Don’t Toy With My Heart

S&M 27 January 2018 A

For this design I used a technique that’s been around for awhile but I had not yet tried: the “smoosh” manicure.  Here are the colors of Gelish I used:

  • black – Black Shadow
  • red – Don’t Toy With My Heart (also used on full coverage nails)
  • gray – Fashion Week Chic
  •  nude/neutral – Taupe Model

I did one coat of Taupe Model as the base, cured it, then applied small drops of all the colors in various spots on the nails.  Next, I used my Morgan Taylor clear stamper to smoosh the drops around so they blended a little, but not so much that the colors became “muddy”. Finally, I cured the design for 1 minute.

Once the smooshing was done I thought it was a little boring so I stamped on top using a design from the Morgan Taylor Designer Plates Flirty Florals collection.  These are some great stamping plates that would do even better with a better stamping polish. (Next time I’ll try using polish from Clear Jelly Stamper.) Check out the macro shot!

S&M 27 January 2018 B

This ended up being super easy (and quick) to do, but got a lot of notice. I wore this manicure for over two weeks!

Have you tried the smoosh mani? Let me know how it turned out in the comments!


Unboxing the Born Pretty Gigantic Stamper

S&M 3 December 2017 EBefore the holidays here in the U.S. I ordered the Gigantic Stamper from the Born Pretty Store (BPS) on  Within a month I had received the package. It included:

  • The stamper, which is 12 x 5 x 1.5 cm, approximately the same size as most XL stamping plates, and weighs about 120 grams
  • 4 thin scraper cards

The stamper was only about $8 through (though the price has increased to about $15 now, it is still only $8 if you buy from BPS). It’s a squishy stamper, and works very well with no priming needed. The great thing is that it’s clear, so you can see through it to line up your nails and stamp multiple nails at one time.

To see it in action, please visit the Smoke & Mirrors YouTube channel for my unboxing video. I immediately tried a couple different stamping methods with it, and was impressed with how well it picked up the images from the plates. Since then I have used it in a couple different manicures with no problem. While other BPS stampers have given me trouble in the past because they were not squishy enough, this one felt very comfortable to stamp with.

Note that this is NOT a paid review. I bought this product to try out on myself before possibly using it in salon, so you’re seeing my real initial testing and reactions to the product.


YsNails Dual Forms review

A couple years ago I wrote a post explaining dual forms vs. inverted nail moulds. Now I’m back with review of another brand of dual forms (also called reverse forms)! (Note that I bought all the items mentioned in this post, and the opinions expressed are my own. This is not a sponsored post.)

Dual forms gained infamy when nail technician Amy Becker used them in a competition in 2013 to sculpt a full set in less than 8 minutes. She now holds the World’s Record for fastest set of sculptured pink and white acrylic nails thanks to her innovative use of this product. Many nail techs still think using dual forms is “cheating”, but I find that they are simply a quicker way of producing beautifully shaped enhancements on the natural nails. They cannot replace paper forms or nail tips, but are another viable option for nail techs and home users.

I have been using ASP Form-A-Nail dual forms on myself off-and-on for the past couple years. Recently I watched a video review on YsNails dual forms from another nail tech, Denise John, on YouTube, and decided to give them a try. I bought the YsNails dual forms on Ebay.  They came in a plastic bag inside a bubble wrap mailer, with some brief instructions.  If you don’t know how to use these there are a hundred videos online that can help!

S&M 3 December 2017 D

Overall I like these dual forms. It’s convenient to have a length guide on the form, though this isn’t a deal-breaker because I measure the length of my nails while finish filing, to make sure they’re all even, anyway. These dual forms built a nice nail for me (I usually prefer squoval), and I didn’t feel bad about re-shaping the form for my thumb nail because the package came with so many forms… more on that below.  However, the plastic did seem a bit thinner than the other dual forms I’ve used, making them feel flimsier overall. Here are the nails I built with them, using Gelish Hard Gel:

S&M 1 October 2017

If you’re looking to buy dual forms, buying them online or at Sally Beauty is probably the fastest and easiest way to get your hands on some. Comparing the two brands I personally have used…

