What do I need?
Chances are good that you already have everything you need to do a good water marble. As you learn new techniques, you might decide certain things work better for your personal preference and then shop for those things. But you can begin practicing right away as long as you have these basics on hand:
* distilled or filtered water
* tape (scotch, masking, painters, medical, any will do)
* nail polish
* toothpick OR some type of pin (t-pin, safety, straight...) OR a needle, * small 3-7 oz cup or bowl
* nail polish remover
Now, there are alternatives even to these basics. No tape on hand? That's okay. You could use either vaseline, chapstick, or cuticle oil. Rub it on your skin around but not on your nail and about halfway down all sides of your finger. Now when you dip your finger into the nail polish and it coats your finger, all you have to do is use a nail wipe or paper towel and just wipe it off! It's that simple. CAUTION: You know that old saying "oil and water don't mix"? Well, it happens to be true. If you use any of these petroleum or oil-based products, you will have to change the water after each dip because the lubricant will float on the surface of the water and keep the nail polish from spreading.
If you don't have any toothpicks, pins, or needles handy, you could alternatively use either an orange stick, or a dotting tool, even a thin gauge knitting needle! The size of your bowl will affect how much nail polish you have to use to create your bulls-eye and how many nails you can dip at once. The small Dixie cup I use allows me to use less nail polish, 6-9 drops. But I can only comfortably dip 2 nails at a time (which is fine with me since my preference is only 1 nail at a time). Just experiment with different sizes and find what works best for you.
Your water must be room temperature. The reason for this is that water that is either too warm or too cold will both make the polish dry more quickly. The longer the polish takes to dry in the water, the longer you have to draw your design and play around with it. This is not a process where you can take your time. Even moving quickly, it is likely that by the time you start drawing in the bulls-eye the outer circles will already be dried. To avoid messing up the design, just avoid those and start drawing your pattern at the third ring in or so.
Using filtered or distilled water will ensure that there are no hard minerals in the water that could adversely affect the polish as well.
Now what happens if your polish doesn't spread well in the water? Well, there could be a couple reasons for this. First, make sure you are dropping the polish as close to the surface of the water as possible without actually touching the water. The higher you drop it, the more gravity and therefore the more speed. So, the polish is more likely to drop into the water instead of being suspended on the surface of it. Second, adjust the temperature of the water a few degrees in either directions and see if that helps. Third, is the polish too thick? In order for this to work best, the polish needs to flow well. Even if you're using the same brand, even the same color as someone else did, it doesn't mean it will work the same. Polish that has been sitting in a shoe box for a year will behave differently than a brand new bottle, since polish gets thicker as it ages. Try using nail polish thinner, which you can find at Sally's Beauty Supply or any other beauty supply shop. You may even find it at drugstores. Never use nail polish remover to thin out your polish. While it will work at first, over time the nail polish remover will ruin the consistency and opacity of the nail polish. If all of these other factors are NOT the problem, then a fix could be as simple as taping the cup or table to 'shake' open your circle of polish, or run your drawing tool around the inside rim of the cup, which will make the polish 'bleed' toward the edge of the cup.
And the last frequently asked question, do I really need a base coat and a primer coat? I would say 'yes' and here is why. The base coat will help protect your natural nails from staining. I use a base coat every time I paint my nails, whether I water marble or not. The 'primer' coat is what I call a coat of either white or the lightest color in your marble design. You can test this for yourself, but I find that without that primer coat, the colors of the final design are flat and dull. A light color underneath will help the colors stand up and will make them much more vibrant. Just try it both ways one time and I think you will be convinced. The reason I use the lightest color in the design is because sometimes a few little bubbles are unavoidable. When they pop, you will be able to see the base coat. If you did a design in brown, orange, and yellow (the harvest colors I'm wearing from my last blog post), then little white spots where the bubbles popped would be out of place if I had used a white primer coat. But since I used the same yellow that I marbled with, you can't even notice the popped bubbles.
That's about all the tips and tricks I can think of for now. I'm sure it's not exhaustive though, so if you can think of anything you have questions about, then please comment and I will be happy to answer them. Ahead on the blog this week is a new water marble design for Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Shades of Pink, so stay tuned!