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Water Marbling

Water marbling is the process of dropping nail polish into a bowl of water to create a color palette on the water’s surface, and then dipping in the nail to imprint the design.  The key to water marbling is using room temperature water. Leave the water bowl out for ten minutes before attempting; guessing temperature from the faucet isn’t accurate enough.  You can use disposable plastic containers or paper cups, and will need toothpicks to swirl the polish across the water.  I recommend starting with a white base coat so the colors will appear more vibrant.  I also recommend that you tape around your nails to avoid a mess on your fingers.

This technique is a fairly quick and easy way to achieve intricate detail on your nails.  The marbled swirls are never exactly the same, so each nail is unique and interesting.  I also think the process better seals polish onto the nails, protecting them from chipping.  Admittedly, I needed to practice before I was satisfied with the results, but I can now offer some advice on how to overcome the following water marbling challenges:

1.) Polish sinks to bottom

If you drop the polish too high above the bowl or shake it off the brush too strongly, the paint will sink.  Make sure to drop polish close to the water’s surface, and allow it to naturally drip from the brush rather than flicking it into the water.

2.) Polish doesn’t spread

This was my major challenge – the polish would not spread across the surface and would remain a blob on the water’s surface.  Dipping the brush into the water sometimes breaks the paint into the desired rings, but make sure to wipe off your polish brush before inserting back into its bottle.  Also, try gently shaking the bowl (preferably in a circular motion) to help spread the polish.  Again, the key to water marbling is using room temperature water.  I experimented with hot, lukewarm and cold water from the faucet, and didn’t notice much difference.  Yet when I allowed the water to sit, the polish spread more easily.  Just practice, and don’t give up!  After dipping a nail, make sure to change the water.  Any residue (including soap – so don’t wash the bowl) will prohibit the polish from dispersing.

3.) Polish gathers on toothpick

Always use  a clean toothpick.  Try to finish up dropping in polish rings quickly so the paint doesn’t completely harden on the surface of the water.  There is definitely an art to figuring out when and how to drag the polish into a design, which I haven’t quite mastered.  I found swirling worked better than dragging inward from the sides, and picking the toothpick out of the water before trying to drag it through several more passes helps.  Work quickly, as the polish will form a film on the water surface instantly.  Using too hot or too cold water will harden the polish faster, so once again, the temperature of the water is paramount.  As long as you stop when you see the polish starting to clump, you can avoid starting over.

Hopefully this eliminates some initial frustration with water marbling.  The possibilities are endless – use different colors, try different swirling patterns, strategically tape to imprint shaped designs or just tips – just have fun!  Remember to finish with a top coat – class dismissed!

For a video tutorial of water marbling, click here.

{ 1 comment… add one }

  • carmella April 6, 2012, 11:11 am

    thanks for these tips, i cannot wait to try.

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