What designs have you been dying to get your phalanges on? Or rather, what designs have you been dying to get on your phalanges? Engrave your logo, initials or original designs into an aluminum plate and transfer them onto your nails with this tutorial! Full video of the process is in step 5.
- Anodized aluminum dog tag - I got mine from Othermachine Co.
- High-strength double-sided tape
- Two contrasting colors of nail polish (I recommend not using glitter, but metallic is ok for one of the colors)
- Nail stamp and scraper - these can be found on eBay or Amazon for $1-$5. The stamp is just a little piece of silicone on a handle, and the scraper is laminated piece of cardboard, so you could DIY these if you are so inclined.
- Nail polish remover
- CNC Mill - I use the Othermill with an engraving bit. If you don't have one, look for a local library, hackerspace, workshop or fab lab that does! These machines are getting increasingly accessible.
Step 1: Create Your Nail Designs!
Create 5-10 designs to put on your nail plate. I wouldn't recommend doing more simply because if the designs are too close together, the plate becomes tricky to work with. If you have more than ten fingers, go ahead and squeeze a few more designs in and make it work. You can draw these up in any vector-based design tool like Illustrator or Inkscape, as long as you can output as .svg! I did some Monster High inspired designs and my logo in a couple sizes. You may want to include a larger design for the thumb!
Some designs work better than others when it comes to working with nail polish. Designs that rely on very fine detail and sharp edges can be tricky to get off of the stamp, and some designs were hard to read on the nail, such as that little safety pin and the lettering. Solid silhouettes work really well, such as the lighting bolt design. Don't forget to play with the negative space since you can have a base polish and an accent polish for the designs!
Export your file as an .svg for the next step. My designs are fills without a stroke or outline.
Step 2: Prepare Your File to Mill
Time to import your designs into the software you will be using to communicate with the CNC. I used the Othermill to create my nail plan, so I imported the .svg file into Otherplan Classic. The new version of Otherplan also supports .svg but it looks a little different than what is pictured here.
You will be engraving these designs, so you can use a pretty small bit or engraving bit. The depth that worked well for me was .05mm. The Othermill has presets for working with the aluminum dog tag which work wonderfully. If you are working with another mill, just make sure you are gentle on that bit because engraving bits break easily.
Carefully tape down the aluminum dog tag to the bed. It can help to leave a little excess tape that sticks out over the side of the bed so that you can pull the plate up more easily. I forgot to do this step and used a spatula to scrape it off which is also fine.
Step 3: Mill It, Home Skillet!
Time for the fun part! Sit back and let the mill do the work. Take 6-8,000 photos and tag me in them, particularly if you came up with hot dog nail designs. While you are keeping an eye on the mill, you can paint your nails with the base coat if you like, and maybe have a hot chocolate. When the job is done, brush away any swarf/aluminum dust and scrape the plate up using the tape tab or a spatula.
Step 4: Time to Get Your Nails Did
The hardest part of this process was the nail painting part, simply because I am useless at painting my own nails. If you are more coordinated than I am, go ahead and paint your nails with a base color and then use a contrasting color for the designs. Or, rope a friend, sibling, or manicurist into it!
Paint some polish onto a design, and then use the scraper to remove the excess polish, so that only the design remains full of polish. Then pick up the design by gently but confidently squishing the stamp over the design. The stamp can smell fear! You can then transfer the design onto your nail by gently rolling it over the nail - this takes a bit of practice!
- Avoid using old nail polish as it tends to be a bit thicker and might not transfer onto the stamp or nail as well.
- Avoid using glitter polish because the glitter chunks can get in the way or distract from the designs, but you might be able to get away with it for the base coat.
- Metallic polish works just fine.
- Working quickly helps a lot! The dryer the polish gets, the trickier it is to transfer it onto the stamp and onto the nail.
- Clean your plate with nail polish right away after using the stamp. It's so much easier to clean when the polish hasn't had a chance to dry!
- Using a gel polish base makes the whole process a lot easier. If the design isn;t perfect the first time, you can just wipe it off with nail polish remover and try again without damaging your base coat.
The next step is a video of the whole process of my first attempt, using the Othermill.
Step 5: Watch the Process!
...and please share your designs!