I’ve been wanting to get into nail stamping for a really long time but had never taken the plunge. But my amazing boyfriend got me a kit for my birthday and I’ve been playing with it for the past week. While I’m no expert yet, I’ve been practicing and I have some techniques down and some tips and tricks to share with you. Find out what the basics are to nail stamping, what you’ll need to get started and some advice on how to get the perfect stamped nail! Grab a cup of coffee and kick back; this is a long one.
What is nail stamping? Nail stamping is a form of nail art that is typically offered in high-end nail salons and is used by nail art enthusiasts at home as well. It uses engraved metal plates with intricate designs that couldn’t typically be done freehand. Lines are super straight, circles are perfect and the smallest of details can be transferred to the nails. Special stamping polish is placed onto the plate. Next, a scraper pushes the polish into the grooves of the image. Then a stamper made out of plastic, rubber or silicone is used to pick up the image from the plate and transfer it to the nail. You then “stamp” the image onto the nail.
Nail stamping is great for those who don’t have a steady hand for freehand nail art or for those who aren’t artistically gifted. There are some typical designs like roses and lace, but there are modern designs like Aztec and chevrons.
As you can see from the picture above, there are four basic things needed for stamping:
- Stamping plate
- Stamping polish
Every nail stamper has different preferences to what products they use when they stamp, but I’ll be going over my favorites and other alternatives by category.
Above are some examples of stamping plates. As you can see, there are many different patterns and designs to choose from. The stamping plates I own are from Bundle Monster, but Born Pretty Store, Winstonia, Uber Chic, MoYou London and many other brands create and carry their own stamping plates. Make sure to remove that blue protective sheet though. It’s just there to protect the plate during shipping. You can’t stamp over it!
Next up is the stamper and scraper.
Scrapers come in many different varieties, shapes and forms. The first scrapers had metal and would scratch up the plates. Those aren’t preferred by many people because of that. Next came plastic scrapers like the purple one above. The plastic won’t scrape the plate, but they aren’t too flexible, which can create an uneven scrape or too hard of a scrape. The one most stampers prefer are the credit card-like scrapers. I use an old Starbucks gift card, but many brands will sell their own flexible scraper of that shape. The flexibility allows for a gentler scrape across the plate. Scrape speed and pressure effect the way the polish gets into the grooves of the image, which then effects how the image will transfer to the stamper. Scrape too little and you’ll have too much polish pooled up. Scrape too hard and there won’t be enough polish in the grooves. It’s a fine line, but practice will make it easier.
To pick up an image from the plate, either push down or roll the stamper over the image.
Next is the stamper. There are many different shapes, sizes and “squish” level. I prefer this rectangular stamper from Bundle Monster. It’s the right size to fit onto my small nails. If you have longer or wider nails, you may prefer this Jumbo Stamper from Winstonia.
There are different squish levels to stampers as well. The spectrum goes from firm, plastic stamper heads to extremely soft and squishy silicone stamper heads. An example of a firm plastic stamper would be the one offered from Konad.
Above, the blue stamper head is a sticky, squishy head and the one on the right is a firm plastic head. I prefer a squishy head. They are easier to work with since they form to the shape of the nail. I also prefer a sticky head rather than a non-sticky head because the tackiness makes it easier to pick the image up from the plate. I got mine from Winstonia.
The best way to stamp with a squishy head is to push down onto the nail so that the head conforms to the curve of the nail. With a firmer head, it’s better to roll the image onto the nail. The same goes when picking up the image from the plate.
The fourth product needed for nail stamping are stamping polishes. Stamping polishes are thicker and more opaque than regular nail polish. It also dries a little slower than normal nail polish. This is ideal because there is more wiggle room to perfect the placement of the image onto the nail. Regular nail polish can be used, but it’s best to use opaque nail polish that covers the nail in one coat. Sheer polishes won’t work at all for nail stamping. Many people like the polishes from Mundo de Unas, but I have yet to try them. Another brand that seems to be wonderful is Colour Alike, which I hope to be trying sometime this summer.
Then there are the optional accessories. These make creating nail stamping nail art so much easier and I highly recommend getting these.
A lint roller works wonders to remove dried up nail polish from the stamper head. Nail polish remover or acetone should not be used on stamper heads because they might break down the material of the stamper head. Liquid latex, which you can learn how to use here, helps protect the skin from nail polish and makes clean up easier. Last is the cotton claw. This cool device holds onto a cotton ball or pad and makes cleaning the stamping plate and scraper easy without ruining the nail art by touching the acetone.
As for the tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way:
- Practice first on the lint roller or a piece of paper. Practice scraping the polish, picking it up and stamping it. Those three things are all arts and the first few times can be extremely frustrating and tricky. Practicing first on a lint roller or paper will save you the frustration of removing your polish and reapplying over and over.
- Work quickly! It should only take you 15 seconds from start to finish to stamp each nail. Wait too long and the polish will be too dry to stamp.
- Try different products. I was using the plastic scraper at first and had no success. I switched to the gift card and had an easier time scraping. You may prefer a soft stamper head, or you may prefer the rigidness of a firm stamper head. Try out a combination of things until you find you’re stamping with ease.
- Press or roll firmly onto the image to pick it up. This will ensure the entire image will transfer.
- Bring the nails to the stamper, not the stamper to the nail. When I was placing my nails flat on the desk and bringing the stamper to my nail, the image wasn’t as strong and crisp. But when I held my nails in a claw like stance and brought the nail to the stamper, the design was much more opaque, straight and the lines weren’t patchy or missing.
- Rock the stamper from side to side after placing it, especially if you are using the pressing or up-and-down method. This will ensure the image transfers properly and securely around the cuticle and side walls.
- Allow the image to dry for at least 10 minutes! I was too quick to top coat and my nail art smudged. I think that the ideal wait time would be 15 minutes after cleaning up all 10 nails.
Here are some of the designs I’ve done so far:
WHEW! This post is done! Stamping looks complicated and expensive, but it’s really not. Stamping is an art, but after getting the motions down, it becomes easier. In all, a starter kit could could cost anywhere around $30-$40. That seems expensive at first, but the supplies will last a long time and probably won’t have to be repurchased for years. It’s a wonderful investment, especially if you love nail art but suck at drawing even a somewhat straight line.
Have any other questions or maybe have some wise advice for newbies? Leave it down below!