April 3, 2015

Zoya Spring [Nail Art] Challenge: Rayne Half-moon Watermarble [Tutorial]

Hey everyone, happy Friday!

To go along with the Spring 2015 launch of the Delight collection (bottle shots here), Zoya has invited myself and a few other bloggers to participate in a Spring Nail Art Challenge!

We each received an assigned color, and mine was Zoya- Rayne. I was delighted to get that one, let me tell you! It's a stunner!

There were no other guidelines or limitations to the challenge, other than to incorporate your assigned color plus other Zoya shades of your choosing. I'd really been itching to try watermarbling again (although I've never done it for the blog), and also wanted to mix things up a bit with half-moons, which I thought would be a good way to showcase Rayne.

I've also never attempted a tutorial for Polish Hound before, so I hope that this format works out for everyone. I tried to take enough pictures along the way to make everything clear.


You will need binder reinforcement stickers to mask off the half-moon arcs, or if you have similarly-shaped nail vinyls, you can use those.  The small dotting tool is for dragging the marble design in the water, but you can also use a needle, or basically anything thin and pointed. You'll need something like an orange stick to clean up the surface of the water before you remove your hand. And, of course, a cup! It's better to use a disposable plastic cup, probably, but I didn't have any in the house!

Not pictured: base coat, top coat, and room-temperature distilled water to use for the marble.

IGNORE THE NAIL ART BRUSHES. I was originally going to add waterfall designs to some of the nails, but later changed my mind since I thought it was too busy! I did not use the brushes at all!

I used five Zoya polishes for this design:

L to R: Rayne, Cassi, Wendy, Harley, Purity

Rayne, of course, is from Zoya's new Spring 2015 Delight collection, and Cassi, which goes so well with it, is originally from the Spring 2009 Twist collection (as is Harley)! Wendy is from last year's Summer set of cremes, Tickled.

For the watermarble nails, I used Zoya- Purity as a base, and the actual marble bullseye was created with just the other four polishes: Zoya- Rayne, Zoya- Cassi, Zoya- Wendy, and Zoya- Harley, in that order.

1) I began by re-shaping my nails (while old polish was still on), removing the polish, and then pushing back the cuticles. I do this before most nail art and major swatching sessions, since my nails grow fast, and the cleanly-shaped edge tends to look less...refined after a couple of days. I applied OPI-  Nail Envy as a base coat. Nails prepped!

2) To begin the nail art look, I decided which nails were going to be the accented/ watermarble nails. I painted two coats of Zoya- Purity onto the ring nail, and two coats of Zoya- Rayne onto each of the other nails, then topped with a quick dry top coat (in this case I used Sally Hansen- Dries Instantly.) At this point, nothing needs to look completely opaque or totally streak-free, and we're not worrying about clean cuticle lines until the very end.

(yes, no clean-up involved here- I just paint my nails...a lot! LOL!)

3) When your polish is absolutely dry (all the layers are completely set through), apply binder ring reinforcers at the cuticle line to mask off a half-moon look. (For the thumb, I used a French tip nail guide to mask off the shape, since the binder reinforcers are too small.)

The middle nail will become the other accent nail, so It will get a coat of Zoya- Purity as a base for the watermarble.  The other nails will get a coat of Zoya- Harley. This will work best if your second polish is a near one-coater. I had a trickier time since polishes that watermarble well tend to be thinner and less opaque usually. 

4) Before the polish dries, quickly and gently remove the binder reinforcement sticker. You can use tweezers if it's easier. Like any taping or nail vinyl work, it's best if you go nail-by-nail so that nothing has a chance to dry before you take off the stickers/ vinyls. That will give a cleaner line.

5) Apply another layer of quick dry top coat. Since I was using Sally Hansen- Dries Instantly, which only quick dries the surface layer, and does not set the polish all the way through quickly, I also applied Qtica- Half Time Polish Drying Accelerator drops to speed the process. Since we're masking off the nails again to do the watermarble, the nails need to be very  thoroughly set.

Another thing top coating at this point does is provide a layer of protection for mistakes. If there's something you want to remove with nail polish remover, you can usually do that without ruining the base.

6) After you're sure that's completely dry, you can proceed with the watermarble next! To maintain the half-moon shape on the middle nail, you'll need to mask off that part again with a binder ring, and then use Scotch tape or painter's tape to cover the hole in the binder ring, as well as tape around your cuticle and fingertip to prevent a lot of the mess. If you have Liquid Latex or Liquid Palisade, or some other kind of masking fluid, you can also do that instead of the tape.

7) For the watermarble, I am using four colors in this order to make the bullseye:

  • Rayne, Cassi, Wendy, Harley
  • room-temperature distilled water
  • a ceramic teacup 
  • a large wooden orange stick to do the cleanup after dipping
  • a small dotting tool to drag the water & create the bullseye
I suggest experimenting with your water and polishes before you sit down to watermarble your actual nails. This way you can determine if the polishes will spread properly. I went through a few combinations of polishes before settling on these four. I even did a few trials mixing up the order of the polishes into the water, which actually makes a difference in how the bullseye's rings spread!

