Last Updated June 16, 2011:  Pictures replaced
Okay... I said I'd do a tutorial, and here it is.  This is my way of stamping.  It's not necessarily the "right way," but it works for me.  I know there are about fifty youtube tutorials, not to mention Michele's awesome instructions (over at Lacquerized), but I figured I'd put my own out there too, just in case it helps anyone.

This is my stamping setup.  The picture is clickable and everything is labeled.  Absolutely mandatory items are in bold. For stamping, you will need:

  • layer of paper towels/napkins/scratch paper/newspaper to protect your work surface (If the surface underneath is also in danger, put down a cheap placemat or an old binder to protect it from acetone seep-through)
  • Image plate of your choice
  • Stamper (I have the double-ended one)
  • Scraper (I'm using an old gift card because the metal scraper can scratch the image plates)
  • Pure acetone or other polish remover (for cleaning your tools)
  • Cotton ball in a clothespin and/or q-tips/cotton swabs (for cleaning your tools.  I like the cotton ball for size, and putting it in a clothespin makes sure that you don't get the acetone on your hands & ruin your nails.)
  • Nail file (for prepping Bundle Monster plates & if your stamper doesn't seem to be working)
  • Stamping polish
  • Topcoat

Before you begin, put on whatever base color/base coats of polish you want and let it dry completely.  You can facilitate this by using a quick-dry topcoat, if you like, or you can wait and apply stamping over a day-old manicure.  The latter can be a good option for a first-time stamper... no worries about smudging the base color, no worries about ruining a fresh new manicure.

This first step is specific to new Bundle Monster and other "Fauxnad" plates.  These plates will come with a protective film covering the image surface which must be removed before the plates can be used.  Use a coarse-grained file to get the edge of the plastic free, then gently peel it away from the plate.  This plastic film can now be discarded.

STEP 1: Clean & Prep
Once you've made sure that you have all of your tools out, it's time to prep them for use.  Put some acetone on your cotton ball and gently swab off the stamper and the image plate to remove any unwanted residues.  

STEP 2: Paint
Apply a small amount of nail polish to the image that you want to use.  With full-nail images, you don't need to cover the entire design.  Instead, only run the nail polish along one edge.  The scraping step will distribute the polish and you'll waste less product.

Change gears!  Everything up to this point can be done at whatever pace you want.  The next three steps must be done quickly so that the very thin layer of polish you are trying to transfer does not dry.

STEP 3: Scrape
Take your card and place it against the image plate at a 45 degree angle.  With firm and even pressure, scrape across the image to remove excess polish.  This will remove polish from the surface of the plate and leave only a thin layer in the grooves of the design you have selected.

STEP 4: Stamp
Press the stamper firmly and gently against the image plate.  Check the stamper to see that the design has transferred.  Be careful not to press the stamper down too hard—if the polish you are using is runny, it will overflow out the sides of the image.  If the transfer is incomplete at this point, resist the urge to panic! Stamp the image off on your paper towel or scratch paper, clean the plate and the stamper, and try again.  If you feel like the stamper isn't picking up images well, run it over an emery board a couple times lightly to roughen the surface, then clean it and try again.

STEP 5: Roll
To transfer the design from the stamper to your nail, roll the stamper across the curve of your nail.  Start by pressing one edge of the image against one sidewall of your nail.  Roll the stamper quickly and firmly over the arch of your nail, and lift it off once you reach the opposite side.  If you press the stamper down flat, parts of the design will probably not transfer due to the curvature of the nail bed.  If polish gets on your skin, gently remove it with a q-tip that has been moistened with acetone.
A note:  If your nails were topcoated before you began stamping, it is possible to very lightly swipe off a stamp that didn't turn out with your acetone-d cotton ball or a q-tip.  The shiny finish will come off the topcoat, but that will be covered up in the end, and your base polish will not be marred. 

Step 6: Seal
Once all of your designs have been stamped, seal them in place with a layer of topcoat.  To prevent smearing, I suggest waiting for a short while after stamping to allow the designs to dry.  Then, apply topcoat in a thick layer with as few strokes as possible.  Try to always keep the brush "floating" on a bead of topcoat so that it doesn't touch and drag the design.

Et VOILA, you are done!  The process really is just about as easy as it looks, and with a little practice you can get pretty good results every time. 

Questions?  Ask me in the comments below, and I'll get back to you as soon as possible! Now, go forth and be stampy!