Water Marbling Hints and Tips

11 April, 2013

Hints and Tips for water marbling that will hopefully help you out!! Within the next couple of days I will be posting a full tutorial on how to do water marbling.

Be prepared!! Make sure everything is near you.
Pre-peel tape, have a napkin available to wipe off your toothpick/orange stick, have several toothpicks/orange sticks available, have nail polish remover and Q-tips ready to go, have your base coat ready in case you mess up and need to try again, have a garbage or somewhere to put your used tape.

If you're just starting out, do not use expensive, discontinued, or rare polishes.
I mean, you can, but you may find yourself wasting WAY too much for learning. If it's a polish you don't care about, go for it.

I highly suggest taping off your finger.
Prep the finger you plan to dip prior to dropping polish in the water. If you're experienced with water marbling and know you'll be able to dip two fingers at once, tape off both before you begin. If you're newer at it, start by taping one. If you end up with a design that you are able to dip two fingers in, just let the design sit and tape off your other finger.
Also, if you have your thumb taped off but the design you have in your cup looks like it'll work much better on your pinkie, take the time to tape off your pinkie. The design isn't going anywhere, you have plenty of time.

Make sure you tape off AROUND your cuticle, not onto your nail.
You could end up with a funny shape near your cuticle if part of your nail doesn't have the water marble. It's much easier to clean polish off your cuticle/finger than to redo the entire nail because it looks weird.

Use a cup, not a bowl.
You want the outer most layer of polish to touch the sides of the cup. This helps anchor the polish so when you drag through to make the design, it doesn't spread around.

If the design is not going the direction you like after multiple attempts to save it, you might just have to give up.
It sucks to waste the polish, but ultimately, with the time it takes to water marble, you want the most gorgeous designs on your nails. Don't settle!

Don't start your design at the outer most ring.
The outer most ring tends to dry first. This is a problem because when you go to make your design, if you start dragging from outer layer, it can stick to your toothpick and it can ruin the rings. Make enough rings so when you go to drag through them for your design, you don't start at the outer one. You want to start at least one or two rings in. Think of the outer layer as the anchor.

Warm water is not better.
There's a reason behind using room temperature water. Filtered is preferred. Here's what happens if you use a variation of that:
Unfiltered - depending on where you live, your tap water probably has different minerals. This can cause the polish to not spread as well.
Cold - If you have a Brita filer or something where you keep your filtered water in the fridge, you might be tempted to not wait until it's at room temperature. Cold water can cause the polish to dry quicker, making your design pull and mess up when you try to drag through it. It can also cause your polish to not spread nearly as well as it should.
Warm - So if cold water causes polish to not spread well and the design to stick to your toothpick or orange stick, then warm water must NOT do that, right? Correct. However, warm water has a different issue. It works great for spreading polish, but a couple of problems arise from this. First, if you do not have enough layers of polish in your cup, because warm water is so good at spreading polish, when you make your design, it can cause the polish to "leak" and spread more. The second issue is clean up. Because warm water prevents polish from drying quickly, after you dip your nail and try to clean up the polish before pulling your finger out, the polish will be very difficult to get up and will not stick easily to your toothpick/orange stick because the polish isn't drying.

If you have short nails and/or you're new to water marbling, don't do a lot of colors.
You may see people on YouTube doing tutorials with 5, 6, 7 colors. They're experienced and most have long nails. If you're not an expert, so many colors leaves a greater difficulty for creating a pattern because you want all of the colors to be seen.

Seriously make sure your water surface is clear of polish.
It might be difficult to tell, even with dark colors, that there is enough polish on the surface of the water to not allow polish to spread. I clean up the polish while my nail is in the water, but I also make sure I go over it again before I'm about to drop polish into it. I can't tell you how many times I legit end up pulling out large pieces of polish I hadn't seen.

Be aware of large drops of polish.
You're going to find that some polishes will always drop right off the brush, some will always be difficult, and others are super sneaky and do either/or every time you drop them. Let me explain. When you're doing so many drops of color throughout the entire process, you become complacent and sometimes don't even look at the polish bottle. You just grab the brush and hold it over the water. Many times, a brush decides that it's going to get a HUGE amount of polish on it, so when you pull it out, it surprises you and drips everywhere! Worst of all is when you're on your last set of drops and it smears all over your polish in your cup, potentially ruining it and causing you to start over. Keep an eye on your polish when you take it out of the bottle. It might surprise ya! And not in a good way...

Make sure your workspace is disposable or you're ok with it getting ruined.
Because there is always risk of polish dripping everywhere, bottles tipping over, even the cup spilling, make sure you're doing this on a towel, paper towel, or surface you're ok with potentially getting polish on.

Be conscious of your other nails when you're dipping.
I swear I've done this EVERY time I've water marbled. Sometimes I correct it, other time you'll never see the mistakes in real life, but my macro photos make it look HUGE. Let me give you some examples of what I've done. I'll save the best for last.
I catch a marbled nail on a toothpick or side of the cup and I make a dig in it. Even worse, when I go to dip a nail, I push a marbled nail against another finger and make a HUGE smudge that cannot be saved. My favorite thing I did? I did this only once and it was actually when I was doing my Spring/Easter v1.0. I went to dip my ring finger nail, and just as I went to start cleaning up the polish on the surface, I also dipped my already marbled middle finger into the water/polish. Yup. That was fantastic. And it looked awful. Luckily, I had already top coated it, so I gently went over it with a Q-tip and remover and was able to get up the wet mistake dip and leave my previous marble design. Phew! It looked a little sheer, like you could see my white base a little, but it still looked totally acceptable.

Paint your ENTIRE nail with your base color.
When I paint my nails regularly, I ALWAYS leave a gap between my cuticle and the start of the polish. When it comes to marbling, forget that. Go all the way to your cuticle. I recommend doing this because if you don't, you'll get a sheer patch of marbled polish by your cuticle. And it's much easier to clean up after than have to redo the nail because it looks odd.

Not all polish works.
This is a trial and error process. Just like quality varies from polish to polish, good water marbling polishes vary as well. Generally, the thicker the polish, the worse it'll be in the water. So if it's a gummy kinda polish, it probably won't spread well. However, you can get sheer colors that sink right to the bottom and don't even spread at all. You just have to experiment. But be aware that just because you tried 5 different polishes from the brand and they didn't spread well, it does NOT mean all polishes from that brand are like that. Judge based on the specific polish, not the brand. I will warn you, however, that every single matte polish I have tried has NOT worked. Let me know if you find one that does, but I've tried mattes from Zoya, Ulta, OPI, and Nicole by OPI all with no success. They might spread the first or second ring, but after that you're just adding blobs to the water.

Do NOT blow on your nails, do NOT shake them.
You may be tempted to do this when your nails come out of the water. Please don't! This can cause bubbles or even mess up your design. Just let it air dry.

Take your time and be patient.
You can do it :) It just takes practice!!

*Design from this water marble*

by Sam