Instructables

[Thumb]nail portraits - (laser etch your fingernails)

Featured
Picture of [Thumb]nail portraits - (laser etch your fingernails)
Throughout history there has been a hotly contested division between men of great importance. Rooted from a question pondered in their youth: beard - or mustache? Deeply concerned with their facial ornamentation, these men of highest standing were the Rogain to history's receding hairline. Dali chose the razor mustache while Monet chose a dirt-smear beard. Zappa went for a bikers long horned lip hanger while ZZ-Top chose a beard to tie their pants to. Each with their own motives and each leaving their nuzzle rubbings on the face of facial attire.

In this instructable you will learn how to do fingernail portraiture. One method involves pain and the potential for scarification, while the other pleasure (or mostly the absence of pain). By the end of this instructable I hope you will gain some appreciation for the beard and mustache and their everlasting body slam on the face of history. Or at least look at your fingernails as a place where you can express more than just a color.


 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Gather materials

If you wake up every morning looking at your hands and wondering how you can make them more expressive without taking up the exhausting art of miming, than these are the things you'll need:

1) A laser cutter
2) A good idea
3) Nail Polish
4) Nail polish remover
5) Press on nails
6) Double sided tape
7) A strong magnet
1-40 of 69Next »
cart56210 months ago

This it the best use of a laser cutter I've seen yet! Incredible! Although I don't think this would be a suitable project for me to try at school where I have access to a decent cutter. ;)

HAILS!! \m/ this is Awesome! kickass job...
Other good ones would have been Santa Claus, Chewie, Hemingway, Jesus, Gandalf, Chuck Norris, Che Guevara, and Abe Lincoln. :) Round 2?
Chuck Norris would be awesome. Did you know there's no chin under his beard, just another fist?
Dude,

Very cool, but could be painful if you miss or overprint.

Better. use an inkjet printer.

Mike
justcyn4 years ago
What's with the beard insecurity? Yours is great as it is, fits your face well.Great instructable, not sure I want to do it to my fingernails though. Does it grow out? How's that work down the road?
it dosent burn into your nail-it removes polish from it. this can be removed with nail polish remover
ohkiki4 years ago
haha you can buy that barbie nail studio, literaly the same thing but with colored ink and probably less painful.
but other than that this is amazing.
cnilaser4 years ago
Hello there, that's really cool. While I am wondering how your laser cutter can so precise to not hurt you nails?
TomasuD4 years ago
Tried etching on the nails before putting them on your fingers?
Maybe combine it with a camera to get precise measurements.
Really cool idea though. kudos
PearlZenith4 years ago
I agree with shushujoon. You could make mint selling nails like those.

Really neat instructable, too.
There's a reason why you shouldn't put ANY part of your body, not just your eyes, in the path of the beam. You're exposing your skin to light many many times the power of the sun thusly raising the chance of skin cancer through the roof. This is not something to be toyed around with.

If you're going to do this do it with fake nails, not on your own nails. It's all fun and games until you get a crippling medical condition due to your own stupidity.
.... hard to imagine cancer resulting from etching of a fingernail, which is made of keratin, a proteinaceous extrusion of cells at the base of the nail. Keratin is what is being etched, and is not a living cell.

Also, a laser does not have anywhere near the spectrum of the sun, so the likelihood of a frequency-tuned laser even having carcinogenic potential is questionable. Do you have a proof source?
If you're thinking that keratin is the only thing that is being affected by the laser then you're living an illusion. The laser also travels through the material, i.e. keratin, and burns under the nail as well. Also, good luck at hitting only your nail every time and not the skin around your nail as well.

Why is it hard to imagine that skin, after being exposed to high amounts of energy, has a higher probability of developing skin cancer than skin that hasn't been exposed to the same? It's but one of the ways, probably the most common though, that cause skin cancer. Commercial lasers emit wavelengths between 375nm and 1800nm (can't find info on the exact wavelength of the laser I'm using though). Ultraviolet light, which is but one (if the main) culprit of skin cancer, starts at around 400nm.

