So I’m pretty new to this nail stamping business myself. I only really got into it just before my friend’s wedding in August. I bought some cheap plates and a stamper off ebay, some nail polish from my local supermarket, tried it once, failed and almost gave up. I couldn’t understand why it didn’t work very well… Now, 3 months on (and several youtube videos later) I feel much more experienced – it didn’t take that long at all.
Here I am going to pop all the things I have learnt and everything I have had to invest in to get my nails to the standard I am happy with.
As you can probably see from my other nail art blog posts, I am NOT a professional, in fact, far from it. I do my nails as a hobby, and as I’ve already mentioned, have only been doing it properly for about 2 months now! But hopefully, this means more people can relate to me and also, not have unrealistic expectations. As with any skill, it takes lots of practice to get better at it! So get stamping!
If you want 10% off at MoYou London website you can also use my friend-referral link!
So as the titles suggests… What do you need to successfully stamp your nails? And, more importantly, why?
#1 High Quality (and CLEAN see #10) Stamping Plates
When I started getting interested in nail art I did what I suspect most people do and headed to places like ebay and amazon to get them as cheaply as possible. It’s understandable, when you invest in a new hobby you don’t want to splash out on the expensive stuff straight away just to find out you’re not that into it. But this is a false economy. In my scenario, I bought 10 cheap plates, a stamper and a scraper off ebay for about £5, yes, £5! But they were so low quality I struggled to do anything with them and nearly gave up with the idea of nail stamping altogether! What I would recommend is looking at one of the high-quality bundles, like one of the MoYou bundles which I went on to buy.
So why does the plate quality really matter?
For me the difference between the quality of the plates is clear
And the proof is in the stamping, I don’t think the stamp from the cheap plate is very clear, and that was the best design on the plate.
For both of these pictures, I used exactly the same equipment and technique, but you can clearly see my cheap plates produced poor results.
There are many potential reasons:
- The image isn’t cut deep enough, therefore not enough polish goes into the design to pick up, or the polish is then so thin that it dries too quickly for you to pick up.
- The cheap plates are usually thin and flexible, so that when you scrape over the plate moves and distorts.
- The patterns aren’t rigorously tested or validated. On the MoYou website you can see images of the stamps which the plates create, and you feel confident that they test every design to make sure it can even be stamped. On the cheap plates, there are some designs that are so fine and intricate they seem impossible to stamp correctly.
Invest in high-quality plates at the start so that you enjoy the process of stamping from day 1 🙂
#2 Opaque and colour-rich nail polish
Another mistake I made initially is thinking that you could stamp with any nail polish. Unfortunately, you can’t.
Both of these polishes are white, the one on the left is Maybelline Color Show in ‘Winter Baby’ and right is MoYou’s ‘White Knight’. The difference is obvious.
- When you scrape your paint over the design you are leaving a very thin layer of paint behind. If the polish is not highly pigmented this layer is too thin to create an opaque stamp and will simply not show up.
- Equally, this thin layer is also prone to drying extremely quickly, so even some highly pigmented but quick-drying polishes will be hard to stamp as the whole process of stamping requires the stamp to remain at least partially wet.
Invest in nail polish designed for stamping! Brands include MoYou, Konad, China Glaze etc. Although I have only ever tried MoYou as they seem the best value for money.
#3 A clear stamper – more specifically, a Crystal Clear stamper
When I bought my first cheap stamping set I got a free opaque stamper with it and wow, was it hard to use. I literally had no idea where I was putting my stamp and was left with wonky stamps or stamps which didn’t match from nail to nail. It was horrific and really put me off.
After this, I bought a bundle from MoYou which contained a clear stamper and it instantly made a world of difference. Basically, a clear stamper means you can see all the way through the stamp to the design and ultimately your nail underneath.
Although I liked this new stamper, I still missed my mark a lot, the clear plastic basically acted like a prism and distorted the light going through it making it seem like it was about to stamp in the right place, but actually, I wasn’t…
So third time lucky, I invested in the MoYou Crystal Clear stamper and instantly fell in love. Not only is the stamping head clear, but the bottom of the stamp actually pops off, so there’s no plastic prism for the light to pass through. The stamp head is also nice and big allowing you to pick up lots of designs so you could technically do several nails in one stamp. It also comes in a nice box and has a pretty design.
