DIY: Marbling with Nail Polish

February 25, 2013

Images and text by Amy Christie for Design Mom

Upon reading my DIY magazine last month, I was really excited at the tutorial for using nail polish to marble slick-surface furniture. The polish really sticks! Well, I don’t have any furniture pieces needing a new look but I wondered if the same materials could be used on non-furniture, non-slick surfaced items. My findings? They can!

I did a bunch of experimenting and found that nail polish and water offer up an extremely easy way to marble just about anything you desire — from glass to wood to metal to cardboard. The options are endless! I used it on glass jars, metal bowls, wooden gift tags, and papier-maché boxes.

It would be a fun technique for bridal shower favors, or making simple jewelry boxes at a birthday party for your daughter. Or you could marble a carafe and two glasses as a drinking water set for the guest room. (I could go on and on…)

And with the seemingly limitless color selection in polish now a days, there is sure to be a color scheme to your liking. Come learn this technique!


-fingernail polish - new is best for freshness and liquidity but price point is your choice!
-boxes, tags, metal containers — almost anything you can imagine
-scrap paper for completed pieces to dry
-optional – wooden sticks, not pictured
-acetone, polish remover – for clean up

Also important, make sure the work area is well-ventilated. Nail polish is stinky stuff!

Fill the tub with a couple of inches of water. Most of the time, only a few inches of water is needed. If you are marbling an especially deep object, add enough water that the piece can be submerged completely.

Beginning dropping in the polish. The first color to hit the water will span out over the whole surface so beginning with a light color is best. Continue to add colors to your desire. However, you must work fast. With the fast-drying polish on the market, there is only a small window of time!

If you can be fast and want to modify the polish, you can drag a wooden stick through the polish/water and creating various patterns and looks.

Once you (quickly) have things just right, press your item to be marbled into the polish/water bath. There are two ways that I’ve found for transferring the polish to the object. 1.) You can, like the photo above, press your item straight down through the polish, into the water. This will cover the item on all sides, enveloping it in the surrounding pattern. And 2.) You can also ‘roll’ the object on the colored water surface, using the length of the tub to cover each side. This method works well on larger pieces that you don’t want to submerge or when a certain pattern is desired on all sides. Experiment and see what works best for you.

Once the object has picked up the color, place on the scrap paper to dry. You may redip a piece if the marbling isn’t to your liking or there is a gap in the color.

The polish dries rather quickly and the excess water can be wiped away. Thankfully the odor doesn’t stick around too long either.

I found this technique so satisfying that I’m kind of obsessed at the moment. I find myself collecting boxes and bowls and tags and what not just so I can marble them. : ) I’m already using upcoming holidays (hello Easter!) as an excuse for future projects.

What about you? Does the marble look appeal to you? What sorts of things would you marble?

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{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Giulia February 25, 2013 at 9:06 am

it looks so, so pretty! if only i had that many nail polish colors…


2 Andreina February 25, 2013 at 9:23 am

Que bonito queda todo ;)


3 Rebecca Alexis February 25, 2013 at 9:48 am

LOVE it!


4 Lauren February 25, 2013 at 9:52 am

So fun! I was just recently introduced to the idea of using nail polish for craft projects (don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before!) and now I’m totally hooked! I made these awesome push pins a few weeks ago and am so thrilled with how they fancy up my office:


5 amy c March 18, 2013 at 9:17 am

Those are fun Lauren!


6 Dale Coykendall February 25, 2013 at 10:14 am

Another great reason to stop biting my nails, this looks so fun


7 Rachel P February 25, 2013 at 2:37 pm

I do have a piece of furniture I’d love to do this to- can you tell me how to do it?


8 amy c March 18, 2013 at 9:19 am

I believe the technique is the same Rachel. A couple inches of water with the polish floating on top. You will just need to find a tub or basin large enough to allow the furniture piece to be dipped into. Good luck!


9 Katie February 25, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Gorgeous. But how did you hold everything to avoid spoiling the pattern with your fingers? I’m just not as graceful about these things….


10 Marjorie February 25, 2013 at 3:27 pm

This is beautiful! I definitely want to try something similar for a DIY project soon. Thanks so much for the inspiration!



11 mel mccarthy February 25, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Beyond amazing. Love the effects you got!


12 mrs. dana gault February 26, 2013 at 8:15 am

I’m going to try wooden eggs for Easter! And add a little god leaf! Love this, thanks so much =)


13 mrs. dana gault February 26, 2013 at 8:16 am

LOL *gold* leaf, but *God* leaf sounds pretty awesome!


