This Watercolor Manicure is as Easy as it is Dreamy

You might even find doing it kind of relaxing.
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Publish date:
July 13, 2015
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nail art, How-To, Essie, Sinful Colors, Nutra Nail, nail polish, Seche Vite, Julep, tutorial, manicure, Orly

You know how the last few months there has been this boom in adult coloring books? They aren’t, like, R-rated coloring books, which I’m sure exist as well, but they're these really intricate patterns designed for adults to color in and relieve stress.

I tried the whole coloring book thing, and it wasn’t working for me, but I have become pretty obsessed with watercolor painting lately. Something about sitting down and painting miniature versions of mundane things (pineapples, lipsticks, motivational quotes—it’s all very Pinterest) really puts the mind at ease.

So why don’t we translate the cool overlapping-colors aspect of watercolor onto our nails, shall we? And no worries, this is another art-degree-free nail art tutorial.

First things first, gather your polishes. Aim for thinner polishes that would normally take more than two coats to get full opacity; this makes it easier to see colors through the layers. If you have jelly polishes, this will be their time to shine; if not, no big deal. It's easy to get thicker polishes to the right consistency.

Before going wild on your watercolor, set down a base. I love the Orly Bonder Base Coat (it’s the only one I use) and for this project I’m using Essie Mademoiselle as the main color. This is a very sheer polish that really just evens out the color of my nails and help the rest of the polish meld together.

To get started, you will need a little of each color ready and one of those triangular cosmetic sponges that come in a pack of 30 for three dollars. If you want to use an opaque polish, thin it out with a cheapie clear polish. Side note: if you tend to take your time doing your nails, don’t go for a quick-dry clear polish or it will dry up on your palette.


You want to get a lot of polish onto your sponge. Seriously, glob it on. If you try to use less polish, you’ll get little indentations of texture in the polish from the sponge and we want this to be a very fluid look. When applying the polish to your nails keep in mind that you want it to look like watercolor, so don’t worry about uneven lines, it only makes it look better!

Keep adding polish to the different corners of the sponge and layering them over your nails. The more you layer over different colors, the dreamier it will look. But, if you feel like your nail is getting overwhelmed with color, just go back in with some of the base color, or a color close to your natural nail for a little cover up. I used both Essie Mademoiselle and Julep Cassie to do this.

After you are done globbing on all your polish as you see fit, you’ll have a literal mess on your hands. Head on back in with an acetone-covered Q-tip to fix up the edges and give your nails a good heavy topcoat. I love Seche Vite for this because it really evens out the multiple layers and gives a gorgeous shiny finish that lasts for days.


And it is just as easy as that to get a watercolor mani. Depending on the colors you choose, this would be super-easy to wear all year long, and even for some holiday nail art fun.

  • Would you ever try this manicure?
  • Have you ever tried an adult coloring book?
  • Or do you do anything else creative to relieve stress?