Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Polished Pairings: Zoya Adina


Today is the first day of a new challenge for a new group I've joined, Kimber's Amazing Challenge Ladies! We're doing a Mish Mash challenge with a bunch of themes put together to stretch our polish musckles. The first theme is a simple, one: Purple.

I have one of the coolest purple duochromes ever that I've had in my queue to show you for a while, and this gave me the perfect reason to bump it up: Zoya Adina, a purple-to-green duochrome wish a pretty glow. It has a great formula, applies like a dream; this is two coats:

It has such a soft, ethereal beauty to it, it's like being in a soft fairy science-fiction dream. I could stare into it all day. :)

I wanted to give it something extra, but not disturb the beauty, so I did a simple pairing on an accent nail with Different Dimension That's So Fetch, a glitter topper in a translucent purple base, with a blend of iridescent glitters that flash in mainly purple, but also blue, green, and pinkish:

This is the sort of mani I generally wear when I have certain types of work meetings I have to attend, where I can have a little flash, but don't want to be over the top. This is pretty and feminine, and special enough to keep me happy. :)

Thanks for looking, and please check out the other purple manicures linked below!

Hugs and loves,

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Review: Me.Lissa Lacquer

(Some of the products in this post were provided for review.)


What a day. Let me just say that. I'm glad it's over. Because now it's time to focus on pretty polishes!

Today I have three pretties for you from Me.Lissa Lacquer. The name of this brand caught my eye because I love the name Lyssa--I love it so much, that's what I named my darling puppy. But everyone always hears 'Alyssa' or 'Melissa', and because of that I've started telling people that her name is 'Lyssa, like Melissa without the Me.' So when I saw this name, I absolutely had to go check out the polish. A silly reason to check out a polish maybe, but it turns out when I did, I found quite a large number of polishes I really liked, and knew I wanted to review the line for you if I could. :)

Melissa sent me three glitter toppers to show you, including one that just happens to be my favorite polish on her entire site. ::evil grin::

First up is Internet Stardom, part of her Social Media collection (I love that idea for a collection, btw). The colors that form the backbone of this polish are teal and orange, while gold and white play a supporting role. The shapes and sizes vary, mostly hexes and squares, with just enough stars to make a statement:

Me.Lissa Internet Stardom over Zoya Keiko

This is one coat over Zoya Keiko; I chose a grape-purple creme to really celebrate the teal and orange and I really love the result. This is one coat with a bit of dabbing; to get the stars you'll have to fish a bit, but that's pretty standard for glitters of that sort, I think. They came out pretty easily regardless, so no problem there. The formula was good--I was able to get an even coverage without much work at all, and if I wanted more coverage, that would have been easy to build with a bit more dabbing or a second coat.

Next up is NY On Summer Afternoons, from her Gatsby collection. This has a variety of colors in it-- blue, yellow, gold, peachy-pink, soft green, black, white, in hexes and squares of various sizes:

Me.Lissa Lacquer NY On Summer Afternoons over Julep Cassie

Without the black, I think this would be reminiscent of a flower garden around someone's house; the black gives it edge that turns it into a more urban vibe, and a funky, cool feel. I chose to put it over Julep Cassie, a nude (on me) peach, so that each of the colors could shine through--there is a lot going on here, and I wanted the glitter to be the star. This is one coat, with just a titch of dabbing--it went on without any problem, and I just dabbed to make sure I got even coverage.

But oh...oh, this last one...oh, man, it's my favorite by far. I love me a black and white glitter, that's no secret, but these days there are a ton of them out there, and a black/white glitter has to have something that makes it special to get any notice. This one--called QR Code (how cool is that??!!)-- is made up of squares and rectangles! Rectangles! It also has bar glitter, but I'm counting those as very slender rectangles, lol (it's my blog and I can if I want to!!):

Me.Lissa Lacquer QR Code over Julep Alaina

That makes this my first official rectangle glitter polish, which makes it cool enough just for that reason alone, but I love that it does give a different feel from other black/white toppers. She named it perfectly, it does remind me of those square UPC things, but even more, it makes me think of some crazy distorted chess board, like out of some warped wizard chess tournament that was blown apart by some wizard that was ticked off when he lost! I layered it over Julep Alaina, a neutral light gray, to keep a gray-scale feel to the manicure. This would look striking over any bold color--red, teal, purple, yellow, green, orange, you name it. It applied wonderfully, not dabbing needed, great formula. I love it and I have a feeling I'll need a full size bottle of it to replace the mini I'm going to blow through in no time. :)

Me.Lissa Lacquers are three-free, and sell for $8.50 for full-sized bottles, and $4.50 for minis. You can find her Etsy store by clicking here; she does a variety of polish types (not just glitter toppers). When you're there, be sure to check out Abuzz, T'Pau, Like, and if you're looking for the perfect New Year's Eve polish, take a look at Ain't No Party Like A Gatsby Party. :)

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you're having a wonderful week. :)

(The glitter toppers were sent for my honest review. The undies were all purchased by me. :) ) 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Nail Stamping 102: Basics and a bit beyond

Hello nail lovelies!!

As you know, I've been working hard to put together a post about stamping tips for you for a couple of weeks now. This has turned out to be more of an undertaking than I initially thought it would be, so I hope you'll forgive me for the delay! This is going to be a LONG post, but after trying to divide it up, I think having it all in one post is the best way.