ASP Form-A-Nail – around $8 for 24 forms in 12 unique sizes

  • work consistently well (I’ve tried them with hard gel, acrylic and Polygel)
  • have tabs on the side to hold so you can more easily rock the dual form until it pops off the nail
  • no length indicator
  • shape of the forms fits well to the typical nail bed
  • form a decent nail shape, perhaps a little flatter than I would like

YsNails dual forms – $9 for 120 forms in 12 unique sizes

  • worked just as well as the more expensive versions
  • have length indicators – very helpful!
  • seem to be a thinner plastic than other brands
  • you get more in the pack than with other brands
  • have a very rounded cuticle area; my thumb nail cuticle area is very flat, so I filed the edge of the dual form to match

Some other brands:

  • Pronails Poppits– these seem to be the original. They have a tab at the tip to help with removal.
  • Bio-Swift system – like a couple other techniques that pro and home users have been using for years (such as stamping nail art and acrylic dip systems), it seems that dual forms are gaining attention in 2017 from professional brands. BioSeaweed Gel introduced this reverse forms kit recently
  • ASP Form-A-Nail – I mentioned these above and in my previous post about dual forms, but I’m listing them again here to supply the link

Be aware that whether you use gel or acrylic, this is a two-handed process. You’ll need to use one hand to hold the form in position on the nail of the other hand until the acrylic dries or while the gel is cured enough (about 20 seconds) for the form to stay in place during the full curing process. I have never used these on clients because I don’t have a lamp that will cure gel while I am holding the dual form on the nail with my two hands. You’d probably need an overhead lamp or a flashlight-style LED lamp.

Also be aware that it’s easy to push the dual form down on to the nail using too much pressure, resulting in a precariously thin enhancement and a vulnerable nail-to-extension transition (meaning the area where the natural nail abuts the gel nail). This can lead to easy breakage and shorter wear time. I also prefer my extensions to be a bit thicker, after finding that the super thin extensions just don’t hold up to the rigors of everyday life as well as those that are a little thicker.

Reverse or dual forms are easy to use but, just like any other product, they still require practice.  Have you tried any of these brands of dual forms? What do you think about them? Please leave a comment below!

Unboxing: XL Clear Jelly Stamper, plates, and stamping polish

A couple weeks ago I ordered the Big Bling XL stamper and some stamping plates and polishes from I had heard about the original clear jelly stamper before, but finally decided to give it a try after I saw Suzie from Nail Career Education interview the inventor of the clear jelly stamper, Debbie, and try the products in this video. I had never seen layered stamping for nails before, and really wanted to try it out!

S&M clear jelly stamper kitClear Jelly Stamper (CJS) offers an array of products for stampers of all levels. I already knew what stamped looks I wanted to create, and so I ordered:

For a peek at what I got, please watch my CJS unboxing video at the Smoke & Mirrors YouTube channel. Then, stay tuned for my demo video coming soon!

Have you tried CJS products yet? If so, please leave me a comment and let me know how they worked for you!

Don’t Break My Corazon

S&M 12 November 2017

This design was done with two coats of Gelish Don’t Break My Corazón from the Fall 2017 Matadora collection. This is a stunning red in person, and it is the type of red that goes with everything.

On the middle nails I taped off the inner section before applying the Don’t Break My Corazón. After the polish cured I removed the tape and glued on some 3D net embellishments from Born Pretty Store. This stuff is basically a lot of strings all laid in a random pattern and glue together. It comes to you in a small sheet, and you can cut a strip whatever size you need from it.  It is a flat sheet of it, however, and only slightly flexible. And it is not self-adhesive, so I used nail glue to adhere it to the curves of my nail. It stayed on very well, and I had to soak it off with acetone when it was time for removal.

I’m not sure if this design is really my style, but the product worked well and I got a lot of questions and compliments on it!

Marshmallow Manicure

S&M 1 October 2017.jpg

About a month ago I saw a post on the Nails Magazine website about the “marshmallow manicure” that Morgan Taylor lead artist Gina Edwards had created for Caroline Herrera’s Spring 2018 NYFW collection models.

While Gina Edwards used Heaven Sent (formerly Little Princess) for the white color, I decided to use the new white called I’m Drawing a Blanco, from the fall 2017 Matadora Gelish collection.  I’m Drawing Blanco does have a bit of shimmer to it, which I embellished with some rhinestones and Gelish Grand Jewels to create this design. The butterfly is a double-stamped (first white, then black) image from stamping plate BP-07 I purchased at The Born Pretty Store.

