Nail stamping is one of those things where it looks super easy when you watch the nail artists do it, but when you try it yourself, it becomes the most difficult and frustrating task ever!
The fists time I tried stamping, everything I did went wrong and I stayed up until 4 am trying to get it right. In the end, I gave up and went to bed annoyed – It was at least a week before I attempted stamping again.
The good news is that once you perfect your technique, it will start to come naturally and you will be achieving flawless nail designs in no time.
In this article, I will be providing a complete guide for beginners that are starting out nail stamping; including all the tips, and dos and don’ts that I learned when starting out.
1. Know your tools:
When it comes to buying nail stampers, you will notice how many different brands, styles, and types there are available on the market. There is no “good” or “bad” when it comes to these products, you just have to find one that works best for you. You can get clear jelly silicone stampers, clear sticky stampers, opaque sticky marshmallow stampers, double-sided stampers, etc. All of these each come in many different shapes and sizes; a majority of them are round, but you can also get rectangular and even extra large stampers. Some stampers need to be primed before you use them, and others could end up ruined forever if you try to prime them.
It is up to you which stamper you chose, but I tend to prefer the clear jelly (non-sticky) stampers. I like the way these stampers allow you to see exactly where you are placing the design on your nails, and its also always good to see how the other side of the design looks when reverse stamping.
People also have their own preference when it comes to the scraper they use. Some of the scrapers that come with the nail stamper are made from a thin flexible plastic, whereas others are made from a thicker, more rigid plastic (kind of like a credit card). I have tried both of these kinds of scrapers, but found that the thinner, flexible one works best for me; however, I have heard other people say that they will only use the credit card style scrapers (some people even make their own).
If you find you are having trouble stamping with a certain kind of stamper, try an alternative rather than giving up. Many stamping kits can be bought with different types of stamping heads included.
2. Choosing your polish:
The first time I tried stamping, I used my usual black creme polish which is normally fully opaque in just one coat. I was under the impression (through false advice) that you would be able to stamp with any regular polish as long as it is quite thick or very pigmented. This isn’t always the case. I scraped my black polish over the design (a panda) with my scraper, rolled the stamper over it … and nothing. Not a single speck of polish had transferred onto the stamper. I watched some tutorials on Youtube which explained that my new stamper needed to be primed – which I then proceeded to do – but even after priming, the stamper still wouldn’t pick up any of the polish.
I always recommend using stamping polish, as it gives the best results every time. So far, I have only used Born Pretty’s stamping polishes and they have worked well each time that I have used them. They come in many different colours, but I suggest purchasing the set of black, gold, and silver stamping polishes first, as these seem to be the colours most often used for stamping.
**Note: Be aware when you are using a regular polish particularly for stamping (also applies to some stamping polishes), you are essentially adding only one coat of polish to your nail. Therefore, the colour of the stamp will likely be paler, or a slightly different shade than it appears in the bottle or when you apply two or three coats of it to your nail. I once stamped red polish onto my nail just for it to turn out hot pink!**
3. Prepare before you start:
Twinkled T Glamour Mat can be purchased on their website here.
Before you start, it is always useful to make sure that you have everything you need at hand. I will list below all the things I use when stamping (This is only a general guide, you may have your own way of doing things, that is perfectly fine).
• Nail Stamper (Primed) – Only certain stampers need to be primed, and not all of these types can be primed using the same method. I suggest doing a google search for whatever brand of stamper you have, to check if it needs to be primed. If it does, you will most likely find YouTube videos or online guides explaining the best way to do so.
**Note: If a guide tells you to gently buff the head of your stamper with a nail file, don’t use a glass one! They most likely mean one of those soft foam ones that just buff your nails. I learned that the hard way.**
• Nail Scraper
•Cotton Wool Balls or Cotton Pads – These are essential for cleaning the head of your stamper, stamping plate, and scraper between uses. If you prefer to use cotton balls you can purchase a tool that picks them up and allows you to clean your nail stamping equipment without the worry of getting acetone on your manicure.
