How to Marble with Nail Polish

How to Marble with Nail Polish I have to admit that when I first realized that marbling was back in style, I was totally surprised. It’s not that I didn’t like marbling to begin with, but I had just kind of forgotten that it was an option. But once I saw the array of products in pretty, swirly rainbow hues, I was like, “Oh, right! Glad you’re back, marbling; you deserve it!” Our pal Elise made some really pretty cards recently, and we started wondering how this technique would look on a photo. So as part of our Canon USA collaboration we made some large marbled photo art!

While the options of how to marble (and what to marble) are varied, this nail polish version is pretty much as easy as it gets, and you can marble paper, wood, slick surfaces—just about anything! Since marbling is at its best when done in colorful hues, we decided that a bright marble pattern would be the perfect addition to a black and white photo. 

How to Marble with Nail Polish abeautifulmess.comSupplies:
-nail polish in several shades (don’t use quick-dry if possible). We used bottles of half-used polish from our collections, ones we hadn’t touched in over a year. 

-disposable container (I used paint liners)
-disposable stick to stir paint
Canon Fine Art Paper, “Photo Rag”
-plastic gloves to protect your hands

How to Marble with Nail Polish Step One: Print photo. Choose a photo that has a good amount of white space, meaning you won’t have to cover an important part of a photo, like someone’s face. We printed ours with the Canon PRO-100 on their “Photo Rag” paper, which worked much better than traditional photo paper on this project. We highly recommend it.

Step Two: Add a couple of inches of water to your container. If you are going to dip an object, use a container that can hold enough water to submerge your object, but you only need a shallow container with a few inches of water for objects that just touch the top of the surface. 

How to Marble with Nail Polish How to Marble with Nail Polish Step Three: Unscrew all the tops to your nail polish containers, and place them next to the water. Using one color at a time, pour some polish into the water at different spots across the surface. Once you have all the colors poured, use the stick to pull the colors across the surface until you get a mix that you like. You’ll have to work really quickly when pouring the colors and stirring them. It helps to have another person pour the colors with you—the less time the polish sits before being transferred to the object, the better the end result will be. 

How to Marble with Nail Polish Step Four: Once your pattern is where you like it, carefully place your photo into the area you like the best, and pull the photo straight up to remove. If you missed a spot on your photo, you can dip it again in another area that still has some polish remaining. You can also make a new batch of polish marbling to dip into again, but you’ll want to start over and change the water first. Once you have dipped all the spots you like, allow the photo to dry flat.

How to Marble with Nail Polish How to Marble with Nail Polish 2How to Marble with Nail Polish So pretty, right? The marbling has such a magical and fresh feel that it’s a perfect way to add some color to almost any object, and it definitely gives these already pretty photos a boost to the next level. xo. Elsie

Credits// Author: Elsie Larson, Project Assistant: Laura Gummerman, Photography: Elsie Larson and Sarah Rhodes. Photos edited with Stella from The Signature Collection

  • Great idea! It’s so fun to think about new surfaces to put these techniques on 🙂 I wonder if it can be done on fabric?

  • can you do this on a normal photo printed off from the store?

  • Has anyone tried this with fabric paper (not sure what it’s called, but quilters sometimes use it when they want to add a photo or other image to their quilt)?

    Also, does anyone have any great ideas on how to mask one area of a photo that you don’t want to have marbling on, especially if the area has an odd shape?

  • I tried this with both nail polish and acrylic craft paint and it sinks to the bottom of the water. Are you using non-tap water? I can’t get it to float on top.

  • Did you frame or mount the finished photos? I’m curious, as I really like the look of it. Thanks

  • Haaaan. THIS. I’m doing it asap!

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  • I love this and I think it will make a great anniversary gift for hubby. I wanted to ask you did you frame the pictures, i can’t really see but I like the way they are hung!

  • This is beautiful! I’ve been looking for some things to redecorate my room with that won’t be too cost effective and this is perfect 🙂

  • So CUTE! Love this! Putting this in my back pocket for the future!!!

  • Please say that this can be used on cloth. I would love to use in to make gorgeous embellished fabric, but I wonder if it would be very stiff.

  • Such a GREAT idea! ♥ I love it, thanks for sharing.
    xo Maria

  • Super neat! You guys are great at sharing ideas I never would’ve thought up on my own.

  • This is so adorable and a lovely idea! A definate must try!

    Trissa Marie

  • Awesome idea! Can’t wait to try this. Is there a reason you chose nail polish as opposed to something like craft paint?

  • What an awesome idea! The colors on the pictures turned out great.

  • This is SO cool. I love the pop of color on the black and white pictures.

  • omg girls!!! This is amazing!!!!! I will try this for sure!!!!!


  • Same Concept except I used a disposable cup, water, nail polish (Dollar store polish) an orange stick for swirling and tape (masking, scotch, anything except duct tape). It just takes A LONG TIME!!! Seriously, do this on a friday night when you just want to vegetate.

    1. If I want to paint all my nails marble, I paint my all fingernails a bright white because the colors will be see through. If I just want to do the ring finger, I paint my ring fingers white first before settling on the color for the other fingers, because this is M-E-S-S-Y!!!
    2. Pick my finger that I’ll be paiting, tape around the skin of my finger leaving just my nail eposed. And by tape around I mean you’re turning your finger into a mummy!! If you’re doing your ring fingers, do both at the same time (saves you trouble), if you’re doing individual fingers, I’d go one finger at a time.
    3. Instead of dropping the bottle into the cup, like they used here, put several drops of polish ontop of the water and layer the colors on top of each other.
    4. Like above, take your orange stick and swirl till you like the pattern.
    5. Dunk your mummified finger into the cup with the top of your nail is the first that is going into the mixture and the first that is coming out (think of it as a scooping motion).
    6. Let it dry a bit first, it’s going to look like a big mess. I’d say about 1-2 minutes. Then pull the tape off, you’ll have excess on the edge, but a nice flat brush (I use the E.L.F. contour brush for it’s only a $1) and nail polish remover will take it off!


