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5 Best Watercolor Nail Polish Sets for Easy Nail Art

watercolor nail polish

123rf.com (Oleksandr Smirnov)

Watercolor nail polish creates effortless, salon-worthy nail art. Alcohol-based nail ink is unlike any other nail polish out there and it’s ideal for watercolor nails and geode nails.

Nail ink air-dries rapidly and can be used with regular nail polish or gel nail polish but each has a different prep method so be sure to see the how-to section. If you want to create fluid marble looks with your own colored gel polish, you’re looking for blooming gel polish which is different than watercolor ink.

What Are the Best Watercolor Nail Polish Sets?

colorful marbled nail polish with bottles Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Hightly pigmented
  • Six colors
  • Well-labeled bottles
Price: $16.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
eight-piece Burano marbling nail polish set Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Blooming alcohol
  • Unique colors and metallics
  • Different colors sets are available
Price: $16.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Born Pretty set of watercolor ink polishes Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Full-size bottles
  • Includes alcohol blender
  • Cruelty-free
Price: $18.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Modelones watercolor ink bottles with nail swatches Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Best rainbow colors
  • Includes alcohol for blending
  • Nice big bottle
Price: $15.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Earthtone blooming ink swatches with bottles Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Two color palettes
  • Includes alcohol
  • Full-size bottles
Price: $14.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Our Unbiased Reviews
  1. 1. EDITOR’S CHOICE: Makartt 6-Piece Blossom Nail Polish Set

    • Set of six colors
    • Bottle are well-labeled
    • Known brand
    • Highly pigmented
    • Doesn't come with alcohol
    • Description isn't clear
    • The green is quite blue

    This Six-Piece Makartt Nail Ink Set is a great introduction set for beginners. You get six colors to play with: gold, azure, yellow, red, green, and fuchsia. These inks are highly pigmented compared to other sets of a similar price and they spread well. The gold is a lot more orange than gold and the green leans toward more of a peacock but those are still two nice colors to have. 

    Each bottle contains six milliliters of alcohol ink and if that sounds small, remember that you need so very little of this type of ink that even a small bottle will last you a long time.

    My main issue with this set is that you have to bring your own isopropyl alcohol and it’s labeled as a gel blooming polish and it’s just not. It’s not gel polish at all. It’s generally used with gel polish but you don’t need to cure it. 

    Makartt is a good intro brand that has nail supplies at a reasonable price point.

  2. 2. Burano Marble Nail Polish 8-Piece Set

    • Sets come in different color palettes
    • Has metallic colors
    • Bottles are larger than some
    • Bottle of alcohol for blooming
    • Gold takes longer to dry
    • Instructions aren't the best
    • A little more expensive than others

    This Burano Eight-Piece Set takes the cake on having the most unique colors of watercolor ink. Each set includes seven ink colors and one alcohol to blend and spread your design. 

    Burano has a couple of different ink sets with different colors in each. This set I’m featuring comes with pink, red, purple, orange, blue, black, and metallic gold. Their new 2021 Set includes metallic silver, white, green, rose, yellow, blue, and coffee. You don’t tend to see a lot of metallic, white, or brown watercolor inks so this is an opportunity to create some really unique looks.

    Each bottle is 7.3 milliliters which is larger than some other brands offer. You need very little to get a result so these will really last you.

    The inks are well pigmented and spread and blend beautifully when manipulated with the included alcohol. One thing to note when trying this out is that their metallic colors will take longer to dry than typical alcohol-based ink but it’s still only a matter of waiting a couple of minutes. 

  3. 3. Born Pretty 6-Piece Blossom Polish Set

    • Six full-size bottles
    • Includes a full-size alcohol blender
    • Great for marble designs
    • Highly pigmented
    • Not as many colors
    • Colors are labeled as numbers
    • May not need this much product

    For those looking for a set that’s well-suited to marbling, go with the Born Pretty Six-Piece Blossom Polish Set. It’s worth watching the YouTube video feature below because these inks blended so well and became a finished design faster than all the other reviews I’ve watched. It looks almost effortless. A few dabs of color and a little touching with the alcohol blender and suddenly you’ve got marble nails. 

    This set comes with six full-size 15-milliliter bottles. That’s a ton of product considering how little ink you need for a design. There are five colors in the set and one 15-milliliter bottle of alcohol with an applicator brush.

    The colors are muted jewel tones in rose, teal, mauve, sapphire, and grey. These earthy tones set you up for stunning geode, agate, and marble designs. One complaint I have for these, and all Born Pretty polishes, is that they don’t label their colors well. There’s a sticker on the bottle of each bottle with a number on it, but no color name and that can be a little frustrating.

    Since the colors are all a little darker than average, they show up well even with only one layer.

