water marble nail art in purple, magenta, bluegreen and white. close-up

The 7 Best Nail Polishes For Water Marble

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To create swirly, marble-like designs, don’t reach for just any old polishes. The best nail polishes for water marble are highly pigmented and opaque (avoid sheer or clear polishes, as these won’t show up as well with this technique) and feature a slightly thinner consistency to better spread out in the water. You’ll also want to steer clear of quick-drying polishes, as time is already limited when creating water marble designs — you need to do it before the polish dries.

What to consider when choosing your polishes:

Water marble designs typically require at least three nail polishes in different colors or shades. When choosing your color palette, keep in mind that the colors may blend together to create additional hues. Some nail polish is sold in multipacks with colors that vibe well together, so consider purchasing a set if you’re stuck on which shades to choose.

Other considerations when picking out a polish? If you’re worried about certain chemicals, look for terms like “three-free,” which means the polish doesn’t contain formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate. And some polishes leave out additional chemicals — look for terms like “10-free,” “12-free”, etc. on the label. One thing to note, though, is that there’s no definitive evidence that polish with these chemicals is bad for your health.

What you need to create water marble nail art:

In addition to the nail polish, there are other products you’ll need for water marbling. For longevity, first paint your nails with a good base coat. And to keep the skin surrounding your nail free from polish, utilize liquid latex. Wanting to make the marbling really pop? Consider painting your nails with a few coats of white nail polish before dipping them in the water. Oh, and don’t forget a marbling tool to create the design! Also, remember that water marbling works best with standard, non-gel polishes, since they don't need to cure under a UV lamp.

Finally, if water marbling seems a little complicated or you’re not ready to stock up on all the necessary tools just yet, you can also opt for specialty polishes that create the marbled look without water; simply brush them on, and enjoy.

The Best Nail Polishes For Creating Water Marble Nail Art

These seven nail polishes are all perfect for water marbling — you’ll love the end results you achieve with them.

1. A Fan-Favorite Nail Polish

With a price tag of less than $5, you may expect the quality of this three-free nail polish from Sally Hansen to be lacking. However, that’s certainly not the case. In fact, this nail polish is overwhelmingly adored on Amazon — with its 10-plus shades earning a solid 4.4-star rating overall, after more than 25,000 reviews — with reviewers indicating that the polish is opaque and vivid … and therefore perfect for water marbling. The nail polish goes on smoothly, so it should spread well when placed in water, and it dries with a delightfully glossy finish.

Enthusiastic Amazon review: “This Sally Hansen Hard as Nails Xtreme Wear, White On, 0.4 Fluid Ounce, is an amazing polish no doubts about it. [...] It works great for doing water marbling, stamping, french nails [and] so on. I give the polish 5 stars plus”

2. A Set Of 12 Colorful Nail Polishes For Just $20

When doing a water marbling technique, you’ll likely use up quite a bit of nail polish. Luckily, this set from SHANY Cosmetics comes with 12 full-size polishes for just $20 — your wallet will thank you! The pastel version of this set includes pink, lilac, melon, blue, mint green, and beige pastel shades, all of which are highly pigmented with medium to full coverage. Some of the finishes are glossy and others are more shimmery. If you aren’t into the pastels, you can opt for one of SHANY’s other 12-piece sets, which include metallic, tropical, and earth-inspired shades.

These polishes are cruelty- and three-free. They dry semi-quickly, so make sure to work a bit faster when utilizing this pick.

Enthusiastic Amazon review: “This is the second set of polishes I’ve bought from them love them. All the colors are nice and vibrant. Definitely worth it I know I saved money.”

3. A Cult-Favorite Nail Polish You Can Buy In 20+ Shades Of Blue

OPI is known for making some seriously stellar long-lasting nail polishes, and thankfully, many picks from the brand happen to be great options for water marbling. This specific three-free OPI polish is a vivid blue shade called No Room For The Blues, and it is highly opaque for full coverage with a creamy finish. But don’t fret if this pick isn’t your perfect match; OPI makes more than 20 different blue nail polishes, so you’ll surely be able find one (or more!) that you love — or if you want to marble a few different blues together.

