By katie masters


Let’s take a peak inside my salon drawers! Here is a quick little guide on my go to products I use in my salon every friggin’ day! Can I just say I’m so excited to be writing this for you, I feel like this is long overdue. What have I been doing?! And for those of you who don’t know me, welcome! My name is Katie Masters aka @nailthoughts and I am a nail artist located in Santa Monica, CA. So I am ready to break down my go to products for you based on so many of your frequently asked questions, I hope this helps!


First things first, I will say that the majority of the colors I use are potted gels! I HIGHLY recommend using potted gels for art! They stay put, the fine lines won’t bleed, and they are very pigmented. HOWEVER, there are a very specific handful of extra finicky colors that I will only use the bottle for (ex. white, black, red, milky white..etc). The reason I choose the bottle for those because I find bottled gel makes those extra finicky colors less streaky and go on extra smooth (and fast!) especially if you are doing all over color. So truthfully, there are big time pros and cons for each gel application technique, but both are definitely necessary for your collection! 

Please note that this article contains affiliate links, and that means that I may earn a commission if you buy something!


The two brands that I use are Presto gel and Kokoist gel. Lately I have been leaning more into Kokoist because I find that the colors are a little bit more buttery and self leveling when you apply them, while Presto is a little bit more sticky and takes a tad more effort to get the streaks out. I know it may seem like a minor difference, but trust me, when I am running behind I find myself recommending only Kokoist colors to my clients just because I know I can save that extra 5-10 minutes with application. But of course I like to have a couple brands on deck because each brand brings their own color swatches to the world and you want as many options as you can! Both of these brands can be soaked off! So on that note, here are my like, TOP recommendations  on what you absolutely NEED in your drawer:

Quick note: You can get 10% discount on anything you order off of the website using my code NT10.

  1.  Blackest black and Bluey white 

ABSOLUTELY KEY and 100% necessary to have these always. These are my go to’s for all of my line work. These will change your detail work immensely and it’s always a sad day when I run out of the pot. Like I might as well not go into work until I re order.



Abstract nail art with white and black details

THOSE are all the juiciest freshest neutrals/nudes that I use all the time as backgrounds for my art. If you want to see some swatches of some of these and a whole list of more color rec's check out my highlighted "KOKOIST" story on my IG. I love all of these neutrals for a couple reasons:

  1. They are sheer so you can layer them up to make them more opaque or keep them sheer for a more barely there, whimsical look without looking streaky!! HELLO. What a dream!
  2. Since they are sheer, I find they are SO fast to put on. Honestly, my biggest salon secret (that is not a secret anymore I guess) is I love putting art on top of sheer neutral colors because those colors are so much quicker to slap on so I set myself up to have way more time for art. 


nude to coral pink ombre nail art. a nude nail color for dark skin

a nude nail color with orange spring time watercolor flower nail artBONDER

Protein bond by Young Nails. I use it under every manicure I do. Acts like a double sided sticky tape for the natural nail and the base gel. It isn't acid based as well so it's not harmful like a lot of other bonders. I literally have a subscription for it on Amazon so I never run out, it's THAT important to me. HERE IT IS.


The real tea is in the base coats, right? And if you need to know anything about me, it’s that  I love working with people’s natural nails and growing them with stronger base coats and care. I don't even offer gel extensions anymore and I haven't for years now just because I know how confident I am in growing people's nails out naturally! So here are my top three right now that I use:

  1. My latest obsession has been with the 3 in 1- builder, color, and base gels. . So obsessed that I came out with my own line of them and partnered with Kokoist!!! So nuts! Omg, so they are the Nail Thoughts x Kokoist Tinted Base Gels.  There are three colors (so far). Strawberry Milk Base, Peach Base, and Berry Base. These gels are a semi-hard gel formula which means they add a nice layer of strength to the nail, it's buildable, and can soak off. Such a great base gel to help prevent your clients' natural nails from breaking! The best part about it though is the amount of time you save in the salon omg. WHAT did we ever do without this?!? All I do is build this onto their nails as the base coat and then put art on top and BOOM I just saved myself from doing 2 extra coats of color and gave myself so much more time to spend on art! Truthfully, most Japanese base gels are made to not need any type of bonder, but trust that I understand the anxiety of not using one especially since you use it on every service, so you should be totally fine using one with these if you are too nervous to go without one! Here are some swatches of each one on my clients with art on top.
Strawberry Milk base nail Thoughts




For more info and to watch the way I apply these, here is a great video for you! 


