Full-Set Gels/Tip Overlay

Gel Full Set Over Tips:Quick-Look Reference; 9-Step Method

  1. Pre-Service
  2. Prep
  3. Prime
  4. Put It On (Apply Gel Layer)
  5. Put It In The Light (Cure)
  6. Play It Again (Repeat 4 &5 As Needed)
  7. Pull It Off (Cleanse)
  8. Perfect/Purr-fect (Finish Work)
  9. Pretty-tize (Polish or Gloss)
Following are detailed, generic, step-by-step instructions for applying a full-set of gel nails. The manufacturer of the brand of professional gel nail products you choose will have their own specific instructions; refer to those instructions first for application techniques, and then refer to this guide for additional technique refinement and trouble-shooting. Problems can occur when technicians take it upon themselves to change the application process, or substitute products from other product lines. Always read and follow the manufacturer's instructions when servicing customers. Should you have any questions regarding application, first contact the manufacturer for assistance (check labels for websites and toll-free phone numbers).

Since gel "moves" until it is hardened in the U-V light, many techs find it easier to start out doing and learning gels by doing tip-overlays. Always remember however, that the enhancement product applied over a tip (be it gel or acrylic) should be the structure and strength of the nail. The tip should only provide a base and guideline upon which to build. Whether sculpting on forms or tips, the nails should always be "built" for strength and beauty.

As the professional, it is up to you to decide whether the client is better suited to tips or forms; see the article titled “Tips vs. Forms” in the section “Nail Tech 101” for more information on this subject. Please refer to detailed information on some subjects below. For sake of brevity and avoiding repetition, steps that are common to all nail services are discussed in detail in the appropriate sections in "Nail Tech 101”. Also, see the article “Gel Nail Supplies” to be sure you have all the necessary supplies on hand before starting!

    • Use a separate brush just for primer gel. This brush should be very small (like a fine-point art brush). Either natural or synthetic hair is fine.
    • Use a very small amount of primer gel. Brush this gel into the nail in almost a scrubbing manner. Be sure to cover all parts of the nail, avoiding the cuticle and the skin.
    • If the nail appears glossy after you have applied primer gel then you have used too much! Use just enough to cover and leave a matte, almost gritty surface.
    • Cure the gel in the light for the required time. Remove the hand and then proceed with gel application. Do NOT wipe the nail surface with cleanser at this point. Repeat: Do NOT wipe with cleanser. The nail needs to retain it’s tacky/sticky surface for the next layer of gel to adhere properly.
    • While the 1st hand is curing, apply primer gel to other hand, then cure as above.
  1. Pre-Service: Greet client, wash hands (tech and client), remove polish, refer to client information card (fill out a card if new client), etc.
  2. Prep: Remove shine from nails, dust nails, apply nail sanitizer. Apply and blend tips. Dust and sanitize again.
  3. Prime: If liquid primer, apply and let dry as you would with acrylic nails. If gel primer, apply very small amount to nail and cure in light according to manufacturer's instructions (usually 1-3 minutes).
    Details on gel primer: Be sure surface shine has been removed from the nail, and that the nail is dust free and clean.
  4. Apply Gel
  5. Cure
  6. Apply Gel

Techniques and Terminology

Building Gels: are now available with most gel lines. Building gels do not self level and are applied using the technique as their companion gels. This unique gel stays where you put it allowing you to easily “build” an arch or sculpt an edge without gravity doing its job and leveling it, allowing you more time to perfect your work.

Pick up a small amount of gel on a your gel brush wiping the other side against the edge of the jar so you have one side with gel and the other side will be clean. Place gel in the areas that needs to be reinforced, or areas that need to be built up such as arches and free edges when sculpting. Smooth gel be lightly brushing and blending then cure.

Gel "Tail" or "Ribbon" Technique

The tail technique allows you to use thin velocity gels to build in arches and reinforce stress areas. This technique takes practice but once mastered becomes a second nature and produces a beautifully arched nail.

Pick up a large amount of gel on your gel brush by dipping your brush into your container of gel. When you lift the brush up the gel will stream off the brush resembling a tail. Carefully move the brush over the top of the nail and lower your hand until the tip of the tail of gel slightly touches the nail as seen in illustration I slowly move your hand toward the free edge. Depending on the length of the nail bed and the shape of the nail you will develop an eye for the natural placement of the arch. This technique is slightly unusual considering your brush should never touch the nail your just allowing the gel to flow off your brush. Photo of tail hanging off brush over nail

Until you develop confidence and speed you will need to cure the product as soon as you get it in place for 30 seconds to set it. Once all 4 nail are set you can then sure them for the manufactures recommended time.

Inspect each nail looking for thin areas or imperfections.

** Cuticle area application tip When applying gel to the cuticle area, set your brush down just short of the cuticle, then push gel toward cuticle and pull back without ever lifting your brush. This will help to eliminate a ridge at the cuticle.

