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My First (and LAST) Water Marble Manicure

By on April 26, 2010
in Green, Nail Art, Tips and Tricks with 180 Comments
water marble manicure technique, nail marbling I should really call this manicure “An Afternoon of Frustration” because that’s how trying to create a water marble manicure left me feeling; FRUSTRATED!  Those of you who have mastered the technique, I bow down to you.  I honestly have no desire to try this ever again but since I made the effort, I thought I’d share my experience  with you.

A few years back when China Glaze introduced the OMG! holographic collection, they posted a tutorial for their “Color Swirl” manicure and I was intrigued but intimidated by the process.  Since then a whole mess of YouTubers have made countless water marble tutorials including lots of great tips and tricks to make the technique easier.  I found myself watching a few this morning and got inspired.

Find out more about the water marble technique and my adventure trying to recreate the look after the jump!


The basic steps of the water marbling process sound easy enough; drop polish in water, create a pattern with a toothpick, dip nail, clean off excess. Simple right? For me, not so much. Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Cup of room temperature water (filtered or distilled is preferable to tap)
  • Toothpick or orange wood stick
  • Cuticle oil
  • 2-4 bottles of nail polish

STEP 1: Start with your nails painted and dry. Use a base color that will contrast the polishes you are using to create the marble effect. I chose to use a light base color, the minty green OPI Damone Roberts 1968.

The main issue with water marbling is that you are dipping your fingers into a pool of polish and it gets all over your skin and cuticle. You can take the time to clean it all off but I found a couple great tips on YouTube.  CND’s Kristina Baune Estabrooks suggests covering your skin with cuticle oil to prevent the polish from sticking to your skin and SimpleLittlePleasures uses tape to create a polish barrier. I chose to go the cuticle oil route. My skin can always benefit from some extra moisturizing.

STEP 2: Apply cuticle oil to your skin and cuticles all the way down to the top knuckle and don’t forget the underside of your nail.

water marble manicure tutorial cuticle oil to protect skin

STEP 3: Drop polish onto the surface of the water from about a half an inch away so the polish will disperse.  Continue adding drops in alternating colors to create rings of color.  Add drops until you achieve the depth of color you desire.

Tip: Not all polish will work well with water marbling so you have to test a few to see which ones disperse the best.  I tried OPI Suzi Says Feng Shui and it sank to the bottom of the cup.  After a little experimenting I ended up with Sally Hansen Emerald City and China Glaze 5 Golden Rings.

STEP 4: Use a toothpick or orange wood stick to create a pattern in the polish.  I’ve seen some people start from the outside but doing that just pulled all the polish into a clump so I started in the middle and worked from there.  Again, you have to play to find the method that works best for you.  Continue to swirl the polish until you create a pattern you like.  If you mess up, just start over.

Tip: To clean the water surface, add one drop of polish and spread it over the surface pulling the color to the edges with your stick. Let it dry for a few seconds and then “clean” the surface by removing the layer of polish with your stick.  It will pull up any floating bits of polish in the process.  I  picked up that trick from SimpleLittlePleasures.

water marble manicure swirl technique

STEP 5: Dip your nail in the polish right after you finish creating your pattern.  If you wait too long the polish will dry.  While the nail is submerged, use your stick to pull the excess polish away from your skin.  Remove nail from water and shake off excess moisture.

water-marble-manicure-nail

STEP 6: Clean up the cuticle and skin.  Thanks to the cuticle oil, the majority of the polish will easily come off using a cotton pad.  I used a clean orange wood stick to push the polish off my cuticles, no remover needed.  For stubborn bits of polish dip a cotton swab in acetone.

The Finished Product
water-marble-manicure-nail-marbling

So why don’t I plan to water marble again? Let me give you my list of frustrations/cons

  • It’s a master at the art of time suckage. Much like Troy Dyer in Reality Bites, I spent way too much time on this to end up with ho-hum results.
  • It’s a MAJOR waste of product.  I trashed so much polish trying to get a good pattern, to get the polish to disperse well and to find brands that don’t sink.
  • You have to keep cleaning the surface of the water or else little bits floating on the surface prevent the polish from spreading out.
  • While the cuticle oil helps with cleanup, it was still a major pain removing up all that excess polish.  I went through so many cotton pads and ended up getting polish on my other fingers.  I seriously don’t know how people do a full manicure on all 10 nails without losing their shit!
  • Trying to draw a pattern that looks good is not easy and as you can tell, I did NOT succeed at it for the most part.
  • It’s very easy to accidentally pull the pattern or ding it during cleanup and being a naturally clumsy person, I biffed two nails and had to start over.  I even made mistakes on the finished manicure but couldn’t bother to try again.

Now before you call me out for whining, I know that any new skill takes time and practice and I’m sure that the process becomes easier the more you do it.  Though in all honesty, with the amount of waste I created just marbling three nails, I have no desire to master this art.  I’ll be content with admiring the YouTubers from now on.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on water marble manicures.  Who’s tried it?  Do you love it? Hate it?  Do you have any tips to share?  Any insight that might make me change my mind?

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There Are 180 Brilliant Comments

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  1. kayla says:

    instead of using cuticle oil, i use vaseline, and it works wonders and it’s super cheap because at drugstores and other places you can get the store brand!

  2. PattyG says:

    It’s such a great and fun look for spring, but I’m with you – sounds like WAY too much work. I can see making a huge mess of my nails after hours of effort, with the end result being me taking it all off and going with a solid color in the end.

  3. Patricia says:

    I tried this a couple of weekends ago and mine didn’t look half as good as yours…I might try it again but I probably will just stick to konading…

  4. theycallmekatie says:

    I think it looks amazing, but it does sound like a lot of work and a product waster!

  5. Landa says:

    Ive done quite a few times but I probably wont ever do it again. I hate the clean up!

  6. Turned out great! I tried a water marbelize once, and like you, I desire to never to do it again. Unfortunately, mines didn’t turn out nearly as good as yours.

  7. I LOVE the finished product but my ADHD would surely kick in and I would end up with polish on the walls and all around – I applaud you for trying this out and thanks for sharing your experience! YOU ROCK!

