Franken Basics


Hey ladies and gents- hope you had a nice 4th of July, whether you’re a Yankee like me or not! I’m sorry that I’ve been pretty busy lately, and I’ve gotten a few emails about the franken-process that I haven’t been able to respond to in a timely fashion. I think I’ve picked up a few readers since the last time I talked about some nail-polish mixing basics, so here are some of the things I think about when mixing polishes:


When frankening a polish, it’s important to consider three factors:


1)      The actual color of the polish. What kind of color is it? Is it a bright color, or a dusty color, pastel, muted, neon? Is it warm or cold? Think of “purple”- it could mean anything from grape Bubble-Yum gum to deep amethyst.


2)      The finish/character of the polish. Is it jelly, shimmer, microglitter, matte, satin, crème, holo glitter?

Matte polishes are probably the least popular traditionally but have been coming back all over the place- a bunch of polish companies are releasing matte polishes for this fall. Most neons are matte because there’s a lot of pigment in them. Adding a topcoat will make these glossy- some people just can’t resist! Satin is like a half-matte, half-shiny.  Crème is great for frankens because you can mix them with anything. Adding shimmer is easy. Taking it away is impossible. Shimmer is sophisticated but can highlight nail flaws like ridges. Jelly is one of the most sought-after and tricky polishes. Jelly polishes are glossy and slightly translucent. Think of a stained glass window. The pigment is suspended in a clear base and it will take several coats to get opaque. But they look great- shiny and intriguing.


3)      Light reflection. Is it iridescent? Does it change colors in the light? You need to add a light reflecting element. Technically, this is called interference pigment. Colors like OPI Megawatt?, OPI Fireflies, China Glaze Blue Without You,  contain interference pigment. These colors are typically milky whites or pastels and act differently depending on if they are paired with dark or light bases. Interference pigments over a dark base provides a better contrast and depth.


Franken Tips:

  • Start small. Franken enough color for only one set of nails. You can always do more. Otherwise, you will wind up with a lot of polish that looks like moldy YooHoo chocolate milk.

  • You can mix brands. I do all the time. Granted, I don’t generally bottle my frankens.

  • Don’t use quick-dry polishes exclusively, otherwise the color may dry too fast.

  • More than four colors at one time will make mud unless you are very good at color theory.

  • I use a little silicone muffin tin to mix polishes. I can pour polish into a bottle easily, add pigment, glitter, etc. and then peel out the dried polish easily. No chemical cleanup needed.

  • Pigment can be mixed with nail polish BUT be very careful. A lot of pigments are toxic. Stay away from cadmium (red), cobalt (blue) and anything marked with an X or skull and crossbones. Artist’s pigments are generally not meant to go on skin- even the non-poisonous ones. If you do use artist’s pigments or pigments that are not specifically meant for the body, paint nail tips rather than your own nails. But it would be a better idea to stay away from these altogether.

  • Be careful when mixing- the pigments are superfine powder. Get a noseful of pigment and you will be spitting blue for several days- not to imagine what it’s doing to your insides. And remember, a little pigment goes a LONG way.

  • Instead of potentially poisoning yourself with pigments, try to add some eyeshadow powder to a nail polish to make a new color. I have a lot of eyeshadows I don’t wear, and I use an eyeshadow brush to brush them into polish, and then mix. You can also add loose shadows. Just add a half-a-pea sized amound to begin with.

  • Rice powder added to polish will make a (lumpy) matte.

  • To darken a color, add its opposite on the color wheel (red/green, yellow/purple, orange/blue). You can also add black, but things can get dark too quickly.

  • If you’re adding glitter, put a bit in some clear polish first to see if it bleaches out to silver. Some glitter only has a thin layer of dye on it which will disappear when it hits polish. Other glitter is made of one color and not dyed so the color will stay true. There is no way to tell other than adding it to polish. I’ve had expensive glitter turn silver and wreck a franken!

  • Of course you can make a layer franken if you’re not quite brave enough to start mixing colors- add a glitter on top of a creme, or a sheer over a shimmer. Definitely the easiest way to get a new color!

  • This is just my personal opinion, but when you’re starting out, don’t begin frankening with colors you hate. You’ll probably get a muddy result.  Try colors that you like and add a little white or some silver foil polish. You’ll get a nice result in a color family you like. Work your way up to transforming ugly polishes!

Mixing colors is addictive, and a great way to get a special color that no one else has. If you get really good at it, you can mix any color you want on the first or second try. Most of all, be creative and have fun!