Dispersion Layer: Remove tacky layer by using a gel nail cleanser and a lint free cotton wipe (do not use a cotton ball because the fiber will stick the nail and will be difficult to remove) or a makeup sponge (which only can be used once and should not be used from customer to customer). Saturate the wipe or sponge with the cleanser and wipe off the tacky layer. When wiping if the nails seem too tacky then the nail may have not have cured correctly. Check your bulbs for dirt (wipe w/alcohol), or they may need to be replaced. Gel nails are incredibly shiny which is a real selling point if you cut corners and use diluted alcohol (such as 70 orn 90% rather than 99%) it will give your beautiful gel nail a dull finish.

Note: once cleanser has touched a nail you CANNOT apply more gel without first rebuffing to take shine off of the gel. Gel will not stick to glossy gel, only tacky gel or non-shiny gel!

Finish the Service

    • Don’t have your client wash, clean each nail carefully with your gel cleanser and a lint free wipe.
    • Apply a thin layer of “Top Coat Gel”
    • Cure
    • Wipe with gel nail cleanser to remove the tacky layer. Note: several manufactures now make a top coat that cures without a tacky layer.
    • Apply THIN layer of colored gel
    • Cure
    • Apply 2nd THIN layer of colored gel if needed
    • Cure
    • Repeat as many times as needed until you achieve the shade desired.
    • Apply a thin layer of “Top Coat Gel”
    • Cure
    • Wipe with gel nail cleanser to remove the tacky layer.
  1. Wipe with gel nail cleanser to remove the tacky layer.
  2. Wipe with gel nail cleanser to remove the tacky layer.
  3. Colored Gel
When working with colored gel one simply rule applies and once you understand why it’s simple to remember. Color, which is pigment in the gel blocks the uv rays. So if you apply the colored gel too thick it may not cure underneath because the U-V rays can‘t penetrate the gel fully. So thin is always better than thick when working with colored gels.


A gel over tip application can provide your client with many benefits.

  1. Structural Strength - Tips give underlying support to each nail.
  2. Structural Strength - Tips give underlying support to each nail.
  3. Shape – Because each type of tip has a different C-curve, they create different looks. Some have dramatic arches and others are more natural.
  4. Consistency- Because you are using tips on all 10 nails it gives a consistent look from nail to nail.
  5. Thinness - Tips allows you to apply the product very thin because you have the extra support. Which produces a natural looking enhancement.
  6. Color - Using colored tips can create a beautiful permanent French Manicure look, or by using pre-airbrushed tips, you get instant nail art with no extra effort.
Remove dust by using a sanitized manicure brush. Never use a cosmetic brush which has been commonly used in the industry in the past. Dusting nails with an cosmetic brush creates static electricity which draws the dust to the brush and then spread over other nails. Cosmetic brushes are made of natural hair and can not be sanitized. Spreading dust and contaminating the nail surface with a dirty brush can cause the enhancement to lift. Apply nail sept, nail cleaner, or a product used to sanitize and dehydrate such as IBD’s Nail Prep to sanitize the nail plate. IF the sanitizer touches the tip it will turn it shiny and you will need to buff the tip return it to a matt finish. Do not use alcohol to sanitize the nail plate. Alcohol is a petroleum based product and does leave a residue which also is contributes to lifting.

The next layer of gel will be a thicker consistency. The manufacture of your product may suggest to use a particular type of gel for the first coat that will aid to proper bonding, give added strength to the enhancement, and can also act as a barrier against the hot sensation some customers feel when curing.

Apply Gel

  • Pick up a small amount of gel on a your gel brush wiping the other side against the edge of the jar so you have one side with gel and the other side will be clean.
  • Holding your brush like a pencil and the flat side of the brush with the gel side down place gel between cuticle and center of the nail (see illustration A).
  • Move the gel into position first around the cuticle area by lightly brushing or dragging it The brush should float on the top layer of gel with brush never touching the nail underneath. A horse shoe movement can be used to smooth. (see illustration B).
  • Now drag or brush straight stroke toward the free edge and swipe the free edge to create a seal. (see illustration C) Pay special attention to the sidewalls which can be tricky, the gel must be covering nail without touching the skin. Gel also continues to move because it is self leveling and will shrink slightly when curing so it does take some time to get the feeling for sidewalls and cuticles. Apply gel to 4 fingers (pinky, ring, middle, and index) and cure under your gel light. While curing begin work the other 4 finger of the next hand. Followed by thumbs and cure them together. Curing the thumbs together insures that the thumbs are inserted into the light straight. When the entire hand is placed under the light the thumb is always slant. Most gels self level, when the thumb is placed under the light at a slant the gel will slide, and you will have more product on one side of the nail. Thumbs may also cure incorrectly if its not placed flat under the light.
  • Have your customer place her hand under the light with palm up for the first 30 seconds. This will help build a natural arch and keep it from floating to close to the cuticle which makes it difficult to file and can cause lifting.
  • Saturate a lint free cotton wipe with nail cleanser. Fold the wipe in half around you gel brush and pull the brush through wiping the brush clean.
*** Always go back and check each nail before curing, gel products are self leveling and will continue to move. You may need to take a orange wood stick and run it along the cuticle and sidewalls to remove any unwanted gel and create a small gap between the skin and product. ***