  8. Wow! This turned out so pretty! I can totally get your frustrations, though. I have never tried it but would like to–well maybe not anymore :)

  9. cchamilton says:

    this looks interesting enough for me to try. how did you dispose of the water though?

    • All Lacquered Up says:

      I poured it through a paper towel so the floating polish bits wouldn’t go down the sink. I’m not sure what to do with the cup though. I can’t exactly recycle it with polish stuck to the plastic. Grr!!

  10. Candice says:

    Totally trying this, even though it looks like a pain in the ass…. but the results look great!

  11. Christine says:

    Wow Michelle,
    I applaud you for trying this. I love how it looks (and you KNOW I’m the queen of the boring mani- no designs or blues/greens for me!), but what a huge time investment…. It must take skills that I know I don’t have!

  12. Taylor says:

    Looks AMAZING! I am DEFINITELY trying this; too bad ijust painted my nails; Grrrrr!

  13. Susie says:

    It looks great – but I know I don’t have the patience to do it! You did a really great job though, looks very pretty.

  14. I have never been very successful with water marbling – although I am continually impressed by the designs others can create! I threw in the towel too – I’d rather see others beautiful designs than spend centuries cleaning messy swirled polish off of my cuticles! lol

  15. Nicole says:

    Looks amazing, but I am way to impatient to try it. I think I will leave this look to the professionals!

  16. aaminahs mom says:

    it looks tedious-lmfao i would never even try im still trying to master polishing with my right hand being a lefty ha-ha

  17. Elizabeth says:

    After watching a few of Colette’s videos and then using petroleum jelly, I found this to be super easy. Took me just 15 mins longer than a konad mani. I use bottled water, filtered tap doesn’t seem to work right.
    I know though, not all nail art is for everyone. You gave it an awesome try and it turned out pretty, but if you don’t like it, you don’t. That’s the beauty of this hobby…tons of different things you can do!

  18. D. says:

    I love water marbling. I place tape around my fingers and cuticles which I find better than cuticle oil. ALso, using water that is slightly colder than room temperature prevents the polish from hardening as fast. I found using all the same brand of polish or same consistency works better.

  19. L.H. says:

    It looks awesome.

  20. nihrida says:

    I tried water marbling a couple of times and I have to agree with you on one thing: it’s a major waste of product. That’s why I use only a couple of drops for each nail.
    I think you did a GREAT job on your marbling. Especially since it was your first time. I read that you have troubles with clean-up. It can really be a PITA, that’s why I use ”paper” duct tape (the kind you use when you paint windows). It really helps and there’s a lot less clean-up if you use the tape. I hope you’ll try it again, ’cause you’re really good at it.

  21. Stella says:

    I agree with you… is really beautiful this kind of nail art, but is too much work, too much mess, and too much polish goin to trash…
    I really congratulates girls who made this kind of nail art, or any kind, cause this need real commitment.. and patience..
    btw, your water marble was real beautiful… so much better than my one (and only) try…

  22. Wow! I never heard of this ‘technique’ before but love it! Love the end result, the process, even the challenging cleanup. I think I know what I’ll be doing this weekend :)

  23. Lena says:

    I’ve tried this a couple times, results were not as good as yours though, michelle. defo takes a LOT of time; i’d like to master this cause love the result, but probably not until i retire will i have nuff time to spend on this….:(

  24. Takij says:

    If you are a perfectionist then water marbling is not for you. If you are a perfectionist who likes a challenge and to kill time then I say give water marbling a shot. I have tried it quite a few times but me being who I am kept doing the nail over and over until it got just right. And like you said once you do that and bump the side of the cup or anything else then it can be bakc to square one!! How some people manage to get the same pattern on each nail is beyond me.

    At least you can say you tried it though. It give a whole new appreciation to those who can do it and do it well.

    The Sally Hansen XTremewear Line works great with water marbling BTW.

  25. kris says:

    I have never tried this before, but I am curious as to where the nail polish and water remains are disposed?

    Hopefully not down the sink?.

  26. Nailtastic says:

    I thinka the result is super pretty, but I agree that it sounds like it takes way to much work to do it. I’m way to impatient to give it a try. Plus I hate wasting good polish. :-)

  27. It looks awesome but that is wayyy to much for me to do!

  28. Christine says:

    This looks very nice! I love the color combination you used as welll. ^^

  29. crlsweetie912 says:

    I haven’t tried it yet, but I think your results are amazing!

  30. Linda165 says:

    I think yours turned out great!! Love the glitter. I think using tape leaves less of a mess and the cleaning is easier. Also, using a white base bring out the colors more. There’s this nail guru in Youtube: Annasbeautysecrets, she have video tutorials explaining how to put and take of the tape and a couple of color combinations

  31. Jackie S. says:

    I had the same frustration the first tiem I did it. The fact that you use sooo much polish is frustrating, its like its a waste, next time I do it, I’ll make sure to use colors I know I can get dupes of! But all-in-all your manicure looks great!

  32. ashley says:

    I’ve tired it once and it turned out looking horrible.

  33. Tuxie says:

    I havent tried this- for a similar look Ive put blobs of colour on my nails and swirled them around with a toothpick and gotten pretty similar results, however it usually takes forever to dry.

  34. how patient you were! I would not have half of it :-)
    It is always easier when we see the advertising… it is harder at home. I even think you did pretty well.
    LA

  35. Rosemary says:

    I tried this today using a light pink base coat with silver and dark purple marbling. It turned out great for a first try! Only took about 15 minutes and I only used about 6 or 7 drops of nail polish total to marble all ten fingers (not including my pink base coat). Don’t really know why everyone is complaining about wasting polish. Each nail is a different pattern, but that’s kind of what’s cool about it! Plus you can tell it’s real polish, not some cheap nail sticker or something.

    Tip: Choose colors which contrast with your skin tone, or from far away your nails will look chipped. In places where my marbling is sheer, the pink shows through and it kind of looks funky from far away. Next time I will opt for a green/blue combination.

    P.S. I am not a perfectionist at all, so maybe that’s why I’m so hyped on this technique!