I'm going to start off with a with a brief overview of the basic steps of stamping, and then go into detail about some tips and tricks for each step. Then I'll answer some questions you submitted to me about particular issues you struggle with, if they haven't already been covered. Please keep in mind that there isn't just one right way to do things! What I'll write here is what works for me, or what I've been told by other people who love to stamp. And if you have another way that works for you, I'd love to hear about it, so please share it with me and my readers! And if my way doesn't work, vary it a bit before giving up. :)

One final word that covers everything I'm going to say...Practice makes perfect. This is cliche and nobody wants to hear it, but it's absolutely true. When I first began stamping, I spent several sessions (5-6) just playing around with the stamps and stamping--I'd paint my nails all a good base color, usually white or something dark, and I'd stamp. Then I'd remove the stamping with a swipe of remover, and stamp again. When the swiping took off too much polish, I'd repaint. And then while it was drying, I'd practice with fake nails. And while I've never done this myself, another great way to practice is by using the semi-flattened marbles you can get at craft stores (I saw this tip first in a video by Ginasoguesswhat on YouTube). I guarantee you that no tip I can give will completely remove the need to practice, but hopefully I can help cut down the learning curve for you. :)

Okay, so let's have at it!!

For orientation purposes, nail stamping involves the following 4 main steps:
1) Put the nail polish onto your nail plate.
2) Scrape the nail polish off of your nail plate.
3) Pick up the image from your plate with your stamper.
4) Place the image onto your nail with your stamper.

Sounds easy, doesn't it? But as you know, many things can go wrong along the way...::cue dramatic music::...

Step 1) Put your nail polish onto your nail plate.
There are two important components here, picking the right polish and putting the correct amount on the plate. Picking the right polish can be tricky, because very few polishes look good over all other polishes (except maybe Konad black and white and similar blacks and whites).

  • One way to get a first guess about whether a polish will be opaque enough to stamp with is to look at it on the brush. If you can't see the brush through the polish, it's a good candidate to stamp well.
  • Test your polish before stamping. You can do this on a sheet of paper, a piece tape, a real or false nail, or flattened marble (see above--you can get these for about $1 a bag at craft or floral stores). First paint your base paint, wait for it to dry, and then try stamping over it with your target polish.
  • Inky Whiskers constantly tests out different polishes over black and white; check out her blog for tons of polish tests. 
  • Metallic and foil polishes as a general rule stamp well.
  • I have great luck stamping with China Glaze cremes
  • Sally Hansen Insta-Dry polishes are almost all wonderful for stamping.
  • Pure Ice metallics and cremes are generally good for stamping.
  • Most strongly linear holos (Nfu-Oh, for example) stamp very well. 

Putting the correct amount of polish on your plate is also important, but is fairly forgiving. If you put on too much, you can always scrape it off by scraping twice or scraping more firmly; but of course you want to avoid this if you can, and practice will help here. As you're learning, the main issue is you don't want to put on too little polish, or it won't cover your whole image.

  • Err on the side of too much rather than too little polish. If you use too little polish you'll either get a patchy image or your image won't pick up. One of the tricks experienced stampers use to save polish is to only put polish on half of the image, and then scrape that polish over the rest of the image. This is a great tip, but if you're just starting out or having problems getting a good image, don't do this--wait until you get a bit more comfortable with stamping. Figure 3 below shows an image with bald spots because it didn't have enough polish.
  • Here is what your plate should look like with the proper amount of polish (see figure 1). Notice that it's fully covered, but you can still see the indentations; if you have so much glopped on that you can't see them anymore, you probably have too much:

Figure 1. Notice that the image is fully covered, but you can still see the indentations of the image.

  • How fast should I move during this step? You have a fair amount of lee-way here. Your polish is going to dry more slowly until you scrape it, so you have a few extra seconds here. Not enough to go make a cup of tea or anything, but a bit more time. :)

Step 2) Scrape off the nail polish from your plate.
This is where things start getting a bit trickier. Lots of things can go wrong here, and you might not even realize it until later on in the process. What I mean by this is, if you're having problems picking up your image onto your stamper, most likely it's because you did something wrong here.

In theory, you've put your polish onto your plate, and now you're using a scraper to remove the polish from the plate. Let's talk about issues that crop up here:

  • What sort of scraper should I use? This is largely a matter of personal preference, and the answer is, use whatever works for you. Try a metal scraper, a plastic scraper like a credit card, a paper scraper like an index card. If it works, don't question it! My own personal preference is a metal scraper. I feel like I get the most even control with a metal scraper; I don't get any gaps between the surfaces, and I can 'feel' when it's scraping effectively and when it isn't. But doesn't it scrape up your metal plates? No, not in the important sense. The plates don't look pristine and new, it's true. But it doesn't damage them or make them less effective in any way. And I bought the plates to use them, not to display them looking pretty, so it doesn't bother me if they get cosmetically scraped. If you feel differently, of course, definitely try out other scrapers! But if you find nothing else is giving you a clean image, you might want to rethink that metal scraper. :)
  • How hard should I scrape? You should scrape fairly hard; too light tends to leave too much polish, and it's hard to scrape *too* hard (but yes, it can be done, lol). That said, it depends on the person and the plate. I've had some plates where I had to use a lighter hand to get a good image. If you're having a hard time picking up your image, it's possible you scraped too hard or too gently. If too hard, you'll get no image or only bits of the image. If too gently, you'll just get a blob of polish. This is part of where the practice comes in; try it, and adjust the pressure you're using as needed. Most importantly, you want to make sure you're applying even pressure to the whole image.
  • Angle matters. As strange as it seems, I've found that the angle I scrape at makes a big difference, because it has a big impact on my control. Generally speaking, I find that about a 45 degree angle works for me (see figure 2). If I'm too up-and-down or too flat, my scraping is uneven and I get big missed spots (or lines) of polish.  