  4. 4. Modelones Watercolor Ink 7-Piece Set

    • Every color of the rainbow
    • Comes with alcohol blender
    • Known brand
    • Attractive bottle packaging
    • Color labels aren't very clear
    • Labeled as "gel polish" but it isn't
    • The purple is a little dull

    Looking for a set that lets you create a rainbow of colors? Go with Modelone’s Watercolor Ink 7-Piece Set which comes with six shades: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. These are bright, true colors with the exception of the purple which has a grey look to it. You can see the colors in action in this YouTube review video.

    They are nicely pigmented and spread well when used with the included bottle of alcohol blender. The 10-milliliters bottles are a decent size and give you plenty of ink to work with. 

  5. 5. Ownest 6-Piece Blooming Ink Sets

    • Full-size 15-milliliter bottles
    • Two color palette sets available
    • Affordable
    • Includes blooming alcohol
    • Not as pigmented as others
    • Mailing packaging isn't as secure
    • Lesser known brand
    • Not as high-quality

    For those looking for the best deal, this Six-Piece Blooming Ink Set by Ownest gives you the most product for your money. You get five full-size 15-milliliter bottles in five different colors and one full-size bottle of alcohol for blending. Keep in mind you get what you pay for so if you’re getting this much for a lower price, don’t expect the inks to be as good as more expensive brands.

    I like that the Ownest brand has two different color palette options for their watercolor inks. I’m featuring their earth tones set (rose, grey, amethyst, coffee, and bronze) but they also have a bright colors set as well (pink, yellow, blue, red, and green.)

What's the hype about watercolor nails?

Watercolor patterns have a classic beauty to them that people don't expect to see on your nails. People have been creating art with watercolors for centuries. They're even mentioned by Shakespeare

These liquidly, sheer inks are great for watercolor, marble, and soft blended designs. I love them because they can take a little bit of experimenting but they're quite easy to work with and very forgiving.

A huge plus for me is that if your design didn't come out how you wanted, you can sometimes remove it with some alcohol on a lint-free wipe without affecting the nail polish underneath. Sometimes the inks have already stained and they won't come off, but it's worth a shot. There's nothing more frustrating than getting all your base layers set and then messing up your nail so you have to do it all again, but that's not the case with these inks. 

Are they gel polish or regular nail polish?

Neither. Watercolor polish is a thin alcohol-based ink that will air dry quite quickly. It doesn't need to cure under an LED or UV nail lamp to dry and it can be rehydrated or removed with isopropyl alcohol. 

How to apply on gel nail polish.

1. Apply your base coat and color coats as usual. Keep in mind that these inks look best over light colors like white.

2. Before adding your ink designs, use an alcohol wipe to remove the tacky layer.

3. Add a matte top coat and cure--Or you can use a buffer to remove the shine from your color layer so the alcohol can properly adhere to your nail. Wipe again to remove dust. This step isn't 100% necessary but it will make the watercolor effect look a million times better and be much easier to work with. 

4. Apply small amounts of the ink color of your choice.

5. Blend or manipulate them with a nail art brush dipped in alcohol. This alcohol allows you to move, blend, spread, or thin out a color. Applying a dry brush will reabsorb the ink, leaving interesting border lines where the color had been.

6. Top with the no wipe gel top coat of your choice.

For more fluid designs you can skip the alcohol wipe and buffing step and, instead, add a blooming gel. Do not cure this layer and then paint your inks directly into the fluid gel. Then cure and add a top coat.

How to apply on regular nail polish.

1. Apply your base coat and color coats as usual. Nail inks show up best over light colors like white.

2. Watercolor polish works best over a matte surface so if your color has a glossy finish, apply a matte top coat and let it dry.

3. Add your ink colors in small dabs. 

4. Blend or manipulate them by dipping your nail art brush in alcohol. Different amounts of alcohol will allow you to move, blend, spread, or thin out the colors. Applying a dry brush will reabsorb the ink, leaving interesting border lines where the color had been.

5. Seal with the glossy top coat of your choice.

How to remove watercolor nail polish.

If you haven't yet sealed in your design, you can remove only the nail inks using isopropyl alcohol. 

If you've already applied your top coat, you'll need to remove it the same way you'd remove your normal nail polish.

Tips and tricks for watercolor nails.

Less is more. Go slow.

You can tint a polish color with a single all-over coat of nail ink. This looks particularly stunning when used over silver holographic nail polish.

These inks stain so be careful to keep them off your skin and working surface. A nail mat can help protect your table.

If your top coat is smearing your design, try floating the brush over the top of your nail, not allowing the brush to actually touch your nail plate, the way you would with nail stamping. 

If the inks are looking too thin and seem to spread out so much you can't see them, you need to buff your base or add a matte top coat so the watercolors can get a grip on your nail. 

For those kits that come with alcohol, if you're using the applicator brush to apply the blending alcohol to the nail, be sure to wipe it off before putting it back into the bottle or else you'll contaminate the clear with the colored ink.

One simple, never-fail design is to pick one or two colors and dot them on your nail with the brush. It starts out looking like a polka dot effect but as the colors dry and you add more dots on top of dots, the watercolor effect starts to show as the sheer colors overlap and blend with each other.