    • xrisa says:

      well, i tried it yesterday and i love my nails!
      ok it got me a lot of time but i love my nails! i love my nails! i am an artist! i love my nails! i love my nails!

    • jahdarn says:

      whats the trick in getting them perfect i try and all i got was dots a the bottom are little balls by the time i was ready to make a patten the nail polish was dried

  36. amy says:

    I think this is something I would like to try on an afternoon when I have a few hours to spare. It looks very beautiful. You did a great job on yours.

  37. Henna says:

    Michelle, what you call ho-hum results actually look pretty fantastic! Even with all the “cons” that you mentioned, I’m still going to try this at home and see if I can get anything even close to what you got!

  38. yavanna says:

    I haven’t tried the water marbelling technique myself, but I always wanted to give it a try. Now that I know the downsides, I’m mentally prepared for frustration, but the results look quite pretty.
    That emerald green and the gold looks quite nice. It’s not at all a “ho-hum” look.

  39. Jordan says:

    It does sound like a lot of work, but I think your turned out great! I am excited to try it on my own nails now.

  40. FMcGeorge says:

    Please try Konad (konad.co.uk) nail stamping art which supply plates with patterned designs. Number M63 has a marble style design.

  41. WendyBee says:

    Hi Michelle, I don’t think I have commented before. I found your blog 2 or 3 weeks ago, and honestly, I had no idea there was such a genre of blogging, and I am delighted to say you have my rapt interest. I am 47 y.o. and have never consistently manicured. I have thin, soft nails, bend and break easily, and in the last few years, they have begin to split and peel. (Nice!) I now recognize my incostent care including cuticle oil and cream and lotions specifically formulated for hands have real merit! For the first time ever in my life, I am growing long, lovely nails (and caring for them religiously). For someone who hasn’t done this much, I have at least 50 bottles of nail polish from over the years (and have discovered thinner to make some of them useable again – yea!). You have inspired me to branch out from my pink/coral/beige comfort zone, and I recently bought some great Spring colors (as in periwinkle, aqua, and green shades). So last night, I had to try the marbleizing.
    I love this!!!
    At first, I had a little trouble, and probably spent 1.5 hrs. start to finish (incl. starting with removing old polish). I’d like to offer some info from my learning curve.
    I used scotch tape to mask off my finger and leave only the nail exposed. Super easy and worked great!
    I read somewhere to bring the drop of polish right down to the water to avoid a big plunge and therefore sinking polish. (This worked beautifully for me.) I even saw one Youtube video where the nail artist actually touched the drop on the brush to the water surface. I think I did that a couple of times, although I tried to avoid it.
    I tried to have one of my polishes be China Glaze Fairy Dust – but no go — would not spread 3 out of 3 times I tried it. Every so often a drop wouldn’t spread, not sure why but maybe the previous drop dried quickly?
    I had super easy clean-up using a new product I just found at Big Lots the other day for 50 cents. It was a package of nail swabbers (can’t remember what they actually call them. They were like Q-tips with a pointed swab on one end (great for getting under the free edge of the nail), and the other end has a sugar-cube size and shape cosmetic sponge, which I just kept soaking in a capful of non-acetone remover and used as needed for the little extra bit around the cuticle. I only used 1 swab for all 10, and they come about 16 to a pkg.
    Finally, on my 2nd hand, I tried a little experiment, I taped my pointer, middle and ring fingers, (those fingers are easy to position right up next to each other), and dipped all 3 in one polish design. It worked great and saves on polish. With this technique, I could make 6 polish designs and get all 10 done, less time and polish wasted.
    I put on a topcoat of quick dry (one made by Joan Rivers), and then later put on a coat of the Fairy dust and another quick-dry. As a basecoat I used only a ridge-filler, my colors were pink, periwinkle, leaf green, aqua, white, and a pearly violet purple. It looks like a Mary Quant, and I’m getting rave reviews today. This morning, I topcoated with OPI Nail Envy. I know this is a long comment, but I want to encourage those who are intrigued but not sure if they want to try. Good luck! And by the way, Michelle, your nails look awesome. Please post if you decide to try this again.

  42. NailPolishFan says:

    I really like the look. I’ve gone on youtube to try different nail tutorials, but some are way to hard and others just show pictures without any type of directions. But this is really really cool. Thanks!!!

  43. NailPolishFan says:

    Oh I forgot to ask, but can you post some more nail art designs?

  44. Katy says:

    *high five*

    I only attempted to do a water marble on 1 freakin’ finger and couldn’t even do it. I think my water was too cold though.

  45. Kim says:

    Put tape around your nail. Before polish dries, just peel off the tape, and there isn’t much left to clean up. When dropping polish, drop it as close to the water as you can, and make sure the water is warm.

  46. Arrianne says:

    I’ve done this and it’s not frustrating at all. It takes time yeah, but it’s well worth the results. I think yours looks perfectly fine. Thanks for the tip WendyBee, I’ll have to try multiple fingers at once. Wait, what did I just say? =)

  47. Gemmie says:

    I’ve never heard of this technique before but I thought your nails looked so beautiful, I had to try it myself! Taped my fingers so there was no clean up needed. The only thing I did find is the polish seemed to dry to quickly so I wasn’t able to make much of a pattern. The water was room temperature and it was the same with several nail polish’s, all different makes.
    Can anyone suggest something to stop this?
    PS. I LOVE this blog, fantastic work ;)

    • Rosalinda says:

      If you find that the nail polish dries to quick to make nice pattern, try going from the center towards the circumference of the polish with the tool your using to pattern the colors instead of inwards. Also, I leave all the bottles I’m about to use completely uncap so I don’t have to unscrew every single bottle between color switch. Try really scrapping the bottle to get as mush as possible on the brush this way it won’t take too long for the drop to accumulate and fall off. And the largest rim from the first drop, try not to use it since it will be the first one to dry.

  48. zb says:

    I think this looks great! I love the color combo and the effect is really pretty.

  49. Angela K says:

    It does look really nice!

