NAIL ART: Stamping Tips & Tricks

by - May 03, 2018

Stamping is probably my personal favorite type of nail art. I suspect it's because I am a perfectionist who doesn't have the most steady hands, so all of those beautiful hand painted nail designs just never quite look right on me but a well transferred stamp is always going to be perfect. Of course, getting a well transferred stamp isn't always the easiest thing in the world. Since I've really gotten into nail art in the past year, I feel like there are definitely things that I've learned about stamping and I figured I'd share them because I think some of them can be really helpful!

It might be a little bit TLDR; for you, so in each section there's a main bullet point takeaway if you just just want to skip to the main points! Keep reading for more!

First and foremost, not all stampers are created equal so I definitely like to read reviews before I pick up a stamper. Personally, I want a stamper that transfers really clean and doesn't need to be primed, because I want my stamper ready to go without having to mess with it - especially since I tried to prime one once and I basically destroyed it. Generally, I prefer to use a stamper that's quite soft but not too squishy and a little bit sticky, but there are definitely times when a firmer stamp is actually better for transfering the image. I feel like there can be a little bit of a learning curve with that, but once you get a feel for it you'll know which stamper to use for what image.

My favorite stamper is one I got in this set from BornPrettyStore. I know they sell it alone as well, but I wanted to be specific since there could be differences and this is very specifically the one I love. Unfortunately, in the time that I've been using it, the stamper head has gotten a little bit cloudy, so when I need to be very precise in my placement I've started reaching for this stamper from BornPrettyStore that I've just gotten recently. It's pretty much giantic and it's really clear so I can see exactly where I'm placing my image. The first stamper is just a little bit more crisp for me, so I think I might have to pick up another one soon. More recently, I picked up this double ended stamper from BornPrettyStore and this one is quite firm so I tend to reach for it for crisp, straight lines because I find that the lines can get wavy if you use too soft a stamper. I also really like the small end for applying smaller images to the nail. Finally, I have this stamper from Bundle Monster that I really only reach for when I'm doing reverse stamping, because I can pull stamper head out of the base pretty easily to let images dry and I don't need it to be clear for transfer since I turn it into a decal.

Here are my main tips about stampers:
▪ Read reviews before ordering - not all stampers are created equal.
▪ For precision and versatility, a clear stamper is the way to go.
▪ Clean your stamper with a lint roller to avoid damaging it.
▪ Different stampers work best for different images, so it might take a little bit of practice to know what to use when. Don't give up!

I feel like this is another place where things can get a little bit trickier, particularly with different densities of patterns. I personally prefer quite a stiff plastic scraper, similar in feel to a credit or loyalty card - which you can absolutely use as well. I don't use metal scrapers personally because I don't want to scratch my stamping plates and I also don't use those really flimsy cards that tend to come with a lot of stampers because I feel like they just don't scrape as well. Like finding the right stamper, I think that using the right scraper is also really important for making the stamping process smooth and easy.

When actually scraping, I think that there's some variation depending on the pattern. I actually find the scrape is a lot easier with the finer, more intricate patterns. The way that I do this is to hold the scraper at a 45º angle to the plate and use a heavier pressure to swiftly scrape the polish over the plate. Overall, I find that I don't really have to think scraping too hard with these types of patterns at all. With patterns that have more open spaces, I feel like you have to be a little bit more deliberate when scraping. It works best to hold the scraper much more parallel to the plate and use a much lighter pressure when stamping so that you don't create bald spots. If you absolutely must swipe twice on these types of patterns, I recommend changing direction and swiping to the side rather than up and down on the second swipe and, again, using a very light pressure.

Here are my main tips about scraping:
▪ Generally, a firmer scraper works better - an old gift card works great!
▪ The fewer scrapes, the better. Try to keep it to two or less.
▪ If you're struggling with getting a clean scrape, try changing the angle at which you're holding the scraper.

Without question, the best polishes for stamping are going to be the ones that are specifically marketed as stamping polishes. I, admittedly, don't own a lot of these because I have to order them online and generally I like to spend my nail art budget on other things, but I have a couple and there's no doubt that the formula and pigmentation will give you a more opaque, crisper stamp. That said, there are some great options at the drugstore that work really well for stamping. Personally, I quite often will use the Sally Hansen Insta-Dri polishes to stamp and my favorite white for stamping is Sinful Colors Snow Me White. I also found the rosy metallic Tivoli polish in the above photo from the dollar store and it's downright incredible for stamping. I am planning on doing a whole post about using mainstream polishes for stamping in the future, but for the time being, here are some basic tips that I've learned.

