NAIL ART: Five Ways To Use A Nail Stamper (Without Plates!)

by - May 08, 2019

Recently, I was thinking about all of the ways that I use my stamper while I'm doing nail art without actually reaching for plates and I felt like it was a really good idea for a post to show you guys some of these techniques. Initially, some of these were really intimidating for me, but what I've found is that they're actually really easy and they create a really beautiful look that's great for beginners but really impactful. When I decided to put together this post, I wanted it to be really instructional and include some of the little tips and tricks that I've figured out on my own through actually doing these techniques, so though it's quite long I hope you'll find it helpful and try it out yourself! If you try out any of these, I'd love if it you'd tag me on social media @beautyloveca so I can check them out!

Keep reading for more!

For all of these looks, I'm going to be using my Stamper*. This is a really, really good stamper for this type of thing because it's clear and has a really wide base, so you can get really good visualization of where you're place your design. When it comes to the more free form techniques, like the Smoosh Mani or the Fluid Nail Art, this is also important because you really don't want to overblend and make things muddy.

The term "Smoosh" has been used to describe a bunch of different techniques, so I sort of decided to add my own terminology to the different techniques - and honestly, they probably have other names, but I don't know them and the ones I chose for this post feel to me like they fit. So, yes, 4 out of these 5 techniques are all technically "Smoosh Mani's", but they all have different techniques and ultimately very different looks on the nails. 

1. Apply one coat of the lightest shade from your smoosh as a base. This is a really important step because it will both give your smoosh something to stick to as well as help to give you really clean looking edges when it's time for clean up. 
2. Apply a cuticle barrier to help with clean up. This really makes it easier since it's a really messy process. If you haven't check out my Cuticle Barrier Hack, it's a great option that's affordable and locally available.
3. Apply dots of polish to the head of your stamper randomly. It can take some practice to get the hang of this, but my tips are to be careful with the more intensely pigmented shades and don't apply too much or they can take over the smoosh. (For the nail pictured, I wish I had applied a little bit less black, for example.)
4. Pounce the stamper over your nail until you get the desired marbling effect. Don't pounce too many times or it will start to get muddy. Generally, I pounce 3-4 times, moving the stamper position to make sure the whole nail is covered and blended.
5. Clean up your cuticles. I generally use a really tiny dotting tool and drag around the edge of my nail to break up the design and what needs to be cleaned off before removing the cuticle barrier and going in with a clean up brush and some acetone to get a crisp, clean line. 
6. Apply top coat. For this look, I used a top coat that is known to add some smudging (one that I don't ever, ever use for traditional stamping) because it helps to add a smoother blend to the finished look. 

For this mani, I started with a really classic mauve/pink créme base and used it as well as a concrete grey créme, a bronzey brown holo, and a really intense black créme. What I've found with smoosh mani's is that you do need to be mindful of the colours you're choosing. You need contrast so that it doesn't get too muddy, but you also need colours that are going to look good together or you'll end up with something really garish. It sounds complicated, but a little bit of color theory goes a long way with this type of mani.

Other times I've used this technique: 
Pink Smoosh Mani w. Geometric Stamping
Pastel Smoosh Easter Egg Nails
Green Shamrock Smoosh Nail Art
End Of Summer Blues Smoosh Marble

1. Apply a base using the shade that you want to be most prominent in your mani. With most multicoloured mani's I do, I use the lightest shade, but for this one I want to build on a main base with high and low light shades, so I start with the shade I want to be dominant in the overall look.
2. Apply a cuticle barrier to aid in clean up. This is *very* important with this one because you use a lot of polish and it's very, very messy around the nail.
3. Apply a generous coat of your base shade to a nail art mat or a freezer bag. Seriously, I do about 3-4 dips into my polish bottle and make a very, very generous coat because you need a lot of polish to get a really pretty blend. If it's too dry, you're not going to get a nice smoosh.
4. Apply dots of your secondary shades to the layer of base. You can get a little bit creative with the placement of the dots and how many shades you use. Personally, I would recommend using 2-3 different colours and definitely no more than 4 so that it doesn't get muddy.
5. Drag the tip of a small dotting tool or fine nail art brush through your base to create the marble. This is another place you can get creative. I just dragged horizontally through the polish, but you can really drag through any way you want and get different types of patterns.
6. Transfer your design to the nail. The way I do this is to pick it up on my stamper, allow it about 30 seconds to start to set but still remain wet enough that it blends a little bit further when I press it to the nail. When I do press it to the nail, I only press once. If you pounce this like you would the first smoosh mani, it will end up looking really, really choppy and bad.
7. Clean up & finish with top coat. Like the last one, I tend to use a top coat that will help soften the look out by smearing the polishes together a little bit.

For this mani, I wanted to keep the design in the middle two nails and add two creme colors to my first and pinkie fingers. For the smoosh nails, I started with two coats of a sheer, slightly blush toned nude for the base. For the secondary shades, I chose a white, a mid toned taupe, and a charcoal to keep everything really neutral. I find that really focusing on adding dimension with varying depths of shades that sort of live in the same family but are different enough that they won't get muddy. 