  50. svennika says:

    I’ve tried water marbeling only once (so far…), and my first attempt was messy but fun ;o)
    I dipped all five nails of one hand at the same time (try a very loose fist so your nails are all parallel to the water surface), and while I had major clean up (never thought of the cuticle oil trick…), the results were pretty and it took no more than 10 minutes (plus 20 minutes clean up) for both hands…

  51. Tamekia says:

    Okay, i’m hooked. Thanks for posting this even though you didn’t like it because I probably wouldn’t have discovered this if you hadn’t and did i say i’m hooked. I tried it right away and it wasn’t difficult at all. I used the tape method and removed the remaining polish with a paint brush dipped in acetone. I love the way it came out.

  52. Mc Huggs says:

    Hi Michelle:

    I have been AWOL from the web because of taking care of my dad 24/7. Tomorrow he undergoes pace maker surgery. We hope for a success.

    I just saw your email and love that water marble effect you did. Your nails dipped in green are so lovely and beautiful.

    I think you deserve a Hugh pat on the back for the hard work you accomplished. Your so honest to your fans and readers. O

    ne more reason to love your web blog.

    If this was a Martha Stewart…(hate to pick on her but she does do the impossible and many have complained she doesn’t give all the details to her lovely works of art; okay maybe she does now)… nail polish web blog. She would just how the finish work of art and a small section on how to do this, not listing the major problems you have found.

    You have so much integrity, energy and spirit. That’s why your nails always look so gorgeous!

    ((((Love Michelle))))

    Mc Huggs :)

  53. Suzume says:

    The end result is so cute! Are you sure it’s too much effort? I’ve never seen this before – I’m going to try it, but given your advice re. time I might have to wait til the weekend when I have an hour or two free! Think it looks fab though

  54. Rocketqueen says:

    I think yours looks awesome. I’m with you here, I tried it once and NEVER again! It’s just not worth all that hassle! I HATED getting polish all over my fingers and you never really know how the polishes will act in the water!

  55. Rosalinda says:

    Thanks for all the tips, I tried WM for the 1ts time, it was awful but after reading this I chose to try until results. With my new experience, this is what I can tell you:
    First of all if you’re going to dip your fingers in there you will have a mess to pick up. An easy fix is to dip fake mails instead. Now on those videos I see these fancy nail holders but I decided to simplify with nails (construction nails) with some simply clear tape I can attach the fake nail to the head of the nail. Second, go cheap! you’ll be using plenty of polish so you might as well keep the expensive stuff for more moderate use techniques. To top it off, the cheaper the polish I used, the better it could spread. If you drop it from higher, it will take longer but spread more. And finally, if you’re going to cover the nail with a color before use, never use a dark color, the best I found was a silver shimmer, it accentuates the colors more than anything.
    What I ended up with for material of choice would only be worth a few dollars and good for many many use. A list of the polish I found decent so far are : l’Oreal shock proof – Ardene – LA colors color craze and LM. But honestly all those cheap imitations from dollar-stores seems to work best.

  56. Janna says:

    i love water marbling! It does take a ton of time though, but the results are awesome and I get a million compliments and people asking how I did it. Check out my blog for more tips and even a step by step walk-through! =]

    http://cleverandcolorful.blogspot.com/2010/07/how-to-water-marble.html

  57. Stef says:

    ***^^ A good base coat is a great idea. I use opi’s base coat and it’s great. Then put your base color over it. design, dry properly and use plenty of top coat. My home done mani/ pedis usually last 3-4 weeks.. with a few chip touch ups.

    You can use fake nails. I’ve seen people fashion a ‘rake’ out of straws taped together.. then stick the nails on it with that blue gummy tack that sticks up posters. dip, then dry on the rake.

    I’ve used this same technique on fabric and paper before. If you can, I’d test your technique out with cheaper paints and paper until you get the hang of it. It comes out beautifully and makes the best fabric for quilting.

  58. Stef says:

    I LOVE doing my nails. I’ve been experimenting with many styles and brands. I found that the name brand $40 a bottle nailpolish is usually just as good as some of the stuff you can find for $2 at a drug store. (I own hundreds of bottles of polish) What I usually do for cleanup is… I paint as I need to. If I get it on my skin.. oh well. Then once it’s all dry, I get a pair of tweezers and pick the polish off my skin. Then I put a top coat on. You just need to be careful with the tweezers. Your skin makes a natural oil, so it wont hold the polish. A friend of mine would paint her nails around 10pm, go to bed at 11.. then wake up and take a shower and the stray polish would be all gone.

  59. Juliana says:

    I’ve done it twice now. The first time, believe it or not, I didn’t use cuticle oil, and it took forever to actually get the nails perfect.
    I’ve realized though, instead of wasting good polish, just use Petites which are found at any Target, Walmart, CVS Pharmacy, etc. Their only 1-2 dollars! (:

    If I were you, I’d try one more time, because from the pictures, yours seem to have come out better than mine!

  60. Caty says:

    I had all the frustrations you had, however I am planning to do it again. I used an entire bottle of one color, and half of my other one. Not to mention 1 and a half hours. But it was fun, and I might as well do that instead of watch TV. Water Marble just takes A LOT of practice, I’ve only done it once so I have a longways to go. But I do understand why you’re not going to try it again. Good luck in the future =)

  61. maycee says:

    where can i buy that water marble polish….??

  62. HunniBee says:

    I havent tried the technique and I really dont wear nail polish I dont have steady hands. But I personally thought that your nails came out cute for your first time. I like them. I know you dont want to try it again but maybe practice on a friend with the tape next time and get the hang of if ;). Good job and good luck.

  63. Tyra says:

    I tried water marbling and every time i tried to make a design or swirl it would always stick to the toothpick as if I was cleaning it up. I dried too quickly. I’m going to stick with old fashion nail designs not this new stuff.

  64. Kellie says:

    I never thought to use cuticle oil. i tried the tape method and it was soooo messy. so, i used vaseline the next time and it was much neater. i’ll have to try the oil method next. :)

  65. Nicole says:

    Use chapstick instead of tape. Make sure to get it all around your figure and the cuticle, and you can just wipe the excess polish right off. :] Just don’t be shy about using it lol.

