April 29, 2014

Stamping 101 Part 1: Know THIS Before You Spend $1 on Stamping

Updated October 2016: Ladies perform web searches every day trying to find information on the best nail art stamping plates, best stampers, best stamping polishes, etc. In this article I will help you find the best products for your nails, and also reveal the items I am currently coveting. You may want to grab a beverage and settle in for this lengthy post, or bookmark it for later when you have 15+ minutes to spare.

Know THIS Before You Spend $1 On Stamping: the best plates, best stampers, best stamping polish, best scrapers

{This article was originally published in April 2014. While I plan to revisit it at least once a year to freshen up the content, it is possible that I will mention a brand that is no longer available or fail to mention a newer brand you were hoping to learn more about. The nail art segment has been experiencing explosive growth and new manufacturers are popping up all over the world almost daily. It would be a full time job just trying to keep up!! Therefore, the brand names used in this article should be considered examples. The 7 tips that are shown in bold will always remain relevant and are the focus of this post.}

I mentioned in my 'About Me' that my first attempts at stamping my nails were nothing short of an epic failure. And I promised I would provide you with some information and tips and try to spare you some pain and the frustration I went through and potentially even save you some money.

I’ll admit that I was pretty na├»ve when I decided I wanted to try stamping. A friend was doing it and I watched a YouTube video or two and thought it looked fairly easy. I was following a few blogs, but didn't know about all the great groups on social media yet. My research told me that it all began with Konad, so I figured that would be the best place for me to start. I ordered 6 plates, 2 small bottles of the special stamping polish and their double ended stamper.

I was excited when my order arrived, but immediately surprised by how small the designs were on the plates I had chosen. Since size wasn't part of the product description I thought this was a "ONE SIZE FITS ALL" kind of thing, but I was sadly mistaken.

    [ ONE ]

    How Big Are My Nails? 

    The first thing you need to do is use a metric tape measure (the industry standard) and record the size (length and width) of all of your fingernails. If you sometimes wear your nails longer, consider adding a few millimeters to your length measurement since too big is always better than too small. My thumb measures 2cm long x 1.7cm wide and the full nail designs on my Konad plates were 1.5cm x 1.2cm.

    There are some advanced techniques, such as "double stamping" which entails lining up the stamper to precisely place the missing part of the design next to the existing one your fingernail. Or stamping with a stretched squishy stamper head to get a few more millimeters out of the design. If they sound complicated it's because they are, even for experienced stampers.

    In my opinion, your best bet is to know the size of your nails and purchase plates with full nail designs that are a little larger and will cover your entire nail in a single stamp.

    [ TWO ]

    What Size Images Are on the Plates? 

    I’ve compiled a list of the full nail design sizes from several manufacturers by taking measurements from my own plate collection. This list is by no means exhaustive, as there are so many companies making stamping plates these days. And my measurements may not be 100% accurate to the millimeter, but they are very close and they will certainly give you a good idea of which plates will have designs that fit your nails.

    If a company does not have sizing information posted on their website, I would definitely check with them before placing an order. The measurements shown are for "full nail designs", which you'll learn more about next. Arranged alphabetically with links to companies included.


    Brand Length Width
    Apipila 2.0cm 1.5cm
    Born Pretty Rectangle Regular 1.6cm 1.5cm
    Born Pretty Rectangle Large 2.2cm 1.5cm
    Bundle Monster 2010 Revised, 2012, 2013, Holiday 1.7cm 1.3cm
    Bundle Monster XL Rectangle 2.2cm 1.5cm
    Cheeky Jumbo XL 2.0cm 1.5cm
    Chez Delaney 2.2cm 1.6cm
    Dashica Big SdP 1.9cm 1.3cm
    Dashica Infinity 2.5cm 1.5cm
    DRK-A 2.2cm 1.7cm
    DRK-B 2.2cm 2.0cm
    Emily de Molly 1.8cm 1.5cm
    Konad (older) 1.5cm 1.2cm
    Konad (newer) 1.9cm 1.4cm
    Messy Mansion (MM series) 2.2cm 1.7cm
    MoYou London Regular 1.5cm 1.2cm
    MoYou London XL 2.0cm 1.5cm
    Moyra 2.5cm 2cm
    Pueen Love Elements 1.8cm 1.4cm
    Sugar Bubbles 2.1cm 1.7cm
    UberChic Beauty 2.1cm 1.7cm
    Vivid Lacquer 2.0cm 2.0cm
    Wistonia 1.6cm 1.3cm


    Visual Image Size Comparison

    [ THREE ]

    Are Some Designs Easier to Use? 