About nevertoomuchglitter

Nail artist. Wanderer. I'm a color-holic, in fact, it was my love of color that brought me to the nail art world. Well, that, and the fact I was too cheap to pay crazy Japanese prices for nail polish while living in Tokyo, so I had to start mixing my own. That's how NTMG began.
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14 Responses to Franken Basics

  1. Dominique says:

    Hi there!

    I’m one of those newbie readers. I just started I think last night and have just finished, because I am stuck at home with the flu for a whole week.

    I love all your creative ideas. Some of the posts on Japanese nail art actually scare me…I’m not a fan of texture that I can feel on my nails so I mostly stick to just colours–no decals. I do have one Konad plate but all I’ve got is the white and black pearl special polish. I live in Canada so Konad supplies are ridiculously expensive over here–twice as much as they cost in the US.

    Anyhoo, I’ve book-marked your blog and can’t wait to see what the future holds!

  2. nevertoomuchglitter says:


    Thanks for stopping by!
    Have you checked out yet?

    There’s 20% off all Konad supplies if you use coupon code “nevertoomuchglitter”. Shipping is free for orders over $20 (pre-tax). Kathleen, the owner, is very nice and efficient. Just something to think about if you wanted to add to your Konad colleciton.

  3. Cescils says:

    Thanks for all your explanations, I’ve been longing to test frankens for a while and they are really welcome !

    I just have a question regarding this:”
    I use a little silicone muffin tin to mix polishes. I can pour polish into a bottle easily, add pigment, glitter, etc. and then peel out the dried polish easily. No chemical cleanup needed.”
    I wonder how you put the result in a bottle, and if it doesn’t dry to quickly in the tin while you’re mixing your colors.

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      Hi Cescils!
      My siilcone baking cup is very flexible. If I want to pour polish from it into a bottle, I can sort of pinch the baking cup and make a little spout to pour it easily.

      It does dry quickly, but I’m used to working fast! I use a small pool the size of a peach pit or so. It dries in about 20 minutes. After it’s dry, I just flip the cup inside out and all the dried polish comes out in one piece. I used to use a pallette, but I needed to clean it with polish remover, and I didn’t like that as much. I guess this is hard to imagine without a photo- I wil try to post one so you can see what I’m talking about.

      • Cescils says:

        Thanks a lot for your answer :). The silicon muffin tin is really a smart idea ! I’ll give it a try.

        So far I had just test to mix up micas, and putting them, finger by finger, on a clear polish, put it’s difficult to be flawless.

        How do you succeed to have enough space (bottles) for your creations ?

      • nevertoomuchglitter says:

        Hi Cescils,
        I usually only make enough frankenpolish for 1 manicure, so I don’t use any bottles. I do have a lot of nail polish though! Good luck with your frankens.

      • Cescils says:

        Hi :),
        I’ ve started my first test yesterday, I’ll need to improve but it was easier than I thought. And it’s good to think I can make small volume. thanks again for taking the time to give more details !

  4. Lucy says:

    What fantastic explantion you’ve given. You really give clear precise instructions. Thank you so much. When I want to franken I will come back here for the directions.

  5. Dominique says:

    Thanks for the Konad supplier. I’ve spent the afternoon watching movies and trying to pick out nail polishes and image plates but I really have to cut it down. One can get really carried away at that website. What are a few of your favourite plates? Right now I’m really lemming the ones with the “full” prints.

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      Hi there,
      I have no self-control and I own a lot of plates. I like the Asian design one with the cherry blossoms a lot, but I generally use the full nail prints because they have the most impact. I don’t really have any plates I don’t like! But with 20% off and free shipping, that’s a pretty good deal, especially for me in Japan.

  6. Alexlyndra says:

    Thank you for the guide to a good frankenpolish! I still haven’t made my own yet, but someday. 😛

  7. Alamomie says:

    Another good thing to use for frankening is liquid foundation! I recently got a sample at my local beauty store, but it didnt suit my skin tone and I couldnt think of anyone who would like it, so I tried to make nailpolish with it 🙂 It mixed perfectly with my clear base and made very nice muted colors. I made a nude pink, a grayish purple and a green. All three applied well, were very opaque and dried super quick. Also, if you use a LOT of foundation, this will give you an “almost-matte” kinda finish. Probably it will dry completely matte if you use a matte topcoat as a base.

    Have any of you used liquid foundation for frankening before? How was your experience?

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      Hi Alamomie,
      Very interesting- I’ve never tried that one. Foundation is water based, so I never imagined it would mix well with nail polish….sounds intriguing.

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