If you want to be careless with your body by all means go ahead, but advocating carefulness when working with lasers is still the way to go, wouldn't you agree?
You keep making broad assertions but offer no proof sources, despite being asked for such. Raising unfounded objections is just as counterproductive as actually advocating the use of something which IS dangerous. Lasers are used in the treatment of skin cancer for heaven's sake. Some of these are CO2 lasers. You can't just use a broad brush and paint all lasers as being dangerous without evidence and proof sources.

As far as I can tell, an engraving laser printer uses a CO2 laser, which operates in the infrared and has minimal penetration capabilities. So your assertion that it would pass through the keratin of a fingernail appears to be *unfounded*, despite its vehemence.

Additionally, the IR output of CO2 lasers is NOT ionizing radiation, so they are (evidently) incapable of damaging DNA in a mutagenic fashion - so they almost certainly do NOT cause cancer. Hence their use in all sorts of soft tissue cancer treatment.

NB - I am not a MD, a physicist, or an engineer. I just did about ten minutes of Google-fu to find this information.
Yep, industrial laser etchers are indeed used in the treatment of skin cancer, absolutely. There's no difference in strength there either, not at all, not a single difference there at all.

There are also different kinds of laser engravers (not a laser printer, not the same thing), some do indeed use co2 and some uses different materials, such as a YAG or YVO4 laser working at different wavelengths. Fingernails are transparent for heavens sake, it's like saying it wouldn't pass through glass that's a bit cloudy. Granted it's slightly out of focus (since the focus point, if set correctly, is on the nail) and the black takes up some of the brunt of the laser. However, set the strength of the laser a wee bit too high and you cut through the nail like it's butter.

You don't need to damage DNA in a mutagenic fashion for it to have a possibility to lead to skin cancer. Burn wounds in general have a, if still lower than sunburns caused by UVA or UVB rays, possibility to lead to skin cancer as well. If you use laser on your skin that's basically what you have, a burn wound. If you did ten minutes of "google-fu" I'm amazed that you didn't run into that as well.

Do what you want, stick your whole arm into the laser if you want (people have done so before), that doesn't mean it's something to be promoted as a good idea.
Let me, as a laser expert, clear a few things up.
MrPumpernickel: CO2 lasers are quite unique in a few ways. Firstly, they operate in the far, far infrared - at 10600nm. No extra zeroes in there, it is really ten thousand. This gives them some unusual properties - many materials which are quite transparent to visible light, like glass, polycarbonate plastic and indeed fingernails, are completely opaque to this wavelength.
Now, as for the idea of damaging DNA in a mutagenic fashion. There are not many lasers available which are deep enough into the harmful UV-B and UV-C regions to do this - as you stated, the lowest we usually see is 375nm and this is only 25nm into the fairly harmless UV-A region.
Yes - you can burn yourself, but there is no evidence to suggest burns lead to cancer.

Oh, and as for your initial statement about many times the power of the sun - well, you're just plain wrong. Although you are sort of right. It all comes down to energy density.
Sunlight on a hot day has an energy density of around 1000w per square metre. This laser cutter has something like a 40w laser in it.
The difference is density. That 40 watts isn't spread out like sunlight, it's all focused down to one tiny, tiny point. This doesn't make it more dangerous than sunlight, however - you can obtain an enormous Fresnel lens from a rear-projection TV with a surface area of over 1 square metre, and focus that whole 1000w down into a tiny tiny point. That can really burn stuff.

Now, one more thing, directed at mr gingerbaker. CO2 lasers are not used in any sort of therapeutic treatment, they are simply not suited to it. Lasers used in skin treatment typically operate within the visible range, and instead of being constantly on (like a CO2 laser) they are pulsed extremely fast, to allow selective heating of one particular target without burning surrounding tissues.