    Yes, I think that some designs are easier to stamp than others. I would rank them like this, from easiest to most difficult:

    Visual Image Difficulty Comparison
      • Full nail designs are the easiest and most forgiving since you don't have to worry about placing the design precisely. Providing you chose the proper image size for your nail you can simply roll the stamper over your nail or press your nail into the stamper.

      • Smaller images, such as flowers or that cute kitty, are usually intended to be placed in a specific location on your nail. It takes more practice to be able to stamp a design exactly where you want it.

      • French tip designs are the most challenging to use in my opinion, and they don’t look good unless you get them placed just right. I have a very pronounced C curve in my nails, which could be part of the difficulty for me, but you may want to keep your investment small until you've tried them.

        [ FOUR ]

      All Plates Are The Same Quality, Right? 

      I’ll refer you to the age old saying that “you get what you pay for”. This often holds true with stamping plates. I'm sure you can probably find some great deals on a large set of plates from AliExpress, eBay or even offshore Marketplace Sellers on Amazon, but if they aren’t etched deep enough to use or are defective in some other way did you really get a good deal? Will the manufacturer in China work with you on replacements? I don't know. As with any other purchase, be sure to do some research on social media, find out about return/exchange policies and read reviews for any plates you are considering.

      There are many, many companies providing quality stamping plates these days. It wasn't my intent to provide an exhaustive list in this article, or to purposely exclude anyone. I focused on brands I have used myself and, for the most part, I have had good experiences with the brands listed in my size chart.

      Know THIS Before You Spend $1 on Stamping: The Best Stamping Plates

      If I had it to do over again, my initial investment would have been in 2-4 quality plates in the $7-10 dollar a plate range with the correct full nail image sizes for my nails. Go easy, start with a small order so you can try the products and find out if you even enjoy stamping!! There will always be time to start a collection later!

      BEST STAMPING PLATES: As promised, the stamping plates I am coveting as of the latest update are from: UberChic Beauty, MoYou London, Moyra, Chez Delaney and Clear Jelly Stamper Multi-Layer plates (recommended for experienced stampers).

      [ FIVE ]

      What Kind of Stamper Should I Get?  

      Another surprise for me was all the different types of stampers that are available. A stamper's a stamper, right? Nope, not really. I started with the standard Konad double ended stamper and I couldn’t have made a worse choice for me. I'm not picking on Konad...any firm stamper is troublesome for me. I mentioned earlier my nails have a definitive C curve to them, but they are also long with wide nail beds. The Konad stamper head wasn't much bigger than my thumb nail and it was too firm to reach those curved sides without fear of pressing too hard and breaking a nail.

      Discovering the XL Squishy stamper (in the top left of the photo below) in 2014 saved stamping for me. Not only could it pick up an entire XL design, but I could easily roll it over my nail and it contoured to the curves. I learned later that you don't even need to roll this type of stamper, you can simply press your fingernail into the design. The surface on this first generation of XL squishy stampers, shown in the photo below, does need a little prep before you can use them, and I'll cover "priming" your stamper in my follow up post Struggling with Stamping? Here's 4 Tips to Make it Work!.

      Know THIS Before You Spend $1 on Stamping photo of all types of nail art stampers
      First Generation XL Squishy and others that CAN be primed

      The stamper landscape has seen major changes since my last update in 2015. The release of the Creative Shop Stamper from the Ukraine with it's huge 3.6cm head made of medium squishy translucent silicone that allowed you to see white designs sent out a ripple of change. It prompted many stamping plate companies to release a similar stamper and some are referring to them as Marshmallow, so I need to clarify some of my previous statements on Marshmallow stampers.

      Know THIS Before You Spend $1 on Stamping: The Best Stampers

      The photo above depicts the stamping landscape today, minus the Creative Shop Stamper as I wasn't able to find mine but it is similar in design to 1 and 2. It's important to note that NONE OF THE STAMPERS IN THIS PHOTO CAN BE PRIMED, with the exception of 6 and 7 that I carried over from yesteryear. If they aren't working you can trying washing them with dish detergent and water, but do not use a Magic Eraser or nail files. Attempting that type of priming could damage the stamper and render it useless. If you are having difficulty getting these stampers to work, please view the techniques in Struggling with Stamping? Here's 4 Tips to Make it Work! and read End The Frustration. Start Stamping Now. for troubleshooting steps if you're still having difficulties.

      Let's go through the stampers:
      1. MoYou London Marshmallow Stamp Sticky: MoYou's version of the traditional sticky Marshmallow stamper, squishier than their non-sticky version and super duper sticky; available in transparent or white, XL at 4cm wide. I'll be honest and tell you that I am not fond of these super sticky stampers. They stick to everything, including the stamping plate, and I've never once been able to pick up an image. Try them if you must, but I am sorry to say, you won't find any support here.

