Nail polish mugs and The Sure Thing

Craft trials continue.  The other night, I decided to take a crack at these watercolour mugs that I saw over on Poppytalk.  The idea being that you can make pretty mugs by dipping them in nail polish that’s floating on water.  Apparently people do manicures this way?  I have no idea.  I rarely paint my nails anymore because they get chipped within hours and that irritates me.

So, I bought 4 plain white mugs from the dollar store for $1.25 each and I have tons of nail polish. I figured that this would be a cheap thing to do, and if it didn’t work out, then I’m only out $6.  Or not really even, because I could probably still use the mugs.


Dollarama mugs


And, imagine my surprise and happiness when I found out that The Sure Thing was on TV that night!  I love John Cusack.  Love him.  It was on Turner Classic Movies.  I didn’t even know that we got that channel.  So I got to make these mugs with The Sure Thing in the background.

Right.  So I’d done a little experimentation with this technique a couple of days before, and found that I preferred the results when using a metallic nail polish.  So I went and rounded up all of my metallic nail polishes.  Your mileage may vary, depending on the look you’re going for.  Glittery nail polish did not work at all.  Not enough colour.  You will also want to have nail polish remover and paper towel or some other such thing on hand for this.  I also had a wooden skewer, which was supposed to be to make a pattern in the nail polish, but in the end was more useful for removing nail polish scum from the water.

Put some warm water in a little tin foil pan and proceeded to drop nail polish in.



These are the nail polishes I used in my original trial. The purple and blue were the ones that came right off when washed. I liked the effect of the gold metallic one better, and it seemed more durable. FWIW, the purple and blue are brand new polishes, the gold I’ve had for a long time.



Based on the trial results, I rounded up a bunch of metallic colours. And nail polish remover.


Here’s what I experienced:

  • Some of the time, the nail polish landed in a ball at the bottom of the dish.  Apparently this was because I poured the nail polish from too far away from the water.  Hold the polish close to the water.

Nail polish floating. Note the drops stuck to the bottom of the pan.


  • I needed way more than a drop of nail polish to make this work at all.
  • The nail polish forms a scum on top of the water really quickly.  It doesn’t seem to matter what kind of polish you use, how old it is, or what, it scums up fast.  So you have to work really quickly on this project.  Really, really quickly.

Scummed up nail polish.


  • The idea of using a skewer to make a pattern in the nail polish didn’t work for me at all.  The polish just spread out over the surface of the water, and if I took the time to dip the skewer in to make a pattern, the nail polish had scummed up already, resulting in the skewer collecting the nail polish scum.  Which is handy if you just want to change the colour.
  • I had a hard time making nice looking designs on the mugs.  I think they kind of look like coloured tongues.  You be the judge.  Apparently there is a bit of a dipping technique here.  The original poster mentions in a comment that she dipped hers straight down into the nail polish blob then rolled it to the other side.  This was in the comments on the post though, and of course I didn’t read those until after I did the work.

One of my original, test mugs. I like the gold, and the patterns are okay on this one.


  • I did a couple of these several days earlier to test things out.  I found that even after 3 days of drying and being left alone, the polish came off with almost no effort at all.  Like with soap and water.  I ended up taking nail polish remover and starting over with one of the 2 mugs I tested the technique on.  The second mug was the one done with metallic paint — it held up better, but would still be very easy to scratch the polish off.  This could be because of the finish on the mugs I bought, or because of the type of nail polish I used — no idea.  This time, I set all the mugs in a 200 degree (F) oven for 45 minutes to see if I could bake the finish on.  Haven’t touched them since though, so I don’t know if it would work.  It later occurred to me that nail polish is flammable, and maybe heating it up isn’t an awesome idea, but nothing caught on fire.  So do that step at your own risk.
  • For once, I actually read the instructions, but it turned out that this is one where I should have read all the comments, because there were some very helpful technique tips from a person named Kayla, which are, in summary:  use a smaller, shallower dish — the polish spreads out and dries too fast if the dish is too large;  using more polish keeps it from drying out too fast; work really fast; drop the polish in from close to the surface of the water.

The 2 colours actually happened because there was still a little bit of red in the pan when I added the purple. I think it would be more interesting the pattern was better.



Went for a 2 colour technique here. The second colour is actually a purple nail polish, but looks black on the mug. I like the combination, but again, not the pattern. And you can see how the nail polish scum affected the mug here, but I was able to pick it off.



This red nail polish actually formed the most interesting patterns on the water. I think with an improvement in my dipping technique, I might have liked this better.


Bottom line on this — meh.  They’re okay.  Not as nice as the ones in the original post, which is maybe because I don’t have the right touch.  I also kind of rate crafts on how relaxing they are to do, and this one isn’t all that relaxing.  You have to work too fast.  The marbled clay dishes on the other hand, were relaxing to make.

So for me — watercolour mugs — not a Sure Thing.  It would not be tonight 🙂  I enjoyed the movie though.

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