Pretty Easy Archipelago Nails

Sometimes you do a thing and it has completely unexpected benefits. Like the time I mixed up some nail polish in a plastic baggie, decanted it into a bottle, and neglected to throw away the baggie afterwards. For some mad reason (probably because it looked neat) I flattened it out and just left it lying around. And a few days later, I noticed that polish + air bubbles had made the most AMAZING looking texture :


AND SO, I used the result as NAIL DECALS and omg it’s amaaaaazing.


HOW ^2  DO IT:

First you’ll need a couple of polishes, and a smallish Ziploc bag. I personally really like the effect of using something that’s mostly glitter/shimmer bits (not a lot of actual pigment, in other words) to make sparkly “decals” to use over a solid cream color — you could reverse that and do decals of solid cream color over a sparkly polish, but I’m not sure it would be as interesting/impactful.

Aaaaanyway. If you’ve got a single nail polish that has lots of shimmer and sparkle AND glitter (but preferably not enormous glitter) in it, that’s great. If not, you can mix one up! Just open your baggie and pour in like a one-second-long stream of 2-3 polishes. Here’s two more I just made — they each contain a shimmer or metallic polish or two, and a small/medium glitter in a clear or tinted/jelly base.

Moosh them around to mix the colors, then lay the baggie down flat and kind of squeegee the polish around with your hand to distribute it throughout the baggie, like you’re pressing out dough. It should be VERY THIN, so thin it’s mostly translucent. After all, you want your decals to be appx the thickness of a normal coat of polish, not a big thick lump.

THEN, open up the baggie and pull the sides apart to expose it to air, and press the sides back together You should see a bunch of small “bubble” looking blank spaces in the surface, where air got trapped. That’s cool, that’s what you want. If it’s not spotty enough, open and repress again. Then mash it back together flat and (the hardest part) let it dry. This will take quite a few hours or really overnight, alas. But if you dig the look, you can do a few of these in different colors in minutes and just have them around for whenever.

My OG mix, still in its baggie.

Once it’s totally dry, peel the baggie apart. Hopefully your coating of polish will stick to one side rather than both, but if you can’t get it out all in one solid piece, it’s NBD since you’ll be using little shards of it anyway.

OG mix peeled off the baggie; miraculously it came off mostly in one sheet.

NOW, PAINT YOUR NAILS. My decal stuff is deep greeny-black with some goldish shimmer, so I chose a lighter jade green cream color for the base, and in retrospect I probably should’ve gone even lighter than this to maximize the contrast, but whatever. (This is YSL La Lacque in Vert D’Orient.)

When your nails are kiiiinda dry but still a little sticky, start applying your decals. Just tear off a shred of your bubbly flat-dried polish smear, position it on your nail however you like (I prefer to leave plenty of base color showing) and press it down lightly with a finger. Don’t worry about it if it overhangs your cuticles or nail tips a little, as we’re going to fix that.

Where it overhangs your cuticles, you can probably sort of flick/scritch it off with a pointy orange stick. If that doesn’t work well, just dip the orange stick in some remover and scritch at it again. Where it overhangs your nail tips, trim it down with some manicure scissors. You don’t have to get it exactly to the edge of the nail!

When you’ve got all your decal bits applied, wait a bit until your base color is actually TOTALLY DRY. Then take a file or buffer, hold it perpendicular to your nail edge, and gently swipe downward to kind of sand off the overhanging bits of decal.

THEN, paint all your nails with a clear coat. I like to use a thick bulky clear to help level and smooth everything (I use my own, but Gelous works well too). [Please note that I had never done this before, and I added my thick clear coat BEFORE I had sanded off the overhanging decals. It worked okay, but doing it again, I’d definitely clean up my tips first.]

Finally, a quick-dry clear coat — I used my usual Sally Hansen Insta-Dri. And you’re done! I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. It looks like an inverted or color-swapped map of ocean peppered with strings of little islands and fiddly coastlines and fabulousness. (Thus the title.)

Nail Art, yes or no? Too fiddly? Too time-consuming? YOU DECIDE. (And talk about it.) <3