I've had a handful of people ask me how I do my gradients/stamping over the past few months, so I spent some time this morning doing a short pictorial about the process I go through for gradients and stamping. I did a shortened version on my Instagram this morning, but this will be a little bit more in depth since I had such limited space there!
I decided to do some mermaid scales for this tutorial since whenever I do this design I get questions about it. In short, it was a green to blue gradient with darker blue stamping over it. I used all Mentality Polish for these since they're opaque enough to make amazing gradient and stamping polishes.
This step may seem silly and obvious, but I've forgotten about it enough times to make it worth mentioning...MAKE SURE YOUR STAMPING PLATE IS CLEAN. So many times I'll stamp something and throw the plate back into my stash without cleaning off the extra polish, it just makes it so much more annoying later on. The worst part is when you're all ready to start stamping and you have to take time out to clean off a plate, especially when the acetone can mess up your perfect gradient!
After my stamp was all ready to be used, my first step was one coat of Pastille with topcoat. Parts of it are still rather sheer, but that isn't a big problem since it'll be sponged over pretty soon. Note: This sort of technique ONLY works when you're doing a gradient using similar shades/colors. If you're doing a gradient that's a rainbow or something of that sort, you'll almost definitely need a white base to make the colors pop. If you do a gradient over another color, the colors will muddle together and not look nearly as bright.
After cleaning up around my cuticles and waiting for the top coat to dry, I put a decent amount of Simply Peel latex barrier around my nails so the gradient didn't cover my whole hand. This was mid-drying so some fingers still show white while others are clear. Wait for this to dry and then continue on!
The next step involves opening all of the bottles that'll be included in your gradient and placing them in a safe area. I say safe because I've ruined many a mani trying to grab my cat away from nuzzling open polish bottles...You want to keep them open with the lid placed on top for the entire time you're doing your gradient so that they're easily accessible. This prevents your polish from drying completely before you've finished your gradient. For this gradient I used Pastille, Duet, Gumdrop, and Scalawag.
Next up you want to do pretty thick layers of each polish on your makeup sponge. Make sure you use a latex-free sponge or it won't work nearly as well! I like having the lightest color on the top and the darkest on the bottom, but it's really personal preference at that point. You have to put quite a bit of polish on the sponge since it'll (obviously) absorb some of it before you even get it on your nails.
Here's a mid gradient shot of one pass with the sponge. You'll have to repeat the sponging process until you're happy with the opacity and blending of the different colors. I tend to go a little overboard because I love when it starts looking so smooth that it could be mistaken for a thermal!
After all of your nails are blended to your satisfaction, take off the latex barrier with some tweezers. You want to try to do these steps as quickly as you can so that the polish doesn't dry since it makes taking the latex off much more difficult. If you don't have any liquid latex to use, you can still do gradients - THEY'RE JUST VERY MESSY. I did a lot of gradients before discovering this trick, they just take a lot of q-tips and clean up. I've seen some people use Scotch tape around their nails to help with some of the mess too.
After you apply another layer of top coat and clean up around your cuticles, you're ready for more Simply Peel latex barrier. Make sure all of these steps are dry before you get to stamping or it can be really frustrating and you'll have to start over.
Everyone tends to stamp in minorly different ways, but I always do a pretty thick layer of polish (in this case, Offbeat) on the left and top of the design I'm going to use. I'm right-handed, so when I slide the card off to remove the excess, this pattern ensures that I'll get all of the polish over the whole design.
Here's what the plate looks like after you've scraped off the excess polish! It should be visible that there's polish in the cracks to make sure that you've covered the whole design that you want to use.
Next you'll want to squish your stamp on top of the plate. I usually put the bottom down to line it up and roll it up a little bit to try to grab the whole image. Again, everyone stamps a little different, but this works for me and helps me to not stretch the image or have chunks missing. Another little tip, if your image doesn't fully get on there - don't fret! You can squish your stamp onto a lint roller and it'll take the whole image off without damaging your stamp with acetone (PLEASE DON'T USE ACETONE ON STAMPS! It breaks it down and you'll regret it!).
After you're done stamping, remove the latex, apply top coat, and clean up around your cuticles one last time! And that's all she wrote. It looks like a lot of work when it's finished, but if you practice the entire process is so simple and fun - you won't even think about it twice. I hope this helped some of you out a little bit! Let me know if you have any more questions, and tag me @whimsicalicious on Instagram if you use this tutorial, I'd love to see what you all come up with!