To create a natural-looking and durable set of sculptured nails, using a form is essential—and getting the right fit is crucial. “Perfecting your form-fitting technique will mean the difference between a structurally strong nail that will last until the next fill and having a little groove in the side of the nail,” says Cheralyn Phaneuf, an educator for Indigo Nails in Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada. “If the form is not properly fit, the nail will grow out and that groove will become a weak point and break under pressure or get caught in the client’s hair or clothes—and if the client is a picker, she will likely pick away at that spot until it breaks.”

Getting that flawless fit can sometimes be exasperating, especially when dealing with “imperfect” nail shapes. “A lot of technicians have trouble fitting forms properly because clients’ nail shapes and fingers are all so different, and the round shape of the form opening doesn’t always match up to the client’s nail,” notes Los Angeles-based nail artist and Young Nails senior mentor Sabella Snyder. That’s why it’s often necessary to custom-fit the forms according to clients’ natural nail shapes. “Forms should fit nice and tight to avoid slipping, and there shouldn’t be any gaps,” says Phaneuf. “If the sides are properly placed, the middle line on the form should be at the middle of the nail.”

If your form isn’t fitting perfectly, take a look at the shape of the client’s nail bed, as well as at the hyponychium (where the skin of the finger and underside of the nail’s free edge meet). Then, grab some scissors or nippers (Phaneuf especially likes curved eyebrow grooming scissors) and trim the form to fit. Here, Snyder prescribes simple strategies for tailoring your forms to fit square nail beds, wide nail beds and nails with an extended hyponychium.

Square Nail Beds

When clients have square nail beds, the biggest challenge is ensuring that the center of the form is as secure as the corners. “Especially if the client is a nail-biter—more than likely she has bitten off her hyponychium—the center of the nail will need the most support when creating an extension on a square nail bed,” notes Snyder. “You want to create that same square edge to go up to the nail, so that there aren’t any gaps.”

1. Remove the center insert from the form. Then, cut across the insert to create a straight edge.

2. Once it’s cut, reapply the center insert with the sticky side up, right above the opening.

3. Place the form on the finger, making sure it’s straight and secure.

Extended Hyponychium

Clients with long nail beds often dread form application because of their extended hyponychium. For these clients, forms may feel tight or even painful—but cutting a small “V” can help to eliminate any discomfort. “The higher the hyponychium, the deeper the cut will need to be,” says Snyder. “It all depends on the client—some will have an extended hyponychium, but not as much as others. Some even extend past the fingertip, and in that case, you would want to make the cut even deeper.”

1. Take out the center of the form and reapply it at the base of the form, sticky side up.

2. Use nippers or small scissors to cut a small “V” up to the very first line of the form, depending on how extended the hyponychium is.

3. Apply the form to the finger, making sure that the entire free edge of the nail is touching the form, paying close attention to the center of the nail. (If the “V” is too deep, there will be a visible space.)

Wide Nail Beds

The secret to applying extensions to wide nail beds—particularly thumbs or even toenails—is using two forms instead of one. “If you get a really wide toe or thumb, a regular form won’t work, so it’s just easier to put two together for that one nail that happens to be extra wide,” Snyder says.

1. Take two forms, then cut three lines to the left of the center of one form, and three lines to the right of the center of the other form.

2. Line up the right form to the main center line of the left form.

3. Pop out the centers of both forms and place them on the back of the double form, sticky side up, to help ensure that the forms do not come apart.

4. Separate the top tabs and cut off the jagged pieces on the base of the opening to create a smooth, straight line.

5. Apply the new double form to the finger, making sure that the entire free edge of the nail is touching the form.

Watch the video below to see how Snyder customizes the nail form for wide nail beds.

What’s your best advice for customizing nail forms? Let us know in the comments below!

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