorial or create one of your own.  But seeing as I really don’t do that many tutorials to begin with (pretty well every second one would have to start with “Step 1: Develop an unhealthy obsession with the movie Beetlejuice”) I thought I’d try my hand (and nails) at a little how-to.

I received a lot of positive comments on these Suicide Squad nails I posted some months back, with a few folks asking how I did the punky-looking streaked bits on my index and pinkie fingers.  Well, here’s exactly how (with allowances for a different colour palette. You, of course, can choose any darn colour combination you’d like, though if you’re partial to the sort of metallic graffiti-type look of this particular manicure, you’ll need to include a foil-type metallic and a basic black.)

1. Begin by rounding up your rogues’ gallery of polishes and brushes.  For this manicure I used a single, small, flat-headed brush and six different polishes, OPI’s Sailing & Nail-ing, a pale turquoise creme, OPI’s My Signature is “DC”, a shimmery silver foil, A England’s Crown of Thistles, a plummy holo, A England’s Whispering Waves, a turquoise holo, Polish Me Silly’s Paradise, a turquoise-to-green-to-purple multi-chrome, and a basic black creme (not shown.)


2. Lay down three coats of a pale base polish, or however many it takes to reach full opacity.  Here I used OPI’s Sailing & Nail-ing, a pale, robin’s egg blue.

3. Once dry, take your brush and gently dip it into the small blob of polish you’ve daubed out onto your artist’s palette.  Or, if you’re me, you use the back of an old DVD case.  Here I started with the purple holo, A England’s Crown of Thistles.

Take a quick peek at the polish on your brush; if it seems like you maybe picked up a bit too much, simply dab it up and down on your palette a few times to remove the excess. Much like salting your food, dry-brushing is one of those areas where it’s better to start small and work your way up; you can always add more, but you can’t subtract.

Then, taking your nearly-dry brush, drag it straight down your nails from the cuticles to the tips.  Or start in the middle of your nails and drag it downwards.  Or start at the top and draw it down only halfway.  This manicure is designed to look a lot undone, so there are no precise how-tos.  And if you do accidentally stumble into a boo-boo, just remember that layered techniques like this one are super forgiving, and mistakes are easily rectified and covered up.


4. – 6. Repeat that exact same random, dry-dragging brushstroke with the remaining polishes, here silver My Signature is “DC” (4.), turquoise Whispering Waves (5.) and multi-chromatic Paradise (6.)

7. Add the black streaks, using an ultra light touch.  Again, you can always add, but you can’t subtract.  It’s important to keep that in mind when using black as an accent colour in your nail art.

Once dry, it’s time to assess your work.  The goal here is not necessarily total coverage – it’s fine if the base polish is still peeking through a bit – but if that’s what you’re going for, repeat steps 3. to 7. as you see fit.  Need more purple in that corner?  Put more purple in that corner.  Whoops, put too much purple in that corner? Cover it up with a bit of silver.  In these two photos, you can really see where I added more of everything after layering on my first black bits.


8. Continue the random layering of your polishes until your masterpiece is complete. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll know you’ve reached that perfect level when you proceed to hurtle directly over it, add way too much polish and have to redo one nail entirely from scratch.

But once that’s dry, all that’s left to do is to seal in your work with a quick dry topcoat (I always use Seche Vite) and clean up any polish overage.  Et voila, dry-brushed nails!


I hope you found this not-so-little tutorial instructive – are you feeling duly tutored? Because I’m feeling quite teacherly (not a word, I know.)  As always, if you try this manicure yourself, I’d love to see your results!  Happy nail art-ing (also not a word.)

Butterfly Garden

Butterflies in the Sun

Oh, dainty little glitter butterflies, you are terrifically cute, but you vex me so.  That I could clip your tiny paper wings, I WOULD, clip ’em good, because they are sticking up everywhere, even after two thick coats of Seche Vite, and snagging on ALL THE THINGS. This is seriously the prettiest, most annoying manicure ever!

Butterflies in the Shade

She Sells

She Sells 1

More like “She bought…these shell stickers.  In blue and now pink.  So she should use them.  And possibly stop narrating her life from an omnipotent perspective.”

So yeah, what she said.  This is my second time using these shell stickers I purchased from Daily Charme, and they applied just as nicely in this rosy pink hue as they did in the icy turquoise I used some months back. Made of real shell and sold on one small, solid sheet with an adhesive backing, the stickers take well to being cut into various shapes, although I prefer simply cutting out a sticker in the shape of one of my nails to use as an accent nail.

Here, though, I covered all of my nails in the shells, laying the stickers atop a red manicure I had done earlier in the day.  Last time, fretting about what a layer of toxic topcoat might do to the delicate shells, I opted against using any and instead destroyed my manicure with simple soap the first time I washed my hands.

