Saturday, March 12, 2011

Mixing Nail Polish, A Guide To Frankening

It occurred to me today, as I stared at my bare nails (a rarity), that while frankening nail polish is common practice among aficionados, people who don't agonize over how to store and organize their nail polish might not be aware of the possibilities and fun it allows. Frankening is the act of combining nail polishes,   pigments, or glitter to create other (hopefully better) nail polishes. While there is a seemingly unlimited selection of nail polish in the world, there are so many combinations possible, that there will always be that one polish that you want and cannot find. Or, there will be if you have an obsessive nature, at least. There is always the added benefit of being able to impress people by telling them you made your nail polish. They will be in awe of your cleverness, at least they should be.

Mixing nail polish is a rather simple thing to do, but I'm going to let you in on some tricks and tips that I've picked up, often from trial and error. There is no need for us all to waste materials. The first step is to find a bottle for your creation. If you are a cheater person who values time over money, you can buy new, empty bottles; if you are a thrifty person who loves to repurpose items destined for the landfill, you can reuse bottles. This will require a bit of work, which is good for you, or so I've been told. You can either use a bottle you've used up, or buy a cheap bottle of ugly polish that never stood a chance. You can pick these up in Clearence bins, or at stores like Big Lots or Dollar Tree. You might also be able to talk you local salon owner into giving you her empties.

You will also need mixing spheres (stainless steel ball bearings), which I will refer to as balls, because not so deep down, I am a 12 year old. I have never purchased these (I'm cheap), but always harvest them from the bottles I empty. So, now that you know what you need, let's get started.

First, pour as much of the nail polish as possible into a container you never ever want to use for anything other than nail polish collection. You will need to allow the polish to dry before you dispose of it, so place the container away from children, pets, and clumsy people. To collect the balls, you can either use a sieve/strainer (that serves no other purpose), or you can pluck them out with tweezers (I have tweezers used only for nail polish related purposes, they were old and crappy, now they have new life).

Carefully add acetone to the emptied bottle, put the cap back on, and swish and swirl it about. Dump the acetone into your disposal container. You may need to repeat this a couple of times before all of the polish is removed. I usually drop the balls back in rather than having to give them a separate rinse, then pour carefully. Allow the bottle to sit open to allow the acetone to evaporate.*

Now you're ready for the fun part! If you are a planner, start by mixing a few drops of color with a toothpick, on a piece of paper or plastic. If you are like me, start pouring polish into the bottle. If you want to add loose glitter or pigments, you will need to start with a base that already has a suspension agent (something that already contains glitter or shimmer). There is a product available that is a clear base with a suspension agent already added, but it is pretty expensive. Also, many glitters melt in nail polish. It's not pretty. If you don't want to experience the gut wrenching despair of watching your beautiful creation turn into a disgusting blob, test the glitter first. I mix a tiny amount in a small nail polish bottle (Sally Girl brand, available at Sally Beauty Supply) and allow it to sit. It could take up to two weeks for the glitter to melt, but I'm impatient, so I usually only test the immediate results. I've suffered some heartbreak for it.

When you add glitter or shimmer, you need to add a fair amount of clear polish so that it will show the colored polish. To create a jelly finish (like a creme, but semi-sheer and incredibly shiny), add the color of your choice to a comparatively large quantity of clear. Boring opalescent colors can be transformed into gorgeous duochromes by adding a saturated color. Brights become dusty with a bit of black (a miniscule amount if you are using Wet 'n Wild Black Creme, that stuff is potent and amazing, you should really get some) or a complementary color. Pastels are created by adding a small amount of color to white (I like Sally Hansen Xtreme Wear White On). Adding a moderate amount of a jelly or creme to a metallic or foiled finish will yield a micro glitter finish.  And, the most important rule of franking is that you can't save a frost. Well, that's not entirely true, you can add a ton of clear, and lots of glitter and have it look okay, but it's not worth it. Dump it and use the bottle and balls for good.

This isn't comprehensive, but it will get you started. I'll leave you with a terrible picture of my first franken, taken long before I mastered (well, sort of) the art of taking pictures of my own hands. It's called  Lebia viridis, and is 2/3 Sally Hansen (SH) Diamond Strength Platinum, 1/6 SH Xtreme Wear (XW) Blue It, and 1/6 SH XW Emerald City. Happy frankening!

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