Right>Left: Unbranded opaque stamper, MoYou Rectangular Clear stamper, MoYou Crystal Clear stamper with top and bottom lids off.
Honestly, I struggle to see any difference in how the stampers pick up the polish, they all do it equally very well. But that’s not the point here…
…the reason I suggest a clear stamper is the ability to see through it. The Crystal Clear is the out-right winner for me.
You can see how the Rectangular Clear stamper distorts the view in this image.
- Because otherwise, you can’t see where you’re stamping = a world of frustration
- A clear stamper means you can see all the way through the stamp to the design and ultimately your nail underneath = perfect stamp placement
- This is much easier especially for beginners
Investing in a clear stamper like the MoYou Crystal Clear stamper or the MoYou SUPER clear stamper can make your life so much easier from the start, remove frustration from incorrect design placement and save you time overall.
#4 A standard clothes lint roller
Yep, you need a lint roller! I bought mine from H&M for 99p, but I’m sure they are cheaper elsewhere. I think also one of the mini ones would be cool, but I haven’t found one in any shops yet.
It’s hard to see on this image, but using acetone nail polish remover on this stamper caused parts to turn opaque 😦
- Because nail polish remover ruins stamps. You should NOT clean your stamper with nail polish remover, acetone or IPA. I did this with my first clear stamper and you can see the result of that in the image above.
- The lint roller is used to clean the stamper only, it can also be used to remove parts of the design which are unwanted, or any excess paint which was picked up.
Get a lint roller!
#5 Liquid latex or a cuticle guard
If, like me, you are a complete noob at nail painting, or if you have unsteady hands, or are in a rush, you are likely to get the base colour nail polish on your finger as well as your nails. Also, most stamps are larger than your actual nail and will often go over onto your finger.
Most nail polish comes off your finger relatively easily with a bit of acetone or nail polish remover, but some dark, and especially the highly pigmented polishes (discussed in #2) are a nightmare to remove and can stain your finger terribly.
Some techniques, such as ombre effect or nail dipping can also cover your finger in polish.
An ombre effect is a surefire way to cover your finger in nail polish, the cuticle guard makes cleaning up so easy!
- For a quick clean up after stamping
- To stop polish from staining your fingers
- To give a neater edge to the polish
Perhaps if you’re very skilled at applying nail polish and never get it on your finger you don’t need this (lol, who is?!). But I think this item is pretty essential. I bought, not surprisingly, the MoYou Cuticle Guard. I haven’t used any others, but this one works well and smells pretty nice too.
And that leads me on to….
You wouldn’t think you would need tweezer when doing your nails, but how else are you going to remove the fiddly cuticle guard?
- To remove the cuticle guard or any hairs or lint which stick to your freshly-painted nails.
Any standard tweezers will do.
#7 A good base coat
Again, when I first started with this, I bought one of the MoYou Bundle starter packs and that was literally all I had. I never normally painted my nails, even with just a plain colour, so I had no base coats, no top coats, no nothing… The first time I stamped my nails properly they lasted hardly a day before the first chip!
Nails are naturally covered in oils that come from your skin so are generally not very sticky. They are also more prone to staining than your finger as they’re actually more permeable than skin.
- To prime your nail, making a sticky layer upon which you paint your colour and stamp design
- To extend your nail polish to about a week (now I use base coats and top coats together I usually last about 4 days with no chips whatsoever and about a week of them OK enough to keep on).
- To prevent polish from staining your nails – which often happens with dark and bold colours (especially stamping polishes I recommend in #2)
- Some base coats also have other benefits, filling in nail ridges for instance, promoting faster nail growth or strengthening nails and preventing peeling
There are a lot of different base coats on the market, you should go for one which you think will suit your nails best, if they are ridged, prone to peeling or dry for instance there are base coats for all these nail ‘types’. I love the Jessica Reward base coat, made for normal nails, but I’ve since found that the Essie First Base helps prevent staining by navy blue a little better.
I think you know what’s coming next….