So this time I gave things a whirl with topcoat, and I’m pleased to report that it had absolutely no adverse effect on the shells whatsoever.  If anything, the high gloss topcoat highlighted some of the cool, colour-shifting bits in the shells that were getting lost amidst that pretty mother of pearl design.  And from a practical perspective, using a topcoat helps fill in the fine ridges in the stickers that result from their diamond-type scoring. The scoring helps the stiffer-than-usual stickers lie flat on your nails, but the little slices also snag and rip out every bit of your hair that has the misfortune to drift into the orbit of your hands.  Which is A LOT, and I’m not one to fidget around with my hair.  Otherwise, these shells were once again a delight to use and wear – a very cool nail product that does what it’s supposed to, and well at that.  What a delight!

She Sells 2

Whale of a Tale

Stupid Whales

Gather round the old timer, friends, and listen to her spin a yarn as old as the seas themselves about ruined, nautical-themed nail art, misbehaving topcoat and, just to add abject insult to injury, a publishing platform that wishes to do no such thing.

First, this nail art is adorable, right? I am a huge sucker for horizontal stripes, particularly of the blue and navy variety, which match the pyjama pants that I am absolutely not wearing right now at four in the afternoon. I’ve also had these little whale-shaped nail vinyls for a while now, and I wanted to use them before the whale watching season is well and truly finished for the year. Owing to the striping tape and nail vinyls I used to achieve this look, these nails required a longer than usual drying period (polish tends to build up along the edges of tape and vinyls, which promptly gets swept down your nails if you go after it too quickly with your topcoat.) So I sat here all dainty-like for well over half an hour, my fingers fluttering gently off the edge of the coffee table for maximum drying power. Aaaannnnnnd it all went to shit the second I layered on my Seche Vite, which, when it’s working properly, is a nail artist’s greatest friend, sealing in, protecting and enhancing even the most basic of manicures. But mine wasn’t working today, and indeed, I believe I may have a bum bottle, because it really hasn’t been working ANY of the days, smudging, smearing and going the full goop a mere quarter of the way through the bottle. It’s a wicked pisser, nail art friends, as you are no doubt aware, to spend a good chunk of time on a manicure, only to have it ruined by the very thing you put on top of it to protect it! The expensive thing, I might add, which makes this whole smudgy debacle that much more infuriating. It’s also why there’s no thumbnail to this manicure – the Seche literally pulled the polish straight off my nails, even after half an hour of drying time. I’m actually quite baffled as to what happened here.

Then WordPress decided to be a dick. Sorry, got no other term for it – WP’s a dick. “Beep beep boop,” you say, as you hang there, refusing to publish? Holy cripes, could we BE more juvenile? It’s never bothered me before, mostly because I’ve never had to sit here for half an hour while WordPress vapour locks, but it’s seriously childish and unprofessional. I’d respect WP more if they displayed a simple error screen when problems crop up as opposed to the “Beep beep boop” not-a-progress-bar progress bar.

Thankfully Mr. Finger Candy is the next best thing to a technological wizard, and so he put his raging wife on the path of lowered blood pressure by forwarding me some very helpful links that had me up and publishing this post in next to no time. Still, I’m giving this win to Finger Candy Industries’ hard working IT department (said department consisting of one bemused husband and a half-asleep cat, both of whom are willing to work for Panera takeout) because WordPress itself was not much help.

Okay, done griping. Thanks for listening, and as always, feel free to chime in with your own (beauty) blogging issues. Misery loves company and all that jazz. 😉

The Perfect Red

Vlad Bottle

For most beauty buffs, there is no more sought after item than a clear, lush, vibrant, sexy red lacquer. Red polishes are the holy grail of nail polishes, a mythical, temperamental animal that tends to exist solely in our well-manicured dreams. Variations in skin tone, product manufacturing and just plain old personal preference being what they are, it’s little wonder no one can agree on what makes the perfect red – everybody’s doing something a little different with this iconic hue. But there are a few markers of an excellent red lacquer, and this gorgeous, vampy crimson, KB Shimmer’s Such a Vlad-Ass, meets every single one.

Caught somewhere between a clear cherry red and a watery Merlot, Such a Vlad-Ass is a true chameleon, its blue-tinged base making it an especially flattering choice for pale skinned vamps such as myself (tangent: the first semi-professional writing assignment I ever tackled was a full page write-up of “fun facts!” about the original “vampire”, Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler to his friends.) Vlad was a mercilessly cruel despot who ruled 15th Century Romania through terror and torture – as such, there are very few fun facts about the man (“Vlad’s favourite activities include things I can’t talk about in this family-oriented publication!”) It was an odd piece.)

Where Such a Vlad-Ass really shines, however, is in its formula, a smooth, glossy creme that’s just thin enough to flow evenly onto the nail, but also thick enough to actually stay on the nail and out of your cuticles. Cleaning up stainy reds is no one’s idea of a good time, and the less of that time you spend trying to acetone-away red-based boo-boos, the better. Such a Vlad-Ass is very nearly a one-coater, applying just as nicely as its collection and order-mate, navy blue Soul Deep, although I used two coats for these photos and one coat of Seche Vite, because I always do – a good topcoat will always enhance your manicure, and I love the depth Such a Vlad-Ass takes on under all that high gloss shine.

Vlad Fingers Sun

I’ve always loved KB’s gorgeous glitters and holos, but I’m really starting to come around to Team Creme. And if all of KB’s creme offerings are as lovely as Soul Deep and now Such a Vlad-Ass, that spells potentially bad things for my finances! If you like these polishes as much as I do, your wallet can take a ding, too, at both KB Shimmer and Harlow & Co.