You can see a couple of the experiments here:

It's also good practice!

Usually, polishes that watermarble well are decently pigmented, but have thinner formulas. If they readily drip down off of the brush, that's a good sign. You can always thin a polish out with nail polish thinner (not remover!) if you need to.

Some general watermarble tips:

  • Have all your bottles open so you can work quickly.
  • When the polish stops spreading out readily from the center, it's time to stop adding to your bullseye.
  • Don't drop the polish into the cup from too far away- it'll sink to the bottom! It's best to touch the droplet to the surface of the water (but not the brush).
  • When beginning to drag the bullseye, start from a ring or two in- not the very outer perimeter. That part will be already dry and will ruin everything!
  • Make any pattern you want! There's no wrong way to do this! You will see that my design was not very aesthetically pleasing or symmetrical. I tend to like watermarbles that look more organic and less uniform, so that's what I was going for!
  • Pushing your dotting tool (or whatever you're using) down into the center of the bullseye after each stroke can keep the design looking crisper. 
  • After every stroke or two, wipe off your tool on a paper towel so it doesn't muddy the design.
  • Dip your nails SLOWLY at a 45 degree angle. This will prevent bubbles.

All set up:

Here's how the bullseye looked in the end:

I stopped adding polish when it didn't want to spread out from the center any more. Harley, Rayne, and Cassi were all good watermarble polishes, and Wendy was a little more difficult since it's thicker. Because the other three spread so well though, they kept helping Wendy to push out from the center. So, if you find three good watermarble polishes, and one "meh" one, it could still work! Remember that a lot of stunning watermarbles just use two colors, as well!

After dragging my design:

You can see I didn't even bother much with one side of the design since I was only dipping two fingers. Nothing is symmetrical, but that's OK! I was concerned with timing during this whole process, since I had to stop at each step and take photos.

The dip:

^I'd actually already used my orange stick at that point to swirl around and clear off any excess polish from the top of the water.

Nails immediately removed from the water:

8) Remove the tape and binder sticker carefully! Nail scissors are very helpful- you can cut the tape open from the underside of the finger and just unwrap that way.

Because I took so long taking photos, the paper on the binder sticker had time to dissolve in the water a bit, which was unfortunate. You can see on my middle nail that there's some paper residue. I carefully removed it with tweezers, which was no problem since the base polish there was totally set.

After the tape and binder sticker come off:

9) Clean-up! Now is the time to do any clean-up resulting from the watermarble mess, or any cuticle clean-up you'd normally do. I chose to go in with acetone and E.L.F's small concealer brush to create crisper cuticle lines since I was taking a lot of photos. If your nails are still wet from the dipping after this is done, you can either wait for them to air dry, or use an edge of a paper towel to touch any water drops and sort of suck them in to the towel and off of your nail.

10) Finish with your top coat of choice. I just used Sally Hansen- Dries Instantly again, since that's what I had on hand!


Artificial light without fill to show how crazy sparkly Rayne is:

Up close:

All in all, I love how this turned out- especially since I've never watermarbled for the blog before, and haven't even tried it in a few years! This was only my second attempt ever! So, you could consider this a tutorial from someone who is still just learning. I think that it's really not too difficult if you play around with the polishes first, and if you're not aiming for a really symmetrical design!

What do you think?

Have you tried watermarbling?

*Disclosure: polishes in this post were provided to me as press samples for honest review, and all opinions are my own.


  1. So pretty, love the color combos!

  2. This is very pretty! Love seeing the step by step pictures too.

  3. Beautiful manicure! Love this design, with the half moon and the grey and blue together. I think your watermarble fingernails turned out awesome, I love all of these colors together! Thanks for taking pictures through the process too, I have never tried this before. Thanks for sharing.

    Katie B.

  4. Ummm wow, kudos to you for putting so much work into this post! This is seriously so awesome. And you write so well about it you might actually get me to finally try this technique out. I've been so scared to for a long time, but all your tips are immensely helpful! Thank you for all the detail you added to this post!

  5. Very nice manicure, perfect water marble and combination of colors!

  6. Thank you! :) I was pretty enamored with how these colors looked together!

  7. :D I am so happy you like it! Hopefully I wasn't too wordy, LOL! You should definitely try it, because testing all the polishes out first, makes all the difference, and makes it much less frustrating!

  8. Thank you!! I love grey and blue together too! Thanks for stopping by, and you should definitely try watermarbling! I had a lot of fun!

  9. Thanks Lisa! I am hoping the next marble comes out similarly, LOL!

  10. Yay, thank you! Me too! <3

  11. All of these colors work perfect together. <3