  • this is the coolest thing! how did I not know about this before? thanks for sharing!

    love, arielle

  • Love this!

    Black and white photos are my favorite (always have been), but I love that little pop of color that helps the picture shine even more. And the best part is I should have almost everything I need for it!

  • Hey Charity,
    It’s actually the same photo. We used a simple, really thin frame for both of these photos. The size is 13x19inches. 🙂


  • Hi Johanna,

    So the good AND bad thing about marbling is that it it’s very unpredictable. You can’t remove it once it’s there. You can’t control how it goes on. Also, different polish brands create different effects. It’s totally a trial and error thing!


  • This is really neat! I’ve used clear confetti polish on collages and artwork before to give it a unique finish and it turned out really beautiful. I have never heard of this one though. Can’t wait to try it!

    Love and Luck,

    Laurali Star

  • this looks so cool! and easy! love it


  • What a fantastically simple idea! And it looks so so pretty.
    Definitely want to give this a try. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Olivia x

  • It´s a good idea! so cool!

  • Wow, this is really pretty! Never would have thought to use nail polish for this. Actually, never would have thought to marble a photo at all! Really love the idea, and the contrast on the Black & White.

  • Thanks for noticing that typo! We fixed it 🙂 -Jacki

  • I love water marbling! I looks amazing as detailing on photographs. I recently did a manicure with the technique, which is quite lovely as well 😉

  • Wow…I would have never thought about doing this but what a wow factor! Did you glue this picture on a canvas after marbling it? The wall picture looks so much bigger then the pic of you showing us how to marble…


  • looks amazing! great way to add a bit of colour to a room in a subtle way.

  • I’m going to try this. That’s a perfect idea for a personalised gift 🙂

  • This is just so pretty. I used to love marbling when I was back at school. It’s a really beautiful effect.

  • Wow. I definitely have to try that! Besides: Love your Blog 😉

  • What a great idea for using old nail polishes! One question though: Did you have a particular technique for getting the marbling to follow such a nice curve in the second photo (yellow & blue)? Is there a way to remove the polish from areas you didn’t mean for it to go after you’ve dipped the paper? Thank you for always sharing wonderful projects!

  • Great idea 🙂 Just a thought: If you have a picture in frame whit glas, you could do the marbling on the glas. That way you can remove it agian, or redo it in other colors after some time 🙂

  • love the color contrast with the blk and white photos
    looks awesome in a larger scale!!
    thanks for the inspiration this is an awesome DIY

  • Really nice technique! I love how it turned out!

  • aww! that looks really cool! so clever, and i love how it looks like a beautiful mistake in a photo processing lab… chemical dip!

  • This is great! I wonder what black and white nail polish on a colored photo would look like.

  • Oh my gosh, loving this take on marbling–you did an amazing job!

    xo Mary Jo

  • I’ve always wanted to try marble nail polish on my nails, but putting them on photos seems like an even better idea! 🙂

  • Oh My! This looks amazing! I used to marble my nails in High School but trust me this is so much better! Thanks for sharing!

  • you might wanna change the credits/author to Elsie from Laura. You don’t have to post this in the comments, just thought should let you guys know.

  • Wow, this is so easy to do and turns out pretty cute and colorful. Have to try it soon.

    xo, Hems

  • Wow!!! I really love it – I would have never thought to do that – though I have used nail polish on some huge canvas paintings. I love the contrast on a B&W photo. If only I had some more wall space *sigh* – maybe soon!

  • That’s so cool! I don’t understand how you guys come up with these brilliant ideas!

  • Very pretty! I’ve done marbling projects before with spray paint, but it ends up drying so fast that it doesn’t leave much time to swirl it and dip things in. I like this better!

  • Love the result! Though, I don’t have old nailpolishes to use

  • Amazing. I want to marble everything: Photos, journals, apples, pizza! Okay… I won’t go that far.

  • Really Cool! I might do this with my sister 🙂 (run by 2 sisters)

  • This looks great, I’ve done this for marble nail art never thought if adding to pictures

  • This is so cool! What a unique idea. I love the color combos you used, very pretty. 🙂

    xoxo Mandy

  • Such a unique idea. I might try this, especially with polishes that are turning a bit old – saves on buying paint then :). xo


  • This looks like fun, might be a bit smelly but terrific results. Will have to give it a go.

  • Wow that is incredible! I will definitely be trying that to get some color in our new place when we move.

  • So pretty! To be honest, I saw this title and was hoping it was a DIY on marbling nail polish for your actual nails. This is cute too, though!

  • This is so pretty! I know what I’ll be doing this Saturday…


  • This is such a great idea! I love it, and I think I will try it sometime soon. I’m thinking of trying it with black and white nail polish. 🙂

    ♥ Naomi Starry Eyes + Coffee Cups


    This would be a perfect project for nail polishes that are separating, but you can’t seem to throw away!
    I’m always trying to find ways to repurpose things.
    My husband calls me a hoarder, but what can you do?!

    Heidi Harlequin

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