Mauve Your Feet

S&M 30 September 2017

One of the new colors from the Gelish fall 2017 Matadora collection is proving to be very popular so far, at least on social media. It’s called Mauve Your Feet, and I’ve been seeing it everywhere lately. Here’s my take on it.

This is 2 coats of Mauve Your Feet stamped with a rose design from Morgan Taylor Designer Plate 3720201-1 in black polish.  I used a plate and stamper from the Flirty Florals Collection 1 kit, and the design came out beautifully!

What do you think? Have you worn this color yet?

My, Myself-ie and I

S&M 6 August 2017

As we enter the final weeks of summer 2017, I felt some neon pink nails were in order. This is Gelish Me, Myself-ie and I, from the Selfie collection, with some hand-painted nail art. Some nails are topped with All That Glitters Is Gold from the original Gelish Trends collection. I used black and white acrylic paints, a striping brush and a dotting tool to paint the design. This design was done on enhancements (tips) done with Gelish Dip, and not only do they look pretty good but they’re holding up very well!

Check out how beautifully all the colors work together in this collection:

S&M 6 August 2017 B

Here’s a photo of my entire Gelish Mini Selfie collection. I rarely buy the mini sizes any more, but decided to purchased them in the smaller size for this collection because neons don’t see a lot of use from my current clients.

Selfie Collection

This summer I’m loving the corals and pinks in this collection. What about you? What’s your favorite Selfie color?

Orange Cream Dream

S&M 12 June 2017

This summery design was created using Gelish Orange Cream Dream from the Candyland collection, with a marble design in the corner made from the following Gelish colors:

I applied and cured two coats of Orange Cream Dream first, then added a third coat but did not cure.  In the corner of the nail I laid down two lines of My Yacht, My Rules.  In between the lines I put the blue or purple color, and marbled the lines using a liner brush. Then I cured for 60 seconds, since the polish was 2+ coats thick in the corner. Finally, I topped it off with Gelish top coat. Easy-peasy!

Have you tried marbling gel?



Review: Morgan Taylor Designer Plates

plate 3720201-1

These lovely stamping plates are Morgan Taylor Designer Plates. Morgan Taylor Lacquer products are a part of the Hand & Nail Harmony family, along with Gelish soak-off gel polish, Prohesion acrylic, and now the Polygel nail enhancement system.

plate 3720201-2

I purchased the Morgan Taylor Designer Plates Flirty Florals Collection 1 kit from Cosmoprof for approximately $20.  I’ve been looking for them for a couple months, but had been unable to find them for sale until recently. It seems that they’ve just been released, and are now in stock at some retail locations!

You can see my unboxing video for this kit on the NEW Smoke & Mirrors YouTube channel at:

The images on this plate are cute and versatile. I did a quick test of a few designs and found that the images stamp crisply and clearly:

The images and stamper are large enough to provide full coverage on long nails, which makes them great for salon use. So far, I really like these plates!  I plan to do more nail art soon with them.

I’ve found that the stamper works really well, right out of the box. It’s a nice, soft silicone for a comfortable stamping feel, and the pad picks up the image cleanly with no prep needed. The stamper also magnifies whatever you are viewing through it, which makes it easier to find your desired stamp placement .

Be sure to watch my demo video on the Smoke & Mirrors YouTube channel to see these plates in action.

If you’re not familiar with nail art stamping, check out the step-by-step provided by Morgan Taylor on their YouTube page. You can also find more information in my previous in-depth post on nail art stamping here.

Nail art stamping has actually been around for years, and it appears that the professional brands are finally getting into the action. A couple other pro kits have also launched recently. I applaud manufacturers of professional products for creating these kits and making them available to pros, who might not have otherwise tried this seemingly-simple but effective nail art technique.  However, the fact remains that this trend was born from the passion of the DIYers that have been practicing it for a long time already.  Kudos, then, to the professional brands, such as Morgan Taylor, that embrace DIYers as part of the nail community and use their brand to bring these products and techniques to those who might not have otherwise used them!

I’ll be posting nail art featuring the designs on these plates in the near future, so be sure to come back in few days!

Have you tried these plates yet? What did you think?