Sunday, January 11, 2015

DIY Watercolor Mugs

Do you remember the water marbling nail craze? I was in high school when it was most popular, and never was able to pull the technique off on my nails. It was fickle and wasn't worth the effort, as I knew my nails would chip in a day or two regardless.

However, a couple weeks ago, I stumbled onto a DIY which put the water marbling technique to great use on a surprising subject-- mugs!

While I loved the idea, I was worried that water marbling mugs would be just as difficult as my failed-nail attempts. After all, the finished product looked gorgeous-- and anything that looks that cool had to be impossibly hard, right?

Wrong! I was happy to find that water marbling mugs was delightfully straight forward. In less than 10 minutes you can have a beautiful watercolor-inspired mug!

What you'll be making:


What you need:
  • A mug. I like using white mugs, so the color shows better, but they can be a little tricky to find. I've had luck at Walmart and various thrift stores.
  • Nail polish. For the color to show up, you need a really vibrant polish. Not all nail polish works-- it takes a little trial and error. For me, as long as the polish is really colorful it works.
  • Dishwasher safe Mod Podge. This is the most difficult product to find, but essential if you want your mug to be dishwasher safe. If you skip this step, the design might come off, even if you just hand wash the mug.
  • Plastic basin to do your marbling in. I used an old tubberware container. Just make sure that the container is big enough to dip the mug into. 
That's it! Like I said, the dishwasher safe Mod Podge is a bit tricky to find-- Hobby Lobby doesn't carry it, but Michael's does (unfortunately I don't live near a Michael's and had to buy mine online at

Step One:

Fill your plastic container with warm water from the sink. It doesn't have to be hot, but the warm temperature will help keep the polish from setting too quickly.

Step Two:

 Pour a little nail polish into the container. It should spread out over the surface of the water. It won't look too dark-- and that's okay. It will take a little trial and error to see how much polish you need; obviously the more your pour into the water, the darker the final result will be. For a reference point, I didn't use a lot of nail polish for the mugs pictured here.

Step Three:

Working quickly, so the polish doesn't dry and set into a unusable film, dip your mug into the water. Some nail polishes set quicker than others. If you wait too long, the polish will become a hard film on top of your water and won't adhere to the mug properly. I don't have a picture for this step because I was too worried the polish would set while I was messing with my phone.
It's hard to anticipate exactly how the polish will go onto the mug, which for me is part of the fun. Experiment with different angles and different depths until you find a result you like. If you don't like your mug-- or if the polish gets too close to where you'll be putting your mouth-- simply use nail polish remover to take the design off and try again.

Step Four:

Now it's time for Mod Podge! While this dishwasher safe Mod Podge is non-toxic, it is not food safe. This means that you need to keep the Mod Podge away from where the drink/your lips will be going. I used painter's tape to tape off about an inch around the top of the mug to keep the mod podge from going there.

The Mod Podge container recommends 2-3 coats, allowing a couple hours in between coats for it to dry. Before you seal the mug you can use sharpies to decorate it further//write a quote///whatever your crafty heart desires.

The container also recommends waiting 28 days before washing the mug. This obviously is just a suggestion-- if you just must use the mug before then, you should probably gently hand wash it, avoiding the design if at all possible.

I've heard positive reviews of the dishwasher safe Mod Podge, but I'll be sure to write an update in a month or so to let you know how the mugs are holding up! 

Exciting News!

I just opened an Etsy shop! If you love these mugs, but don't want to buy the materials and make them yourself, please click here to check out my mugs. :) 

Thanks so much for reading! I really enjoyed this craft; I'm off to make some more mugs.

Be sure to check back; I have a least one more sewing craft up my sleeves before the semester starts!

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