By the time I had too many colors to swatch on the back of a business card, I was lucky to find the nail polish swatching wheel and these little beauties have been my constant companion ever since.
Now I know there are devotees of the milky white wheels, but for my purposes, the clear version is the only one that meets my criteria, as will become evident shortly. I have also recently become aware of long rectangular versions, but the logistics of storage and the shorter tip length deter me from giving them a go. (There are also amazing DIYers who make their own types by hot-gluing nail tips to boards, tongue-depressors, popsicle sticks, etc. I salute their ingenuity and time investment.)
Soon, I found it hard to tell how many layers of polish it would take to get to bottle color. This led me to stagger my polish swatches on individual nails and I have continued to do so because it has clear advantages (pun intended) over just painting the entire nail surface. (The clear wheels also allow you to hold sheer topcoat swatches over solid creme swatches to envision the resulting layering potential, which I find enlightening and both time- and polish-saving.)
Above is an example of staggered swatches both over five different nail tips, so you can see the lengths of each coat, which is exactly how I swatch each color, assuming it needs more than 3 coats to get to bottle color. The color shown is OPI Concord Grape. The swatch with the one dot is the first coat, two dots is the 2nd coat and so on…
Below, is a totally different color, Essie Starry Starry Night, which due to its sheer nature, can take up to 5 coats to achieve opacity.
Many colors end up only needing three coats as you can tell by the swatches shown below.
My second epiphany came as a result of too many popped-off little swatches ending up all over my car. I figured that if I could transport the wheels IN something, maybe I would lose less swatches. So I tried a number of ideas, but the one that stuck was a soft-sided CD case.
Now I can only speak to the size of the clear wheels I use, which have 18 clear nails and come in sets of two, with a round sticker with spots for each color name or number. They fit very snugly in the two different CD cases I’ve tried, the first a 20 CD case from Ikea and the second, a 44 CD case from the “99 cents only store.”
By trial and error, I have found it safer to place them in every other sleeve, and only on one side of the sleeve, which both lessens the number of wheels total AND the likelihood of squashing all your hard work till it pops right off.
It is much easier to carry around a case with 5 or 10 wheels all zipped up safely than juggling even 2 or 3 loose wheels. Although I must admit, it can be fun to drop one and see all the little nails pop off and scatter on the driveway…but I digress.
The final solution I offer comes as a result of reading queries on the MUA nailboard regarding using polish remover to re-use the wheels. With all the swatches that pop off naturally, this never occurred to me, but there are even easier, more fun ways to put that used wheel into “like-new” condition.
My first suggestion is my favorite, since I know that peeling polish off my natural nail is taboo, I take every opportunity to peel it off other things, like my polish wheels. Just give the nail a bit of a twist, to break the seal, and then peel away.
The only disadvantage to this technique is that the loose swatches (and any wayward chips that stray from the swatches) tend to want to stick to your current manicure by static. They really want to stick around. Badly.
The less-fun, but also less messy, more efficient, method is to use tape. Anyone who has ever tried to tape up a package for mailing knows how well tape likes to stick to polish.
Use this to your advantage. The tape will just as readily stick to your polish swatch and break its bond to the plastic. It also keeps the static-charged swatches neatly contained for disposal. (Since these swatches were done without topcoat, they came off in bits and pieces. They will pop off whole with topcoat, which leads us to…)
The only argument left to be made is whether or not to use topcoat when applying the swatch in the first place. (I usually do.)
- gives deep shine to rough glitters (and to any polish with a matte finish)
- shows exactly how polish looks on nails
- helps dry many layers quickly
- can be used to “wrap” the tips in order to stick better, longer (doesn’t always work- see “Cons”)
- makes polish more likely to pop off due to thickness and shrinkage
Whether or not you choose to use topcoat, I highly suggest giving the swatches ample time to dry/cure before attempting to place them inside a CD case- even with a fast-dry, the likelihood of denting/smudging is still high for many hours afterward.
That’s all for now.
I hope these tips help and if you have any simple solutions, I ‘d love to hear them!
Feel free to comment or email me anytime!
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