Nail Art Application

A question I hear most days, is how is the best way to attach crystals, gems and embellishments to nails?

Most techs will have their favourite technique as there are several different methods that can be used such as nail glue, top-coat and gel. In this blog, I will share my tips and techniques for my favourite method for long lasting crystals.


Gel is my favourite method to apply Swarovski and Preciosa crystals to your nail art designs. You can use a builder gel already in your kit or purchase a specifically designed gem glue. It is important to use a flexible but stiff gel for longevity so as the nail flexes so does the gel, giving the crystal more staying power.

One of most important things for endurance, especially with larger crystals is using enough gel to ensure it grips around the entire edge of each crystal’s base. Think of it like a ‘gel prong'. It will hold the crystal in place in the way that a prong holds a diamond in a ring.
Getting a thorough cure when using gel is paramount for longevity and to avoid uncured product coming into contact with the client.


1. Apply matte or non-wipe top coat to the finished nail. Place your selected Swarovski/Preciosa Crystals in a triangle tray for ease of picking up.

2. When applying larger crystals and pointy backs, use a firm yet flexible gem gel. Using a brush or dotting tool, pick up a bead of gel half the size of the crystal you are placing. For pointy backs, the gel needs to come up onto the girdle of the crystal to really secure it.

3. Apply non-wipe top coat over the top of this bead of gel before curing. Use a wax tipped gem wand (the Crystal Katana is a brilliant tool), dotting tool or tweezers to place the crystal into the gel. Use the tool to press this into the gel so it can really grip round the base. By applying non-wipe top coat over the gel, this ensures a tacky layer isn’t left which can be tricky to remove after applying the crystal.

4. When using a wax-tipped tool, it is important to keep sharpening this (I use a nail file to keep this sharp) or replace the heads regularly to keep it in optimum condition for picking up. If you have a Crystal Katana there is no need to sharpen the wax tip.

5. Cure for manufacturers recommended time. For larger crystals cure for longer. Get your client to slowly move their hand from side to side while it’s curing under the lamp to allow the light to cure the gel in between the crystals. Make sure your client doesn’t tilt their hand too much to one side. The crystal will slide and cure in the wrong position. To prevent this, you can use a handheld LED light for a quick flash cure over the crystal. This will stop it moving before fully curing under the LED lamp. If using a thinner viscosity gel, you may need to apply one larger crystal at a time to prevent the gel and crystal running.

6. To apply smaller crystals, use a brush or a dotting tool to apply a medium viscosity gel in the chosen area. Apply a generous amount so the gel can grip around the crystal and act as an anchor. Again, apply non-wipe top coat over this. Use a Crystal Katana, Jewell Setter, gem wand, dotting tool or tweezers to place the gem into the gel. Use the tool to press this into the gel so it can really grip round the base. If you have applied too much, you can dip a brush into cleanser and remove prior to curing.

7. On a palette (tile, back of a form, foil) mix non-wipe top coat with caviar beads and apply in the gaps around your chosen design.

8. If you want to seal the edges with a non-wipe top gel, this is your preference but not required. It is important never to put any gel or glue over the crystals, because crystals get their brilliance from light reflecting off the facets. Regardless of attachment method, anything on top of the stone will dull the shine and lose its clarity.

Nail Art Application


Katie Barnes Nail Artist and Training Academy for these tips and tricks on nail art application. We appreciate their time and look forward to hearing more from them!


Nail Art Application

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