If you want to mix a blue shade with other colors for your water marbling look, or if you’d prefer another color family in general, OPI makes a bunch of shades of red, green, purple, pink, and yellow nail polishes, too.

Enthusiastic Amazon review: “Usually nail polish doesn't last long on me but this OPI is amazing! Literally the only nail polish I've tried thus far where I will get at least a weeks worth of perfectly painted nails! Oh and this color is AMAZING! Definitely recommend!”

4. A 7-Free Neon Nail Polish

Bright, bold, and bodacious — this vegan nail polish from ILNP will certainly bring the fun to your water marble look. The neon polish is a green-yellow shade that’s opaque (so it’s particularly great for this technique) and chip-resistant for long-lasting wear. ILNP makes other eye-catching neon nail polish shades, including pink, purple, and seafoam — they’d look amazing if used together in one design. If you have sensitive skin or other reasons to feel concerned about nail polish ingredients, you’ll be happy to know this polish is also seven-free.

Enthusiastic Amazon review: “Really opaque color, only takes two coats max for full effect. So bright and vibrant. Love!!”

5. A Set Of 10-Free Nail Polishes In Pink & Red Shades

This set of nail polishes from Zoya comes with four full-size bottles in a variety of gorgeous pink and red shades — an absolute steal, especially considering it costs less than $20! Use them together for a cohesive marbled look, or pick and choose the shades you want to utilize in your design ... the sky is the limit! The nail polishes are opaque with a glossy finish, and they’re all 10-free, so they leave out a number of potentially harmful ingredients, including formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate.

Choose from four other color combinations as well, including one with all neutral shades, if that’s more your thing.

Enthusiastic Amazon review: “I love all Zoya polishes because they go on very smoothly, cover with minimal coats and no streaking, and last a long time. These red and pink colors are gorgeous.”

6. A Playful Purple Nail Polish

If you’re a fan of purple nail polish, you’ll totally adore this three-free pick from Essie — it’s the perfect shade… deep, yet bright, and totally opaque. Named Wink Of Sleep, the nail polish boasts a high gloss finish that’ll certainly shine. Essie sells other purple and blue shade options, too — combine a few of them for a gorgeous water marble design.

Enthusiastic Amazon review: “A beautiful color. Essie is one of the few brands of nail polish I use on a regular basis and their quality is always top notch.”

7. A Plant-Based Nail Polish That’s 16-Free

If you have sensitive skin or other reasons to be concerned about potentially harmful ingredients in nail polishes, this non-toxic pick from Sally Hansen is 16-free — it leaves out formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, toluene, xylene, acetone, phthalates, camphor, parabens, ethyl tosylamide, and triphenyl phosphate. The nail polish is also plant-based (it’s made with ingredients from the likes of potato, corn, wheat, and sugar cane), vegan, and cruelty-free. But beyond that, this pick is honestly just a stellar nail polish. It boasts a rich, opaque color with a glossy finish — this specific shade is named Sun-Tastic, but you can choose from a wide range of beautiful colors to create nearly any marbled look you please.

If you need to finish off your look, some of these Sally Hansen nail polishes can also be purchased in a set with a vegan top coat that’ll give your nails a shiny, glossy finish.

Enthusiastic Amazon review: “I was surprised by how opaque this color was, usually it takes 2-3+ coats to get a full thing going but this was a 1 coat job on most nails. it lasted a good while too, a few days, 3-4 and then started to peel. Overall, a very nice nail polish, I was really happy with it!”

Also Nice: A Gel Nail Polish Set To Achieve A Marbled Look Without Water

Don’t feel like messing with full-on water marbling, but still hoping to achieve a similar design on your nails? This set from BORN PRETTY will allow to you to do so with ease — it comes with five colored bottles of nail polish (specifically, green, red, purple, black, and brown shades) that, when used in combination with the transparent polish, create gorgeous marble-like designs. These polishes are gel formulations, so they’ll need to be cured using an UV LED lamp.

The manufacturer does not specify whether this pick is three-free. It is, however, cruelty-free.

Enthusiastic Amazon review: “Holy cow, this is an amazing set. If you've been looking for a super easy way to get nails that actually look like marble, this is the set to get”