  66. Nicole says:

    And sparkly nail posish is a lot harder to work with, so I recommend using regular ones. :]

  67. pklanier says:

    I just recently started experimenting with water marbling. Like you, I was very frustrated at first. It took a few different times of sitting there just trying over and over to get it. Now I have my own techniques and things are starting to get a lot better. I did a flower patter the other day that was perfect. I love this technique!!!

  68. L. Hurn says:

    Your nails looked very pretty! It can be very time consuming and frustrating. I use clear or narrow masking tape for the task. Yes, I have problems at times with the polish not spreading out as it should, but I have found (sometimes), if I tap the droplet with a toothpick, it spreads; realizing that you really need to work somewhat quick. Too, I have tapped it and it sank.

  69. MissDoll says:

    I like it!
    I have never try this but after I saw your result I may try this next week :)

  70. Aarohi says:

    I found its very time consuming and i have found that none of my nail polish worked . It was difficult to make swirl yar.. it was very disappointing .. could u tell me which nail polish should i use.. I m india i dont get OPI here so

  71. HollyDoll says:

    i absolutely LOVE this technique, but yes, its very time consuming. tape works to a certain extent but theres still a lot of clean up to be done. i just discovered this yesterday and it took me a couple tries on my nails but if you really look at each nail theyre all really pretty!! nail art deco by la colours works exceptionally well too!! i think your nails turned out great :):) p.s. never thought of chapstick, good idea??

  72. ajt92991 says:

    I work at a salon and we were thinking about having nail marbleing as a service but dont know what to charge any ideas?

    • All Lacquered Up says:

      Oh gosh, I’m sorry. I wouldn’t even know where to start. Maybe charge the same as you would for nail art per nail.

  73. Jen Monopoli says:

    Great tutorial; I followed the steps once and got a semi-presentable result. I’ll practice a few more times before featuring the look on my own blog.

  74. Chey says:

    I tried the water marbling and it worked out! I did all of the basic steps, but instead of the pads, I used q tips to clean up the extra polish. You hold onto the sticks, so you don’t have to worry about getting the nail polish remover on your nails(:
    Also, I had the same problem with my polish sinking to the bottom. But, I tried dripping it at a different (a smaller) height and it worked fine after that. I think you should try it again. The first time I did it, it ended in frustration as well. The next times ended well because I knew the steps after that and knew how to use my utensils a little better. Practice makes perfect!

  75. COB says:

    Can you use any nail poshlish or a centin one ?

    • xXEpicnessXx says:

      Well it really depends. Most of my nail polish I have tried it with doesn’t work because of the texture it has when it dries. So it’s not like a certain brand will work it’s individual nail polishes themselves so if you really wanna get the “perfect” effect you will have to experiment. Good luck to you!
      PS: I never have any luck trying water marbling… but it doesnt mean it’s not possible! ^_^

      • sam says:

        if you add a bit off nail remover to the tap water before you start the process all nail polishes will work it a trick my friends shared with me

  76. Rachel says:

    instead of covering your finger with cuticle stuff, use just regular tape around your nail and on your skin. pulling off tape is easy and less mess. then theonly polish i got was on the bottom of my finger which was an easy clean up

    • Kari says:

      Use an old tweezers to pull off the tape and then you don’t get the polish on your other fingers. I picked up this to from youtuber ilovemylongnails. Hope this helps.

  77. Shelby says:

    Yesterday was my first time to try it and I also hated it! Every polish I used either wouldn’t expand, float to the bottom, or dried too fast. Every time I got a little close and made a sucky design once I pulled my nail out it looked like a glob of paint no design at all. I agree it’s a major waste of time and polish,but I would still like to learn to do it atleast half descent! Do you have any hints for pulling your nail out?

    • sam says:

      if u use fake nails you can come up with a gr8 design and less mess. All u hav to do is:
      1 chew a piece of gum
      2 put it on the back of the fake nail
      3 attach a stick to the gum and dip it into the design

      that way no mess to clean off you fingers.

      i 2 started to hate the process in till my friend told me to try this i love it now

      and if you want all you nail polishes to work just add a bit of nail remover to the tap water before you start 5-7 small drops

      • HHappyfeet says:

        I have tried the marbling technique a couple of times, the problem I have found is I put the first colour nail varnish in the water and it spreads I put the second colour ontop of it and it just stays in a dot but all the nail varnishes that I am using are the same brand so why is one spreading but the other any help would be entirely grateful thanks

        • Casey says:

          If you rotate the cup back and forth it should make the second dot of the nail polish spread out. Although I have had it happen where the very first drop does spread out and then the next one will not. I just take the toothpick and clear it off and the next time it doesn’t happen again. Maybe your water is hard and you need to use distilled?

          I hope that helps

        • Misty Dawn says:

          The reason the second drop sits on top is because your first drop is drying too quickly. There are a couple things you can do to avoid this.

          1. Use a couple drops of PURE ACETONE in the water before you start

          2. Use a smaller cup so the first drop can’t spread as thin and dry so quickly (I find standard shot glasses work the best but dixie cups are great too)

          3. When you drop your first drop, do it very close to the surface and leave the brush right over the surface after the drop begins to bleed into the water for a second or two (this causes the water to pull more polish from the brush creating a thicker layer that can’t dry to quickly)

          4. Thin your polish with PURE ACETONE (this will increase dry time and give you more time to work with the polish before it gets too stiff). If you can make it to the 3rd drop without a problem then you a re usually good from there.

          You can use a toothpick gently swirled around the edge of the cup to pull the polish out if your rings are not spreading correctly. This is also useful if you get a ring that breaks while dripping. Just swipe around the edge multiple times wiping your toothpick after each pass until the bad ring has been removed then continue dripping.

          Hope these tips help!

    • Susannah says:

      while your nail is immersed, remove the leftover film of polish so that it doesn’t get caught and glob up onto your nail when you take it out of the water…good luck

  78. VB says:

    Hey, your first time? Results look stellar. My first time, today, not so gorgeous as yours!

  79. JB says:

    You’re a hero. :) First of all, I think they turned out beautiful and green is my favourite colour: yay!

    Secondly, you may have just saved my life. I’ve tried it twice now, with nailpolish that just doesn’t WORK.

