Introduction: Sloth Nails! Make Your Own Custom Nail Art Plates

About: Crafter, kid's book author, art director for Workman Publishing, teacher of NYC Resistor's Make-Along classes, girl who laughs until things fly out her nose.

Three things I love:

Nail Art, Sloths, and taking something that already exists and making it my own. Did you know you could easily stamp intricate patterns on your nails using etched metal "nail plates"? Did you know you can make your OWN designs? Did you know it's illegal to own 10 sloths as pets? Okay, okay it's illegal to own ONE, but you get the idea.

I'll walk you through the basics of getting started with nail stamping, give you some suggestions to make your own, and show how to be covered in sloths. (Make sure to look at the end because I am giving away stamp supplies to one lucky person!)

Step 1: Supplies

What you'll need!

  • Color Polish: you'll want something that goes on opaque with one coat and dries quickly OR you could have fun with the translucent nature of metallics
  • Etched Plate: either bought online or made yourself
  • Scraper: can be any hard edged plastic card (NOTE! Many nail stamps come with metal scrapers, this is a quick way to scratch up and destroy your nail plates. Stick to plastic)
  • Clear Top Coat to Seal Design
  • Rubber or Gel Nail Stamper

Stamping Plates and Stampers can easily be found on websites that rhyme with Mamazon and Febay. The plates and crystal clear stamper featured in this tutorial are from MoYou UK my favorite nail art stamping supply website.

Color Nail Brands I Have Come To Love for Stamping:

-Milani High Speed Fast Dry: the white in this brand out performs ALL other actual stamping brands (many much more expensive) I've tried

-Konad Special Nail Polish: Specifically Made for Nail Stamping. I use Gold Black in the video.

-MoYou UK polishes: great quality across all colors.

(NOTE! Make sure to go to the UK site, the American MoYou site is not the same brand and is 1/8th the quality)

Best Non-Smearing Top-Coats:

-Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat: a staple for many nail art tutorials because it dries fast and super shiny

-MoYou Top Coat: It's almost like they made this specifically for stamping! (Um... probably because they did)

Step 2: Standard Nail Stamping

  • Take your color stamping polish and apply it liberally to the plate.
  • Scrape across once with plastic card.
  • Press the nail stamp into the plate firmly.
  • Roll the stamp across the desired nail, being sure to press firm enough to get in the crevices of your nails
  • Clean up the edges with a q-tip dipped in acetone or just peel off the extra polish around your nail during a hot shower. There are also nail "Masking Fluids" that you can use to paint on your nails pre-stamping and peel off easily after.

I used an XL MoYou plate named "Holy Plates 13" for the triangle design. I found the XL plates give you a lot more wiggle room with design and are more versatile for multiple users/nail shapes. (My thumbnails are so fat guys! Insert montage here of me working out my thumbnails to EYE OF THE TIGER.)

Step 3: Custom Laser Etched Designs: Sloth Face!

I also like to call this step trial and error and error and error. For your etching you want it to be deep enough to hold a nice layer of polish, but not deep enough that it forms a pool of polish.

How to tell if it's too shallow:
The design won't transfer over to your stamper completely

How to tell if it's too deep:
While it looks good transferring to the stamper, when you try to put it on your nail it'll bleed and smudge.

If your design isn't showing up at all:
Try making your lines a bit thicker. If you look closely at my test plate I tried three different thicknesses on Mervin's lines and finally decided on the middle one.

I tested out varying the power and speed settings and here's what I found worked best for etching nail plates on an Epilog 60 Watt Laser using 1/8" white acrylic: 600 dpi, Power 100, Speed 80

Again, your settings will vary based on the way you are etching and what materials you are using but that should give you a good idea where you might want to start your tests.

I made this design 8mm wide to fit on most nails, but this can also vary. Vectors are included here for you to play.

Step 4: Sloth Placement

This is where the clear stamper comes in handy! Do what you did before with the normal stamping technique, but after you get Mervin on the stamp, look through the end of the stamper and make sure you are centered on your finger before pressing down.

Press down firmly, rocking back and forth slightly. Lift it up and you have a perfect little sloth face. BEAU-TI-FUL!

NOTE! Don't take tooooo long to get centered because if Mervin dries on the stamp head too much he won't transfer correctly to your nail. You have to be fairly speedy with nail stamping since you are using quick dry polishes.

Step 5: LEVEL UP! Multiple Color Block Stamping

  • First paint your nails a light gray for background sloth fur
  • Put black polish on plate
  • Scrape
  • Press stamp into plate design
  • Let it dry ON the stamp
  • Once it's dry take your white (I used Milani Fast Dry White) and paint the back of Mervin's face being sure to avoid the two eye areas
  • Let it dry
  • Using a darker gray or brown polish, paint in the eye areas. Feel free to go over some of the white since this is the back of your Mervin face and it won't show
  • Let it dry
  • Paint the whole Mervin with clear polish
  • Let it dry (noticing a pattern here?)
  • Put a clear coat on your nail
  • Peel the face off the stamp gently using tweezers
  • Place the face on the still wet-clear coat, re-position lightly with your finger to get him centered. (I did this wrong on one nail and wound up with Confused Mervin TM)
  • Seal in the Sloth with another clear coat over the whole design

Repeat for all your nails! I used multiple stampers to make it go faster, but these are sloths we are talking about, so slooooooow is a waaaaaaaay to goooooooo.

Step 6: Make Your Own Designs (Plus Bonus GIVEAWAY!)

If you can etch it, you can make a stamping plate out of it!

I used a laser and acrylic since they are readily available and super speedy. Look less than 30 seconds to etch one! If you are the type of person who likes to change your nails up a lot, this is a great method for speedy unique manicures. You can also use metal and a milling machine, or etch a metal plate the traditional ol' timey way if you are an ol' timey sort!

If you are in NYC stop on by Resistor on any craft night and people can help you do your nails. Or sign up for one of the official nail art classes here.

Part of #WeAreNo10 aka #LetsMakeColleensMomCry (but a good way)

Mervin stamp plate, Mervin Gray Polish (also known as MoYou Cloudy Day), MoYou Crystal Clear Stamper, MoYou Sci-Fi Plate 09, plus Mervin Pins and other #SlothSwag!

Buy a copy of MERVIN THE SLOTH IS ABOUT TO DO THE BEST THING IN THE WORLD by Colleen AF Venable and Ruth Chan and tell me you did in the comments below. Here are some pre-order links!

I'll randomly pick a winner on September 20th.

(Huge thanks to Becky Stern for direction and camera work and her wonderful brain, to Smokey Nelson for lighting help, to Tom "Poppa V" Venable for the charming background music, to Greg Truono for magical video editing skills, and Ruth Chan for drawing the cutest sloth in the world)