Vlad Hand

Set in Stone


I think this polish, Sally Hansen’s Gem Crush in Glitz Gal, looks like granite. Feels a bit like granite, too. The Gem Crush polishes aren’t designated as textured polishes per se, but the diamond dust-type micro glitter that makes up its base does have a feel, particularly once you get into multiple layers like the three I’ve shown here. A coat or two of Seche Vite will smooth that out in a jiffy, and enhance Glitz Gal’s silver holographic glitter at the same time. That’s when it really looks like stonework, or the way the pavement glitters after a summer storm. And then, as the final finishing touch, I added a tough-looking silver spiked charm from Daily Charme to my ring finger for a mani that really rocks. Or just looks like rocks.


Sew What?

SewWhat Hand

These sort of geometric, sort of craft fair nails remind me of the pillow I made in seventh grade home ec. At the time I remember being quite proud of my sewing machine-enabled stitching skills, to say nothing of the pink and green colour-blocking design I had chosen, but really, by any objective standards, that pillow was SAD. Sad and ugly and flat. Also pink and green, which is a lovely colour combination in any combination BUT the two hues I chose, which were electric neon kelly green and hot salmon pink. I’m not sure how to explain this lapse in my otherwise generally spot-on colour sense except to say that I was using a lot of hairspray at the time to keep my waterfall bangs in place, so I had probably, you know, poisoned myself.

For these geometric nails with rick rack-type stitch detailing, I painted a rainbow’s worth of pastel hues on each one of my fingers. I then blocked off a random third on each one of my nails first with a co-ordinating creme, and then with a close-to-matching holo (all of the holographic polishes I used here are from Enchanted Polish.) If you’re not confident in your ability to draw a straight line, you can do this part with tape, but don’t be afraid to free-hand it – this is the type of design that looks fine a bit undone. After allowing that to dry for a bit, I then marked on some white stitch-type detailing, covering up the lines of intersection as best I could, and then topped the whole thing with one smoothing coat of Seche Vite. Sew easy!

Seaweed (OMD3)

Seaweed Hand

Under the sea, you say? Well, what about on top of the sea? Does that count? I certainly hope so, as these super glitzy seaweed nails are my entry towards day 23’s theme of under the sea in the Oh Mon Dieu Nail Art Challenge.

I adore the base polish I used here as my sea, Smitten Polish’s Glacial Springs. It has acted as the gorgeous, glittering stand-in for water in more of my designs than I can count, and it works for nearly every type of water at that, from tropical lagoons to the iced turquoise waters of the Arctic. Here I topped Glacial Springs with some very random tangles of lacquered seaweed in a couple of different shades of grass green and gold before topping it off with one coat of shine-enhancing Seche Vite. Quite ritzy for a slimy water plant we all prefer to sidestep (or possibly eat, but in an entirely different context!)

Seaweed Fingers

The Big Flake-Out

Electric Carnival CollageThis simple manicure features one of my favourite high impact, low effort nail art techniques, with a bit of a flakie twist. Here I brushed on two coats of a super high shine black polish before topping it with two coats of ILNP’s chromatic flakie, Electric Carnival, in one strip directly down the centre of each nail. I then topped the whole works with one coat of Seche Vite to enrich the shine and deepen all that gorgeous, colour-shifting flakie goodness. Aaaannnndddd that was it, the end! Dead easy, right? I wish I had more to add, but that’s the beauty of this kind of manicure, so let’s not question it too much, okay?!

I will add that ILNP’s flakies provide full coverage in two coats all on their own, although I prefer pairing them with a dark base in this elongating, less-is-more approach. I also like the way darker polishes offset the colour-shifting flakies, throwing off beautiful chromatic rainbows without being ridiculously over the top. Remember, a good manicure means never having to say, “I’m sorry I blinded you with my nails.”Electric Carnival Fingers

Ravishing Raspberry

Rose Bower CollageGood grief, this polish is a knockout and a half! This is A England’s Rose Bower, a polish I have thus far neglected to give the full swatching experience for what I can only now conclude are totally bogus reasons, because it’s STUNNING. Like its purple holographic sister, Crown of Thistles, Rose Bower is a shimmer-infused one-coater that positively glows from within. You can really ramp up that lit-from-within effect, too, by adding one more coat of Rose Bower to deepen the colour and a final coat of Seche Vite to pull out the shimmer. But Rose Bower is equally lovely on its own, drying down nicely to a smooth eggshell finish in one easy coat. And not for nothing, but bearing the label “one-coater” is actually something pretty desirable in a red nail polish; they have a tendency to stain the skin around your cuticles and nails if you colour too far outside the lines, so the less monkeying around you have to do with a red polish, the fewer chances you’ll have to dye your mitts indelible pink!

And what of that red colour? Well, it’s fabulous, of course! Variations on tomato red still set the standard for red nail polish, but I actually prefer berry red hues like Rose Bower, which is rich and lush and vampy in all the very best ways. Gorgeous!Rose Bower Fingers