Friday, September 2, 2011

How To: Mix and match for stamping

I've been getting some sweet comments about my stamping combinations (<3), and the other day I got one that gave me the idea for this How To:, thanks for that Ulmiel! So here I'll tell you how I make a combo, and show what works for me - and what doesn't. I hope this will be of any help if you find it a bit harder to combine! The images are from my Nail Art page, and clicking the images will take you to the post with the whole mani.

I have to say though, I found it hard to write this How To: and I hope I'm making sense =) I'm using the words calm and chaotic, I wasn't sure how to describe things different. And of course it's also personal, what works for me might not work for you. Anyway :) here we go:

Keep it calm.
My goal when picking the stuff I use for a stamped mani, is to keep things calm. If you use a glitter base, and stamp with a shimmer and a chaotic image, it looks to me like there's too much going on! So when I choose my polishes and image, I automatically try to keep most of them calm. And if I then want a little something extra, I can always use some glitter, color, rhinestones, etc. on the stamped mani.

Picking polishes.
I usually start with picking a base color from my nail wheels, then grab my nail wheels with all my stamping polishes, and find a nice match.
For me cremes are calm, and subtle shimmers as well. Frosts, foils, metallics, etc. are often not. The type of finish that you use can make a lot of difference, it can add something to a mani, or make it look a bit messy. I'll show some examples further below.

I love the same colors combined, and combinations that are often close to each other in lightness. So if I pick a light basecolor, I pick a similar stamping color that's also on the lighter side. I almost always prefer a creme as base and I often go for a darker tone as stamping polish.

Here's what I mean:

From left to right: medium on light, medium on medium, dark on light.

The dark on light combo can work as well of course, especially when you really want your image to stand out, but I tend to go for the other options that are closer to each other.

Picking an image.
Now depending on the polishes that I chose, I pick an image. For images where there's a lot going on, I use a creme or a polish with a very subtle shimmer to stamp with, for calmer images I also use other finishes as stamping polish.
I think that for example most striped images are more calm, and images with lots of small details and swirly bits and stuff are more chaotic. I'm not sure how to explain this better, lol, but I usually try to imagine how it'll look on my nails and go from there, or when I'm not sure I test my combo on a nail wheel or placemat first :) If I don't like it then, a small change in color or finish can work wonders!

Left is a calmer image, right a more chaotic one. 

Of course a tiger stripe doesn't really look calm on my nails, but imagine the right image stamped on the left base. That would be too much for my liking, especially if the image would be stamped in a metallic or some.

Here you can see the difference between a more chaotic image stamped with a polish with metallic finish, and that image stamped with a subtle shimmer.

The same image, but stamped with a different finish.

See how the purple makes the image stand out, and the metallic makes it look a lot more blurry? So even though I love stamping with metallics, for a more chaotic image like the one used here, I'd go for a calmer stamping polish. If you do want to use the image and finish that you picked, then a different color as base or stamping polish can help as well.

Here's another example, stamped with a foil and a subtle shimmer.

Again the same image, but stamped with a different finish.

Now I'm not saying that the more chaotic ones look bad, because I sometimes like that kind of manicure as well :) But in general I prefer my stamping to look like the images on the right side, where the image pops out more.

With calmer images metallics etc. can add something to the mani, like on the 2 below. There the finish and the images worked nice together!

Creme base, calmer image, metallic stamping polish.

Now sometimes you can still end up with a chaotic result, even if you use a calmer image and stamp with a creme. But it's often possible to fix this though and make it more calm again. How? Easy!

Here's an example of that.

There's a bit too much going on for my liking. But wait...Tadaaa!

See what a difference it is with a matte top coat? It helps the image stand out more. So if you're not sure about the result, mattify it, that might do the trick!

So in short:

-Put your stamping polishes on a different nail wheel for easy combining.

-Using the same colors and lightness of colors often helps to keep things calm.

-The finish of your polishes can make a huge difference, and a creme as base is often a good way to start.

-Pick an image that will be complemented by your polishes, so all the details stand out nicely.

-Test your combo first on a wheel or a placemat (plastic alike will do too of course) if you ain't sure if it'll work or not, and change the color or finish if it's not what you wanted.

-If there's too much going on, try mattifying your mani.

-If you want to spice things up, you can always add things to your mani, like another stamped image, rhinestones, glitter, etc.

-And lastly, have fun trying out different combinations, even if they don't turn out so well! I'm not always crazy about my combinations either, but they can give other ideas as well :)

For stamping and polish tips, please have a look at my How To: Stamping!, and my Stamping Polish page :)


  1. Dear Bregje,
    Thanks for this fantastic blogpost, very helpful for a stamping newbee like me. I am just trying, but haven't made it to a proper mani yet. The quality of the stamping is just not good enough. Also your stamping-how-to is very helpful. My biggest question right now is to find out what good stamping polish is, and what not. Is all polish suitable for stamping? Or is special stamping polish a necessity. Do you have a tip of how to figure out, what polishes are good for stamping in your own stash?
    Thanks, Calijn

  2. Hi Calijn,

    I'm so glad to hear it was helpful! :)

    Not all polish is suitable for stamping, it has to be a polish that is pigmented enough, and it shouldn't be too thin (else your image can easily get a bit smudged). Special stamping polish is incredibly pigmented and thicker than other polish, so ideal for stamping but you can't really use them for polishing. I have a few of the Konad stamping polishes, but most that I use are normal polishes.

