Midnight Stamper's Guide to Nail Stamping: Basic Technique

Hello Readers!

Now that I've covered all my favorite stamping supplies in the first post of this series, it's time to move on to the basic stamping technique.

Step one: Gather supplies and set up your area

Obviously you don't want to be rummaging around your bathroom cabinets looking for this stuff while your nails have a fresh coat of paint on them, so it's important that you take care of this first!

-The stamping polishes and regular polishes you intend to use
-Top Coat/Base Coat
-Some kind of barrier to put between your polish and your work surface (silicone mat, paper towel, newspaper, that ugly cardigan in your closet...)
-Paper towels (to wipe the excess polish from you scraper)
-Cotton Claw/Self Closing tweezers
-Clean-up Brush
-Cotton Balls
-Stamping plates
-Scraper/Old Credit Card
-100% Acetone

Step two: Paint your nails

By the way, I love most of the Revlon Parfumerie polishes
but I don't recommend this one- it took FIVE coats to look right-
way too many for a peachy creme polish.

Obviously. ;) Be sure to use a base coat to make all your hard work last longer, and to protect your natural nail. Make sure your nail polish is completely dry before moving on to step three.

Some people like to add a quick-drying topcoat before stamping. Personally I don't do this, but it can be helpful if you need to remove your stamping because you messed it up. With the topcoat under it, it is possible to remove it without having to totally repaint your nails, but it doesn't always work. (Hint: if you are trying to remove just the stamping, use a clean-up brush instead of a cotton ball.)

Step three: Apply your stamping polish to the plate

Swipe some polish over the top 1/3 to 1/2 of the stamping image. For most images, you really do not need a lot of polish. When you scrape it, the polish will automatically fill up the rest of the image. To see the kinds of polish I recommend for stamping, check out my "favorite products" post.

If it's your very first time stamping, I would also recommend choosing an image with thick, bold lines. Images with tiny fine lines are harder to stamp, as the polish dries faster on the plate.

Step four: Scrape

As you can see, there are some small streaks left behind on the image
after scraping, but that is ok, and is common with the highly pigmented
stamping polishes. Streaks like these won't be picked up by the stamper;
but larger streaks will.

Use your scraper- or credit card- to swipe the polish over the image in one quick motion. It's best to only scrape once, as each time you scrape you will wipe away a little more polish and your image may have gaps. 

At this point you need to move quickly. The tiny amount of polish left in the etched part of your plate will dry fast, and then it won't pick up on your stamper head.

I normally hold my scraper at about a 45 degree angle to my plate while scraping, unless the image has a lot of open space. In this case, I hold it at a 90 degree angle to avoid scaping out any polish from the middle. 

If you are having trouble picking up the image perfectly, you might be scraping too hard (bald spots in the image) or not hard enough (patches of polish left in the image). You can also try scraping from the side instead of the top; some images are finicky and you may need to play around with it.

It's even more likely, however, that the image is not picking up because you were too slow. The image takes just seconds to dry, so a speedy pick-up is one of the most important aspects of stamping. 

Step five: Pick-up

With these clear jelly stampers, you can look down through the stamper
to see exactly what part of the plate you are picking up. 

As soon as you finish scraping, drop that scraper and pick up that stamper. The longer you wait, the more time the polish has to dry and ruin your pick-up.

Gently press the stamper head into the image. I like to press straight down, but some people prefer to roll the stamper over the image. Play around with it and see what work best for you.

If you press the stamper head too hard on the plate, it will not pick up the image. You want to just gently kiss that stamper to the plate. 

Step six: Check the image

Before you put it onto your nails, take a look at the polish on your stamper head and make sure it looks good. It's a lot easier than trying to remove it later! You don't want to take too long though, because once again the polish will dry and it won't stamp if it's dry.

Step seven: Stamp away, my friend

Hopefully you bought a clear stamper (if you didn't, head to ebay right now and buy one!), so you can look right through it at your nail and line the image up over it, then press down. Make sure you get the stamper head pushed down enough so that it covers all parts of the nail. Then lift it up slowly, and voila! A patterned nail.

Step eight: Clean-up

Take that cotton claw, get some acetone on it, and wipe off the excess polish from your stamping plate. I like to do this in between each nail, though some people say you can stamp a few nails before cleaning your plate. I live in the desert, and polish dries fast here, so I prefer not to risk bald spots in my stamping images and clean it every time.

