Sunday, 21 February 2016

Floral dry marble decals + some tips and tricks

Dry (or drag) marbling is a wonderful technique with such beautiful results - if you don't know what it is, have a look at a couple of short Instagram videos by @yorkbeauty here and @sveta_sanders here. These videos make it look deceptively easy, though. I first tried this earlier this year, attempting to recreate the look in Sveta's video, but the final result took me many, many re-dos. I find that the 'dragging' itself is not too tricky, with a steady hand and a light touch. It's figuring out how thick to paint your base layer, and adding just the right amount of the other colours, that I find challenging.

Here's where a silicone nail mat comes in handy! Many brands have now come up with various versions of these - I have UberChic's "UberMat". With this, I can make as many attempts as I need on the mat, and then use them as nail 'decals'. No more messing up on my actual nails, and having to remove gloopy semi-dried polish and starting all over again. Read on to find out how I did this:

Floral dry marble nail art by polilish
Inspired by @yorkbeauty's design in the video that I linked to above.

Silicone nail mats are nail polish and acetone-proof; they're great for working on to protect table surfaces from spills, and they also provide a surface on which to make nail decals.

Floral dry marble decals by polilish
You can tell where my lamp was positioned.

Usually to make decals on a nail mat you start with a layer of top coat, and add the design on top. With dry marbling, a thick base layer is needed, so top coat is not necessary. I painted on a generous coat of the beige colour, then immediately added 5 dots of the turquoise in a circle. With a watermarbling tool (or a just a toothpick), I pulled out the petals, then I added the red dot in the center with a dotting tool. Wait 15-20 minutes for the whole thing to dry, then the decal should peel off easily with the help of an orange stick or cuticle pusher.

I've also made a video of the process. It's sped up so it fits into Instagram's 15-second limit, so I've also added some tips and tricks below. They're just things that I've learnt throughout my numerous failures at dry marbling.

A video posted by Lili 🌷 (@polilish) on

  • Start with a thick base layer. I put on 2-3 coats. Once the colour is pretty opaque, it should be thick enough. Don't use a quick-drying polish.
  • Having trouble adding colours? If you're doing dots as I did here, it may help to use a large dotting tool instead of the nail polish brush. That gives you more control over the amount of polish you add. Don't add too much - the polish will spread too far; but too little, and there won't be enough colour to work with.
  • Getting colours in unwanted places? The tool picks up the colour of whatever it drags through. This makes the tip of the tool less pointy and narrow, which makes precise dragging more tricky. It also adds the colour it picked up to subsequent drags. So simply wipe the tool clean after each drag.
  • Getting bald spots? See above; if your tool is not pointed and narrow enough, it pulls too much polish away. Try to drag right on the surface of the colours, as lightly as possible. It also helps to use polishes that are 'self-levelling'. When you paint a whole nail with a self-levelling polish, you'll find that the polish levels out and doesn't leave streaks or patches. Using this to dry marble means that, if you accidentally create a bald spot, the surrounding polish would flow in to fill it up. This would only work if the polish has not started to dry out, so dry marbling does need some speed.
As for applying the decal, I had to edit out a lot of that in the video, but basically you paint a thin layer of polish to your nail, then press the decal on. Use a brush dipped in nail polish remover to remove the excess decal on the side and tip of the nail.

My nails have a strong curve from side to side and a curve from cuticle to tip, so the decal really wrinkles up and refuses to completely smoothen out. (It's like wrapping a round object with paper - it'll never be smooth.) I found that two very generous coats of quick-dry top coat was my solution. I let the first coat dry (just 15 minutes), then added the second.

Floral dry marble nail art by polilish
My thumb never makes it to Instagram.

Finally, the list of the polishes and tools I used! 
  • Base coat: Glisten & Glow "Stuck on Blu"
  • Beige: Essie "Sand Tropez"
  • Turquoise: The Face Shop "GR501" 
  • Red flower center: Revlon "Vintage"
  • Watermarble tool: #7 by Picture Polish
  • Top coat: Glisten & Glow "HK Girl"

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