Other times I've used this technique:
International Women's Day Amethyst Nails

1. Choose your polishes. I like to start with a white base because it adds a good amount of contrast but also because the density of white polish tends to give an interesting look to the other polishes. I also like to be mindful of contrast. If everything is too similar, it can end up looking messy and muddy. You can be pretty liberal with the number of colours for this look, but I'd recommend 4-6 different shades.
2. Create the base for your smoosh by applying the polish to a nail art mat or freezer bag. My preferred way to do this is in a sort of bullseye, applying dots of polish in the center of each other, because I feel like helps to create the sunburst sort of effect.
3. Press your stamper onto the base firmly and lift away to create the sunburst. I would recommend experimenting with this because there's a pretty significant difference in the overall outcome if you press down once versus gently pouncing the stamper into the polish 2-3 times.
4. Let your decals dry on both the mat and the stamper head. When I do this technique, I often find that I don't ultimately like all of the decals, so I like to have as many options as possible to choose from to place on my nails. These decals don't actually have to dry that long, about 30 minutes.
5. Lift your decals from the mat or stamper head using a pair of tweezers and place it face down on your stamper. The back side of these decals (as you can see in the photo) doesn't have the same amount of detail and just looks kind of blobby, so it's important to get the decal placed good side up.
6. Apply a base and let it get tacky before using the stamper to place and press your decal onto the nail. Definitely be thoughtful about how where you're going to place the image. Every decal will likely have good bits and boring bits, so you want to make sure you get as much of the good bits onto the nail.
7. Clean up. I always start with a metal cuticle tool to cut away the excess decal and then go in with my clean up brush and some acetone to sort of melt the decal firmly to the nail and get a nice, clean edge. This step used to intimidate me a lot and made me not want to do nail decals, but it actually gets pretty easy and swift with practive.
8. Finish with top coat. I have one BIG caveat here. Do not use a top coat that's going to shrink (I'm looking at you, Seche Vite) because if it does, it'll create little fissures at the edges that are really, really obvious in this type of look for some reason.

For this mani, I used five polishes. I used white and black créme shades, a bold orange linear holo, and red and purple dotting polishes. The last two are why this mani has those little cells in it and you won't get that look unless you use one of those types of polishes. As you can see, every nail ended up differently, but the anchoring shades really help to hold it together.

Other times I've used this technique:
Bright Tie Dye Dreamcatcher Nails
Smoky Sunburst Smoosh Mani

1. Choose your shades. I prefer to use a light colored base for this type of mani, but I've also found that I can use a black or other dark base if I use chrome or really pigmented holo polishes for the dry brushing. For the dry brush shades, I usually pick a vibe that I want to go with and then choose 2-3 colours for each nail. Any more than that and it can get a little busy.
2. Apply a full coverage application of your base colour. This is pretty self explanatory. Since the dry brushing won't be full coverage, you want a really solid base. to carry the design. With this design you can also apply cuticle barrier, although this is a pretty quick clean up with just some tape for the polish that gets on your skin and a clean up brush with some acetone for around the cuticles as well.
3. Apply your first shade to the stamper head. Like with dry brushing directly onto the nail, you'll want to clean as much of the polish off the brush as possible and then gently swipe it over the stamper head until you get your desired design. The reason that I like this technique is that if I get too much polish on the stamper, I can clean it off and start fresh before applying to the nail to get it exactly how I want it.
4. Transfer to the nail. You're not going to want to wait too long to transfer. Though this does give you more time than transfering an image from a plate, you need your polish to be tacky for it to adhere to your base.
5. Repeat steps 3 & 4 with your remaining colours to create your desired pattern. Again, pretty self explanatory.
6. Apply a Quick Dry Top Coat. I always use a Quick Dry Top Coat over stamping and try to float it over the nail so that I don't smear my design.

For this mani, I really wanted to do a sort of neon sunset ombré using a drybrushed technique. I started with a very pale lavender holo base with a lot of shimmer in it and then went in with my neon polishes, starting from the dark purple and moving to the coral. I also alternated the direction of the ombré for a little bit more visual interest. 

Other times I've used this technique:
Nude Stamped Dry Brush Nails
Dry Brushed Gradient Rainbow Galaxy Nails

1. Choose your shades. I actually like to do a couple of test swatches to see how the shades are going to play together before starting, because when you blend them they end up taking each other on so it's important to choose shades that work well together. Make sure to add contrast by pairing light and deep shades.
2. Apply a base polish to your nail. Usually you would use your lightest shade, though I personally prefer to not apply a white base, so if I'm using white in my smoosh I use the next lightest shade for my base. Once
3. Apply a cuticle barrier to aid in clean up. I definitely recommend not skipping this step with this type of mani, it can end up being a lot of polish to clean up from your cuticles otherwise. 
4. Apply a moderately thick layer of your anchoring polish to a nail art mat or freezer bag. This will be the base that the rest of the shades will blend into. You want it to be thick enough to blend smoothly, but not so thick as to take over or get goopy.
5. Apply the rest of your polishes over the anchoring color in light strokes, blending as you apply. I like to get most of the polish off the brush before I go in with each color, applying only enough to get streaks of the color. You can always redip your brush if you don't have enough, so build carefully. Also, you can go back and forth between colors to get the right blend. 
6. Pick up your image on the stamper and transfer to the nail immediately. I find that this is really not a technique that you want to wait with and works better if you work through the steps efficiently without too much time for the polish to start drying. 
7. Clean up & top coat. I tend to float a quick dry top coat over this because you're really not going to want to overblend this and lose the horizontal striped effect. 

When I sat down to do this mani, I was in the mood for something soft and springy, so I ended up with this really cool toned pastel look. I started with a coat of a pale lavender as my base on the nail and a really pigmented white as my anchor shade for my smoosh. I added a fairly bold teal and an orchid toned pink for the smoosh and ended up with this really soft final look. 

Other times I've used this technique:

I really hope that you maybe found this helpful. I really like to share the things that I keep learning when it comes to nail art and I feel like all of these techniques are really  beginner friendly and will always have unique and fun outcomes. I also think that these are great bases for stamping using plates because these more intricate bases can really amp up those designs.

Anyway, thanks for reading and if you try out any of these techniques, I'd love if you'd tag me on social media because I'd love to see them! And be sure to check out - their Clear Stamper* is really good and they have a really great selection of indie polish and nail art tools!

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