The basic rundown on Konad & Faux-nad:
Konad - Only sold online. I've seen it on Amazon and a few other sites.
Konad makes the best quality plates. They're more deeply etched and tend to be easier to transfer for beginners. However, they're much more expensive, running $5 - $7 per plate. I have half a dozen Konad plates, and the quality is definitely high! This is one of the most popular ones.
Konad special polishes are very different from regular nail polish, they're extremely thick. You don't need these for stamping, but they are easier for beginners. Any thick, opaque in one coat polish will work, but it will take some practice. I have both the black & white special polishes, and I really recommend getting these two colours, especially as a beginner.
Konad stamper - I have the double ended one. It's cheap and easy to use! Everyone agrees that quality and performance wise, the Konad double stamper is the best. I don't recommend using the scraper that comes with this set - the metal edge will scratch your plates.
Konad scraper - nice, but not necessary. An old gift card will work just as well, and won't scrape your plates like the metal edged konad one. I bought a separate plastic edged one here.
Bundle Monster - Only sold on Amazon as far as I know.
This is a set of 21 or 25 plates, available cheap on Amazon. A lot of people find them a little tougher to use than the Konads. Note that there are two sets available, make sure you order the newer set! Until recently the full nail patterns were smaller and wouldn't cover even regular nails (much less a thumb), and the plates weren't backed by paper so they were quite sharp, leading to cuts.
The newer sets have wider full finger patterns, the same size as the Konad ones, and also have a paper backing. The designs are a bit hit or miss and the quality is more variable, but the overall opinion is that it's good value for your money.
Red Angel - Only sold on Amazon.
This is the new kid on the block. The images on the plate are very different from the Konad and BM ones. Full size prints are the same size as the Konad and new BM prints. Etching is on par with BM (a bit more variable than Konad), but these lack the paper backing, so the edges are quite sharp. Be careful handling them as you may cut yourself - I managed to do it just removing the plastic covers! This is the set I'll be using in part 2.
Sally Beauty - Available at Sally Beauty online, not sure about stores.
This is a cheap kit you can pick up here that contains a stamper, scraper, holder, and a few plates.
Reports are that this is OK, but the stamper's kinda crappy and hard to use.
If you're a complete beginner and have no supplies yet, this is what I'd recommend buying:
- Konad double ended stamper
- One or two bottles of Konad special polish (white or black, or both if you want to spend more)
- One or two Konad plates
- Either the BM or RA plate set. Style wise I'd lean towards the Red Angel set, but if you're worried about safety, get the Bundle Monster set with the paper backing.
Nice to have:
Scraper. May as well pick this up as it's cheap, but people report that an old credit card edge works just as well.
Plate holder. Just more mess to clean up.
You can find Konad starter kits that will contain a stamper, a few plates, and a couple of small bottles of polish fairly cheaply, but it'll only have the single ended stamper. I'd recommend skipping the kits and buying the pieces separately.
The main reason I recommend getting one Konad plate and special polish is because even though it's pricer, it'll help you learn how to use the stamper more easily than trial and error with your own polish. When trying something new for the first time, you want to eliminate as many variables as you can so you can nail down your technique - using the special polish and a Konad plate will eliminate any polish and plate issues right from the start.
Part 2 of Polish stamping coming tomorrow!