All last year I would go to the salon and get gel polish manicures, as would my mom and sisters. It just wasn't cost effective even though it made more sense to get gels than regular polish that would chip in a day. When Christmas came around I decided to put the Gelish system on my list, and my awesome sister got my Gelish stash started. I actually credit getting my gel kit with renewing my interest in nail polish again. Now, I have 20 gel polish colors from Gelish, Red Carpet Manicure, and ProGel. Gelish can be purchased at Sally's, but they only have the minis for $14. I try to find mine on sale or on Amazon. You can find Red Carpet Manicure and ProGel at ULTA.
For my base color, I chose untried ProGel Deep Abyss, which is a rich black cream. I have several polishes that I wanted to try layered over black, so I made things easier on myself by using gel. This way, I won't have to reapply the black base color for every manicure. [Tip: you can paint regular nail polish over gels. Just remember to use non-acetone remover when taking off the regular nail polish.] Deep Abyss applied very well. It wasn't runny, didn't pool at my cuticles, and wasn't too thin or too thick. The only problem I had was it slid a bit from the tips of my nails before curing, despite wrapping my nail. I may try a flash 5-10 second cure of each nail right after I paint them next time to see if it fixes the issue.
Black is the new black.
I was very pleased with the application on my nubbins. Since I didn't have to worry about pooling, it was easier to wrap my nails without getting it all over.
The first thing I decided to do to my freshly gelled fingers was Konad!! Well, fauxnad since this time I used the Salon Effects plates instead of my Konad plates. Konading is basically the process of stamping images made from nail polish onto your nails. Don't worry, I'll demonstrate below. I had just gotten a few of the new Essie Mirror Metallics (so I'm still keeping up with the untrieds!!!), and I really wanted to give them a konad test-drive. They were the perfect consistency for stamping. I used Penny Talk, Blue Rhapsody, and Nothing Else Metals. I've had Metallica stuck in my head for days now because of you, Essie!
All three polishes apply perfectly in one coat, which is how I knew they'd work for stamping. Penny Talk is a rose gold, which is totally unique in my collection. I'm more of a silver-tone gal, so I don't usually buy many golds. The hint of pink is what's keeping this little guy in my stash. Blue Rhapsody is, you guessed it, blue. Nothing Else Metals is a frosty lavender. When stamped, though, it looked a little too silvery, which is a bit of a bummer. I'm looking forward to trying it out on other colors than black to see if it still looks silver. I stamped these bad boys on using Salon Effects plates SE18 and SE19. They turned out so much better than I thought they would! I got so many compliments on this mani it was crazy!
It almost looks like a Hawaiian shirt.
Let's learn how to stamp! First, you'll need to gather some supplies:
1) Acetone to wipe down your stamp, plate, and scraper.
2) Konad special polish or regular polish that applies thick (full coverage in one coat)
3) Paper towels to wipe down you stamper, plate, and scraper
4) Stamper (mine is from the Salon Express kit)
5) Scraper (I actually use an old credit card, but you can use a membership perks card too. The metal scraper that came with my set isn't very good, and I don't want it to scratch up my plates.)
6) Stamping plates (I'm using two plates from the Salon Express kit that I picked up from Sally's. The kit can also be found at any store that sells as seen on tv junk. There are several brands of stamping plate, and you can find most of them on Amazon, such as Konad, Bundle Monster, Mash, Cheeky, etc.)
7) Paper plate to keep polish off of finished surfaces
Ok, now on to the deets.
After you have completed your base color mani, go ahead and apply your favorite fast-dry top coat. This will ensure that you don't make a mess of all your hard work. Also, this will protect the base mani from polish remover in case you need to redo your stamp.
First, put your stamping plate on your paper plate. Get your scraper, stamper, and acetone ready. You need to do these steps quickly before the polish dries on the plate or stamp, so it's good to have everything readily available. Next, drop a bit of polish onto the image you'd like to use. Here, I'm using a dragonfly. You don't need a huge blob, like mine, just enough to cover the entire image.
After you've dropped your polish on, grab your scraper and run it at a 45* angle to the plate over the image. If you do it at 90* you'll scrape off all the paint, so make sure it's angled. I tend to swipe my scraper over the image two or three times because the polish pooled on the end of the scraper fills in the image giving you a more robust picture. Place your scraper on a piece of paper towel or on your plate.
Next, take your stamper and gently roll it across the image. Do not press straight down onto the plate, or you won't be able to pick up the image on your stamp. Rolling is key!
Check to make sure your image is on the end of your stamper.
If it isn't then either you took too long after scraping and before rolling, OR your stamper may need roughening up. On a clean stamper, try taking a nail file (any will do except the crystal ones) and rub it gently across the face of the stamper. Then, take a bit of acetone on a paper towel and clean off any debris. That should help you get the image onto your stamp. You'll definitely want to roughen your stamper when you first get it.
After you get your image onto the stamper, quickly line the image up to where you want it on the nail and roll it across. Again, do not stamp straight down or you will get the image on your nail in pieces or not at all.
If you mess up the placement, take your acetoned paper towel and quickly swipe across the image to remove it. Only press as much as necessary to remove the image. Sometimes, you can even scratch the image off with a fingernail. Don't worry if it dulls the shine of your top coat. You will be applying another coat after you finish your stamping, and you won't notice any dullness.
After each stamp, go ahead and wipe off your scraper, plate, and stamper. This way none of your tools will build up polish residue that can rub off on your next nail. This is also especially important if you're going to layer stamps with different colored polishes like I have above. You don't really need to worry about letting the image dry, per se, because the thinness of the polish you use makes it dry to the touch. Also, if you notice some bits sticking up, just use your finger and push them firmly onto your nail.
When you're done, apply a thick top coat that won't smear your image. I use Seche Vite because it tends to float onto my nail without the brush really dragging any paint. You may need to do some cuticle cleanup, as well, since the stamps can sometimes overlap onto your fingers.
Now you can sit back and admire your gorgeous nails. Be prepared for a barrage of questions because people get so intrigued by nail art, especially precise, clean-looking art like stamping. I hope this helps some of you feel less intimidated by stamping. It used to be really hard, but with practice, you'll be able to finish stamping your entire mani in 15 minutes!
Do you use gels or stamps? What's your favorite type of nail art?