Figure 2. This 45 degree angle is what I favor for my scraping. It gives me good control and good contact with the plate.

  • Can I scrape twice? Yes, you can, but be careful. If you scrape twice, you're taking off more polish and taking more time, and both will make your image dry faster. So if you have a big blob and scrape a second time, just make sure you pick up the image fairly quickly afterward. I will often scrape twice if I've missed an area.
  • Don't worry too much about small lines. Believe it or not, in most cases, if you have small lines from scraping when you pick up your image, they won't even show up. Bigger lines or splotches will show up, however (see figure 3 and caption below). 
  • How fast should I move during this step? Pretty fast. If you take too long, and scrape too much, the polish will dry and it won't pick up. Now, I'm not saying you have to do your impression of The Flash--you don't have to go so fast that you're just a blur to the people around you or anything, and you don't need to go so fast that you get flustered--but you should be picking up your image pretty much right after you scrape. Scrape, wipe off scraper, pick up stamper, pick up image. Normal movements, but no big pauses in between. 
  • Here is what your image should look like when improperly (figure 3.) and properly (figure 4) scraped:

Figure 3. Improperly scraped plate. First, it has too little polish to start with (see the bald spots at the top) and my uneven pressure left a big splotch on the bottom left. The smaller lines on the right won't matter to your image.

Figure 4. Properly scraped image. 

Step 3) Pick up the image from your plate with your stamper.
For this step, you place your stamper on the plate, and pick up the image. You can do this by coming directly down on to the image (figure 5), or by rolling your stamper over it (figure 6).

Figure 5. The direct-pressure-down method of picking up your image

Figure 6. The roll-over-the image method of picking up your image

I prefer the direct-pressure-down method shown in figure 5. I've never been able to get good results by rolling over the image--it just gooshes and squooshes and I get a really bad image. So I personally strongly recommend the first method over the second. 

  • Should I file my stamper? I have never found this to be necessary. I have 5 stampers of different types, and I've never needed to file any of them; I know many other people that haven't had to file theirs, either. Of course, plenty of people swear by this, so if you want to do it, do it! But if you're asking my opinion, I don't see any reason for it. If you suspect your stamper has residue on it, try swiping it with acetone or rubbing it with an eraser, and that should be enough. 
  • How much pressure should I use? You need to use a medium pressure. If you push too lightly, if won't pick up or won't pick up evenly. If you push too hard, you are gonna get smoosh and distortion. If you're not getting an image you like, and you're applying and scraping so your images look like the steps above, try varying the pressure you're using until you get a result you like. Figures 7, 8, and 9 show good and bad images: 

Figure 7. Good image!

Figure 8. Bad, bad image! This either had too little polish, wasn't picked up fast enough, or had too little pressure on the stamper when picked up.

Figure 9. Bad, bad image! This either had too much polish, wasn't scraped with enough pressure, or had too much pressure on it when picked up.

  • Will I get better results if I use an XL 'squishy' stamper rather than a regular stamper? In my opinion, I think you should be able to do any basic stamping with a regular stamper with a little practice. I don't believe that the squishy stampers are easier to use--they are just better for certain things; squishy stampers are better for picking up really large images, and are better for dealing with certain types of alignment issues (I'll talk more about this in the next section). However! If a squishy stamper works better for you, then use it! More power to ya!! Just don't rush out to buy a squishy stamper thinking it will solve your stamping problems, because it probably won't. You can have all of the same problems we've talked about already if you aren't applying, scraping, and picking up correctly, whether it's a squishy stamper or not.
  • How fast should I move during this step? You're gonna want to move pretty fast here. Once the polish is scraped, it's thin, and will dry quickly. So don't let it sit too long, or you'll get something that looks like figure 8, or worse, doesn't pick up at all.
  • Make sure to check your image before moving on to the next step. If you don't have a solid, smooth image to start with, you aren't going to get good image transfer. It's much easier to wipe this off and start again than to put a bad image on your nail.

Step 4) Place the image onto your nail with your stamper.
Oh boy, now we're into the big issues. This is where things get trickiest of all, because you're trying to put your image right where you want it, but you don't have all day to do it. It's easy to get flustered because you're worried that your polish will dry, and then move too quickly and mess everything up. And nobody wants to have to start all over again!