    I was still really determined but now that I’ve read your entry, I feel that I took the journey WITH you and rather don’t feel I need to go through all that frustration myself.

    As I said, you’re a hero(ine)!

  80. ArchxAngel says:

    I tried the marbling technique 2 days ago. My verdict is I won’t be wasting my time on that again! I was adament about using these 3 specific colors but they were not dispersing very well into the water after the second drop which is extremely frustrating. So instead I just kept adding drops, then used the toothpick to create the swirls I wanted and then dunked my nail. I tried the tape barrier, it worked out well but it seemed silly to waste tape on such a project so only one nail had that barrier. I wish I would’ve read this before my little science project, I would’ve used the oil! It wasn’t so bad with the cleaning up when the polish is still wet on your fingers but that’s not to say it isn’t messy. After dunking and swirling the toothpick to remove the access polish film off the top I noticed that when pulling my nail from the water the excess polish on my finger slid down onto my nail. Not to mention there were a lot of air bubbles or water being traped underneath the polish. Shaking off the excess was a mistake, I flung polish almost everywhere- tap the nail lightly on a newspapered table. After 6 nails and 2 hours later without achieving the desired look I wanted (except on 1 nail lol) I threw my hands up and said, “DONE!” I may give it a go another time when I’m extremely bored and have time to kill. But that probably won’t be for a while. So, like you, I’ll be leaving this to the marbling professionals. I must say your results are far better looking than mine!

  81. connie says:

    i cant make he circels in the water..it just stay as a dot….the first on its okay..but then..wont circle for me….help me…its so awsom…i want to learn..please send to my email…not always im at this computer…but always look at my mails..thank you so much..

    • All Lacquered Up says:

      I just emailed you!

      • tania says:

        Hey! I have the same problem..what can I do? I am trying for 3 days now,but nothing.. :-/ please help me…

        • All Lacquered Up says:

          The water may be too cold. Make sure you are using room temperature water. Also, try using distilled water. The minerals in your water could be part of the issue. Make sure you are dropping the polish as close to the surface as possible so that it gently lands on the surface and spreads.

  82. Lady Halona says:

    Hey! My daughter and I tried this yesterday. We used at least 7 different colors with the same results.. dots in the middle of the water, or balls on the bottom. My daughter REALLY wants to put this on her nails. Any suggestions to get this to work?

    • All Lacquered Up says:

      Make sure the water is room temperature and drop the polish as close to the surface as possible. Also make sure you clean the surface well between nails or else the polish won’t spread out.

  83. Sara says:

    no matter WHAT i do, the polish always just films up and tears. i can;t get it to blend at all /: did that happen to you, or is my existence just a failure lol

    • Sasha says:

      I tryed it and the same happend to me anyone got any suggestions ?

      • Nat says:

        Pull the colour from the 3rd or 4th ring inwards. If you pull from the outer ring it will film up because it will have already dried! You need to create about 8 rings of colour! good luck x

    • Heather says:

      make sure you are not using any instant dry/instadry/quick dry nail polish. Also make sure a fan isn’t blowing on the cup…these were all my problems the first time. If the nail polish in the cup dries in the cup, it’s useless!

  84. jahdarn says:

    I have tried the marbling but it doesn’t work instead all i got was little dots are a ball at the bottom it wont spread out in the water and if it does spread by the time am ready my make pattern its all clump and plastics like in the toothpick and no pattern is formed i really would like to make please someone give me a good advice i don’t know if the nail polish of to be a specific type help please.

  85. Mia Diaz says:

    Hi im Mia, and today i didnt have school, but my siblings did. (im in the fourth grade)i was incredibley bored this morning so i decieded to try this cause my sister had shown me that her friend had done water marbling to her nails. THIS IS SO HARD. I got like one good nail and i showed my dad and he was all oh that looks cool, so i tried the other nails and they looked like poo, i used soo much nail polish remover today (sorry about the shortage at walgreens in Miami lol), it always ended up looking striped instead of swirly. and then like polish got all over my finger, and it was just really annoying to get off. :) but its a cool idea!!:)

  86. TLM says:

    I feel like I’m behind the times, since I just stumbled on the tutorials on YouTube myself. Michelle, I know you thought your results looked “ho hum”, but I think it’s GORGEOUS!!! I’m a huge fan of kelly greens, and I think your combo was very wearable and interesting. I really love the look of the marbling, but I have to say it does seem like a lot of effort to build up the color for one nail at a time. I have heard some people say they dip two at a time. I was wondering if anyone tries adhesive foils to stick around the cuticle rather than scotch tape. Seems like it would be easier to form around the nail.

    Anyway, the marbling is just so darn cute, and I’m so addicted to watching the YouTube tutorials, I know I’m going to have to try it one of these days. Check out this one! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9A_9FH7e-A

  87. Kelsey says:

    I’m not sure if it’s already been said, but you used too little polish. Once you find some polish that works do 10-12 total rings in your “bullseye” it will make the colors more vivid and make it a lot easier to draw a pattern in.

  88. Diva says:

    It’s really not that frustrating…first u should use tape not oil..second if u were having problems with wasting product then either ur water was to cold or you were taking to long in dropping the polish..all in all I do this all the time and even the first time I did it was quite easy..

  89. divergirl424 says:

    omg this looks so cool! im gonna have to try this soon. email me with tips!

  90. Susannah says:

    The best tricks for me are: definitely use tape, use orange stcks, good quality polish I.e. Opi, Essie, etc,room temp bottled water, clean up excess polish with q-tips (both to fish out the left over polish film while finger is immersed and around cuticles), start with two colors and work your way up as you get better, before swirling the design try to “pin” the film of polish to the sides (very subtle step I’ve seen on YouTube tutorials, finishing with rapid dry clear coat by Sally Hansen and the motivation to do it over and over again…lol…I have lots of fun with swirling! Good Luck!

  91. Susannah says:

    PS…your choice of color(s) are beautiful and the results Soooo worth it….L O V E it!

