First and foremost, you need the right equipment. Here's a list of everything I use:
- 100% acetone
- paper to cover the table you're working on
- stamping polish
- image plate
- cotton buds (cheaper ones are better as they're less fluffy and won't get caught in the plate)
- a strip of packing tape (if using an XL stamper)
- clean up brush (optional)
There are many stampers and scrapers on the market, so I've gathered all of mine together to show you the differences.
Then I heard about squishy stampers. They're a really soft silicon material, and they cover the entire nail with ease. I bought one from ebay, figuring I might as well give it a go, and boy was I glad I did! Instead of rolling the stamper from one side of the nail to the other, you just turn it upside down, place your nail where you want it on the image and push down smoothly. It makes placement a lot easier too, so you don't get wonky images etc. If you're totally new to stamping, or you have tried with a regular stamper, but not got on with it, I highly recommend having a go with one of these. The one I've linked to above is only £2.34, and comes with 2 scrapers free as well! Not too shabby, eh?
Black and White Konad polishes (available for £2.10, full size, via these links) They're not expensive anymore, they will have good opacity, and they will dry slower, and, as a beginner, you will really appreciate that extra time. I have a few normal polishes that I get on just fine with for stamping, and those are:
-All the Kleancolor Metallics I have (Fuchsia, Aqua, Pink and Red)
They are both affordable too, after all, I own them!
And finally image plates. I would advise getting a whole set from Amazon UK, as they're much better value. I have never bought a single image plate as they work out really expensive. In regards to brands, I have used Cheeky and Pueen with no complaints, and I have also heard that Bundle Monster are good as well as Konad of course. The only thing I would advise, especially if you have long nails, is to check the reviews on Amazon. The older sets from most brands tend to have smaller images than the more recently released collections.
Okay, now we have everything we need, it is much easier to set up your workspace before starting. When you stamp, speed is important, so it is best to have everything you need laid out in front of you. Here is how I set mine up:
Okay, now on to the stamping. It's really not complicated, and if you have everything set up, and a little bit of practice, you will be flying through it in no time. It takes me about 15 mins to do both hands : )
1. Apply your chosen base colour, and let dry. I always use a coat of Seche here. It dries quicker, but more importantly, if you stamp, and it doesn't come out right, you can gently remove it with a cotton bud and polish remover without ruining your base colour, then have another go.
2. Ensure that the blue film has been removed from the stamping plate, otherwise it will not work.
3.Always start by stamping onto your dominant hand first. There's a much lower chance that you'll mess up the first hand whilst doing the second hand this way.
4.Open your stamping polish, and paint a strip down one side of the image like the photo shows.
6. If that's what you have, then quickly press the stamper against the image to pick it up. Then turn it upside down to check it's picked up properly. It should look pretty much like this ------------->
If it doesn't, then just stamp it onto the sticky side of your packing tape to clean the stamper; clean the image plate and scraper with cotton buds and acetone, and try again. The trick is all in speed really, so just keep practicing, and soon it will be almost like instinct.
7. Once you're happy with the image on the stamper, line your nail up in the right place, and push down (don't push too hard, as it will most likely smudge) Only use the force necessary for it to cover the whole nail. You should now have the image on your nails. If you have patches where it has not transferred from the stamper, then it's probably just a case of speed. The thin layers of polish on the stamp dry quickly, and you need to stamp it on your nail whilst wet. This is where using Konad polishes really help. As your speed increases, you will be able to stamp with regular polishes that are suitable for stamping too, but you may struggle if you try them first. It also helps, if you choose an image with thicker lines. I still struggle with some of the really delicate images, as the polish on the stamper dries so quickly. Just like painting a thicker coat of polish on your nails, the bolder images with thicker lines will take a bit longer to dry, thus giving you longer to get it on your nail.
Once you're happy with all your stamping, you want to give the images some drying time before you top coat. There's nothing like smudging the image while applying top coat to get you mad! Konad do offer a top coat, but I've never tried it myself, so can't really attest to how good it is. However, I have only ever heard positive things about it. Really, you just need a top coat that is not too runny. I use my trusty Seche, as that is quite thick. The key to not smudging the image, is to minimise the brush strokes as much as possible. If you brush over the same bit a couple of times, you will end up with smudging on that bit. Just get a nice sized bead of polish on the brush, and paint once down the middle, and once down either side. Once that's dried a bit, I clean up my fingers with cotton buds, then (optional) I use a small flat brush dipped in acetone to get that nice clean line around the cuticle:
1) I'm working quickly, but there are still little bald patches all over the image that look like this:
I gave mine a really quick wipe for the index finger on the above photo, and as you can see it's much better than the others. Although, please note that you should not clean the stamper with acetone as you would a normal stamper. This is a once only thing, as acetone will ruin the stamper completely with regular use.
2) My stamper keeps falling apart: -------->
3) I'm not quick enough:
Neither was I, but trust me, as you get used to it, you'll be amazed at how much you speed up. Stamping does take a bit of practice, but that's all it is, practice. It's a great idea to stamp on an old mani, just before you take it off. That way you can get some practice in without ruining a brand new mani, and once you're happy with the results you can start doing proper mani's with it. Everything will fall into place eventually, so don't give up, and you'll soon be reaping the rewards!