Dude. They call it mega stick for a reason. I mean what in the hell. When I first used this base coat on myself, I did my own secret experiment and didn't use my usual bonder juuuust to see how well this lasted with just my nail and that's it and SIX weeks later I finally filed my gel off and there was NO LIFTING. AT. ALL. Wtf?? Now I'm like do I even need my bonder? What is this new life?? Highly recommend!!!! I recommend this one for clients with shorter to more medium length nails that are on the bendy or weak side! This base will flex with their nails causing way less (or zero) lifting. I also build with this base coat too. I build my clients' nails with every base I use. I wouldn't recommend using this for your clients with longer nails though! It's a little too bendy for that, so use my Tinted Base Gels up there for strength!



It's made of just three brushes and I made it to make your life simple. Enough with complicated brushes. If I can live my whole career off of just using three types of brushes, you can too!!

 1. Application Brush -This will make your life with potted gels, HEAVENLY. It seriously floats the gel on giving you streak free application.nailthoughts application brush review


nail thoughts application brush review

2. Smoosh brush- This is the everything brush. This is the brush that helps you with filling in colors, with abstract brush strokes, with blobs of colors, with smearing marble lines. Possibilities are endless!!!! It's a MUST in your brush collection. I promise I'm not even just saying that! 

nailthoughts smoosh brush review
nailthoughts smoosh brush review

3. Detailer brush- Finally, the detailer brush. The only brush you need for fine lines and details around your smooshes. Use this for splatter designs, fine line details, marble lines, ANYTHING YOU WANT! When making these, I made the brush firmness level the most firm I could to help prevent the brush from swinging out on it's own in the middle of a curved line. It gives you SO much more control that way!!

nailthoughts detailer brush review

nailthoughts detailer brush review


For more information on the brush kit and tips and tricks to using them click here for my whole blog on them! 

To buy the whole kit (plus a cute bag with it) click HERE! You can also use my code NT10 to save money on the brush kit as well! I can't wait for you to try. I hope they make your life so much easier. 


We are almost done I promise! We couldn't forget about top coats! And to be honest, I only use two!


I just love a non wipe top coat. And if you don't know what that means, basically when gel cures, it will always have a layer of uncured gel on top. This is why you gels are sticky until we wipe it off with alcohol. But now there are options for non wipe top coats which means once it's cured, it's done! Highly recommend using this when you are in a hurry or even making press on nails!

NOTES: I tend to cure this top coat for about 60 seconds under my LED light for max shine and curing. This top coat doesn't stain.


This is a top coat that needs to be wiped but this is my second go to as well. It doesn't stain even on hair dressers.  

WOW WE DID IT! You made it through my list! I hope you found it helpful and insightful and as usual, I am always here if you have any questions! I'm sure I will add a part two very soon.

xo, Katie Masters aka Nailthoughts


  • Hello Katie, I recently made a purchase on your peach base tint, favorite red and top coat. I truly love your products! I was reading above that you like the mega stick base by kokoist. My nails are short, to give them extra strength I can use that under my peach base?

    Lala on

  • This makes me want to expand my potted gel collection 🤭🤭 but I actually LOVE the luminary smell lol. Smells like vinegar and my filipino heart loves it 😆

    Maylei Agonoy on

  • Omg, the Luminary smell….does anyone really love it? I bought it to try it out and the smell is almost bad enough to put me off using it 😆 especially when filing it! 🤢

    Christina on

  • Thank you sooo much the insight. Love your work!!!! I follow you on IG! I was the same about luminary but now I am a beliver. This product won my heart. IT FRREAKING WORKS!! Now it is my must have.

    Lynn on

  • I’ve been following you on Tik Tok and now IG, I love your ideas and how you put everything together (I actually love your round shape you do!) I know times are tough but you’ve got mad skills and I can’t wait to see what you post next! 😊

    Hannah on

  • Finally everything gel in one place!! I love this and want to thank you so much for your inspiration and passion! Can’t wait to see what’s next 🥰

    Crisna on

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