I personally prefer to use cotton pads as they are better for cleaning a larger area and are more durable than the cotton balls. I always find that cotton pads always leave less fluff and fibres behind than the cotton pads do.
If like me, you do decide to use the cotton pads, you will also need to wear latex gloves so that the acetone doesn’t ruin your nail art when cleaning your stamping tools. I always wear two layers of latex gloves on the opposite hand and wait for it to completely dry before moving on to the other.
• A sheet of scrap paper – When stamping, I advise that you place a piece of scrap paper down on the surface you are working on. This will help to keep the surface clean and free from polish.
• A Lint Roller – If your stamper is the one that can become damaged when in contact with acetone, then you can clean the excess polish from it by gently rolling a lint roller over it. The lint roller will remove any polish, fibres or dirt from your stamper head, leaving it ready to go for your next stamp.
• A Clean-Up Brush – You will need to use a clean-up brush dipped in acetone for cleaning up any excess stamping polish from around your cuticles.
• Liquid Latex (or a latex-free alternative).
Stamping: Step 1
Start off by applying your base coat and base colour to your nails and allowing them enough time to completely dry. Then, when you are ready to start stamping, apply the liquid latex or latex-free alternatives around your cuticle and the skin around the side of your nail. You should do this even if the design you are stamping is small, as the stamper sometimes picks up the other designs on your stamping plate, which ends up getting stamped onto your skin.
Stamping – Step 2
Prep your stamping plate by wiping it over with a cotton ball or pad dipped in acetone, or by gently rolling over it with a lint roller. Also use the lint roller gently over the head of your stamper to ensure it’s clean. If your stamping plate is new, make sure that you remove the blue plastic film covering it.
Stamping – Step 3
Apply the stamping polish to just under half of the design you want to stamp and use the scraper to swipe the stamping polish across the rest of the design.
Most of the time, I find that one swipe is enough to completely cover the design without leaving excess polish across the non-grooved parts of the stamping plate. However, If one swipe isn’t enough, make sure you quickly swipe it again. I find that if you have to swipe a third time, it removes too much polish from the groves of the design and also means that the polish will have started to dry – if you tried to stamp it, you will find that the stamper won’t pick up much if anything at all.
As a rule of thumb, if I don’t manage to swipe the design perfectly in just two attempts, then I start over. It’s much easier to just have to clean the scraper and the stamping plate than if I had to clean the stamper too (excessive cleaning can also lead to damaging or wearing down the stamper head).
Stamping – Step 4
Immediately after scraping the polish over the stamping plate, gently roll the head of the stamper over the design in one quick motion.
**The key to stamping is to act as fast as you can. You don’t want the stamping polish to dry up, either while it’s on the stamping plate or the head of the stamper.**
Quickly check to see how the design has picked up on the stamping head. If it looks perfect, then stamp it on to your nail as fast as possible.
Some tutorials say to roll the design onto your nail, but when I try this with my clear jelly stamper, the design sometimes slides or separates, such as in the photo below.
I prefer to stamp the design directly down on my nail with a little pressure, and I get perfect results each time.
**Tip: If the design you pick up on your stamper head doesn’t look perfect; ie there are patches where some of the design hasn’t picked up, or patches where the polish looks thin – DO NOT apply it to your nail! You won’t end up being happy with the results and it just means that you will have to remove all the polish from that nail and start over.**
Stamping – Step 5
If you are happy with the design then seal it in with a layer of non-smear glossy top coat.
**I will soon put up a review on which top coat works best for stamping.**
While it might sound easy, the hardest part of stamping is finding the best technique for scraping, picking up the design, and stamping it on your nail.
When you first start stamping, I advise that you start practising by stamping directly onto your nail with just a peel-off base coat. That way you can start over as many times as you like and don’t have to wait for any polish to dry. Alternatively, you could buy some cheap false nails to test your stamping on.
**Note: there will also be a guide on reverse stamping coming soon**