#8 A good (SMUDGE RESISTANT) top coat
Please note the ‘Smudge resistant’ part of this point. There are so many great top coats that I’ve read about and have indeed bought, including the Essie Matte About You matte finish top coat (which is amazing) and the Jessica Brilliance high gloss top coat. BUT, and this is a big but, I’ve found that both of these great top coats smudge the thin layer of nail polish stamp. This literally defeats the point of using them to ‘protect’ the stamp!
Therefore, I have bought the MoYou Top Coat which is even named ‘smudge resistant’. I’ve never had a problem with it. The only caveat is that, on its own, this top coat is pretty bland. It’s sort of semi-shine and the gloss finish fades after a day or so I’ve found.
- To protect the nail and stamp
- To prevent chipping (now I use base coats and top coats together, my nails usually last about 4 days with no chips whatsoever and about a week of them OK enough to keep on).
- To give a smooth finish to the nail
- To add a different effect to the nail – i.e. Matte finish or high gloss finish
Cover your nail art with a smudge-resistant top coat, like the MoYou Top Coat, before applying your favourite top coat to first avoid smudging the design and then to add an additional effect that you like, like a gloss or matte finish.
#9 A high-quality nail polish remover and cotton pads
If you enjoy doing your nails regularly then there is no avoiding the fact that you have to keep removing your old designs. Regularly using acetone-based nail polish remover can damage your nails and cause them to start peeling. One alternative is to use less-abrasive acetone-free nail polish, but if you followed my other tips and used a base coat, a high pigment colour and stamp followed by 2 tops coats, I’m afraid acetone-free remover just doesn’t cut it. You’ll be there all night trying to remove it with that, as I found out the hard way! Therefore go for a middle ground and get a high quality acetone-based nail polish remover.
- To remove high pigmented colour quickly and efficiently
- To damage your nails less than using cheap remover
Pay a little bit more for higher quality remover and your nails will thank you in the long run! I’ve found investing on a higher quality nail polish remover, like the Sally Hanson moisturising one or more recently the Zoya nail polish remover are good choices. You’re obviously going to need cotton pads as well to use the remover.
However, one downside of having higher quality nail polish remover is that it often has extra oils and vitamins added to help soothe and moisturise your nails. when you use this remover to clean the nail polish off your stamping plates, it will most likely leave a thin residue once the acetone evaporates… therefore…
#10 High purity isopropyl alcohol (IPA) or neat acetone and a lint-free cloth
This is a type of alcohol-based cleaner which evaporates quickly and is very pure.
- If your nail polish remover leaves a residue on the plate after you wipe away the nail polish then you should invest in this to fully clean your stamping plates and get rid of oil and residue
- If the plates are not clean the polish will not get picked up by the stamp as well
- You can also use it (very sparingly – see point #9) to remove any oil from your nails before applying the base coat
IPA can be bought off ebay for very little, so I’d say it’s worth investing in. Keeping you plates clean will help to prolong their life and the quality of the stamps they produce, so it’s worth it in the long run.
#11 A small eyeliner brush and a small pot (or lid)
Again, this goes back to #5, if you are not so neat when you paint your nails, you’ll have a lot of cleaning up to do once you finish. The cuticle guard can only do so much unfortunately and most of the time I have to use a small brush dipped in nail polish to finish it off.
- I’ve tried using cotton buds dipped in remover, but these are not as accurate and because they’re a little thicker can sometimes rub the polish off your nails.
- I’ve also tried a nail polish remover pen from OPI, but this was expensive and the nib lost its shape and was badly stained by blue polish after only a few uses.
- Therefore, its the best option when compared to remover pens or cotton buds
- The brush can be easily cleaned and reused and has unparalleled accuracy because it is very thin.
I bought a small eyeliner brush from superdrug, it works great! If you pour some nail polish into a small lid, it also helps.
#12 Kitchen roll
Yes, you need kitchen roll! I place this over my glass board and underneath my plates.
You can see my excess scrapings here!
- To mop up an excess polish which might go over the edge of the plate or is left on the scraper. Once you scrape the polish over the plate you can wipe any excess off the scraper immediately.
- To protect your work area from polish stains.
A simple investment saves your clean-up of your work area once you’re done!
I hope you find this useful, I know I would have done 3 months ago! If you have any of your own suggestions I’d be happy to hear them and could even add them to the list!
To see how I put this list into action please visit my step-by-step guide section!