How To Stamp (Stamping 101)

Updated  5/2017

This is essentially a primer for all the stamping newbies out there!  Don't take the title of newbie the wrong way because literally everyone and I mean everyone starts out as a newbie at some point in their lives' whether it's nail art or something else.  I'm just here to hopefully ease that transition for you all.  So let's get started!

What is stamping?

I know pretty much these days most people know what stamping is, but for the sake of being thorough lets assume you don't.  The definition of stamping is pretty simple.  About ten years ago a small company in China came up with a way to create nail art that that is clean, reproducible and concise.  It took the muss, fuss, and expense out of going to salons and uses a technique that allowed the "average lay person" to create nice manicures at home without the need to pay hundreds of dollars to get amazing nail art.  That idea was called stamping.  This company created metallic plates containing simple designs engraved into them.  When polish is applied over the design and scraped away - tadaa a nail art image is created which can then be picked up with a stamper and applied to the nail!  Konad ran with that idea and the rest as they say is history.  Sounds pretty straightforward right? It is in fact I'm going to show you how easy it is with one of my tutorials below.

What is required in order to create stamping nail art?

***To read up on how to select and purchase the items listed below please go to my Beginner's Series Part 1 on Nail Art Stamping.  I highly recommend reading this before purchasing anything to prevent yourself from making a regrettable purchase.***

1. Plates.  Click here for my page listing a multitude of places from which you can find and order plates.  I  will also throw in that the occasional mall will offer kiosks that sell Konad stamping nail art and I've seen at least one stamping kit at Bed, Bath, & Beyond if you feel you can't wait for an order to arrive from the internet.

2. You will also need the stamper itself - this is a little tool with a rubber or silicone pad at both ends usually one will be smaller than the other.  There are many different types of stampers, but not all are created equal however that's a conversation for another time.  For the newbie stamper I recommend starting out with the squishy medium firm stamper. Its a good place to start and doesn't require any tricks or tips generally speaking to work.  These of course are far from my favorite kind of stampers which tend to be marshmallows.  However once you get the hang of stamping really any stamper in the world has potential to work well depending on what you want to do.

Want to know more about the different kinds of stampers out there as well as the pluses and the minuses?  Click here to read my post about stampers (coming soon!).

3. A scraper.  Easy peasy!  Got a old club card or Starbucks gift card?  Use this as a scraper.  Plastic is preferred as the metal scrapers that come with kits end up scratching up your plates over time.  I personally like to preserve the appearance and quality of my plates so I only use plastic.  Trust me you will too.  So if you buy and stamper and scraper combo that has a metal scraper on it toss the metal scraper and find a nice plastic one.  Btw I don't think purchasing a scraper is necessary for most stampers.  It's like an indulgence that is fun, but basically could be free without much effort.

4. Stamping polish or a equally suitable polish that works for stamping.  See the next bolded question below highlighted in pink.  Yes, it's involved but take the time to read it now and save yourself some frustration!

5.  Paper towel or a silicone mat.  Preferably both, but that's just me.  The scraping gets messy and if you are practicing or doing involved art you will build up quite a mess of scraped away polish.  Having a silicone mat makes the clean up easier and paper towel to wipe away any excess polish that causes your plate to slide away.  Now there are several makers of mats designed specifically for nail art.  You can find a list of them here.

6.  Cotton balls and acetone.  Because sometimes you will have to clean your plate.  Some ladies clean their plate in between each stamp because this assures a higher probability of an absolutely perfect image pickup from the plate.  I will only do that if polish has dried in the wells or I'm switching colors. Acetone is preferred because it doesn't leave the nasty residue of oils and other things that many non acetone polishes hold.  I also use acetone to clean off glue residue from my stamper heads.  In addition you may want to consider a cotton ball holder to prevent yourself from ruining your nails on the opposite hand.

7.  Lint roller,  Scotch tape or non acetone polish.  I love using a lint roller to clean up my stamper after each stamp when I have some polish left over. Definitely purchase a good one one that's extra sticky and has good pickup.  Its clean and its quick.  I don't like using to to clean up my misstamps for that I go to scotch tape the extra sticky awesome kind.  And it's also good for cleaning up polish on stampers.  Btw both the lint rollers and scotch tape leave residue on a stamper that needs to be removed with acetone over time.  Quick swipe is all it takes.  Don't read the hype about acetone eroding stampers I've never had a problem with that in over 9 years.

8.  A reliable non smearing topcoat.  Lord here comes the trial and error.  I feel bad for you, but not all topcoats are created equally and nothing sucks worse that creating a flawless stamped pattern and then having your topcoat smear the results of your hard work.  I mean nothing!  What has worked well for me in the past Poshe Quick Drying Topcoat and Sally Hansen Diamond Flash.  All others have messed my art up including Seche Vite - yeah I know some of you will hate me for saying that but the truth hurts!  Will this be the same for you? *Shrugs* I've no idea but I've been stamping for years and these are my winners.

 9.  Patience.  Just like Rome wasn't built in a day don't expect to master nail stamping on your first try.  You won't.  I have been stamping for years and I am still learning new techniques and tricks all the time.  Look at this as a skill that you can polish over time and go from there.  If you set yourself up to get the perfect stamp or create something ultra complicated on your first try you will cry tears of blood.  Lol remember this is supposed to be fun not torture or a means to make yourself feel bad.  I also like to think there will always be someone with a better technique that I can learn from or a has a skill I haven't picked up yet.

10.  Practice! Practice! Practice!  This is the toughest part of getting good at anything in life practice but eventually what was hard will become effortless then you can move onto more and more advanced techniques!

What kind of polish is used to create the stamp?  Is it special and do I need to use it in order to get a successful image?

Ok.  I'm going to say this and I really know it may sound like rhetoric, but if you are reading this you are a newbie.  Make your life easier and start stamping using the Konad Special polish or other special brands of polish used specifically for stamping.  I don't own stock in Konad nor am I paid by them or compensated in any way.  When I was first starting out stamping it was tough enough to get the polish on the plate, scraped and applied to my nail in the manner I wanted without having a meltdown.  This will also be true of everyone in the beginning.  Successful stamping requires dexterity and speed in equal measures. And that requires practice.  Make your life easier and use a polish that will allow you to pick up the image with ease.  When you feel you really have the hang of things you can move onto regular old polishes that have pretty good opacity (think one coat) that can stamp as well or almost as well as Konad Special Polishes.  To this day I still don't believe I've come across a brand that makes a white stamping polish that is better than Konad.  Redacted!  I've finally found a stamping polish better than Konad and it's Mundo de Unas.  It has 1 million times the opacity and reliability of pickup than Konad to the point that Konad has become a secondary go-to stamping polish for me.  Plus there are more varieties of color!

Ready to move on to non-stamping specific polishes? Excellent! View my Stamping Polishes page for an extensive list of brands that have worked successfully for me in the past.
Ok I got all my supplies and I'm ready to do this thing.  Are there any tutorials or videos out there I can watch?

Yup - here's a link to my Youtube channel.  You can also search Youtube itself for thousands of tutorials especially if you have a plate that you want to use that isn't available on my channel or only one or a few plates.  You can also browse for ideas and then use your own plate to shape a nail art around that.  You could also look at my blogposts and the plethora of others out there for ideas. 

I'm a stamping genius? Now what?

Lol really?  Congrats now it's time to move onto advanced techniques.  For that you can search the tag on my blog or join other groups online to learn more and expand your repertoire!