    On top of my blog you can find a page with stamping polish as well, where I list the normal polishes that I've tried and that work. Those are often polishes that are covering pretty well, some are 1-coaters even, and when I think they're pigmented enough I just try them out :) And often polish gets a bit thicker over time, so when a polish might not work at first, it sometimes does work later on.

    If you have a polish that works, it's a matter of practicing until you get the hang of it and get good transfers. That took me some time as well, but it's so much fun once you manage! ^^

    Good luck and thanks for commenting =)

  3. Wow-there is way too much thought going into this! I just pick whatever I'm in the mood for and go from there-sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't! I guess its nice for some people to see the comparisons-I do love your stamping!! I just use any regular polish as well, I don't buy the special stamping polish!

  4. Heh, I know what you mean, and it kinda turned into a Wall of Text as well :P But I think some people find it a bit harder to combine, so I hope it can be handy for them :)

    I usually just go for whatever I feel like as well, and I stick to the above automatically. That's part of why it was hard to write, explaining something I don't usually think about! =)

  5. Nice post! I think for some people this can be very helpfull!

  6. Thanks Melanie, and I hope so! :)

  7. Wow... Dank je wel voor deze super how to! Ik heb er veel aan! :)

  8. Thank you so much for that helpful post! I've been trying to do a stamping mani several times but it never turned out nicely... Either I didn't like the color combination or the image or the polish I used wasn't pigmented enough. Guess it's just a matter of practice :) I just love your manis, they look so neat and tidy. Have a nice weekend!

  9. nice post , thanks :)

  10. Ahh, da's fijn te horen! ♥ Ik twijfelde er 'n beetje over, die andere how to was 'n stuk makkelijker te schrijven :)

  11. Yay thanks Sabine, I'm glad to hear, and I hope you'll make a mani soon that you're happy with! But don't be too picky though, I sometimes end up with something that makes me go, meh, but other people love it, haha. And yes, practice helps a lot :)
    Take care and have a nice weekend yourself as well!

  12. Oooh, great post! I especially like the pictures comparing the same designs stamped different ways. And putting stamping polishes on their own nail wheel! That would help me so much. I'll be sitting looking at my blue wheel trying to figure out if the stamping ones will go with the others... what an obvious solution! :p

  13. Ahaha I totally know what you mean! =D I only recently had that lightbulb moment, loving those seperate nail wheels ever since!
    Thanks for commenting :)

  14. Thank you! I've found it very useful! I'm not really in love with stamping (I prefer free hand painting) beacuse I have problem choosing the right colour

  15. stamping... not easy.. that's for trying to explain.. arg.. i tink i drink too much coffee to be a good stamper

  16. Hi,

    Thanks for this post. I just recently found out about stamping and have only tried it a few times, some good and some not so good. It's hard finding the right combos. I have only tried black, white, and silver for the stamping colors as I am not sure which other colors actually work. Here are a few other colors that might work as well. I found this list on another blog.

    -China Glaze
    For Audrey
    All colors from the 2009 Romantique collection
    Secret Peri-wink-le
    Towel Boy Toy

    Koala Berry (tried this one)

    Sally Hansen Insta-Dry Collection
    I've tried Celeb City (silver) and it works great

  17. So helpful,Thankyou, especially since I feel like I can't stamp for crap lately.

  18. Thanks! I hope it helps, and free hand painting can look awesome! I plan on trying that more in the future, but it's not so easy :)

  19. Heh, it's indeed not easy to explain! And stamping gets faster the more you do it, so should be ok with all that coffee ^^

  20. Heya,

    I've just updated my post with a link to my Stamping Polish page (which you can also find on top of my blog), those work for sure!
    I only have Secret Peri-wink-le from your list, and I think mine is a bit too thin, but will give it a go ^^

    Thanks for posting those, it's always nice to find more polish that works! SH has more that work afaik, but they're very expensive here so I'm sticking to other polishes :)

  21. very clear explain!! thanks dear....

  22. Oh amazing tips! I have never tried konad before, but now i would really like to!

  23. Thanks Ana, that's nice to hear! :)

  24. Wow, great post!! I often have a hard time picking colors and images, I think that's why I don't try stamping more often, but I love your stamping manis so this is really helpful!
    I love the idea of keeping the stamping polishes on a different nail wheel. Thanks for making this post! :D

  25. Aww thank you :) I hope the different wheels will make things easier, it sure did for me!

  26. I just love your knowledge of stamping <3. Always there when I need it!

  27. Bregje you're a gift from heaven! I really needed this post. Finaly I manage to make nice combinations.

  28. This is a really helpful tutorial... and your combinations are superb!

  29. All I can say is..... THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!!!! :)

  30. Your stamping is just BEAUTIFUL! I'm hoping you can help me with my stamping problem. I don't have really long nails, they're just slightly longer than yours are, but I always end up with more nail than the stamp will cover. When you're working with a detailed pattern, it's pretty much impossible to line up the stamp to cover the rest of your nail with the same pattern. Help! Any ideas?

  31. The teal color in the zebra stripes pic is beyond gorgeous!! I must must must buy this color! What brand and color name is it?

  32. Hi Mary, here's the post with more detailed info from that mani:

    The polish has many dupes, so if this Essence isn't available to you, have a look at OPI Catch Me In Your Net and Zoya Charla, and there's more brands who have it as well!

  33. Just "thank you"!! I'm always in a spot when it comes to pick the base-stamping-pattern match. Your explanation calm/chaotic is perfect!!

  34. Glad to hear that Aly, I hope this makes it a bit easier! :)

  35. I am not sure where you're getting your information, but good topic. I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more. Thanks for fantastic info I was looking for this information for my mission.
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