Stamping nail art is easy to do and always in vogue; you can't go wrong with it if you get some simple basics right. After receiving - and answering - some questions on how to do stamping nail art, I was asked to do a detailed post for beginners. I am not an expert on stamping (or any other nail art) and have my messy-stamping days, but I found that there are quite a few tricks that many of the videos tend to miss out on.
As there are several facets to stamping nail art, I'll be doing this in three parts - this one is on the equipment used. Part II will be the step-by-step tutorial on stamping nail art and part III will be a list of non-Konad/special polishes that you can stamp with. All will be detailed posts, and picture-heavy. If all goes well, I will eventually be sharing step-by-step tutorials for FIMO, ombre, watermarbling, splatter, tape and other kinds of nail art. Suggestions/hate-mail welcome.
What you need for stamping nail art:
You need the right gear for trouble-free stamping. Not much needed by way of investment, but make sure you don't go in for dupes or the cheapest equipment, because while there may not be much difference in prices, there is a huge difference in quality.
1. Stamping image plate
The most important thing you need to stamp is an image plate. Konad has famous plates, since they're deep, sturdy and diverse enough. There are poorly-made plates out there, believe me. Konad images are also replicated on several plates so you might want to look at both and if you find similar images, pick Konad. However, I've seen some amazing plates with Chanel, LV, The Beatles, Spongebob, Snoopy and Zombie images on them, so you may want to get a couple of basic yet pretty images from Konad plates and go in for the very specific ones. Mind you, the specific plates are more expensive than the generic/basic image plates. I'll share my stash of the fancy ones when I'm doing stamping manis.
An image plate usually is made of metal and has several images etched. The principle is that the polish goes inside and excess is scraped off so only the polish that transfers the image is left. Take a closer look at an image plate with a casino theme.
Those are with- and without-flash pictures of the image plate. Sometimes, the plate may have a very thin protective film over it which needs to be removed before you can use the plate for stamping. The film can be so thin as to be invisible, so if you can't stamp, that could be why.
2. Double-sided nail stamper
I have two because one went MIA for ages and turned up a couple of months ago, after I had invested in another. The health of your stamper is vital so it can transfer the image from the plate to your nails. Let's take a look at stamper anatomy, though.
A scraper is meant to remove excess polish from the metal plate.
Do you own a metal scraper? Destroy it. Now. You should have done that in the last millennium. I know, it works well. But the metal edge has left/is leaving/will leave fine scratch marks on the image plate. If/when these are deep enough, you'll get them on your nail as well, via the stamper. Or the stamper may protest and refuse to pick up the image amid all the scratches. Here's proof. See those scratches?
There's a way out. Credit cards. Debit cards Gift cards. SIM cards. Loyalty cards. Phone cards. No, not business cards! I have a gargantuan collection of these, which I use purely for stamping. At the risk of sounding like I'm underestimating your intelligence, I suggest choosing cards that have already expired and keeping them well away from regular cards.
4. Polish for stamping
Duh. I'll do a detailed post on brands and polish names that can go into image plates. But in a nutshell, the Konad Special Polishes rock. Ditto anything that gives you full opacity in one coat and takes time to dry. Anything sheer, quick-dry and gritty/glittery isn't going to work.
The Konad Special Polishes are mini bottles of super-thick and gloopy formula that appears three-free and takes ages to dry.
6. Emery paper, grit board or nail buff
In time, your stamper will stop picking up the image well. This is because all that polish and remover may leave a very thin barrier. With grit or emery paper, roughen the surface of the stamper till it looks more matte than glossy. Stop right there and the stamper should pick up your image just fine again. Don't overdo it; two swipes across the emery paper sheet will do. Avoid steel or glass nail files. I roughen my stampers after every use now.
Here are before, during and after pictures of roughening your stamper. As you can see, the stamper reflects light better before it is roughened. Oh, and don't go for industrial strength emery - we're not trying to remove paint here. The finest grit will do. If you can't find one, I suggest the roughest side of a four-sided nail buff, though it won't last as long as emery.
Plenty of it. Scraping is a messy process. Even the product cards or pamphlets from beauty boxes are fine - you'll throw them away in a year's time anyway.
8. A flat surface
If you do your manis in bed, time to get up and on the floor. You can't scrape, pick the image up well or stamp unless the image plate and your hand are both on a firm, flat surface.
9. Nail polish remover
Free of all those soothing oils, moisturisers or aloe vera. I recommend O.P.I. If not, Sally Hansen, in a pinch. Important instructions for those from India: Go fetch your bottle of Lakme polish remover now. Now. Got it? Good. Now walk to the nearest window or washbasin. Open the cap. Turn the bottle upside down. Give it a few shakes till every drop is out. Why throw it away, you ask? Because Lakme remover is the enemy of your stamping kit. The more you use Lakme remover on your image plate and stamper, the worse the image pick-up. Use it on your fingernails, that's fine. But never for stamping. Trust me on this one. If it's working well for you, it's only a matter of time before it stops working and you don't want to invest in a new stamper and plates. I've shared this tip with bloggers who have had trouble with stamping and they can tell you how right I am.
Coming soon: How to stamp. I'm planning one of the images from the casino-themed plate I've shown here. Requests welcomed.