Water-Marbling Technique

I'm sorry I haven't been posting frequently the last few weeks but we were away on holiday and then had relatives staying with us so life has been fairly abnormal but things are finally getting back on track.  This "What R U Wearing Wednesday?" I decided to do a water‐marbled mani.  Some might also refer to this as the water‐swirling technique.  I have had some requests to do a tutorial on this technique and though I have not mastered it yet I do have some tips that will hopefully make your water-marbling easier.
I used Zoya Tilda, Rooney, and Ling for this water-marble manicure.
I'd like to start with a brief history of my experience with this technique.  Water‐marbling was the first complex nail art technique that I tried.  It is also all the beautiful water‐marbled manicures that I have seen on the internet, and all the You Tube videos that I watched that made it look so easy that intially attracted me to nailart design.  The first time I tried this technique I was at my best friends house with her sister and daughter.  We spent the entire evening trying this technique on our fingers.  It turned out to be a long and frustrating evening but in the end we all had our fingers done.  Since then I have done this technique quite a few times, some were successful and some were epic failures.

With that being said, I'll now say this…water‐marbling is not easy.  If you have never done this type of nail art don't expect to get it right on your first try.  Not to say that you might not get lucky.  I'll begin by explaining  the technique and then discussing some of the issues you could run into and how you might avoid or fix them.

Base coat and top
Colors of your choice
Dish, cup, bowl
Scotch tape

Prep your nails by applying your favorite base coat and then applying a base color.  Wrap your finger in scotch tape or use the glue method to protect the cuticle and skin around the nail.  This step is not necessary but is wise because it protects your skin and limits the amount of clean up you have to do.

Fill a small dish with water (preferably distilled water, more on this later).  Take each of your polishes and take turns dropping each in the water.  This will create a bullseye if done properly and will widened with each drop.
After your satisfied with your bullseye use a toothpick to pull the polish along the water and create a swirl pattern.
Choose an area that you like the most and submerge your finger in that area with your nail down. While your finger is still submerged use a Q‐tip or toothpick to pull the excess polish of the surface of the water.
Once the surface is clear of polish remove your finger from the water.  Remove your tape or glue, clean up your cuticle, and apply your favorite top coat.

Tips, Tricks, and Advice
Sounds easy right?  What could possibly go wrong?  Well if you read what I wrote in the beginning of this post, you can probably guess a lot can go wrong.  Well here is a list of problems and things I recommend doing to avoid having a horrible water‐marbling experience.
The first problem that I had was that I had a hard time creating a bullseye.  After reviewing several videos and other tutorials as well as doing a great deal of trial and error I discovered that the water needs to be pure and room temperature.  Many people do not have a problem using tap water, however, I discovered my tap water has too many minerals and deposits in it to use for this technique.  Room temperature also seems to be best because if the water is too cold the bullseye will not spread.  It is also wise to change your water in the middle of a project to keep it clean.  I like to use bottled water because it works best for me and I can leave the bottle out to keep it at room temperature.

Another problem I was having, in creating my bullseye was because of the polish itself.  Not all polishes are made exactly the same and some can be heavier and denser based on the pigmentation and additives in them such as glitter.  I have tried water‐marbling with metallic and shimmery polishes and they don't work as well as cream polishes.  I found that newer polishes, and thinner polishes drip the best but depending on the formula of the polish may not spread to create a good bullseye.  The only advice I can give for this is to test your polishes before you commit your nails to the project.  Also, the brand doesn't matter.  Just because one color of a certain brand works well doesn't mean other colors in the same brand will work too.  Mixing brands is also okay.

If you have a polish that works okay but isn't spreading as much as you'd like there are a couple methods you can use to help make the bullseye larger.  One method is to tap the side of you dish lightly.  Another method is to take a toothpick and slowly pull the water in a circular motion on the outside of your bullseye.  Creating movement in the water with either method helps loosen the polish so that it spreads.
There is not right or wrong way to swirl your water‐marbling design but a few pointers for this would be to work either from the center out, or from the outer ring in toward the center.  If you choose to pull from the outer ring to the center do not pull from all the way outside of the bullseye.  If you do it will move the entire bullseye and most likely it will end up ruined.  Start your pull from the second or third ring from the outside to create the pattern you'd like.  I would recommend you don't over‐work the pattern you are trying to create.  If you would like to create specific patterns like stripes or flower I would suggest watching some You Tube videos to see how other pull these patterns.
Another issue I had on occasion is the polish would bead and drop straight to the bottom of the container I was using.  I discovered this had to do with the weight of the polish and how far above the surface of the water I was holding the brush.  I was holding the brush too high and when the polish hit the surface of the water it broke through instead of settling on top.  So when testing your polish I would also recommend paying attention to the height you hold your applicator at.  Also you don't want to touch the brush to the surface of the water because it may ruin your bullseye.

In regards to the container that you use, it doesn't really matter what it is or what size it is.  Keep in mind though that the size should be larger enough to stick one or two fingers in at a time (I really wouldn't recommend doing this with more than one or two fingers at a time unless you have mastered this technique).  I personally like to use a disposable plastic cup cut down so that it is easy to use and I don't have to use a lot of water.
Make sure that when you place your finger in to catch your design that you do not pull it out before you have cleaned the excess polish off the surface of the water.  I can't tell you how many times I have ruined a good water‐marble pattern because I was impatient and didn't take my time.

Occasionally, you may end up with a bubble or bare spot in your water‐marble design.  Unfortunately, this is unavoidable.  However, you should use a white or light colored base coat of polish under your water‐marble so that this doesn't become an eye sore.  With the water‐marble design I did for this post I didn't use either a white or a light color because I didn't want the white to be seen and I thought using any of the polish I was using would affect the other colors too greatly.  I ended up applying a matte top coat directly over a base coat to give the polish something a bit easier to stick to.  I really wish I had used the pink shade as my base color though because if you look closely you can see some bare spots.

If you use tape to protect you skin and cuticle areas cut the under side of the tape before pealing it off gently.  Too many times did I impatiently try to pull off the tape without cutting the under side and ruined my design.
Another bit of advice I can provide is that you need to work somewhat quickly so it is best to set up all your tools within easy reach, prep your nails in advance of creating your bullseye, have all your polishes open and ready for dropping, and try not to work too hastily.

All in all this is a beautiful nail art technique that requires patients, practice, a little  bit of research, some preparation, and time.  I would love to see any of your water‐marbling designs and if you have any questions ask away, I'll answer them to the best of my abilities.  Also don't forget to share your "What R U Wearing Wednesday" manicure either on Instagram with #whatruwearingwed or on my Facebook page.  Thank you for reading my post, see you next time.

Your Fellow Plebe,