  • Resign yourself to the fact that sometimes you're going to have to start all over again. The most experienced stampers, who have tons of tricks they use and tons of manicures under their belts, sometimes have to start over, and so will you. Hopefully it will happen less and less with the more experience you get. 
  • Always put on topcoat between your base polish and your stamping. If you make a mistake and you have topcoat on, you can sometimes swipe your stamp off with polish remover or acetone without damaging your base. If you don't have topcoat on, you'll be starting over. 
  • Straight-down vs. Rolling-over methods: There are two ways you can transfer your image from your stamper, just like there were two ways to pick it up. You can either push the stamper straight down onto the nail, or roll it over the nail. In this case, I vastly prefer the rolling-over method, largely because I have very curved nails. If I try to stamp straight down onto my nail with a full-nail image, I'll get a janky stripe down the middle and nothing else! So, I start on one side of my nail and roll across to the other (see figures 10-12 to see what I mean). This should work no matter how flat or curvy your nails are. If you use the rolling method do not use a pushing motion; roll the stamper, don't push it into the nail. Gentle pressure works best here. 
  • How fast do I need to work with this step? You have a little more time here than you did with your previous step, and can take a few extra seconds to get things lined up the way you want them to. But, if you wait too long, your image will dry out and either won't transfer at all, or will only partially transfer. If that happens, swipe off (you had topcoat on, right?) and try again. 'Cause if you don't get it lined up right you're going to have to start over again anyway, right? 

My method for transferring my image and aligning where I want the image to be: 

A) I start with the stamper placed on one side of the nail, and push the stamper right up to the edge of the nail; I line it up with the edge of the image if it is a full-nail image. Working with a full-nail image is the easiest alignment to execute--just make sure that you have your stamp initially positioned so as you roll it over, it covers the whole nail from top to bottom. Note in figures 10-12 how I have both the top (near my nail bed) and the bottom (near my nail tip) positioned so I can see that there is enough stamper to cover my whole nail (if it had a full-nail image on it). Once I see that is safely the case, I can begin rolling.

B) If I'm trying to line up a smaller image, I line up the edge of the image with the location on the nail where I want the image to be. To demonstrate this, I show in the picture how I'm lining up an image of a coffee pot with an image I've previously stamped (and filled in) of that same coffee pot; I'm using the silver coffee pot as my 'anchor' for where I want to place my image. Looking at myy fingers, my eyes would be right where yours are now; I do this right up in front of my face. You can see over the three pictures how I bring the image closer and closer to the anchor point, pressing my nail into the bare part of the stamper as needed, until I am fairly sure it's going to match up. Then, I roll it over:  

Figure 10. Demonstration of rolling.

Figure 11. Demonstration of rolling, part 2.

Figure 12. Demonstration of rolling part 3, and demonstration of aligning.
In this case, this is a pretty darn hard alignment to do, to get an outline placed perfectly over a previously stamped image; in most cases you aren't going to need to be that perfectly precise. Let's say I didn't have the silver image on the stamp, and wanted to use one of the coffee beans as an anchor to line up the image where I wanted it to go--that would work just as well (and be a lot easier, lol). You could even use one of the flecks of glitter in the glitter polish as your anchor, to help you position correctly. Or, if you have just a plain polish underneath so you can't find an anchor point, you can take your smallest dotting tool or toothpick and put a teeeeny dot of polish right where you want to line the image up (and stamp over it so it doesn't show). Just don't forget to pay attention to both the top and the bottom of the image--it can be easy to get the top (spout in this case) matched up where you want it, but have the bottom of the pot all out at an angle. So do a spot check before you start rolling that both the top and the bottom of the stamper are where you want them to be. :)

C) Now that you're all lined up, roll your image over your nail. Use a gentle, even pressure as you roll--this is very important. If you stutter or hesitate or try to adjust the stamper while you're rolling, you'll get smudged or misaligned parts of your stamp. If you push instead of roll, you will smudge--the polish only needs to come in contact with the nail to adhere, it doesn't need to be steam-rolled. :) Also, when you reach the end of the nail, do not lift off! Keep your rolling motion going until the stamp is all the way off the nail (even keep it rolling over part of the finger rather than lift it up). If you lift off too soon, you can get part of your image that lifts back off of the nail or that doubles back on itself on the nail. Once you see the stamper has rolled completely off of the nail (see figure 13), you can lift it off your finger:

Figure 13. Your stamper should be completely rolled off of your nail before you lift it up.

D) This method works well except in one case...if you want stripes (or something similar) down the length of your nail. Then, it can be easy to get a small warp that wouldn't normally show up on another design, but makes your stripes look really messed up. In this case, you want to use the same roll method, but from the top to the bottom of the nail, rather than from side to side (see figure 14 below). You do want to spot-check that the line of your stamp is pointed in the right direction after you've placed your stamp near your cuticle, then roll away!:

Figure 14. How to vertically align your stamped image. 

  • Doesn't this take too long to get good image transfer? When you're first trying to get it down, now and then you may find that by the time you go to transfer your image, it has dried out and doesn't transfer, but this shouldn't happen often, especially after your first couple of tries with it. 

  • What about French tip images? Ugh. These are tough, but they can be done. Remember above I said that squishy stampers are better for some types of stamp alignment? This is one of them. With a squishy stamper, you can get your image onto your stamper, and then push your nail directly down into it wherever you want. Because it is squishy, it will collapse around your nail and put the image directly where you're pushing into it. I talk more about this in a video I made about using the squishy stamper, but if you want me to take pictures of this, let me know. :)

Reader Questions! 

I think I've covered the basics now I'm going to turn to the specific reader questions I got.

