Water Marble Tutorial

28 Nov

Last week I guest posted on The Polished Panda with this water marble.  I promised a tutorial, so here it is.  I’ve read that some are scared of water marbling.  I really don’t think it’s anything to be intimidated by.  Like any other technique, it takes know how and practice.  It’s really pretty easy once you know what you’re doing.   This post of quite long, but goes step by step through the process.


Let’s go through this step by step.

Collect your tools and supplies:
• Water. You can’t very well water marble without water. Room temperature, filtered water is best. You can use regular old tap water, but your polish will likely not spread as well as you’d like. I don’t have a water filter or any kind of filtering pitcher, so I buy distilled water from the grocery store for about $1.00. Cold water will set your polish too fast, so yes, it really does need to be room temperature.
• You need some sort of small cup to put your water in.  I use a 5oz paper cup that I can toss when I’m done.  A large cup is just a waste of water and you don’t want anything too large and wide because the polish will just have to spread further.  I’d say something with a 3-5 inch diameter is a good size.  Fill your cup so the water is pretty close to the top.
• A tool to drag or draw in your polish.  I use a shish kabob skewer.  Lots of people use toothpicks and they work perfectly fine, but I find the skewer is easier to hold because it’s longer. Anything with a small point should work.
• Scotch tape to tape off your fingers. I’ve used painter’s tape before and it works fine, but because it’s thicker, it can cause more bubbling around your cuticles.
• Something to wipe your dragging tool on. I do my water marbles in my bathroom, so I use toilet paper. A paper towel or napkin are also good choices.
• This is a tip rather than a tool; don’t do this process near a fan or air vent. Moving air like that will dry your polish too fast and that’s bad.

Now choose your colors:
Glitters don’t usually work; I haven’t had success with them. Some polishes spread better than others. Some don’t want to spread at all. You’ll generally figure that out by trial and error. Generally speaking, fast drying polishes aren’t good choices. You need the polish to stay wet on the surface of the water so you are able to play with it. You don’t need brand new polishes, just not thick polishes. If one you want is thick, you can try it, but you’ll probably want to thin it a bit with some nail polish thinner. Choose a couple back up options so if you start and the polishes you’ve chosen don’t spread well or dry too quickly you have a plan B.

Paint your nails:
White is a good “go to” base color. It will make all the colors on top of it pop. You can also choose to use which ever color you want to stand out most. In this design I used the green as my base color because I wanted the green to stand out the most. If you choose something other than white, be aware that it may change the way your colors look. The purple I used looked much different over green that it did over white. You only need wait for your base color to be dry to the touch before you’re ready.

Tape your nails:
You really only need 2 pieces of tape per nail. One that goes up one side of your nail, over the top of your finger and down the other side of your nail. And one that goes around your finger under your cuticle. You will have untaped spots just to the right and left of your cuticle. Don’t put the tape too close to your nail and cuticle as this could lead to bubbles when you dip your nail. This is why painter’s tape or masking tape doesn’t work as well, but will do in a pinch. I tape my nails 1 or 2 at a time. If you tape them all at once it’s hard to do anything with your hand, but you also risk messing up the fingers you’ve already done to tape the next one. Figure out what works best for you.

Now you’re ready! Set the polishes you’ve chosen right next to your cup of water and unscrew each top so you can quickly move from polish to polish. Pull the brush out of your first color, try not to scrape off too much excess, hold it just over the surface of the water and let the polish drip in to the water. It should spread pretty quickly. Take your next color and drip it right into the center of the previous drip. Continue this until you are happy with what you see. The more you repeat this process, the more stripes of colors you’ll have on your water. You’ll probably end up dripping each color 3-4 times.

Once you decide you’re done dripping your polish, you can either dip in and end up with stripes on your nail or you can use your dragging tool to create a design. You can stick your tool in the center of your “bull’s eye” and drag out to the edge of your cup. You can start on the outside edge and drag to the center. You can start on the outside edge and drag clear through to the opposite edge. You can swirl it around. Zig zag it. The options are limitless. Play with it. It’s best to wipe your tool on your paper towel (or whatever you’re using) frequently. A build up of polish on your tool can mess up your design or leave globs of polish behind.

When you’re done playing, decide what spot you like best (i.e. what part of the design you want on your nail) and dip in. You’ll want to go kinda slow and position your finger so the surface of you nail is parallel to the surface of the water; your palm will be facing up. This part is hard to explain. It will help to watch the video below. Don’t pull your finger out just yet. You need to clean the unused polish out of the water. Take your dragging tool and stick it in the unused polish and start cleaning it up. If it’s not collecting on your stick it may still be too wet. Blow on it a couple times to help dry it. Again, this part may be easier to understand by watching the video. Now that you’ve cleared all the excess polish out of the water, turn your finger around so it’s facing up (without pulling it out of the water yet) to take a peek. If you see any big bubbles around the edge try to pop them with your tool before you pull your finger out of the water. Now you’re ready to pull your nail out slowly. Just like with any tape mani, pull your tape off while the polish is wet. Take care not to mess up your hard work. A tip for cleaning up the flood of polish around the edge of your nail and cuticle; while the polish is still wet, take the pointy little tip of your toothpick or skewer and drag it all the way around that edge taking all that excess polish with it. Now you just have to take a cotton swab dipped in polish remover or acetone and clean up the skin around your nail. Ta da! You’re done!

This picture of my thumb shows how the colors look different over white vs the green.  You can also see the flubs left behind from the bubbles around my cuticle.  With a base color that is the same as one of your marbling colors, any bubble flubs won’t really show up.

The polishes I used for this mani are Jordana Purple Bright, Essie Power Clutch and O.P.I. Uh-Oh Roll Down the Window.

Do you have any questions? Please don’t hesitate to ask or add any of your own tips (or anything I missed.)

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