What I actually feel is more important when it comes to choosing a stamping polish is the colour that you choose. You can have the perfect stamping polish, but if you don't get the colour theory and the contrast right you're likely going to end up with a mani that doesn't look good. My thing is to really think about contrast and colour theory. Often, I find that black or white stamping ends up looking the best because you don't have to worry about colour theory and generally can get good contrast if you choose accordingly. Once you're getting stamping colour over colour, you have to think about how the shades are going to work together, how well the stamp will show up over the base, and what the overall vibe is going to be. I don't necessarily think that you have to be an artist for this, but I definitely think that leaning into some basic colour theory is going to ultimately be helpful.

Here are my main tips about stamping polishes:
▪ Polishes designed for stamping will almost always work best.
▪ When choosing a mainstream polish look for strong pigmentation, a thicker texture, and either a metallic or créme finish. 
▪  There are some great lists online about what drugstore polishes work best for stamping, so a quick Google search can be really helpful. Also, test out polishes already in your collection, especially old ones.
▪ Think about contrast and colour theory when choosing what to pair with your base.

Basically my main tip for stamping plates is to be thoughtful about what you're buying. There are a lot of companies making really good stamping plates, so it's mostly about what works for you personally. Consider your budget, consider how you'll use the plates, and try to choose plates that have more than one design in them that really call to you. I admit that on more than one occasion I've chosen a plate because I really, really loved one design in it and ultimately it ended up never reaching for it.

When it comes to ordering stamping plates online for us Canadians, it can be a little bit tricky to find plates that aren't coming from China that don't charge an arm and a leg for shipping from the US, so I figured this was a good place to put together a list for my fellow Canucks. BornPrettyStore has a great selection of good quality plates at a good price point and now has a US Warehouse with a good selection of plates available. Shipping is still free and my two orders have come within 2 weeks. Harlow & Co stocks a good selection of plates from Bundle Monster and Lina Nail Art Supplies (as well as soooo many beautiful indie polishes) and has free shipping at $39 within Canada. Girly Bits stocks plates from What's Up Nails, Dixie Plates, and UberChic plates and also has sells stamping polishes. Their free shipping threshold is higher, but for plates the shipping isn't too bad for Canada and it's much better than ordering those plates from outside of Canada. There are also some good options on of Bundle Monster and Pueen plates, which is always so hassle free for me. I figured I'd share these options with you since, when first getting into nail art, I didn't really know where to look.

Here's my main tips for choosing stamping plates:
▪ Choose plates thoughtfully based on your budget and needs. You don't need ALL of the plates. (Should have taken that advice myself.)
▪ Think about the patters that you're likely to use and try to choose plates that will be versatile to you. 
▪  For my fellow Canadians, there are a lot of great website options listed above that offer a really wide selection of plates at all kinds of price points.
▪ Honestly, I think stamping plates are the most no brainer of all of the stamping things.

The biggest thing for me has been practice. Stamping definitely isn't generally something that you'll be perfect at right out of the gate. It'll take playing and experimenting not only to figure out how to make the products and tools work their best but also to figure out how to stamp creatively. More and more I'm finding that stamping over a plain base looks pretty, but the same designs could be prettier if you do a more intricate base. Personally, I really like to do smooth, watermarble or gradient bases and then add contrasting stamping over top of them. I also quite like doing reverse stamping, where you transfer the design, fill it in with polish and a fine brush or dotting tool, and then either transfer it from your stamper or use a thin coat of polish over the whole design to create a decal.

For more of my nail art, be sure to follow me on Instagram @beautyloveca!

I know that stamping isn't going to be for everyone and it seems to me that it's either a love or hate type of thing, but I absolutely think it's worth it to try and see if it works for you. For beginners, don't rush out and buy a million stamping plates and polishes straight out of the gate. Pick up a couple of plates, a well reviewed stamper, and black and white polishes that are suitable for stamping and see how you like it!

I really hope that some of this was helpful to those of you who are interested in getting into nail art. And keep an eye out for my Mainstream Polishes For Stamping post that will be up in the coming weeks!

Thanks for reading!

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