Q: One question I got (not sure if this person wants to be anonymous) was about overlap stamping on longer nails. For people with longer nails, the Konad image isn't long enough to cover from cuticle to nail tip, and in theory, it should be possible to stamp the image twice, lining it up in the process. 

A: In theory, this is possible. In practice, it's pretty darn hard. The best tips I have for aligning the two stamps would be the ones I shared above; these should get you pretty close to having a well-aligned image, although even people who are pros at this don't get it 100% perfect. So, I have two other suggestions for you. The first is, choose images that are forgiving when it comes to overlap; either very busy images like leopard prints where it doesn't matter if things are lined up well, or more open images that have plenty of room to look fluid if not stamped perfectly. You can see an example of this by clicking here.

But personally, I think the best choice is to use plates that have larger images; there are a lot of these now, and you don't have to fuss with those alignment issues. You can see one of these plates in the same video I linked above, and I have several others on my YouTube channel as well. Another brand that I think has larger images is Dashica, but I don't own any of those (yet!) so I can't say for sure. If you do use one of these larger image plate, be sure to get yourself an XL stamper, otherwise you're not going to be able to get the whole image, and then what's the point!

Q: Nathalie asks about problems getting her image to transfer: "I can't pick up the full image, or when I do it doesn't transfer to the nail...I also used the squishy stamper for the first time, and couldn't position it right. It came out with the image half-transferred and the rest was just a trace of the image."

A: If you're having a hard time picking up the image, this is usually because your polish dried out before you picked it up, either because you took too long or you scraped too hard or too many times. If it's not transferring to the nail off of the stamper, first make sure you got a good image--if you did, and it's not transferring, you probably took too long from the time you put it onto the stamper to the time you tried to get it on the nail. If you don't have a good image, check the pictures of bad images above and see if those help figure out your problem. As for the squishy stamper, you can have all of the same issues with that type, too, and if it half-transferred, I think you're having the same basic issue (taking too long or scraping too hard). With respect to the positioning issue, let me know if what I wrote about aligning your image helps solve the problem. If none of this works, let me know and I'll see if I can help you troubleshoot from there. :)

Q: Rach asked: I sometimes smudge the picture when stamping...what am I doing wrong? Pressing too hard? 

A: That's one possibility. Another is if rather than rolling your image onto your nail, you're doing more of a pushing motion onto the nail. Either way, try to be gentler and that will probably help. Also, you are probably doing this, but check your image before you transfer it to make sure the smudging didn't happen when you picked the image up. :)

Q: Hooked On Varnish asked: I'd like tips on getting placement right, especially with the French tip and full nail images!

A: Did my tips above help? If not, let me know what happens when you try to stamp and I'll see if I can add something more. :)

Q: Lisa N asked: How do you get the stamping design placed on your nails perfectly? I always struggle with getting the whole image transferred on my nails. 

A: Did the tips above help out at all? Usually the rolling method should help you get the whole image across your nail, especially if you make sure you have it aligned correctly before you start your roll. But if not, let me know what's going wrong in the comments, and I'll try to help further. :)

Q: Manis By Moore asked: I struggle with double-stamping. Like picking good images to stamp over other and stuff like that. Maybe also some tips for when the whole image doesn't transfer. Ideas to fix it without redoing the whole image. 

A: Okay, let me start with ideas for fixing a problem if you don't want to start over. Of course you can always try to stamp the image again, matching it up to the part that stamped correctly. That's actually not a bad thing to try if only a small part of the image went wrong, and I often do that myself. If one little bit didn't transfer and is still on the stamper, I'll just line it up and try again; or I'll restamp just that area and try again. Even if it doesn't come out perfectly, if it's a small area, you often can't tell.

Another fix is to do something else over the boo-boo. Some of the most amazing manis start out as a mess-up that someone tried to fix! For example, you could use the saran-wrap technique to put color around the edges of your nails and cover any bald spots, but still have it look random. You could do the same thing with bits of nail foil. You could find another solid stamp and stamp over your bald spot, and then incorporate that stamp onto your other nails, like you meant to do it the whole time. If only half of your nail got stamped and the other half didn't, you can turn it into a color-blocked mani by taping off and painting one half of your nail on each nail (or just on an accent nail). Great creative! There have been plenty of times when a well-placed rhinestone or stud has hidden a slip or a splotch here and there on my manis, lol.

 You also asked about double-stamping. Funny how this is much harder than it seems like it should be, isn't it? The simple answer is that it's always a good idea to test out your combinations on a sheet of paper or tape before you ruin a full base mani. But, I've noticed a few rules of thumb that help me here (this still isn't my strongest area!). The polish you choose for your top layer of stamping should be very opaque, and the stamp you choose should be solid, for best results. If you try to stamp a white flower over black stripes, you're probably going to be able to see the stripes through the flower, but if you stamp a dark flower over light lines, you'll probably be okay. Also, the most effective manis I've done of this kind have less of a contrast between my base coat and my first layer of stamping, and more of a contrast between my top layer of stamping. So, for example, I might choose a medium blue base, a light blue stripe background stamp, and a dark purple flower to stamp over it. Finally, you don't want your second layer of stamping to disappear into your first layer. Vary the sizes to make sure your second stamp doesn't visually get lost in your first. :)

Q: Cin O. asked: I have the hardest time with scraping. I always seem to miss a part or it leaves a trail or line. Timing is a huge issue for me with polish drying before I get it scraped, etc...I also have trouble with 'seeing' how the image should be laid on and get a lot of my designs backwards of how I want them.

