Water Marble Nails Are Easier Than They Look

by Miki Hayes

I love scanning Instagram for all the incredibly intricate manicures that I know I shouldn't even bother trying to recreate. Learning how to do water marble nails is one such manicure I've had my eye on for a while. Despite how much effort the majority of these nail projects must take, there are a few that are actually just an amalgamation of a few simple techniques — like water marbling. All water marbling actually is, is just dropping polish on a surface of water and then dunking your finger in. (OK, there's a little more to it than that, but that's why we're here.) But the point is, you don't have to be a master with a striping brush or have a full set of variously-sized dotting tools to pull this one off. All you need are a few things you probably already have around the house. And the best part of this technique? It still looks totally cool even if you mess up.

OK, maybe that's not the best part, but it's good to keep in mind if your manicure doesn't turn out quite how you anticipated. The actual best part is just experimenting with color combinations and designs. This is one of the few manicure techniques where if you can dream it, you can do it.

Here's what you'll need:

  • A cup with water
  • Two to five nail polishes of your choice
  • Nail polish remover
  • Tape
  • Toothpicks
  • Cotton swabs
  • (Optional) base coat and/or white polish

Before getting started, you'll want to apply tape around the nails you intend to marble. This will help with cleanup later. You'll also want to apply a base coat and even a layer of white polish if you want your marble to really pop. Then go ahead and loosen the caps of the polishes you want to marble with so you can access them easier. Now let's get to it!

1. Drop The Polish

Start by dropping nail polish in the center of your cup of water to form a bullseye design. The number of times you cycle through the colors will determine the opacity on your nails. For this design I did three cycles of three colors.

2. Make The Design

This is the fun part. Swipe your toothpick through the polish to create whatever design your heart desires.

3. Dip The Finger

Once you have your desired design, hold your finger directly over the part of the design you want to capture, and push it straight down into the water.

4. Clean The Excess

Before removing your finger from the water, take a cotton swab and remove the excess polish from the surface. It should easily cling to the swab. If it's not, blow on the surface to dry the polish so that it can more easily be swept away.

5. Remove the Tape

Next, remove the tape from around the nail, taking care not to smudge the polish that will still be wet on your nail.

6. Clean The Edges

Then all that's left is to take a cotton swab or brush with nail polish remover and clean up any polish that is still on your finger or around your nail. Then just finish with a top coat, et voila!

Images: Miki Hayes