Watercolor Mugs


This is part 1 of some DIY holiday gifts I’ll be attempting. I finally felt the craft urge… it’s only been 9 months! I’ve been spending what free time I do have on photography, so crafting has taken a backseat.

Time has been going by so quickly that I find myself not doing the holiday or other gifts I usually enjoy, because the holiday is upon me before I realize it! This year, i wanted to make something for my staff. I thought these watercolor mugs would be just the thing!

Things you’ll need:

  • Plain white ceramic mugs – these are at the craft store, the dollar store, and lots of other places.
  • A plastic container that’s large enough to dip the entire mug in
  • Warm water
  • Various nail polishes of your choosing
  • Some nail polish remover and paper towels or q-tips (in case you don’t like the way something looks)
  • Toothpicks, bobby pins, or bamboo skewers – just something small you can use to stir things around if needed
  • Cardboard or a junky towel to put your mugs on while they dry
  • Optional: Shellac spray


First, take any stickers off your mugs and wipe them clean. Fill up your water container with warm water. I used my microwave rice cooker because it was the only thing I had that was the right size.

Choose your first color and drop 1-2 drops of it in the water. Make sure you move quickly once the polish is in!

A few drops at a time.

A few drops at a time.

Now dip the mug into the water, straight down or slightly sideways – it’s ok if some of the nail polish ends up on the inside. I kind of like the way mine look with it carrying into the inside, but you can clean up the inner edges with nail polish if you wish.

I noticed while I was doing this that “thin” nail polishes worked best because they spread out the most – so that nail polish that always takes 3 coats to look good is great for this project. The super thick one that only takes one coat might not work so well. Some of my heavier polishes sunk to the bottom instead of spreading on the water. I was not able to use my skewers to “swirl” colors together the way the person in the video above did – it was turning into a film way too quickly to do so.

Front and back of the same mug. This one was dipped in pink and then gold.

Front and back of the same mug. This one was dipped in pink and then gold.

(Did this ruin my rice cooker? A little bit… I’d use something disposable if you can or something you don’t care too much about. I could still use it, but there’s some stray nail polish that won’t come off.)

Let the mugs dry overnight. I noticed that when I did more than one dunk in the water, I was getting some small bubbles in the paint. I patted these so that they “popped”, but it made for a not totally smooth finish. If you don’t want that, I’d advise dropping enough polish at once to do one single dip. You should probably let it dry completely between dips, too, but I wasn’t patient enough for that.

You can test out all kind of color combinations.

You can test out all kind of color combinations.

Lastly, if you’d like to make it more dishwasher safe, spray a coat of clear shellac on the outside of your mug and let it dry.

This was a fun and simple project. I would do it again now that I have a system down. If you know someone’s favorite color, it’s easy to customize this just for them.

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