A: With respect to the scraping, I hope what I mentioned before helps a bit. As for timing, that should come with a little bit of practice...once you get used to how to scrape confidently, etc., it will take less and less time. In terms of 'seeing' how the image should be laid out, I hope that my positioning tips above help with this? Let me know if these don't help, and we'll troubleshoot. :)

Q: Miss Intensity Nails asked: I find alignment to be a big issue for me? How do you get every finger to look the same!? Also, my designs fold over on its own while transferring on the nail creating a blob. Almost as if the design is sticking to the stamper then finally releases like a stretched rubber band. 

[NOTE: I am going to do a follow-up tutorial to illustrate this answer.]To get every finger to look the same, try using the alignment method above, and add in this. Let's say you're using a full-nail image. Look on the edge of the image and pick a flower (or whatever) that you want to be on the center of the edge of your nail. Line it up. Then, for the next nail, use that same anchor point to line up your stamper. Same for the rest of the nails. Now let's say you want to put just one flower at the center of each of your nails. Try putting a teeeeeeny dot of the polish you're using to stamp with right at the center of each nail, and then use that to line up your stamp. Even if it's not 100% perfect, I bet you won't be able to tell much difference. And before you know it, you'll know your nails well enough to know where center is when you align it without that help. :)

The folding design is probably due to uneven pressure when you're stamping, or lifting off too soon. Try to make sure you're using a very even, gentle pressure when rolling your image. If that's too light, try again with a little more pressure, and a little more as needed. :)

Q: Nunya Beezwax asks about a kit she bought that doesn't work well, and results in an image that's either a blob, or only part of a transferred image, or gets no transfer at all. 

A: Try the tips I talk about above for scraping and stamping, I think those will probably solve your problem. If that doesn't work, try a different (but reputable!) inexpensive set, and see how that works. I have one of those TV kits and it works fine, but that's because I didn't start with it--I was an experienced stamper by the time I got it, and could adjust my scraping/stamping to it. If it continues to give you trouble, it may just be that the quality is too poor in the set you got (sometimes plates from even highly reputable brands are defective and have to be returned). Try buying a reputable scraper/stamper and a single reputable plate or reputable set, and see how that goes. You can get the XL Cheeky plates for around $10, and can get scraper/stamper sets for about $5 now, both on Amazon. But, you might as well play with the one you have again, and see if you can get it to work!

Wow, that was a lot of writing!! Let me know if there are things that don't make sense, or things you'd like more clarity on. I know this is fairly bare-bones, so feel free to ask away so I can clarify or expand on different areas according to your needs. I have already written way too much for one post, so I'd rather follow your lead on what more you'd like to know! And if anyone has any other tips, please do let me know! I don't claim to know anything but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to stamping expertise. :)

Thanks for stopping by, particularly if you made it all the way through! Please excuse any typos, I don't think I'm going to be able to do a final proof until tomorrow, lol. :)

Hugs and stamping love,

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Before & After: Navy Bubbles

(The products in this post were purchased by me.)


Today's manicure is one of those that comes out just the way you see it in your head...I love it when that happens, and it happens far too rarely!

For today's Sunday Stamping in my Adventures In Stamping group, our theme is to stamp over a saran-wrap background. Since this is one of my favorite techniques, I was all over it, but wanted to do something a little more edgy. So I chose to play a little bit with a dramatic color, rather than use a soft one for my saran-wrap pattern.

I started with a base of Barry M Lilac Foil, which as the name suggests is a lilac foil: 

This is two coats, and while the formula wasn't bad, I seem to have bad luck with Barry Ms. My first coat had bubbles (I have no idea why!), but the second coat covered them up just fine (I think you can see two at the top of my middle finger, but that's not really anything). As foils tend to do, this one streaks a bit, and you have to be careful. But on the positive side, the color is very pretty, and this is an excellent stamping polish, as well. :)

For my saran-wrap layer, I chose a deep blue, Orly's In The Navy. In person it's even a bit darker than it shows here, but honestly I'm just glad that between the purples and the blues, my camera was willing to take pictures of the manicure at all. In fact, funny story--I went to take the first picture, and the camera shut down! Turns out my battery was dead, but I'm not convinced that's all there was to it...I think it was my camera's way of sticking its tongue out at me, and saying 'Oh HECK no.'. But I digress...and just because you're paranoid doesn't mean your camera isn't out to get you.

Next, I stamped a bubbly circle image from Cheeky plate 26 with Barry M Silver Foil. I finished off the look with blue rhinestones in the middle of the biggest circles:

I'll try to take another picture outside in the morning to see if I can get the blue to be the fully right color, but this shows it pretty darn well. This is one of my favorite manicures I've done in a long time, and I hope you like it, too!

Edit: This outside picture shows the contrast a little better. :)

Thanks for stopping by,

Hugs and psychedelic oceans full of bubbles,

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Review (sorta): Winstonia Grab Bag

(The products in this post were purchased by me; I am not affiliated with Winstonia.)


