So I’m totally over that phase where I spend two hours doing my nails in eye-crossing detail that will chip off next week. I alternate through stages of caring about the details of personal upkeep, but I always enjoy the challenges of painting on tiny oval canvasses. So in the interest of leisure and girliness, I decided to try out an ingenious device the good people at Nail Polish Canada sent me: a nail stamping kit.
I’ve heard tell of nail stamps on nail art blogs but had no idea how the mechanics of it worked until I tried the kit. This one is made by Konad and includes a small aluminum plate with engraved designs (butterflies, flowers), a metal scraper, a stamp made of plastic and rubber and a small bottle of white nail polish. It’s essentially a tiny lithograph, which seems preposterous but it actually works — once you get the hang of it.
Make no mistake: you’ll spend a few good hours screwing up and getting paint all over your hands (and in your hair if you’re an idiot like me) before you figure out how to do it right. Even then you might end up with a few do-overs. But it’s a faster way to get impressive nails without messing up half the job with your non-dominant hand… so give it a chance. (Also, a disclaimer on the state of my nails: it’s hot and it’s dry and I’ve been swimming and not moisturizing. So I tried to photoshop my cuticles.)
Equipment: Nail polish for base coat, plus several other colours for experimenting with designs. Nail polish remover (you’ll need it), q-tips, cotton balls and a wad of toilet paper or a rag for wiping off the scraper.
Step 1: Paint your nails with a base coat and let them dry well. You can do it on bare nails (and it turns out quite well, as I found out later), but I wanted the drama of light designs on a dark background. After playing around, I found that the grooves on the aluminum plate aren’t deep or thick enough to hold enough paint to render designs in light polish opaque when you press it on your nail, so I recommend a LIGHT background colour and a DARK stamp colour. (I tried the white polish that came with the kit, but it seemed to dry to fast to get a good stamp.)
Step 2: Brush your chosen colour of polish over one of the stencils engraved on the aluminum plate. Be sure to cover all the grooves in a thick layer. You can even do multiple colours to create a rainbow effect.
Step 3: Scrape off the excess nail polish over the design with the scraper.
Step 4: Press the bottom of the stamp down on the stencil plate. Push down as hard as you can as quickly as you can, and roll as you push. I think the number one problem with this set is that the grooves in the designs are so delicate that the nail polish immediately begins to dry once it’s painted in. You have to be very quick: paint, scrape and stamp. If there’s nothing on the bottom of your stamp when you lift it back up, it’s probably because there isn’t enough paint sitting in the grooves or it dried up too much, or you didn’t press hard enough. Really lean into it when you’re trying to pick up the paint with the stamp; you want the bouncy rubber of the stamp to press hard and flat against the metal to pick up all the paint. Just clean off the aluminum plate with some nail polish remover and try again.
Step 5: If Step 4 went okay, you should have a very pretty little design on the bottom of your stamp. Roll it gently but firmly over your nail and it will transfer and adhere. (You’ll miss a few times if you have very rounded nails, and I don’t always manage to get the stamps in the centers of my nails.)
Hooray! (Relatively) easy, cute nails! You can buy stencil plates with different designs (Nail Polish Canada sells the Konad ones but you might be able to get them from the drug store too). Now, what would be interesting would be to get some aluminum or copper and etch my own designs. I’ll hit the art store and have more on that later. In the meantime, the first person who finds a stencil plate of the major houses of Westeros gets an Awesome Prize… of equal or lesser value of the stencil plate.
Also, I profoundly regret not having a thumbnail of an actual thumbnail below.