I’ve been getting questions lately from ladies that are having difficulty in various aspects of the stamping process. Their stamper won’t work or it won’t pick up an image. So in this article I am going to discuss every problem solving step I perform, plus a few other thoughts that popped into my head. As with the other posts in my “Stamping 101” series, this is lengthy. I recommend bookmarking it for a time when you have 15+ minutes to read it.
I believe everyone that stamps will run into a problem at some point. For me it happens when I switch something. Be it a new plate brand, stamper, scraper or stamping polish. The products in my “known good arsenal” (the stamper, scraper and polish that have worked consistently time after time) just won’t work. And that is where my tips come from.
Solving a stamping problem will be most difficult for those of you just starting out with nothing in your “known good arsenal”. If you haven’t already, you may want to review the 1st article in this series, Know THIS Before You Spend $1 on Stamping. It helps you choose the best stamping products for your nails.
The best way I know of to solve a problem is to work through a list of problem solving steps. Only CHANGE JUST ONE THING AT A TIME and try again so you can learn the true cause. OK, let’s get to it!
Your stamper won’t pick up the image
Potential Cause: This is the most common stamping problem. And there are several causes for this issue as you’ll see below. I highly recommend reading and watching the videos in Struggling with Stamping? Here’s 4 Tips to Make it Work! where these techniques are discussed and demonstrated.
I have written these steps in the order that I would do them. But some of them may not apply to you. Or you may want to change the order of things, such as swapping 4 and 5. You can also try step 8 first and switch to a stamper you hate just to get it done. But I prefer to try my best to get my favorite stamper of the moment to work. Honestly it
kind of pisses me off upsets me when I have to reach into my bag for a different stamper.
2. Prime Your Stamper – If your “primable” stamper head appears shiny use the Magic Eraser (or similar foam pad) or the nail file method to prime it. You can find videos on both methods of priming in Struggling with Stamping? Try These Techniques!. If you’ve already primed your stamper and it used to work better, then making a pass or 2 with the Magic Eraser or file could help.
Many of the stampers on the market today SHOULD NOT BE PRIMED. Doing so could damage the stamper or render it completely useless. This is especially true of Clear Jelly Stampers and the others shown in the photo below. You can try washing the head with dish detergent and warm water. Or swiping a cotton pad soaked in rubbing alcohol over the head. But do not use a Magic Eraser or nail files. Err on the side of caution and check with the manufacturer if you are unsure about priming your stamper.
3. Clean the stamping plate and stamper – Use pure acetone on a cotton ball to clean your stamping plate and use a lint roller or packing tape to clean your stamper. For best results, clean the image using pure acetone and roll the stamper across the lint roller in between each stamp. Acetone and nail polish removers can damage stamping heads. Sticky tape or a lint roller work just as well with no risk of doing any damage.
4. Adjust your scraping/Try a different scraper – Try scraping (a) more gently (b) at more of an angle than the recommended 45° (c) in a different direction and finally (d) with a scraper that differs by being more or less flexible. Repeat (a), (b) and (c) with the alternate scraper if necessary. Remember that the goal is not to scrape the hell out of the plate to get every extra bit of polish off of the plate. If you are making more than 2-3 passes you are overdoing it.
5. Adjust your image pickup technique/pressure – Try rolling across the image instead of pressing straight down, or vice versa. Many stampers, and especially the new clear jelly stampers, are sensitive to the amount of pressure you apply. Too much pressure is often the problem so try rolling gently or pressing down lightly.
6. Try working faster – Yes, I know everyone hates to hear this. But until you get a feel for how fast your stamping polish dries, keep everything close by and complete the process quickly. Aim for 20 seconds or less. Don’t pause to clean the plate or close the polish bottle. Just quickly apply the polish, scrape, pickup the image and get it on your nail.
7. If you’re working with regular polish – Everyone should have at least one bottle of real stamping polish. If for nothing else than problem solving. But if you are only able to work with regular polish it should be (a) on the thick side (leave the bottle open overnight to thicken it) and (b) fully opaque in a single coat.
8. Try a different stamper – Some plates work great with squishy stampers while others will only work with a firm stamper. Possibly even a firm hard rubber stamper like those made by Konad. For this reason it’s a good idea to have multiple stampers on hand ranging from firm to squishy, including hard rubber, silicone and a clear jelly stamper.
Since I’ve mentioned Clear Jelly Stampers, you should expect extra frustration if you are trying to learn with one. Yes, it’s great to be able to see what you are doing. But the trade off is a fussy stamper. They are overly sensitive to the amount of pressure you apply. Run your finger over the stamping plate. If the etching feels shallow you’ll want to be extra gentle. But you’ll need to apply medium pressure for a plate with deeper etching. Practice makes perfect with these babies, so keep at it!
9. Try a different image – Try picking up a different image from the same plate. It’s not uncommon for some images to be etched better than others, even on the same plate. In Know This Before You Spend $1 On Stamping I told you that certain types of images are easier to place on your nail than others. The same holds true for image pickup in my opinion. “Reverse” designs, also called “negative designs”, use of lots of polish. And that can make it more challenging to get a good pickup. A design made up of thinner lines can be easier to work with.
10. Try a different plate – Try working with a different stamping plate altogether; from the same brand if you have one. Unfortunately it is possible that the plate you received is defective. If you cannot pickup multiple images from the same plate you could try to contact the manufacturer for a replacement.
You can’t transfer the image to your nail
Potential Cause: Polish is Drying on the Stamper – This is more likely to happen with regular polish. But it could happen with real stamping polish if you are taking your time. Since you can get the image onto the stamper more practice may fix this problem. Definitely try working faster and, if that doesn’t help, try a different polish.
Topcoat smears my design
Potential Cause: Direct contact with the polish brush – Your image transferred beautifully, but your topcoat turned it into a smeared mess. You need to “float” the topcoat on to resolve this problem. Dip into your topcoat bottle and get twice as much on the brush than you normally would. Next, hold the brush perpendicular to your nail and let a bead of topcoat form at your brush tip. Now move the bead down your nail without touching the brush to the nail. Try to limit your strokes to 3: down the middle, left side, right side.
If you notice the fine details of your design “bleeding” after floating the topcoat, try a thicker formula. I like Glisten & Glow’s HK Girl Fast Drying Topcoat and MoYou London’s Smudge Resistant Topcoat.
Here’s a few other things that came to mind, but didn’t really fit elsewhere.
1. While you should be working in a open, well ventilated space due to the fumes, you don’t want to work where there is a lot of air circulation. For example, sitting under your ceiling fan or next to the register for your heating/cooling system isn’t ideal. We’ve talked a lot about polish drying too fast and working in the example situations will absolutely cause this problem.
2. This may sound silly, but take weather/climate changes into account. It may be more of an extreme issue for me because I live in the damn desert. There is zero humidity and everything dries at lightening speed here. But humidity changes to some degree everywhere when the seasons change. And the lower your humidity the faster your polish will dry. Just something to keep in mind before you crank up the AC or heat before you sit down to stamp.
3. The final tip comes from a great friend. She said that oily nails could also prohibit you from transferring the image to your nail. It can be from cuticle oil, a base or topcoat, or just the way your nail are. A quick wipe with an alcohol pad can remedy this problem.