Did you know that Winstonia does monthly grab bags of nail art products? Well, you do now! It's like a monthly subscription box of nail products, except there is no monthly club, and you don't have to take a risk and buy sight unseen. You get to see the products before you buy, and don't have to sign up or anything--just buy like any other product. The benefit is, you do get a good price for the supplies compared to what you'd pay separately.

I bought the July bag, and I'm very pleased with it. Here's what it contains:

Complete contents

The bag included two wheels of nail studs, one wheel of butterfly fimo slices, one bag of orange sticks, and a good quality double-ended brush. By my informal estimate (which is on the conservative side), this is between $15-20 of nail art products, for $10--and free shipping!

Here's a closer look at the studs:

These come in a variety of shapes and sizes...and most importantly imo, colors! While there are are some of the standard silver, gold, and black, there are cool orange, blue, red and purple-pink. This adds a great extra dimension for nail art.

The third wheel contains fimo canes slices of butterflies. I'm not a huge fan of fimo cane stuff usually, but these butterflies are so whimsical I couldn't resist them. The color combinations are fun and interesting, the detailing is impressive, and I had to have them:

While orange sticks aren't the most exciting thing in the world, they are crazy useful and I'm always glad to have more, especially in various sizes for different uses:

And finally, the thing I think many people will be very excited about--the double-ended nail brush. When I saw this, I instantly thought clean up. The one end can help you get the massive stuff off of the cuticles and round your nail bed, while the slanted brush can help you with precision where you need it more. And from what I can see, it's good quality and isn't going to fall apart on you the moment you use it.

Eeeeek!! Nekkid nails!!!

What do you think? If you like it, you can get it for a few more days by clicking here. I'm looking forward to seeing what they come up with for August. :)

Hugs and Happy Saturday,

Before & After: Lacy Petticoat

(All products in this post purchased by me.)


I've been in a race today to get this manicure posted, so I will apologize up-front for the cat hair you may or may not find somewhere in the pictures today...>.>

Today is the next installment in the Cheeky twin post challenge I'm working on with Dina of Secretary's Nail Art, and we're on Cheeky 52--we chose the swirl image from this plate, and it's been one I've been looking forward to, 'cause I love my swirls!

I started with a base of Barielle Orange Parfait, a soft, coral-orange creme that goes almost to a melon color; this is two coats:

Barielle Orange Parfait, artificial sunlight

The formula on this wasn't great, but it wasn't too bad, either. The first coat was a little patchy, but it evened out nicely with the second coat.

Next I put on a coat of a fun glitter I recently got in a scratch 'n' dent, Nail'd It Plum Sassy, which is filled with purples, blues, and greens of all sorts, shapes and sizes! I thought this would make a pretty contrast against the soft orange.

Finally, I've been wanting to play around with masking off a portion of the nail for stamping, so I tried it out here. I masked off wedges on each nail, and stamped the image over them in white; on the accent nail, I edged the wedge in white nail tape:

What do you think? This reminds me of a pretty pleated skirt that when the folds separate, you see some hidden lace or a petticoat. I also wonder if it would look better with all of the nails taped off?

Thanks for looking, and don't forget to check out what Dina did with the image!

Hugs and love,

Friday, July 26, 2013

Before & After: Where did Tracie go?


It's time for my final flowers design for my Nail Challenge Collaborative group. This has been a fun theme, and I wanted to go out with a bang, with something that would jump out at you!

I started with a base of Zoya Tracie, an avocado green with a soft shimmer (please excuse my wounded finger!):

Zoya Tracie, direct sunlight

I love this polish and enjoyed wearing it...but then I decided to make a flower manicure with it and my plot required me to cover it up...mostly. I painted over it with Zoya Breezi, a strong sky blue creme. But before I did, I used nail tape to cover up part of the base polish in order to make flower stems. Then I used my Mash 3D nail art confetti (previously sent to me for review) for my flowers, and added a gold butterfly charm as a final accent:

Believe it or not, by using a dot of top coat to put these in place, and then putting a coat of top coat over them, none of these elements moved one bit--not even the butterfly, which as you can see sticks out a bit. In fact, when I removed the mani I was able to save the butterfly charm to use again. :)

I know this mani is a little on the 'cute' side for things I normally do, but I was really into it for some reason. Hope you like it, too!

Hugs, and don't forget to check out the other flower manis, linked below. :)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Bargain tips: Reader's suggestions


Back when I posted my tips for how I find polish at bargain prices, I asked readers to add any tips they have, particularly for countries I don't know much about. Some posted them in the comments, some e-mailed me, so I'm going to compile them here for quick reference. :)

1) Discount/overstock stores: This is one I haven't tried, because I don't have one super convenient to where I am, but as soon as I get a chance, I'm going to try it. The particular stores I've had mentioned are Ross, TJ Maxx, Big Lots, and Marshall's. Apparently you can get a lot of brands at these stores, including Orly, SpaRitual (which I'm extremely excited about), Color Club, Revlon, and even some higher-end polishes. These stores also have no-name polishes which are of good quality. 

2) Dollar stores: I completely forgot to mention this one, thanks for reminding me! Not only can you find a variety of polishes here (depending on what they get in), but you can also get nail art supplies and manicure supplies. I tend to avoid no-name brands at these stores when it comes to some things, but if you're buying something like make-up sponges for nail art, who cares what the brand name is? The down-side to these stores is that they are hit-and-miss, depending on what stock other stores didn't want, and the selection can be very limited (and can vary widely from store-to-store). 

