Tips on Water Marbling for Nails

Polish nails with marbled design using water.
Polish nails with marbled design using water. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Water marbling with nail polish creates beautiful swirled patterns but takes time to master. The process involves floating nail polish on water in a small container then swirling to create a marbled effect and applying the design to nails, which is often where the process gets messy. As with all works of art, practice makes perfect and a less-than-perfect first try should not discourage a repeat attempt.

Simplify Clean-Up

One of the most common complaints from water marbling attempts is the mess involved. To apply the polish, the nail must be placed in the cup of water with the marble design floating, and this often leaves nail polish all around the fingers. There are two chief ways people reduce the clean-up: cuticle oil and tape. Cuticle oil applied to the finger, all around the flesh but not on the nail, can reduce the nail polish clean-up. Applying petroleum jelly will have a similar affect. Generally, more success is found with applying tape to the finger, covering the sides of the nail and fingertip carefully. Use tweezers to remove the tape afterward to reduce the risk of damaging the marbled polish.

Prep the Water

Room temperature water is favored among those with the most success using marbled nail polish designs. Regardless of the water temperature, however, many complain about the nail polish simply sinking to the bottom of the cup instead of floating on the water surface. A simple trick to alleviate this problem is nail polish remover. Use a small cup with room temperature water and add five to 10 drops of nail polish remover before arranging your nail polish and creating the marble design. The nail polish remover helps prevent the polish from sinking so more of your nail polish brands and colors will work successfully.

Have Everything Ready

You will need a small cup with water, nail polish remover, tape (or cuticle oil, or petroleum jelly), cotton swabs, toothpicks or orange sticks and at least two colors of nail polish. Once the water is ready, open both bottles of nail polish so they are ready to go. One at a time, carefully touch the excess drip of nail polish from each color to the surface of the water. Do not submerge the brush. Touch the excess drop of the second color to the middle of the first (on the water surface) and repeat this process to form multiple rings of color. Use the toothpick or pointed end of the orange stick to carefully swirl the polish and apply to one nail. Remove the polish from the water by swirling a toothpick around, then repeat for the next nail.

Use Fake Nails

Fake nails made of plastic are the easiest way to produce water marble polish designs without the mess. Use chewing gum, a dab of nail glue or other sticky substance to hold the plastic nails to the tips of toothpicks (for dipping) and work with one nail at a time. Once the nails are dry, simple apply to your natural nails with nail glue. For best results, use cuticle oil and an orange stick to push back the cuticles, then apply the fake nails to slightly underneath the cuticle area for a more natural look.

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