14 Migs February 26, 2013 at 8:45 am

Very nice idea. I will definitely try this. Thanks for sharing!


15 Jana February 27, 2013 at 3:35 am

What a lovely idea!


16 Fiona February 27, 2013 at 6:53 am

Loving the marble look, what a great idea! How about marbling some Easter eggs so they don’t look like chocolate, the kids will love that! Teehee


17 Holly February 27, 2013 at 2:57 pm

This is amazing! Easter eggs, here we come! Perfect use of my old nail polish, which, sadly, my knobby working hands look silly wearing these days! Thanks for the great tutorial!


18 Kathy February 28, 2013 at 6:58 am

I can’t wait to try this. As Holly said in the comments, it’s a great way to use up all of my nail polish! Also, just found your blog and I love it!


19 Kim February 28, 2013 at 8:34 am

LOVE this idea—I’ve recently begun to use gel nail polish….and have stashed of the “regular” stuff I hate to see go to waste–I’ve been looking for something like this. AWEsome–thanks for sharing.


20 Miranda M March 1, 2013 at 5:19 pm

I LOOOOVE this! I have so many polishes that I don’t like the color on me or ones that I’m tired of but hate to see go to waste. And even if I still use/love my polish I like that I can get some permanent usage out of it by doing this and admire the color at the same time. Thank you


21 IKIP March 1, 2013 at 11:39 pm

What a sad waste of Zoya and Orly. DO you people have no respect for nail polish?


22 Юрий March 2, 2013 at 1:48 am

Данная техника известна в России давно. При дефиците обоев по такой технологии делали самодельные обои под мрамор. Применяли не лак для ногтей, а масляную краску.


23 Юрий March 2, 2013 at 1:50 am

P.S. Добавлю, применение масляной краски значительно дешевле.


24 seelvana March 2, 2013 at 4:46 pm

i loved it verymuch!


25 Leah Belverd (TheSkinnyBaker) March 3, 2013 at 5:05 am

I see marbled flower pots in my very near future…been looking for something neat for my stargazer lily bulbs to grow in..thanks for the inspiration!! keep up the creativity!!


26 Leah Belverd (TheSkinnyBaker) March 4, 2013 at 8:59 am

they turned out amazing! thanks so much!!


27 Michelle March 6, 2013 at 6:45 am

You can also spray alcohol ( perfume or a spray hand sanitzer) across the surface of the polish to form spots. The polish doesn’t mix with the alcohol, but instead where each droplet of alcohol lands the polish shrinks back forming a circle. This method is so stunning used on nails also!!!


28 amy c March 18, 2013 at 9:20 am

Thanks for the tip!!


29 andrea marie March 7, 2013 at 11:54 am

I LOVE this idea. Thank you so much for sharing!!


30 Debie Grace March 8, 2013 at 6:52 am

Very creative! I could make this easy technique. Thanks! ;)


31 leslie March 15, 2013 at 12:19 pm

hi, i’d love to try this on a outside birdbath!!!! can’t imagine the ratio of water to polish. CAN ANY ONE HELP????? also, does this idea require finishing, like shellac or polyurathane????? thank you. hugs, leslie


32 leslie March 22, 2013 at 2:30 pm

answer the above comment question. thanks


33 amy c March 22, 2013 at 3:13 pm

The water ratio depends on the size of the bird bath. Whatever the depth/size of the object, you will need enough water in order to dip the surface.
As for a finishing product, I have no idea. I have never used this method for an object outside. If you do experiment, I’d love to know what you find.


34 belu April 4, 2013 at 9:34 pm

I absolutely love this idea. I wanted to know if there is any material which just won’t work for this technique. I mean, obviously it has to be able to get wet, but apart from that is there any object to which the polish just wont stick?


35 Rosalind April 9, 2013 at 10:22 pm

I tried this but it completely didn’t work! I followed your instructions to a T?! hmmm


36 amy c April 9, 2013 at 11:14 pm

oh no! Any more info you can share that could help me diagnose an issue?


37 Karen C. April 15, 2013 at 9:52 am

Great idea! Definitely going to have a go! :-)


38 BARBARA May 12, 2013 at 9:07 pm

I love this idea, but am wondering how you get the items in and out of the water without messing up the pattern? Thanks


39 BARBARA May 12, 2013 at 9:27 pm

Please do answer my question as I really do want to try this, but I don’t know what to use to get it out of the water after the pattern is on the object…I want to try it on some large round pearls to use for jewelry…thanks so much..