  92. samandrosh says:

    I am really trying to get the hang of this lol however when I put my polish in the water it stays in a dot and does not spread as others do on the videos. Please help if you can. Thanks :-)

  93. Alina says:

    I gave you a shoutout. I love the nails and the news you give me. I wanna subsribe and will soon! haha

    xoxo

    Future Editor-In-Chief

  94. Alina says:

    Oh and I used tape instead of Oil! MUCH easier. Dip, wait a few seconds and rip off… carefully… XD

  95. Chocolat says:

    nails look great!!
    i just did it
    and it worked great!!
    i used SALLY HENSON nail polish
    and i just used tape
    its not that hard….

  96. Angel says:

    I actually did this today, and then stumbled upon your tutorial. I found that my polish was really light when I dipped my nails, so I used more drops, and it darkened up. I don’t like having the same design on all of my nails, so this is the PERFECT thing for me. It took about an hour, a quarter of a bottle of polish remover, and some patience. If you ever decide to do it again, don’t mix brands of color was the tip I got from the professional from China Glaze who taught me. :)

  97. Erika says:

    Sally Hansen Extreme Wear polishes work the best for this process and they’re cheap! I got mine for $2.50 at WalMart. Someone said to use good quality polish but why waste it when it’s so expensive. Even at 4.25 a bottle for OPI at the beauty supply wholesaler, it’s still expensive.

    I’ve also found that a votive holder works great for shorter fingernails. I also use the tape method and clean up is very easy. You have to “anchor” the polish to the edge of the glass so it doesn’t clump up to the middle when you make your design.

  98. I had a similar experience with Water Marbling. The result was great but I messed so many things up in the process, I’ve been reluctant to try it again. The worst mistake was when I picked up a bottle of bright blue polish by the handle thinking I had screwed it on. Nope. The bottle held for roughly 1 second then dropped onto a table then my carpeted floor.

    I know better what to do next time…if there is a next time.

  99. Shawn Ashley says:

    I’m so glad I came across this conversation. I thought I was the only one having problems with this. When it worked it worked and when it didn’t it was a hot messy mess! Lol! So I thank you all for all your tips. I love the potential looks of this manicure and was becoming increasingly sad when it wouldn’t work out. If it weren’t almost 2 in the morning, I would be going to play in water and polish. But this has reignited my curiosity in perfecting this process! And my clients love it….well when it works.

    And the greens are beautiful!

  100. Ju says:

    Hey,
    I’ve pretty much mastered the art of nail polish marbling. It’s not as difficult as it seems and water marbling produces awesome designs. I’m a novice at nail art but this came as a pretty easy technique so I’d actually recommend it.
    Some tips:
    1. Use scotchtape/sticky tape. cover all around your nail, even under the nail.
    2. The nail polish should, in ideal situations, touch ALL the sides of the container. This locks the design in place to prevent it from shifting about while you draw designs.
    3. LIGHTLY, and i repeat, lightly, use a toothpick to draw through the design. Ploughing through wouldn’t help. And always start from the colour that looks the thickest in the water, which is usually the colour you added LAST. This is to ensure that you can create your design while the polish is still wet.
    4. I found this out through trial and error and seems like no one has mentioned this yet. Not all the polish has to spread out, literally, just having 1 colour that spreads out nicely ( to touch all the sides of your container) would do, as you can still draw through those subsequent drops of nail polish even if they didnt spread out well. You still get a nice design! (:

  101. Ashley says:

    I love marbling. I almost prefer it to painting my nails. Mostly because I find that marbling dries faster. Two big points tape your nail off first the sides and underneath. Also remember to remove the polish from the water with an orange stick before you lift your finger out. I have done the process with OPI nail polishes alone and it works perfectly everytime (I do not have a video on youtube). It is one of my favourite techniques. I might go home tonight and do them.
    Also I am a huge admirer of ALU and am always amazed at how perfectly the pictures of your nails turn out. Any tips? I usually get the polish over most of my cuticle and it takes forever to remove.

    Thanks
    A

  102. Lizzy says:

    Maybe you can use an other nailpolish. NOT a quick dry nailpolish. you can use the brand China Glaze. If that doen’s work… then I give it up
    -_-” xoxo. lizzy

  103. Eme says:

    Hello,, am Eme From UAE ,,mmm l tried it up to 20 times & its not working ,, i think you r using somthing else or the nail polish is special for this thing ,, So Plz tell me the solution to do it i really wanna know ??? “waitting for your email”

  104. Shannon says:

    I tried this technique about 15 times last night and i would like to share my experience. It was a nightmare! I painted my nails white, and i got out a bowl of room temperature water. The first few nail polish drops i used, sunk right to the bottom. The next couple i used, stayed in a little drop at the top. I have a LOT of nail polish in all different brands! Only one color worked….. barely. I dont know if its my nail polish, or its something different, but i dont know how to make this work! I am willing to spend the time if i can ever get it to work.! Any Tips&Suggestions?

    • All Lacquered Up says:

      Since I’m not an expert on water marbling, only having done it once, I would try using a different brand of polish and switch to distilled water. There could be minerals in your water that is causing the polish not to spread. Though it could just be the type of polish you are using. Some brands spread easier than others. If it’s sinking to the bottom, you could be dropping the polish too high above the surface. Get close to the water. To the point that you’re almost touching the surface with your brush.

      My best suggestion is to search for water marble tutorials on YouTube and use the polishes they do. The masters of water marble undoubtedly have favorite brands/colors that are especially good for the technique.

    • Debbie says:

      I had the SAME problem at first! It is not your water. I was using pink and purple nail polish. Then, I tried white and pink and it spread out and worked perfectly! I also tried the purple and white and it worked great too. It must be the combination of some nail polishs that don’t work. Try using your white with another color. I’m not sure if you have tried that. Hope it works! Good luck:)

  105. Jezabelle says:

    I tried this today, using false nails that are the wrong size to fit in any of my actual nail beds, and would just be thrown out later. I tried room temperature-ish water first, and it just got really filmy (like at the clean up stage) and I couldn’t swirl it to save my life. Then I put my dish of water in the microwave for a few seconds, and it helped a little, though not much. After adding a about 5ml of nail polish remover to my water, it worked a lot better.

