By Leslie Henry
Nearly 15 years ago, stamping made its mark on the nail scene. Since then, basic stamping techniques and tools have improved significantly and innovative new products have been brought to market. For starters, nail stamping plates have seen a huge upgrade. Early on, plates offered just a few designs finely etched on a thin metal plate, says Katie Lee, education coordinator for Young Nails. These designs lacked detail and could be difficult to pick up. Today, plates are etched more deeply on higher quality metal, allowing the design to be transferred to the stamper and applied to the nail more easily. The stamping techniques and designs themselves have evolved, too. “As quickly as we see the fashion industry change, the nail tech can now adapt to the ‘new’ as fast as she can stamp it,” says Lee. Plate makers are also moving toward bigger designs on large, rectangular plates. “This is great news for techs working with clients who have longer nails or extensions,” says Karolyn Pereira, stamping educator and creator of NailsOfAquarius.com.
Stamping polishes, once limited to a handful of primary colors, are now offered in a multitude of hues. And while true stamping polishes aren’t ideal for lacquering nails (these formulas are usually thicker and slow to dry), new hybrid stamping polishes (think: fancier finishes, like holographic and micro-glitter, and 3- and 5-free formulas) can be used much like traditional polishes. Still, you can expect these formulas to dry much faster than regular stamping polish, says Pereira, so be prepared to work quickly. What’s more, stamping isn’t just for polish any more: Now stampers are being used with gel polish, fine pigment powder and even crystals.
Accessories have also evolved. Take the clear jelly stamper: A transparent holder, combined with a totally clear stamping head, allows you to look through the stamper at the nail to see exactly where you’re placing your design. As a result, designs can be created in layers of color similar to the process used in silk screening. In some cases, different parts of a single design are etched separately on the stamping plate. The clear stamper allows the tech to perfectly align the design as different parts are stamped in a specific order and combined to create a single image.
But don’t take our word for it—try for yourself! Here, four step-by-step stamping techniques executed by celebrity nail artist Bel Fountain-Townsend (@sohotrightnail).
Stamping Technique #1: Merci Beau-cute
1. Prep the nail. Apply gel base coat and cure. Apply one coat of sheer pink gel polish and cure. Tape off the base of the nail and apply glitter gel polish. Remove the tape and cure.
2. Apply a gel base coat and cure. Then, wipe with alcohol to remove the tacky layer. Tape off the bottom of the nail and stamp the upper portion of the nail with a fleur-de-lis design using cream stamping polish. Remove the tape and cure.
3. Apply a strip of holographic striping tape horizontally where the stamping pattern ends.
4. To seal the striping tape, apply a layer of builder gel, and cure. Then, buff the nail with a 240-grit sponge file for a smooth surface.
5. To finish, apply gel top coat and cure.
Stamping Technique #2: Second Skin
1. Prep the nail. Apply gel base coat and cure. Then, apply a thick layer of gel base coat and do not cure. Use tweezers to place triangular cuts of holographic tape to the nail at random. Cure.
2. Apply a second thick layer of gel base coat and cure. Wipe with alcohol and buff lightly with a 240-grit sponge file. Then, apply a thin layer of sheer black gel polish and cure.
3. Wipe away the tacky layer. Stamp the nail with a snakeskin design with black stamping polish.
4. Apply gel base coat and cure.
5. Finally, apply gel top coat and cure.
Stamping Technique #3: Lost Your Marbles?
1. Prep the nail. Apply gel base coat and cure. Then, apply black gel polish, followed by a second layer of gel base coat, curing after each coat. Wipe the nail to remove the tacky layer. Then, stamp a marble design on the nail with white stamping polish.
2. Run a small flat brush, dampened with acetone, across the nail to smudge the design.
3. Stamp the nail again with black stamping polish. Then, stamp the nail with white stamping polish.
4. Use a flat brush to slightly blur the design.
5. Once dry, apply a thick layer of gel base coat and cure; doing so will add depth to the design.
6. To finish, apply a no-wipe matte gel top coat and cure.
Stamping Technique #4: Fill Me In
1. Prep the nail. Apply gel base coat and cure. Then, apply off-white gel polish and cure. Next, stamp star designs on the nail, one by one, using different colors of stamping polish.
2. Use a striping brush to fill in one of the stars with black gel polish. Cure.
3. Outline the black star with pink gel polish. Cure. Apply gel base coat over the entire nail, cure and lightly buff the nail.
4. To finish, apply gel top coat and cure.
Which one of these stamping techniques is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!
[Images: Cory Sorensen]
Leslie Henry is a business development executive, licensed nail technician and the blogger behind workplaypolish.com.