Anything else I haven't cleared up?
Blue Fusion - thanks for your informative post! :)

I think you are incorrect about CO2 lasers not being used therapeutically, though, see:

http://www.irradia.fi/english-surgical-laser-co2.shtml

http://www.aesthetic.lumenis.com/acupulse

http://www.google.com/#hl=en&biw=1260&bih=641&q=CO2+laser+cancer++use+usage&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=&fp=8393b8a6395e836a
There you go. Nobody knows everything! :)
perhaps I shouldn't step into this cage fight, but I feel compelled to point out that there are all kinds of medical procedures that involve burning the flesh with lasers a lot more powerful than the one being used here, including closing incisions by cauterization after a surgical procedure. I mean, think of all the dermatological procedures alone, like tattoo removal and scar treatments. Surely they wouldn't use lasers for these things if they were carcinogenic.

I've heard the old "lasers can cause cancer!" scare on the internet before. At face value it sounds like it could be true, but it only takes a bit of common sense to realize that it's nothing but unsubstantiated fear mongering that gets passed from person to person. Total bunk promoted by people who like to play the role of internet laser safety cop.

Neat instructable. I wouldn't worry about cancer in the slightest bit.
as i was watching this i was thinking all you need is a bit of something around your nails

i wouldnt know what to suggest... bit of steel maybe? might eff up the machine tho, i have no idea. possibly damp wool (like 100% sheeps wool not cotton wool) which is a fire retardant.. a bit of card might even do the trick
shushujooon4 years ago
You should figure out how to capitalize on this. Do you have any idea how much women pay to have their nails painted? Now triple it for any kind of detailed drawing that doesn't even compare to what you're doing. You could probably get away with $50 for doing a set of press-on nails with the same image on all of them...plus the cost of the nail set. Think about it!
oppie4 years ago
What's next, DIY tatoo removal?
Any clue how fast that would hit the front page?
boobytox6 years ago
i don't have a laser, but i originally thought you did this with a printer. is it possible to do the same thing in reverse? instead of cutting away, the printer would print black onto your nail?
nerys boobytox4 years ago
they have "inkjet printers" at the mall around me that do exactly this and you can bring a disk with your images on it and get them "painted" onto your nails.
bubblecandy6 years ago
i would love to be able to decorate my nails with such detail, but would never stick my hand into a machine that could burn my skin like that :S anyways, you can use a cotton bud dipped in nail polish remover to get rid of nail polish on your cuticles and fingertips. to make the images last longer, avoid the really cheap polishes and apply a top coat of clear nail polish after it's done. You don't want it all to be worn off the same day after that much trouble, do you :)
Sally at walmart makes a chrome bottle of hard top coat that is damned near indestructible and dries in minutes.
jstoner4 years ago
BIILAAAAAAAAL! Hadn't seen you around Chicago in a while, was wondering what you were up to. Awesome 'ible!
Vonna5134 years ago
Friggin rad.
skimmo4 years ago
it doesnt look to nice
katrankor4 years ago
lolXD go out bro,find a girl XD
courtney4 years ago
I didn't see you reset the focus for the added thickness of your finger after engraving your template image.
did you measure the thickness of your finger and reset it manually with your other hand off screen?


casemaster55 years ago
zappa is my favorite one
Wicked. You, sir, are a hero to body modders everywhere. Or at least the nerdy ones who spend way too much time on the internet. ;)
The best type
BIGNUGZ6 years ago
next test wondering if u can etch your xbox 360 to this black and white finish not on this instructable website please send info if u find out to papa_smurf233@msn.com
moosey946 years ago
wow.........
my school has one of these in the tech department
i know where i'll be tomorro
=]
btw great idea
Sgt.Waffles6 years ago
Quite possibly the most badass thing I have ever seen on this site. You, good sir, deserve a cookie.
noahh6 years ago
ouch.
1-40 of 69Next »