I found a couple of spare hours last week to try nail polish paper marbling! I was thrilled to break out the, uh, paints and get my hands dirty — a much welcomed break from the computer screen. It took a little bit of practice, and I didn’t end up with what I had in mind, exactly, but maybe that’s the charm of the whole thing. I’m looking forward to trying it again soon, and incorporating these patterns into some stationery!
I went to a beauty supply store and bought tons of very cheap nail polish. I found that the Sally Hansen polish gave me trouble (maybe it dries too quickly?) but all the other brands I used seemed to work fine. The most important things are to use room temperature water and work really quickly. My best prints came from water that was cold from the tap, let to sit for about 30 minutes before starting.
In the end, I wondered if it would be worth investing in some actual marbling paints, if you want more control over the whole process. But, for a quick and fun activity, nail polish will certainly do.
pans of water big enough to fit your paper (you’ll want an inch or two of water)
paper (or objects!) small enough to fit in your pan
toothpicks or skewers (my preference), or a homemade comb (straightened paper clips taped to cardboard will work)
nail polish (cheap brands are fine, but I had trouble with Sally Hansen polish)
paper towels (to lay skewers etc on top of to protect your table)
nail polish remover for clean-up
disposable gloves, if you like… it gets messy
a plastic fork, or something to skim the excess polish off the water
a well ventilated room to work in
1. Fill your pan with an inch or two of cold water from the tap, and let sit until it gets to room temperature (maybe 30 minutes or so)
2. Choose your color scheme for your first print. Go ahead and unscrew the caps from the nail polish jars that you want to use. Get your paper handy.
3. You’ll need to work quickly, because once you pour in your polish, you have seconds to make your pattern and put in your paper before the polish starts to make a gloppy film. So, go ahead and pour in your polish. You can play with different techniques, but you might try starting with your lightest color. You don’t need a lot. You can vary the amounts of each color so that some are more prominent in your design, and some are more accent colors.
4. Quickly use the skewers (comb, toothpicks, what-have-you) to swirl around the paints — you’ve just got a few seconds.
5. Lay your paper face down in the water. You might need to press down just a bit so that all of the paper touches the water. No need to leave it in very long! Pick it up and see what you came up with.
6. Lay your paper aside to dry and use a plastic fork (or something) to swipe the excess polish from the surface of the water.
7. Repeat, til you feel funny from the fumes!