40 Abi Makes May 15, 2013 at 8:21 am

great little tutorial, thanks for sharing, my attempt is here


41 Amanda May 15, 2013 at 2:02 pm

I agree. It turns out so pretty, I love it.


42 Renee June 3, 2013 at 10:30 pm

so going to try this! Love the idea. Thank you so much for sharing :D


43 pedicure chair August 29, 2013 at 8:27 pm

Really when someone doesn’t be aware of after that its up
to other users that they will assist, so here it takes place.


44 Paige December 11, 2013 at 1:21 am

I tried that and it was awesome! Thx


45 Christine December 11, 2013 at 12:30 pm

I tried doing a wooden pencil holder and it turned out terrible. I did the rolling method, it ended up all blotchy and then afterwards I set it out to dry and the nail polish just ran down and smeared everywhere and left large bumps. Did I do something wrong? Also drying the water off of it afterwards was a bad idea because it took some of the nail polish off as well


46 Piper December 14, 2013 at 11:18 am

Can you do this with frames??


47 Margaret January 21, 2014 at 2:59 am

Tried using “ICE” nail polish- 2 kinds- matte and glitter look.. Found at walmart on sale. It hit the water and seems to become plastic, didn’t spread out.

I wondered if the water was not the right temp, so it is sitting to become “room-temperature” – until I try again.

Really like this idea, so I want to try again. I wonder if the nail polish just doesn’t work.


48 Brenda March 31, 2014 at 6:35 pm

My Grandmother left me her antique rocking chair, circa 1910. I’m dying to try this technique on that! I think my bathtub should be large enough to hold the rocker. Any thoughts/suggestions?


49 Juli April 23, 2014 at 11:56 am

This is absolutely beautiful! Thank you!!! :)


50 Syang June 12, 2014 at 12:07 am

is paper mache safe to dip? :)


51 Estefania July 19, 2014 at 10:26 am

Thank you for this great tutorial! I can’t wait to try it!!!!


52 Drishti Shah July 23, 2014 at 12:04 am

Hey, this is absolutely beautiful. Does this work on fabrics too ? if yes, what kind would be the best ?
thanks !:D


53 Andalyn December 12, 2014 at 11:13 am

I tried this technique last night, and I had some troubles… I didn’t expect the polish to dry so fast! I found myself trying to get the object dipped in about 3 seconds or it would pick up thickened strands of polish, or completely engulf the object in a solid color (no marbling). Does it matter what temperature the water is? If, when dipping the item, it picks up some hardened polish, how do I keep it from looking terrible? Also drops of water turned into bubbles of air. Did you face any of the problems? Thanks!


54 Bridget April 13, 2015 at 12:19 am

I had similar problems. I read another tutorial that insisted the water be room temperature. It didn’t matter. I tried old and new nail polish that was not quick dry. I got a webbed blob of gunky polish. After several attempts, I got a thin layer on a small area of a clay pot. Tried it again. When the water hit the clay, the polish released from the pot. I don’t give up easily, but I did on this one…. I’ve used other materials to marble items before, so I guess nail polish is one method I’ll leave alone. I’d really like to know what the problem is, because I love the look, but it Looks like all of the last comments didn’t get replies….. bummer. Good luck!


55 Daisy Ratcliff February 4, 2015 at 11:32 am

This is amazing! just a quick question…can you do this on fabric?


56 unas March 23, 2015 at 4:42 am

Amazing technique! Great tutorial!


57 Wendy May 13, 2015 at 9:49 am

Hi! I have yet to try this…. I grabbed a cheap mug this weekend from Walmart to see how it works out. To answer some of the on going questions people have been posting… I have read on other tutorials that the water should be hot…not sure if that make a difference or not but I will try it out. Also you can’t use that 60 second or super fast drying nail polish that is out there and cheap nail polish wont work either. Ehhh I have a ton of nail polish and the mug only cost me $2… .worse case scenario… wipe it all off with nail polish remover and start again! :)


58 Joe August 25, 2015 at 7:47 am

Oh my goodness… This is so fabulous! I’ll try that. any kind in particular?


59 caryna August 25, 2015 at 10:03 am

This is the coolest thing ever! I love it.


60 Lynne February 20, 2016 at 3:24 pm

I want to thank you. I had such a hard time with the nail polish. Could be old ($1 Store), but the colors were FAB!!! I warmed up the water and it behaved better. However, I, like a bull in a china shop, swirled that dammmm toothpick. No, like a flower, swirl, lightly, not like a machinist. That doesn’t say masochistic, think machine repair, ;-).

You really did help me and I made one semi good plate today. Thank you for your clear instructions, I truly appreciate it.

Lynne H.


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