        MoYou also offers Marshmallow Non-Sticky which you'll be seeing on my Best Stampers list because there is nothing "Marshmallow" about this stamper. It has the perfect amount of squish and just a touch of stick to help you with pickup. Available in transparent and white.

      2. The XL Non-Sticky Stamper: Chic Black Matte: UberChic's version of the perfect non-sticky squishy stamper. Essentially the same as the MoYou Non-Sticky except they offer color refills.

        UberChic also offers The XL Sticky Stamper which I don't own for the reason listed above about Sticky Marshmallow stampers.

      3. MoYou London New! Large Size Stamp and Scraper: Although called "New", this stamper pre-dated the two stampers discussed above. I ordered it on a whim and was surprised when I received it. The silicone is marshmallow squishy without the stick. At 3cm wide it could be preferred by woman with smaller nails. I haven't seen this stamper outside of MoYou London, not that I've scoured the earth, but that would be the easiest place to find it.

      4. MoYou London's New Rectangle Stamp and Scraper: Again not "New", but this is the BEST Rectangle Stamper I own, and I have a decent amount. It uses the same silicone as #3 and it's the largest I've come across at 3cm x 2cm. Very easy to use to roll a design from one edge of your nail to the other.

      5. Clear Jelly Stampers: I ordered about 10 different clear jelly stampers to test and found that I prefer those made by the inventor, Debbie Duxbury. I'm showing The Big Bling here (and it's no joke at 1.12 inches!) and The Original that I use for reverse stamping or switch out with the Super Soft Jelly Heads, that come in The Crystal Clear, for stamping smaller designs.

        While we are talking about Clear Jelly Stampers I want to tell you that I don't think that they are the best stamper to start off with. Yes, I know they look like the obvious choice since you can actually see what you're doing and, of course, every blogger is going nuts over them. But keep in mind that they are experienced stampers who adjusted to this new stamper likely without even realizing that they had made technique adjustments. Absolutely pick one up if you want, but I would hold off on trying it until you have quality stamping polish and are stamping your nails with ease.

      6. Firm Rectangle Stamper: I keep this hard rubber rectangle stamper in my collection mostly for decals, but I've included it here because it may work well for a woman with smaller nails that aren't very curved.

      7. The Original Konad Firm Stamper: If you are wondering why this old stamper is here it's because it's my "When In Doubt" stamper. When my favorite stampers fail me, usually due to an etching issue on the stamping plate I am trying to use, I resort to this stamper and it picks up that image every time. You'll never see it on my Best List, but everyone should have a stamper like this in their collection.

      In my opinion, a Non-Sticky Squishy stamper (Marshmallow\XL or Large size depending on your nail size) and a Firm stamper (made from hard rubber, not silicone) will get you off to a good start. If you want to get your stampers very affordably then pickup a set like this on eBay.

      BEST STAMPERS: I reach for MoYou London Marshmallow Non-Sticky Stamper and UberChic The XL Non-Sticky Stamper first and interchangeably. I also covet MoYou London's New Rectangle Stamper and all of the CJS' Clear Jelly Stampers (recommended for experienced stampers).

        [ SIX ]

      Do I Really Need Special Stamping Polish? 

      Yes, I think it’s a good idea to always have some genuine stamping polish handy. Just to be clear, I define genuine stamping polish as highly pigmented polish that is marketed as a stamping polish and cannot also be used to polish your nails. If they can do both I consider them a highly pigmented combination polish

      Know THIS Before You Spend $1 on Stamping - The Best Stamping Polish

      So I am referring to polishes by brands such as Mundo de Unas, MoYou London, Clear Jelly Stamper, and Hit The Bottle that are made especially for stamping. These polishes are formulated to be thicker and dry slower which makes them easier to use, especially when you are just getting started. Unlike regular polish, a mistake made with stamping polish can often be easily removed from your nail with a piece of tape or a lint roller and spare you the trouble of redoing your nail from scratch. They can also expand your stamping possibilities with highly pigmented color choices that show up great over a dark base polish. I've include M Polish in the photo because I have had good luck stamping with this combo polish. I also love to use it to fill in decals!

      As you get more comfortable with stamping you can certainly experiment with opaque polishes you already own that give you full coverage, or real close to it, in a single coat. But you will still want to have real stamping polish around for those plates that don't want to work with your squishy stamper or the inexpensive drugstore polish you are trying to use.

      BEST STAMPING POLISH: I have a ton of stamping polish!! Lately I've been reaching for Hit The Bottle, Mundo de Unas (MdU) and Clear Jelly Stamper (CJS) stamping polish. 

        [ SEVEN ]

      What Kind of Scraper Should I Get? 

