Manis for Rose of Manicured and Marvelous

Happy Monday lovelies! It's been a good long while since I've post any nail art, I've been focusing on other aspects of the blog and blogging lately and I haven't had time. But there is always time to do something nice for someone else! Rose from Manicured and Marvelous has been dealing with some health issues and Jessica from Be Happy Buy Polish was sweet enough to come up with this idea for cheering her up. Each one of us who are participating re-created one of Rose's amazing nail art designs. 

 

I had a hard time choosing which design I wanted do, because Rose has so many great ones to choose from. I ultimately went with this design because it has one of my favorite color combos - black and gold. 

Tools used:

Small-tipped Dotting Tool

 

Polishes used:

OPI Never Have Too Mani Friends

KBShimmer Sun and Games

OPI by Sephora It's Real 18K Top Coat

I didn't have a large nail art bow like the one in Rose's design, so I improvised by using small heart stones that I had a fashioned a couple of bows with them. My gold top coat also has smaller flakes than hers (which I was mad jelly about btw - that top coat is bomb!). 

I want to give a shout out to Rose not only for her amazing nail art but also to say that though I may not be able to relate specifically to what you are dealing with I certainly understand what's it's like to go through a tough time. I hope this brightens your day or week! xx

 

And a huge thanks to Jessica for being a super woman - with a new baby no less! And putting all of this together. You rock!

 

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How to Create Epic Swatch Photos

 

Hello gang! I've been blogging for 4 years now (crazy!) and I have taken many upon many swatch photos in that time. But - I've never felt like I've conquered swatching. I have definitely improved- some of my earlier blog posts make me scream like I'm in a horror movie they're so bad - BUT. There is always room for improvement. And so I've turned to a couple of my favorite swatchers and asked them what steps they take to create epic swatch photos.

 
  •  First step are the nails. I know this is kind of obvious, but it's important. Make sure your cuticles are moisturized and polish is cleaned up.  A lot of bloggers are able to apply polish perfectly because practice makes perfect, but using a brush dipped in acetone to clean up polish that may have gotten on the cuticles will give you mani a nice clean look.
  • Make sure your background is clean and not to busy.
  •  Lighting is also important.  You can use natural sunlight or if you tend to do most swatching at night, use daylight bulbs. These aren't your regular soft white bulbs.  Those tend to give off a yellow cast.  You want to look for a bulb's color temperature range.  Incandescent bulbs that we normally using usually have a temperature of 2500K (kelvins) while a good daylight bulb will be somewhere between 3500k and 6500k.
  •  Know your camera settings and what all the buttons mean.  This is so key.  Taking the time to learn your camera can help yield great pictures and there are tons of tutorials out there.  To start off, take some time to learn about adjusting your white balance to get more color accurate photos.
 
  •  Do your thing! : Be it hand pose or background, it will determine the whole atmosphere of your swatches and set you apart from everyone.
  • Lighting is key! : Sunlight pictures are the best but it can be hard to stick to those depending on where you live. Shade or indirect lighting make great, soft, light sources and will prevent harsh skin/cuticles lines.
  • White balance guys! : Don't be afraid to play with your camera settings or use phone apps. I used iPhone swatches for a long time with great results with Camera+. It offers both auto WB and "lock WB" modes as well as a handy macro zoom!
  •  Crop/Rotate/Resize! : Some poses can be acrobatic and even if you don't have Photoshop, you can still use one of the many great free picture editing softwares, such as Gimp.
 
