Nail Polish Water Marbling

This is my first foray into the whole water marbling thing, so I will tell you right now that it’s not perfect. It was, however, fun to try and I think I will do it again. I wanted to try it because I think it looks cool and it’s something that I think will catch people’s attention and make them ask, “Hey, how’d you do that?” 🙂

I don't think this is great or even all that good, but it turned out OK for my first try! The colors are coral and purple. In the future I'll try less-contrasting colors but for my first try I honestly didn't want to use any of my favorite polishes.


  • Your favorite base coat (I use Sally Hansen Hard As Nails)
  • A base color of nail polish
  • 2 colors of nail polish to do the marbling effect
  • Your favorite top coat (Mine is SH Mega Shine)
  • Shot glass or other tiny glass of room temperature water
  • Toothpicks
  • Cotton balls
  • Cuticle oil or baby oil
  • Nail polish remover
  • Newspaper
  • Q-tips/ cotton swabs
  • Patience

How To Get This Look:

  1. Set up your work area. Lay many layers of newspaper out on the table and place all of your supplies on top. Pour a little of the nail polish remover into the cap of the nail polish remover bottle and set it on your newspapers as well. If you think there’s a chance that your nail polish remover bottle will get knocked over, put some remover in a little dish and re-cap your bottle. I have damaged every table I’ve ever owned except for my current one that my brother hand-made me with nail polish remover. Use me as a lesson. My family calls me the table killer.

    Cover your work area!!!

  2. Paint your nails with your base coat, then the base color  nail polish. This color won’t necessarily show, but depending on how you do your marbling it may.
  3. Cover your cuticles and fingers with the cuticle oil. Don’t forget the underside of your finger. Cover the finger up to the first knuckle at least.
  4. Open both bottles of the nail polish for the marbling and leave the lids loosely on top.
  5. One color at a time, load the brush, and drip a drop of polish into the shot glass of water. It should float on the top and spread out some. If your nail polish doesn’t float, try one more drip and then choose a different color/brand if it still doesn’t float. Continue dripping drops into the water inside one another (concentric circles, like a target!) until you have at least 2 of each color. My shot glass looked like this: coral, purple, coral, purple.
  6. Once you have the concentric circles of polish, use a toothpick to swirl the colors a little. You MUST start from inside the rings of polish. If you start from outside the polish and try to drag through, it will clump up.
  7. Now that you have a shot glass with swirled polish inside it, you’re ready to dip your finger in the polish. Gently lay your fingernail into the swirled polish and carefully pull straight up and out. You don’t want to set your nail in the polish, then drag it though other polish, so be careful.

    How your finger looks after you pull it out of the water. I wore a silver base color and you can see that it doesn't show. However, yours might because all marbling is different so it's better to be safe than sorry.

  8. As soon as you remove your finger, you will have polish all over your nail and finger, as well as some water. Flick your finger towards the newspaper that is lining your work area until all the water is flicked off. If there is water left on your nails, you will have a slight bubble/popped bubble indentation in your finished product.
  9. Once the water is flicked off of your nail, grab a Q-tip and dunk it in the cap or small dish of remover and then use it to carefully clean the polish off your fingers. It should come off fairly easily since you applied the cuticle oil first.

    Here is one of my first attempts on my thumb. You can see I've done the first cleaning around my cuticles, but also you can see that I missed a spot on the tip of my thumb. If I had worn a base color this time it would have been fine, but... no such luck! I had to try it again.

  10. Use the toothpick to pick the rest of the polish off the surface of the water in the shot glass. A quick swirl around the edges of the glass will usually do the trick. You’ll have a little polish actually stuck to the sides of your glass, but don’t worry about that.
  11. Repeat steps 5-10 for the rest of your nails. Don’t get discouraged if your first couple of nails don’t work out. I think I did my first thumb about 5 times. I kept getting it all clumpy because I was trying to swirl from the outside in, and then I didn’t flick off the water so my nail was REALLY bubbly, etc. I’m still not an expert or anything, but after a little trial and error I got it down pretty well.

    See how clumpy this one turned out? Yuck.Here are my nails after I marbled them but before the final cleaning. I ended up re-doign my thumb AGAIN because as you can see this time I got some uneven coloring with the purple. I can't have that!

  12. When all your nails are done, use a cotton ball soaked with remover to do a “final clean” of your fingers. I still had bits of polish, and some staining that the cotton balls mostly took care of. Also, use a cotton ball to remove the polish from around the edges of your shot glass after your empty the water.
  13. Give your nails plenty of time to dry, then apply your favorite top coat and prepare for compliments! 🙂

    Finished product. I just need a little soaking of my hands to get the last bits/stains of the polish off. Not bad for a first attempt!

Next Time I Will:

  • Probably experiment with using less contrasting colors (for example use a dark and light blue) so the marbling was almost more of a texture than a design. Also, I’d like to try using some different finishes of polish- glossy, matte, frosty, glitter (?).
  • Make SURE to flick the water off your nails. I have a few bubble marks on mine.
  • Not even TRY to do this without coating my fingers with cuticle oil.  I did my first thumb with no oil, and believe me, that’s an important step!

Pros and Cons:

Pros: unique, fairly easy once you get the hang of it, lots of possibilities.

Cons: wastes a fair amount of polish, difficult at first, kind of a mess, moderately time-consuming.

Yes, Please or No, Thank you:

Yes, please! I thought this was fun and due to the trial and error factor in the beginning I don’t think I’ll see many people doing this with their nails which is just what I like 🙂

Have you tried this? Did you do anything differently? Let me know how  yours turned out!

One thought on “Nail Polish Water Marbling

  1. Pingback: Water Marble On Black- The Milky Way | Polish Me, Please!

Commenting is Caring!! ;D

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s