      Everyone has a personal preference here and I believe I have tried all of them. The companies that sell scrapers clearly heard the outcry that stampers liked to use old gift cards, membership cards, etc. and it seems that just about everyone includes a flexible card with their stamper nowadays. They come in various "flexibilities" so I tend to collect them. But the old type of scraper is still quite usable. The only type I would not recommend are those that have metal blades (like the pink Konad at the bottom of the photo) since they tend to scratch up your plates over time.

      Know THIS Before You Spend $1 On Stamping: The Best plate, best stampers, best stamping polish, best scrapers

      THE BEST SCRAPERS: I tend to use the one provided by the brand with their stamper and plates. They've been tested to work together after all. But I think a credit card style scraper with medium flexibility would do the job across brands. 



      And there it is, everything I wish I had known before I made any investment in stamping products. Now you can start shopping! When you are ready to start stamping you may want to read my next installment Struggling with Stamping? Here's 4 Tips to Make it Work! for tips and techniques on the entire process, including stamper prep, and helpful videos for each step.

      If I can help just one person to have a better initial stamping experience then I did, then this article was well worth all the time I spent on it. I would be happy to answer any questions you have using the Comment section below or you can email me directly at nailsofaquarius@comcast.net. I do answer everyone that writes to me, but please be patient as I am helping solely because I want to and I do have other commitments.

      It would be wonderful to hear your feedback about this post or any ideas you have for articles you would like to see in the future. I will do my best to reply to each and every one!

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read this post.
      Last updated: 10/6/16
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      32 comments

      1. This is an awesome post! I wish I had read it way before I started stamping, but even now it is very, very helpful!!!!

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      2. Excellent post! Thanks so much for putting all of these tips in one spot. :)

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      3. Where do you find an XL firm headed stamper? I have the firm Konad one, but I really need a larger one. The squishy doesn't work so well for me.

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        Replies
        1. I purchased it from Ninja Nails. It comes with 2 heads, the XL firm and a Marshmallow that they call a squishy but it's super sticky. Here's a link: http://www.ninjapolish.com/XL-Large-Stamper-and-Scraper-3pc-set.html

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      4. @Anne, @Dina, @Soaplady and @Michelle thank you all so much for the great feedback. I'm so glad you found the post helpful!

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      5. Thank you very much for this post! I started stamping with the Essence stamper and plates. While the stamper is ok, it's small for my nails and too firm to get into the curves of my nails (I also have curved nails). I recently bought the black XL stamper, and after prepping it, I'm quite pleased with it. I'm still contemplating whether I should buy the other XL stamper (the gray one in the stamper photo), but apart from its size, I can't find any detailed information or review about it anywhere.

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        Replies
        1. I would say the gray stamper is FIRM squishy and the black one is medium. I was in love with the 1st gray one I got from MoYou, but wrecked it with too much priming. The replacement I bought from them has too much curve to the head and doesn't pickup a full image, so it's not my first choice anymore. Many places sell them, but I assume they all come from the same manufacturer so I HTH!

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        2. Firm squishy sounds good, at least it makes me think that if a design has straight lines, it wouldn't be stretching them. I think I'll get me the grey one at some point. At the moment the black one is doing great, and I don't see the need to a second stamper, but you never know when will it decide to stop picking up images and/or transfer them properly :)

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      6. This was such a great post! I wish I had this when I first started :) Would have saved me time and TONS of money. Love your blog! <3

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      7. Awesome post! This would have been good to know at the start of my stamping journey, definitely. Even now it's really helpful. Where did you get your favourite stamper (the XL squishy double sided one) ? I've been thinking I need a softer stamper but wasn't sure which one to get.

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        Replies
        1. Thanks Amanda! I got the XL squishy from eBay. I've purchased them twice from this seller and they are consistent. Here's a link: http://www.ebay.com/itm/270989797947?var=570093228865&ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2649

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        2. Message me if you're not in the US and I'll ship you one! :)

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      8. Excellent post!! Very informative!!

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      9. Replies
        1. Thank you Brooke! I hope to see you again soon!

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      10. Marcia, Ivy and Ediany thanks so much for taking the time to read my post! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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      11. This post is incredibly useful. Thanks for all the tips!

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      12. What a fabulous and informative post! Every new stamper should read this!
        Asha

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      13. Kate & Asha thanks so much for taking the time to read my post and leave such nice feedback! I hope to see you again soon.

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      14. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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      15. Very informative post! Im so glad that I stumbled upon your blog. I will be sharing this in my weekly round up post on Saturday. I think many of us can relate to the frustration stamping can cause at times.

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        1. Thanks so much for the very nice feedback and for sharing my post on your blog!

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      16. Great post! Thanks so much for sharing!!
        Saira

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        Replies
        1. Thank you Saira! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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