Remember back in 2017 when people were experimenting with neon eyeliner and lip art, creating optical illusions that made their makeup look like it was actually glowing? Well, we're happy to report that the trend has resurfaced, but this time it's moved on to the nails.
Now, this isn't just people swiping on two coats of electric-coloured nail polish (although we're certainly seeing a lot of that lately from some of our favourite celebs). We're talking about intricate, neon nail art designs that look like they're actually lit up and glowing like a neon sign at a night club. And one artist in particular, Leslie Ayala, owner of Nail Witch Studios in Miami, is leading the trend, turning ice cream cones, smiley faces, and rainbows into lit manicures (no, really). We quizzed Ayala to learn how she pulled off the polish optical illusion.
Ayala said her clients are always looking to leave the salon with one-of-a-kind manicures, often coming in with experimental ideas of their own. One particular client — who Ayala described as being cheerful with a great outlook on life — spotted Electric Confetti, a company that sells fun neon signs, and thought they would make a great manicure. This talented nail artist was able to make her client's ideas a reality.
What makes this neon sign manicure so special is that it appears lit up without the use of special equipment or UV paints. Ayala achieves the effect using a fairly simple but nifty trick. First, she paints an outline of the design (think: smiley face, banana, or heart) using a white gel colour. This ensures that the neon hue she uses next will dry as bright as possible. Once the white paint is cured, she then takes a true neon colour (she uses Presto Gel) and paints over the top of the white design and cures the nail again. To make the paint look like it's literally glowing, Ayala mixes the same neon colour with a clear mixing gel to create a diluted version of the shade. Then she paints this blend along the outer edges of the original neon design, and cures the nail once more.
If you're using gel nail polish at home, "wipe the inhibition layer (i.e. the sticky layer) of the base colour before drawing the design," Ayala said. "This ensures you have sharper lines and more control over product laid on top."
If you don't have a gel kit at home, this design can definitely be done using regular nail polishes. However, it might require more patience as the drying time will be longer.
And there you have it. Now that you know how to create the effect, keep reading to get some design inspiration.