Nail painting: give yourself a phdicure

20150515_094319love painting my nails. There’s something so therapeutic about settling down on the floor, a film on in the background and the smell of nail varnish in the air. I like to lay out my two boxes of nail painting paraphernalia and match up colours, effects and little jewely things and then calmly paint away a few hours on a Sunday. Sometimes my flatmates Dave, Tom or Mike will be painting Warhammer figurines (is this the right word? I don’t know) at the same time, in shared painting tranquility. I thought I would share some of the results of this with the world!

Just a warning – there are lots of photos of hands and some feet in this post. If that creeps you out then maybe stick to the entries about long dead animals.

Dotting Tool!

A dotting tool is basically a metal stick with a tiny ball on the end. When you dip it in polish and then place it carefully on your nail it makes a dot. This works much, much better than just dropping a blob of nail varnish on your nails with a nail varnish brush, which puts too much varnish on your nails and smudges easily. I bought my Dotting Tools from Poundland, four for a pound. Done 😀


Left to right: Valentine’s Day (sorry), Minimalist Disney and Freya’s amazing Watermelon nails! All using a dotting tool.

Matt Effect* topcoat

I am addicted to my matt top coat. It makes such a difference to the finished manicure and can tone down a super shiny mani to look subtle and professional. Here are a few examples! On the pedicure below I also used striping tape, which is sort of like very thin masking tape for your nails, to make the defined lines.

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Left to right: Freya’s multicolour matt effect mani, some matt nails with flower stickers, and a pedicure painted to match my new running trousers. Super proud of that last one.

Colour Change Nailvarnish (with bonus water marbling and cracking top coat!)

Freya bought me colour change nail varnish for my birthday. It’s sold as ‘mood-changing’ but in reality it is based on the temperature of your nails. The black one goes light grey when warm, the light blue one goes a lovely dark blue when cold, and the purple one goes fushia pink when warm. It’s great to drink tea with cold hands and see them slowly warm up! One downside with these polishes is that they smell horrible!

The first two manis below use cracking top coat, both Sally Hansen from poundland. I particularly like the black one. You paint these over any colour and they crack into great patterns, but they’re quite changeable in the way they crack depending on how you paint them on.

Watermarbling requires a plastic cup filled with water, patience and sheer dumb luck. I have only got it right once, youtube vids make it seem so easy but it just isn’t. The idea is to float varnish on the surface of water in varying patterns and then dip your nails into it. If you get it wrong, see below.

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Left to right: black colour change varnish in mid change, warm blue with white crackle top coat, and cold purple with the best watermarbling I’ve ever done on the thumb and accent nail!

And this is what usually happens with water marbling.


My most recent adventure has been with stamping, which involves painting varnish into a pattern plate, scraping off the excess and then stamping this from the metal pattern plate onto your nail. Speed is important as if you wait too long the polish will dry before it makes it to your nail. I love stamping, it makes a lovely elegant pattern that I couldn’t hope to emulate any other way.

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First attempt at stamping (pedicure) and recent red on white stamping.

Some recent faves:

Burgundy and dark grey French manicure with two-tone stamp on white on the accent nail and pretty jewel on the middle finger. Oh and matt polish! Love this!
Grey and light pink mani to go with my dress for the Teaching Awards. The dress code was business attire, and when I initially painted all the nails the light pink it was way too excitable! So I added the grey, using striping tape to form the triangles around the jewels. All covered with a matt top coat of course!

I hope you have enjoyed this brief journey through nail painting with me! Usually when I am abroad doing bone work I don’t paint them at all. My hands get dry and dusty very quickly when working with animal bones and occassionally I need to hold a specimen up to take a picture – I’d rather not have Disney nails in my thesis!

Back to archaeology next time I promise!

Emily xxx

*not to be confused with Mass Effect, which I also like to while away my time over.


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