For the past several months, I have been enamored with posts on Pinterest showing coffee mugs, terra cotta pots, and even gorgeous black-and-white photos cheerfully marbled with brightly colored nail polish! Because I rarely paint my fingernails but also don’t want to throw away something I’ve only used once or twice, I usually have several bottles of nail polish on hand. It seems like such a waste to throw them out, even though I only paint my nails about once every two to three years. I decided to try upcycle my nail polish by marbling.
Marbling with nail polish looks simple enough in the tutorials I found online. You simply drizzle a small amount of polish into a container of water, dip your item in and allow it to dry. Voila! You have new DIY marbled coffee cup, decorative container — whatever item you wanted to DIY! Easy, right?
Several tutorials mention working on this project in a well-ventilated area. I cannot overemphasize how important this is! I did a quick indoor marbling session with the windows open and fans blowing and the entire apartment still STUNK like fingernail polish for hours. I really should have done this DIY outside, because I’m sensitive to strong odors and the fumes were overwhelming.
I do like the bright colors and designs I was able to create with my old, cast-off nail polish, though. If you’d like to give it a go, here are some tips and DIY instructions.
How to Marble with Nail Polish
To use fingernail polish to marble to your heart’s desire you will need:
• Something to cover and protect your workspace (even if you’re working outdoors).
• Fingernail polish (to make this craft as environmentally conscious as possible, use polish you already own or ask around, your friends or family members likely have a bottle or two lying around that you can have)
• Items to marble (I used glass bottles, a ceramic coffee mug, cardboard and metal containers)
• A disposable container to hold water
• A toothpick or other pointy object to create designs (optional)
• Something to “scoop” up the excess fingernail polish, a cardboard toilet paper tube works really well
After laying out your sheet or paper to protect your workspace, arrange the items you want to marble. Once you get going this DIY doesn’t take long to complete but the fumes can become overpowering quickly!
Fill your disposable container with water, about an inch from the top. Choose your nail polish colors (if using more than one). The first color you add to the water will spread out, the next color(s) will not. I like to take the tops off all of the nail polish I’m using before pouring. The nail polish will want to start drying as soon as you pour it out, so you want to work quickly.
Gently pour a small amount of your first color into the water. It should spread out. Add your second color and third color if using. If desired, use your sharp object (a toothpick works well) to swirl the colors together. I liked the patterns I had without swirling so I didn’t use this technique very often.
Dip your object into the nail polish/water. If you’re using an item, which will come in contact with food, like a mug, avoid getting polish near where you would eat or drink from. Do not try to marble the inside of food and drink containers.
After you remove your item from the water, set it aside to dry.
To marble a second item, you need to remove the excess fingernail polish. I found that a cardboard toilet paper tube roll works really well for this task. The polish should be starting to dry and solidify, making a layer of scum on top of the water. All you need to do is dip one end of the tube into the polish and swirl it around to scoop the polish up. Once the excess polish from your first marbling is gone, you can start over for your next marbling.
Repeat the cardboard tube “scooping” in between each time you marble and at the end of your project before dumping out your water. Allow your marbled creations to dry for 24 hours, though they should be dry to the touch in an hour or less.
To increase the durability of your work, you can coat each piece with a light layer of clear topcoat, the same way you would if you are painting your nails (I did not do this step to avoid the fumes of more nail polish).
Some Additional Tips
• Do this DIY outside; trust me, your nose will thank you.
• One dip per item, the polish doesn’t stick well to itself.
• Hand wash items to preserve your marbling.
That’s it! This DIY is pretty simple and the results are lovely! This could be a fun DIY project to do with some friends; I could even see this project going over well with teens (the nail polish colors used could match the local high school’s colors).
I don’t know if I would personally repeat this DIY — the fumes from the nail polish really got to me! It’s still a really cute project. I might even try paper marbling (which should smell a lot better!).
If you’d like to see the projects that inspired my take on nail polish marbling, visit these links below:1. DIY: Marbling with Nail Polish from Craftuts
2. DIY Marbled Mugs with Nail Polish from DIY Candy
3. How to Marble with Nail Polish from A Beautiful Mess
4. Nail Polish Marbled DIY Planters from Hello Natural
All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.