    As to the tip about using all one brand of polish? I used some cheap bottles, and some pricier ones at the same time, and got a fairly decent result.

  106. Kim says:

    GIRLS….easiest cleanup ever. Before dipping your finger apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly around your nail. The nail polish just wipes off. Just now getting the whole marbleizing down and love it! Will never just paint them one color again.
    ;-)

  107. Lillie says:

    So i tried marbling today and loved it! I know I need to work a little more at it because some of the white nail came through but that can be fixed with practice. first I tried dipping without anything on my nail (mistake), then i used oil and it helped take the polish off quicker. Next time I think I’m going to try the tape to see how that goes. I did notice that after the first hand it got harder and harder to design the polish. It dried very quick! They say that you need to use expense polish but I used Pure Ice (which is about $1.98 at walmart) and it worked just fine!!! I can’t wait to try this again!!! :)

  108. Tracilynne says:

    I tried this today. It was a rocky start, but I made note of a few things that helped make it work. I, too, am not an expert, but wanted to share my experience to hopefully help. :-)
    I found that if the cup used is too big; the polish dries on the outer rings before you can marble it. I actually used a shot glass & that worked out great! I also used filtered was, slightly warmer than room temp. And lastly… I found that thicker polishes tend to not spread much, if at all. I put a bit of polish thinner into the bottle of polish, shook it, and it spread on the water perfectly. :-)

  109. Tracilynne says:

    *I used filtered water that was slightly warmer than room temp.
    Sorry for the typo. ;-)

  110. Debbie says:

    The first time I did water marbling, I was so frustrated! After, I got the hang of it. I just did my second full marble manicure and it was a piece of cake:) I used pink and white. I also had ot start over but each nail took me about 2 min. I am very happy with the results:)

    –I also use the sally hansen top coat that dries my nails in 30 seconds. It made it so much easier!

  111. lally says:

    Marbling……. I so want to master this…..My students and I spent all day messing up…..IS THIS RIGHT
    1. Room temperature water
    2. Filtered best
    3. 5ml of acetone in the water
    4. Some polishes good others not, just try all
    5.Polish nails first
    WHY WHY WHY does it look easy on the net, but I fail…..
    HELP PLEASE

    • Maggie says:

      NO acetone in the water. I tried to do this for the first time today and I was tap water room temp.. with a white base coat on my nails. GOOD LUCK

  112. Courtney says:

    My sister and I tried this once too and it really didn’t work for us.. not worth the hour and a half we tried to make it work for us. I did manage to get 1 nail to work, which I was immensely proud of

  113. curlygirly says:

    I tried this technique for the first time and had quite a bit of success. It was a bit time consuming but I think with practice it would be much quicker. It does require more polish then you would probably use in a standard manicure but I don’t think a whole lot because you only put on 1 coat. Having said that I found a tutorial that suggested using chapstick instead of tape which was very helpful. The chapstick has a waxy texture to it which makes it easier to control. I would think you may run into trouble using cuticle oil as it tends to go everywhere. I would also guess that’s it separates into the water which may be affecting the way the polish is adhering to your nail. Also it helps to anchor the film of polish to a few points somewhere on the glass or cup. in doing so your design will not get pulled into the center and clump into a ball of nail polish. I used toothpicks while creating my designs and after every other line I made through it I wiped off the toothpick so it wouldn’t drag the polish away from the edges again preventing it from turning into a giant ball of polish. another tip is trying to use cream polishes and avoid anything with a frost, glitter, or other specialty colors.nail art nail polishes are also not appropriate because they tend to be thicker. OPI and China Glaze both work very well and are worth the investment because their products are much better than most. I have bottles that last well over 4 years as opposed to the cheap polishes. One final tip, after submerging my nail into the water I would blow on the top of it so that the excess nail polish would dry and then drag a q-tip through it which made it very easy to remove leaving very little behind.

  114. Ithfifi says:

    I’ve had a fascinating time reading through all these posts. I really sympathize with those who can not get this to work. I couldn’t get this to work at all and then one day I bravely tried again and it just did.. The only difference I can think of is the fact I used tap water both times. I tried this a few times in England and again here in Holland (known for its incredibly clean water) I managed this: http://www.ithinitybeauty.com/2013/05/fruit-punch-water-marble.html and never achieved something similar since. I always use tape, the polish never sinks, it always fills out but the results are always so different. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. I just don’t understand it but I’m hella greatful when it wants to work!

  115. Helen says:

    Drops of polish won’t spread? I tried tapping the water cup, it worked, plus I used more drops eventually. I also like the tip of few drops of polish remover in the water.

  116. Lrrr says:

    According to my nail art teacher you need a specific oil based nail varnish as that’s what helps it to spread. I’m looking forward to trying this myself. I’m into nail art in a big way and this is the only thing left to try!

  117. Kath says:

    I don’t know if anyone had already said this, but the polish best used for this technique is a lacquer nail polish. I have also had success water marbling with wet n’ wild polishes.

  118. rachel says:

    For starters, your nails look AMAZING. I can only imagine how long it took you to do this BECAUSE….I just wasted about 2 hours and approximately a full bottle of Polish trying to figure this crap out!!! I used about 5 different kinds/brands of Polish, and each and every one waxed up the second it hit the water…..really?!?!? Why must they make it look and sound so easy? Very frustrating and a complete waste of my time. Oh and I tried different temps of water as well, and filtered/bottled water.

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      Have you seen that piece about Pinterest projects that look easy but turned out a major fail. There’s one with water marble nails and it shows a pic of nails that are just a mess and says, “Yep, Nailed It!” Hilarious and true!

  119. Amy says:

    I don’t understand why you talk about your marbled nails like they turned out horribly and ugly. I think they look fantastic, and I see no evidence of mistakes. I would love to be able to achieve exactly that look. Seriously, they look professionally done. It’s mind-boggling that you think they look awful.

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      I guess, it’s not that they look bad, it’s just the process that got me so down on it. The YouTube videos make it look so easy.

  120. Mars says:

    Oh wow I think they look great. I tried once or twice but had almost no luck, I think I’ll be trying it again. :) Love the green with the gold

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