  • I think that the best tip I could give for getting great swatch pictures is to keep your cuticles moisturized throughout the process. I use pure acetone for removal and clean-up, so I take steps throughout my swatching process to avoid drying out my nails and cuticles. To start, I apply cuticle oil to my bare nails in-between each swatch and massage it in, taking care to wipe off the excess with a dry cloth. After I paint my nails and do clean-up with acetone and my favorite angled brush, I use a matte cuticle product applied sparingly with a small brush around my cuticles and then massage that in carefully to avoid smudging the polish. My favorite matte cuticle products are Baroness X's Swatcher's Balm and KBShimmer's Picture Perfect Matte Cuticle Cream. They are both great at providing moisture and getting rid of the whiteness that can occur when your skin is dehydrated by the acetone. It just depends on whether you prefer a solid balm like the Swatcher's Balm or a more lotion/cream consistency like the KBShimmer Cuticle Cream, but they are both excellent choices. I prefer to use a product like this because you really want your skin and cuticles to look moisturized but not shiny in photos. Finally, when I remove the polish, I first slather my nails with Palmer's Cocoa Butter before removal and this helps counteract the extreme drying effects of the acetone. This may sound like a lot, but it's really just an easy part of my swatching routine at this point that helps keep my cuticles looking nice before, during, and after a swatching session. 
  • Another tip that I can give is that while an angled brush may be great for cleaning up your cuticles and helping get that perfect clean line at your cuticles, the best tool for removing excess polish from your skin be it from messy application, stamping, or nail art is to use a pointy Q-tip dipped in acetone. This is also the best tool for removing stubborn sparkles and flakes that like to stick to your skin.  
  • Tip number three is to plan out your swatching session. If you have multiple collections to swatch or nail art products to review, think about all of your swatching work as a whole to help save you time vs just swatching one collection at a time. If you have a set of cremes and another set of glitters or toppers, think about how they might coordinate. If they will, use the cremes as your bases. I've also found that when I swatch a group of cremes that they tend to dry pretty quickly so that by the time I'm done photographing them I can use them as bases for stamping plates that I have to review. Swatching can be so time consuming, so be sure that you work smart when you have a lot to do!
 

These are some fabulous tips! I learned a few new things myself that I definitely want to try during my next swatching session.  Let me know in the comments section what tips you want to try to elevate your swatch game!

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The 5 Best Instagram Hashtags for Nail Bloggers - and how to use them!

With the recent changes to Instagram's algorithm, it's gotten harder for bloggers and nail art/polish enthusiasts alike to get their posts noticed. I know I have noticed a significant drop not only in likes but in who is seeing my posts to begin with. When the change was announced there was a panic in the blogging community in general with everyone rushing to tell people to turn on their notifications. Now, I don't know about you but I hate notifications. Between Facebook, Instagram, Twitter...it can all be just a bit too much. Overwhelming your followers is a sure fire way to lose them. What I decided to do instead is to focus on hashtags. We all know hashtags are important but I think they more important than they've ever been for getting your pics noticed on Instagram. Today I'm sharing my tips for finding the 5 best hashtags for nail bloggers on Instagram and when - and when not - to use them.

 

How to Use the Instagram Search Function

This is pretty simple and the best way to find out what hashtags are trending.  Simply click on search in Instagram and toggle over to "Tags". Then type in your subject which today is "Nails", but this can be applied to any subject matter you are posting about. Instagram will always list the most frequently used hashtags first.  As you can see in the graphic below "Nails" is in fact the most popular hashtag. So of course you would think "well I'll use that one", right? Sure you can, but look at the number of people using it. By the time you've posted your photo a hundred other people will have posted theirs too and yours will get lost in the crowd. I won't say steer clear of this one completely but I will suggest using it sparingly. This is not just about quantity - it's about quality and attracting the people who will turn into loyal followers - not just random likes. 

I tend to opt for the hashtags directly below the most popular one. They are popular enough to not be random and therefore pointless but not so popular that you're just another random pic. As you can see I also typed in "Indie" as a search word. This is good for when you post pics of indie brands you've swatched or if you've done nail art using indie polish brands. Make sure you are only using it for indie brands or your photo will rightfully be ignored! 