3) Sephora's clearance section: I got a tip on Sephora's clearance section and drove out to my nearest location to check it out (there's not one super close to me). I was really impressed by what I saw...The report I received featured $4 Illamasquas, and while I didn't get quite that lucky, I did get one for $8 (down from $17), and considered that absolutely amazing. They also had a ton of Nails Inc. polishes on clearance, in a wide variety of colors. I'd definitely advise checking these out, even if normally Sephora is out of your price range (it's normally out of mine!). If your location is like mine, they put the clearance sections on tricky little end-cap sections, so be sure to ask if you can't find them.

4) Group deal sites: Possibly the most brilliant tip I received was to check Groupon, Living Social, Google Offers, Amazon Local etc., not just for nail polish tips (although I did score crazy good on the Julie G offer a couple of months ago), but also for other types of beauty stores/sites. The specific deal that Aleksandra mentioned to me was a $40 for $20 deal to Fragrance Net; while you wouldn't think it from the name, they also carry polish, and she was able to combine this deal with a sale the site was having on Dior polishes to get them on an incredible site. I could smack myself, because I saw that deal, but didn't think to check the store for polish! So it's worth taking a moment just to double-check any offer like that for potential hidden polish values. :)

5) Ideas for Ireland and/or the U.K (and to some degree, other countries)
  • With respect to discount stores, try Dealz or Poundland for cheap polishes like Sally Hansen and Sinful Colors. 
  • Check out Essence and Catrice, which are budget brands there (MissGreenEyes, can you let us know where you find these?)--and don't forget that while they're budget brands there, they are not budget brands elsewhere, like the U.S. (we also can't get our hands on W7 or Top Shop here). I mention this because you may be able to swap colors from brands that we can't get in order to get access to other brands you want here. :)
  • Try eBay for items you can't find and for lower prices.
  • Try for bulk orders, as they ship abroad. 
  • Don't forget that stores like Ninja Polish and Llarowe ship worldwide. 
  • Some independent polish makers will make exceptions to US-only shipping rules if your order is large enough--especially if you have other friends IRL or in polish groups in your area that want to combine orders, it's worth asking. 
6) Ideas for Europe: 
  • Natalia in Switzerland blew my mind with the prices she has to pay for things like OPI and China Glaze. Her solution is to buy from US e-retailers to get around this. If they ship to Switzerland, I'd guess they ship to other countries in the EU as well...Natalia, if you see this, can you share which are your favorite sources?
  • Don't forget that stores like Ninja Polish and Llarowe ship worldwide. 
  • Some independent polish makers will make exceptions to US-only shipping rules if your order is large enough--especially if you have other friends IRL or in polish groups in your area that want to combine orders, it's worth asking. 
Okay, I think that's it! If I missed your tip, please let me know, and I'll update this list. Also, thanks to everyone who commented or sent me a tip. If I received it from more than one person I didn't say who it was from, just because I didn't want it to get into tons of names, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate your help!!! I absolutely do, and I would love to add any other tips you come up with. :)

Big hugs,

Before & After: Georgia Iris


This is week 2 of the Llama Nails 'Inspired By Artists' challenge, and this week we're on Georgia O'Keeffe.

I'll never forget my reaction when I found out what the subtext was of Georgia O'Keeffe's work. There I was, looking at pretty flowers--with odd portions of the flowers accented, admittedly, but still pretty--and then someone told me. I was young, but not so young that I couldn't recognize the content once it was pointed out to me. My jaw dropped, and my response was 'NO way. No WAY.'. I didn't believe it and I stood there staring at the artwork with my mouth open for a length of time that almost certainly made the other patrons very uncomfortable.

Many years have passed and in that time I've moved away from astonishment and mild discomfort to an appreciation of the forms that Georgia O'Keeffe was drawing. I find her art to be a celebration of what it contains, re-examination of beauty, and a reminder that all women are an important, beautiful part of nature (whether she intended it that way or not).

How does one do an 'inspired by' manicure on something like this? I decided to do simple design of watercolor-y lines to celebrate one of her iris.

I started with a base of Julep Simone, a soft lilac with a gentle blue flash; I had a hard time capturing it, but you can see it slightly around where the light reflects off of the polish:

Julep Simone, artificial light

And a bit closer

Next I painted on some soft lines to delineate the folds of the flower. I used Julep Joanna, Sally Hansen Black And Blue, Finger Paints I-Spy-Der and Itsy Bitsy Spider, and Zoya Darcy. Finally, I covered it all in a coat of China Glaze Fairy Dust to blur the edges a bit and give it a soft look:

I just love how this came out! The blend of colors give it a watercolor feel even though I did it with polish and didn't use a watercolor technique (I actually tried that, but it came out muddy and didn't look like O'Keeffe would have tolerated anything like it, lol). I think it tells the story of the flower and the subtext in a pretty, soft way that isn't obvious. I can see myself doing a similar design on all four nails just for regular wear.

Thanks for looking, and please check out the other Georgia O'Keeffe inspired manis linked below. Also, I'll be back later today with a summary of the tips readers shared with me in response to my post on how to find deals on polish. :)

Happy Thursday!