Tuesday, December 3, 2013

An Experiment: Can You Stamp With Gel Polish?

Purchased by Me

Hello lovely readers.  I'm going to do something a little different for today's post.  One of the questions I am asked most frequently is "Can you stamp with soak off gel polish?"  The answer is a little bit tricky.  Yes, you can combine stamping nail art and soak off gel polish, but can you use soak off gel polish as stamping polish?  THAT is the question I get most.  I could simply tell you the answer, but where is the fun in that?  Instead, let's do a little experimenting.  :)

A quick google search led me to a few videos of people stamping with Soak Off Gel.  Specifically with Shellac.  Well, I'm not really a Shellac fan as I prefer LED cure.  And since many of you also use LED brands, I decided to test out a few for stamping.

Gelish is a common brand among my readers, so I chose a highly pigmented Gelish color for my first test: Gelish My Favorite Accessory (note: pictures are not color accurate...close, but not exact).

The first problem I ran across is getting a clean scrape.  Because it doesn't dry on it's own, gel polish tends to smear instead of scraping cleanly.
Does soak off gel work for stamping

If you are accustomed to stamping with stamping polish or traditional lacquer, you know that a smear like this often won't transfer to the stamper.  Unfortunately, that is not the case with SOG.

Assuming you do get a clean scrape, you run into another issue caused by the fact that gel doesn't dry on it's own.  It tends to bead up on the stamper.  See how the lines in the image below are thin and the gel pools in places?

Let's look at the same image using Mundo de Unas stamping polish.  You can see the image on the stamper is much bolder and more defined.

Moving on, I transferred the SOG image I picked up above to a swatch stick that has been prepared with two coats of Ink Glacier and top coated with the tacky layer removed.  In my experience with sog nail art, removing the tacky layer helps keep the gel from spreading as much.  I rolled the image onto the swatch stick with a super light touch - lighter than is required for RNP or stamping polish.  Yet the image is still weak and fuzzy.
Can you stamp with gel polish

Let's compare this to the same image using the Mundo de Unas stamping polish.  (excuse the spotty transfer - I let it dry a bit too long while taking pictures of the image on the stamper)

Now, let's look that the two swatches side by side.  At this point, I have cured the Gelish stamping swatch to prevent further spreading of the image.
can you stamp with gel polish 

The conclusion:  Stamping with Gelish is a fail.  But wait, we aren't done yet.  I completed the same test with one of the thickest, most pigmented polishes I own: Ink Glacier.  My theory was that a more pigmented polish might hold it's shape better.  Here's what happened:

As you can see in the picture below, Glacier does hold it's shape a bit better on the stamper, but there is still pooling from the lack of drying.

For comparison, here's the same image with Mundo de Unas White.

And here's what happened when I transferred the Ink Glacier image to a swatch stick prepared with two coats of Couture Little Black Dress and top coated with the tacky layer removed.  Again, I used the lightest touch humanly possible and rolled the image onto the swatch.  This one smeared worse than the Gelish!

Here's the Mundo de Unas swatch for comparison.  Again, excuse the spotty transfer and the cotton fiber.

Let's look at these two side by side.  Like before, the SOG stamp in this photo has been cured to prevent further spreading.

So, can you stamp with gel polish?  I think the answer is pretty clear.  While you can get the image to transfer to the stamper (sort of), and you might be able to get it to transfer to the nail (somewhat), the final product is not something I would want to wear on my nails for a week or two.

How do you combine stamping with gel polish to achieve a flawless manicure that lasts for weeks?  It's unbelievably simple.
  1. Do a complete gel manicure, including removing the tacky layer.  Do not oil.
  2. Break out your favorite stamping plate, stamper and stamping polish.
  3. Stamp the image directly onto the finished SOG mani. 
  4. Allow the stamp to dry for about 5 minutes.
  5. Carefully apply another layer of top coat, being careful to cover the entire stamp.  Cure.
  6. Apply another layer of top coat just to be certain you covered the stamp completely. 
  7. Remove the tacky layer with cleanser or 90% isopropyl alcohol.
  8. Remove the overstamp with polish remover (cleanup doesn't get any easier than this).  I actually swipe over the entire nail with a cotton ball soaked in acetone.  This quick swipe will not hurt your gel mani.  But if you want to play it safe, non-acetone remover will also work.
  9. Remember to moisturize!

Note:  There are two other ways to combine stamping with gel.
  1. You can remove the tacky layer from the final color coat before top coating and stamp directly on this color coat.  This will make soak off a bit faster than stamping over the top coat.
  2. Instead of using a gel top coat in steps 5 and 6, you can use a RNP top coat and clean up as if you were stamping over RNP.  This gives you the option of changing your stamp without soaking off your gel manicure.  Simply remove the stamp with non-acetone remover and stamp again.

There you have it.  I hope you've enjoyed by little experiment.  :)



  1. HUGE difference. Thanks Michelle.

  2. I wish i would have known this before I started stamping :) but great info especially for those just starting

  3. AWESOME. I, too, have attempted to stamp with Gelish. I have to say your transferred designs turned out MUCH better than mine. By the time I stamped the color on to the nail it was just a blob - absolutely no design.

    I once tried putting the polish on the plate, scraping, and then flash curing under the LED lamp (Gelish 18G). The pattern held up a little better on the stamper, but 1. Gelish polish isn't very opaque so the final transfer was way too light. 2. Not all of the polish stuck to the stamper - a lot of polish was still sitting in the plate design.

    Still, I'm determined that some day I'm gonna make it work ;)

  4. Wonderful tip for stamping directly onto the tacky layer of the gelish before top coat. I have often wondered how I could change my stamping without taking off all of my polish. Now I know! Also, I didn't know that you could clean up your over stamping after top coating gelish with acetone remover. What a great idea! I will be trying this next mani. Some stamping polishes are so hard to remove with non-acetone.

    1. Just to clarify, when stamping before the top coat, you will actually remove the tacky layer from the last color coat. If you don't, the image won't transfer ;)

  5. Glad to have YOU do this test so I don't waste my time and SOG trying to step with SOG. I much prefer the sharpness of RNP. Thanks for doing this test Michelle. :)

  6. What nail plate is that? I LOVE it! :)

    1. Hi Ali. The plate is MoYou London Tourist 07. http://www.moyou.co.uk/index.php/collections/stencils-collection-kit-set-moyou-nails-louise-tourist-48.html

  7. Well, thank goodness for Google!
    You answered my question quite adequately - and I found a great site!

  8. Very, very helpful, as I am addicted to stamping, and I'm thinking about trying out soak-off gel polish!

  9. Thank you! I am happy that I found your post! You see - it's still actual!

  10. very helpful!!!!!!! thank you sweety! :)


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