Midnight Stampers Guide to Nail Stamping: Reverse Stamping

Hello Readers!

So you'd like to take a step into the rabbit hole, eh?

Reverse stamping is easily one of the most time consuming stamping techniques, but so rewarding!

Butterfly Wings blog post

Before you dive into this, I recommend having a handle on the basic stamping techniques, which I have gone over here.

Basically, you're going to follow the first few steps of stamping an image until you have it on your stamper head. At this point, I like to apply a layer of gel-like topcoat (not actual gel that you need to cure in a lamp; just the air-dry gel-like formula) over my image.

I like doing this now as opposed to later because it protects the fine lines of the stamping image while you fill it in. Without the topcoat, sometimes the brush will snag the stamping polish and mess it up.

I recommend the gel-like topcoat because it is more flexible, which makes it a lot easier to transfer smoothly onto your nails when it's all dry and greatly reduces the risk of it cracking and breaking in the process.

Once your topcoat is dry to the touch, it's time to fill it in. You can use a tiny nail art brush, your bottle brush, or my favorite: a toothpick. I like using toothpicks because they have an nice, fine point and they don't fray the way brushes do. A stray hair from your brush can put polish where you don't want it and cause a big mess. If you need an even smaller point, try using a pin.

For larger images, I often will take the brush from the bottle and tap some polish onto the image, right in the middle, and then use the toothpick to spread it out.

Otherwise, I simply pop the polish down onto my silicone mat and then use the toothpick to pick it up and apply it to my image.

After a minute or so, the polish on your mat will get sticky and sludgy and you'll need to pull out some more, so don't pour too much polish onto your mat or it will get wasted. Usually a dime size amout or smaller is about right.

Once you are all done coloring in and your polish is dry- so that when you touch it, it doesn't leave fingerprints- pull that sucker up off the stamper head with some tweezers and then apply it to your nails.

I've tried just using the stamper head to apply it many times and it just doesn't work for me. Unless your base color on your nails is still slightly wet, it won't stick. If your base color *is* slightly wet, your risk smudging it when you press the image down, which you will have to do quite firmly to get it to transfer. It's not worth it to me!

In fact, the only time I do my reverse stamping on the stamper head at all is when I am either working with an image with fine detials or an image with letters or numbers on it.

I normally go ahead and stamp the image onto a clean portion of my silicone mat, then apply topcoat and fill it in. This way I can create as many decals as I want without running out of stamper heads.

However, with really tiny details sometimes the image doesn't transfer well to the silicone mat. You could fix this by applying a sticky base coat to the mat and stamping over that, but normally I find it easiest to leave those images on the stamper.

These images had details that were too fine to be transferred to
my silicon mat, so I left them on my stamper head.
Golden Gate Bridge blog post

If an image has letters, stamping it onto the mat and then filling it in will make the letters show up backwards. Leave these images on your stamper if you don't want them to look like a reflection.

A mani with lettering. I actually forgot to keep the jar image
on the stamper, so the tiny labels are backwards! Whoops!
It's Alive blog post

Once you have your decal on your nails, it's time to clean up. I normally use scissors to trim away excess decal and then go in with a clean-up brush to get the cuticles nice and even. I've found that cleaning up decal work is a bit trickier than cleaning normal stamping, because it is thicker, but you get used to it with practice. I like to wrap the tips of the decals, just like you do when you paint your nails, to help them last longer, but I find that deal work in general lasts longer than other nail art techniques.

...and, there you have it! My personal technique for reverse stamping. I hope this guide was helpful to you! If you have any further questions, ask me down in the comments and I will be sure to give you a reply!


  1. All of your guide posts are absolutely amazing!!! Thank you so much for taking the time to show us your favorite products and techniques. You are so talented!

    1. Thank you so much! I'm glad that you are finding them useful!