When you've stamped all your nails, take your clean up brush and clean all the stamping polish that you got on your nails. I like to pour a little bit of pure actone into the acetone bottle lid (I save my lids for this purpose) and dip my brush into that, then swipe the polish off the brush onto my paper towel. 

Step nine: Top Coat that puppy

Your lovely stamped nails won't last too long without topcoat. I like to use a quick-drying topcoat, and I always apply a generous amount to help prevent smudging during this process. When you apply it, you want enough top coat on your brush that you can just glide it over without your brush ever touching the stamping; it should only touch topcoat.

Using a no-smudge topcoat can be helpful when you are new, because it is really easy to smudge your nail art otherwise.  

Step ten: Moisturize me, moisturize me

You just put acetone all over your cuticles, what are you going to do next? This is where the cuticle oil comes in- swipe it around your cuticles and let it soak in so your fingers don't wind up looking like the crypt keeper.

...and you're done! It probably seems like a lot, but in reality a lot of these steps- the scraping and stamping part- only take a few seconds. I recommend watching some youtube tutorials to really understand how it works before attempting stamping (not me, because I'm not on YouTube, but just do a quick search and plenty will pop up). The visual/video guides really helped me wrap my head around exactly how the process works.


What to do if...

-The image has bald spots:

The most likely scenario here is that the polish has partially dried on the stamping plate before you could try to pick it up with your stamper head. Try to move as quickly during these steps as you possibly can, and also try switching to an image that has nice thick, bold lines while you are still learning the basic technique.

It could also be that you are scraping too hard, too many times, or the plate you are using has an issue with the etching. Try scraping from different directions, and try not to use solid shapes when you are first learning. 

If you didn't clean the plate in between stamipng attempts, this could also be the cause. 

You can also take a small brush (I prefer a toothpick) and fill in any spots the stamper missed by hand; just use a light touch- not too much polish. 

-The image has streaks of polish on the stamper head:

You are probably not scraping quite hard enough. Make sure your scraper is clean and flat up against the stamping plate, too. Polish on the edge of the scraper could cause a bad scrape.

-The image doesn't pick up onto the stamper head at all:

It is possible that the polish has dried before you picked it up. Alternatively, you are pressing too hard on the image plate with the stamper head, or the polish you are trying to stamp with is too thin, or your stamping plate has a bad etch.

I have also had this happen with older-style rubber stamping heads. These are the firmer stampers and they are hard to work with, so I don't use them at all. 

-The image looks good on your stamper head, but won't transfer to your nails

The polish has likely dried on your stamper head. Combat this by starting over and working more quickly, or applying a tacky basecoat over the top of your polish which will grab the polish from your stamper head even if it's dry.

-The topcoat streaks your stamping:

Make sure the stamping is completely dry before adding topcoat. When applying topcoat, make sure the brush has a lot of polish on it and gently glide it over the top of the nail, never allowing the brush to actually touch the stamping. It should only touch the topcoat!

Some topcoats are not good to use over stamping and cause smudging no matter what you do. You could try a "smudge-free" topcoat made from stamping companies like Bundle Monster or MoYou London if you are having trouble with this. 

-The polish is too light/hard to see when you stamp it:

Try a stamping polish, or if you are not sure how it will look, test it out on your mat or a sandwich baggie before putting it on your nails. 

-When stamping stripes, the stripes end up crooked:

Stripes are deceptively tricky to stamp right. I recommend holding off on the stripes until you are comfortable with the basic technique. 

To get stripes straight, make sure you gently push the stamper straight down over your nails with a steady hand; no rolling or wiggling! 

-The stamping image folds over when you pick up the stamper head:

Sometimes, particularly on images that are long and thin, when you pick up the stamper head off of your nail the part of the image remaining on your stamper head will do some acrobatics and try to ruin your manicure by folding itself in half over your nail.

If you run into this problem, try holding the stamper head down onto your nail for a few seconds before lifting up. This will give the stamping polish a chance to bond to you nail. When you do lift it, do so slowly and carefully so you can correct any folds and move them out of the way before they stick to your base color. 

Once you've mastered the basic technique, you're ready to move on to the fancy stuff! Check out the  next post in this series, "advanced techniques" to disocver some fun ways to use stamping.

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