Don't Clutter Your Post with Hashtags

This was a bit of advice I got from a fellow blogger awhile ago and it has stayed with me and I use it to this day: Don't flood your post with hashtags! Create the caption for your pic, and once you've posted add your hashtags in the comments section. This keeps your post clean and easy to read and doesn't look like you're being a shill. No one wants to be a shill! The only exception I allow myself for this is when I am posting a "Nails of the Day" pic and I will simply hashtag that phrase. Other than that leave the tags for the comments! Just as important, don't use too many hashtags at once. I have to admit this is something I still do sometimes.  It's my "more must be better, right" way of thinking and I am trying to break it his bad habit. Sooo...pick 3-4 hashtags for your picture and that's it. 

Know Your Audience

We've all seen it. Someone will post a picture of a cat. And then proceed to add 30 random hashtags having nothing to do with said cat. Don't be that person! If your post is about nail art stick specifically with nail art-related hashtags. 

Tagging vs. Hashtags

If you are posting about a specific brand I highly encourage tagging over hashtags. The reason is two-fold. First - it gets your work noticed by the brand of course! When I started tagging companies and brands whose nail products I used for my nail art it opened a lot of doors for establishing relationships with those brands. Second - brands LOVE to repost pics featuring their products which equals more exposure for your page. So this one is a no-brainer and a win-win. 

My 5 Favorite Hashtags

I've listed below my 5 favorite (and in my opinion, the best) hashtags for nail bloggers. The others shown above are great as well and I do use them interchangeably depending on whether I am posting nail art or swatches. But I've noticed that I get the most interaction on my pictures using the hashtags below. 

  1. #nailstagram
  2. #nailsofinstagram
  3. #nailsoftheday
  4. #instanails
  5. #nails2inspire

I could also talk about my favorite hashtags for posting pictures of your cat. But that's a whole other post...

 

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Colors by Llarowe April Polish of the Month Sweet Beginnings Swatch & Review

*Provided for Review

Happy Friday all! Today's post features a polish that I have worn at least three times since receiving it I love that much. The Colors by Llarowe April Polish of the Month, Sweet Beginnings. I am woefully late getting this up. Werk and life have both been busy as of late and I thought I'd actually posted this and then realized I hadn't! I feel like such a bad blogger. But better late than never I guess, right? 

Sweet Beginnings is a bright raspberry red linear holo. The formulas on this was very good; thick but not too thick. You could get away with just using one thick coat or two thin ones, whichever you prefer. The finish does dry down slightly dull so a top coat is needed. 

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I have been rocking this color a lot since receiving it. I've gotten sooo many compliments on it as well. So even if you are like me and have a fair share of red holos in your collection I would still consider this one a must have. It's just sooo purty! I recently experienced yet another nail break (story of my life recently) and this was the color I wore to cheer myself up.

 

Sweet Beginnings is sold via the Colors by Llarowe website and retails for $12. 

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KBShimmer Peony Pincher & Stalk Market Swatches & Review

*Provided for Review

Happy Tuesday gentlefolks! Today I have for you two colors from KBShimmer's new Spring collection. They launched two new Collections; an Ultra Flame and a Mega Flame. So just think lots of bling!

 

First up is Peony Pincher from the Ultra Flame collection. It is a lavender pink with a strong linear holo. I have a fair amount of pink holos, and in the bottle this onw didn't look all that different from them, but once I applied it I could really see the strong lavender/purple undertones which makes it unique and perfect for Spring. The formulas was really impressive, the polish is on the thick side but it applied smoothly and if you use thick coats you could probably get away with just one. I used two thin coats for pics and no top coat. 

 
KBShimmer-Stalk-Market-Pic1

Next up is Stalk Market from the Mega Flame Collection. A green-gold holo glitter that is completely opaque in two coats. This applied like a dream! I applied once coat and had a few bald spots; on the second coat I just lightly applied polish to those areas and it self-leveled perfectly with no streak or patchiness. I definitely recommend using top coat with this since it dries downs rather gritty. I used once coat of KBShimmer Clearly on Top for pics. 

KBShimmer-Stalk-Market-Pic2

Of the two I would say Peony Pincher is my favorite- it's such a perfect Spring color. 

You can check out the full collections on the KBShimmer website. Each bottle retails for $9.25.

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