Pigment Tutorial Part 1

Here it is, finally! The Pigment Tutorial!

For our purposes, pigment is a dry coloring material that can change the color or texture or a nail polish. Some pigment is loose, and some is pressed (think loose eyeshadow vs. the kind in the compact.) Pigment can make a drastic change in the color of a nail polish.

First, some pigments:

TKB Trading Yellow 5, MAC, Fyrinnae. Pigments come in jars, tubes, and plastic bags. I really recommend putting them in screw-top jars or shakers like spices come in. Mineral makeup is not the same as pigment but sometimes produces good results but generally doesn’t pack enough color opacity to be really fantastic. More on that later.

Pressed eyeshadows can also be a good source of pigment. Creams are out- only powder will work, and the drier the texture, the better. They don’t have to be expensive, but do watch out for the Chinese ones. Shown above is the “Manly 120 Colour Palette” that I bought online from a seller in Hong Kong.  Many Chinese cosmetics have not been tested or approved for use outside China and there can be some nasty stuff lurking in them.  These made me itch when I wore them on my eyes. Buyer beware.

However, there is one type of pigment that you should NEVER be putting on your body.

Artists pigment. This is intended to be mixed with paint and never for use on human skin, nails, etc. Let me say it again: DO NOT PUT ARTIST PIGMENTS ON YOUR BODY OR MIX THEM WITH MAKEUP.  While artists pigments have an amazing color payoff, are incredibly vivid, and dirt cheap compared to cosmetic pigments, they are generally very poisonous. Many contain lead, cadmium, arsenic and other unpleasant stuff. If you have any doubt about whether a pigment is safe for cosmetic use, don’t use it.  Pigments will usually say “Approved for cosmetic use” or something along those lines. Pigments sold by cosmetic companies, eyeshadows, etc. or pigments intended to be used on the face should be OK for nails.

So, if you’ve got your non-toxic pigment, what else do you need?

A little teeny spoon (I got this at a Japanese coffee shop) and silicone baking tins. These are great for mixing polishes. After the polish dries, just flip the cup inside out and it will all pop out in one big piece- no need to clean with acetone or remover. Silicone doesn’t react with polish either, but certain kinds of plastic cups will often melt or turn gooey in contact with nail polish. If you can’t find silicone baking cups, try an artist’s palette. But the silicone baking cups are worth getting if at all possible.

Last, you need a spare bottle of clear nail polish. It can be cheap- you just need the brush and maybe a few drops of polish now and again.

The most basic pigment mixing is with clear polish. But it’s good to check the pigment opacity before mixing away. Some pigments will produce a polish that’s opaque in one coat and some will only tint the polish.  I recommend swatching a little bit on the skin first to get an idea of the opacity. The more opaque on the skin, the more opaque the polish will be.

Left to right: MAC Teal, Fyrinnae Aztec Gold, Fyrinnae Boytoy, MAC Green Brown. It’s difficult to tell the opacity or finish in the jar, so take a moment to swatch them. Some will also be more matte than others.

Next, get ready to mix! For the first part of this tutorial, we’ll start with clear polish. I get the best results from mixing sheers with pigment, but this can be a little more tricky, so let’s start with clear. I’m going to make a dirty khaki nail polish with Fyrinnae Aztec Gold.

1. Put in one spoonful of pigment (about the size of a pea) in your silicone baking cup. Use a tiny measuring spoon or a plastic stirrer spoon.  Don’t forget to wipe your spoon off with a tissue.

2. Drip in some clear polish. Just hold the brush over and let it drip, about 20 drops, swirling the pigment and the polish together. Your clear polish will get muddy with pigment over time, so use a cheap clear polish. If you’re a seasoned pro, you can just pour the polish in.

3. Keep swirling away until the polish is mixed with the pigment. It will generally be a little thicker than regular polish. Add more clear polish if you want a thinner mixture.

Voila! It dries fast, so paint it on your nails ASAP.  I’ll talk about how to make a bottle of pigment polish later, but in truth, I rarely make a whole bottle. I usually just make enough for one manicure. I get bored with color easily, so a whole bottle of one color is a waste for me. Also, pigments tend to sink the bottom of the bottle and can get glunky. But onward to the finished mani (that I just smudged, whoops).

Here’s one coat (over the bright yellow I had on before!) It comes out in a satin finish, not matte but not shiny.

With a coat of Seche.

Well, there’s Part 1 for you…next time I’m going to talk about eyeshadows and adding pigment to color polish. 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.
This entry was posted in Brights, Nail polish, Tutorials. Bookmark the permalink.

103 Responses to Pigment Tutorial Part 1

  1. Aurélie says:

    This is amazing – and so simple. Thanks a lot !

  2. Elizabeth says:

    This was really helpful! Thank you! I just happen to have a few of those silicon baking cups and I LOVE the idea of mixing just enough for one manicure. Can always mix more if I love it, right?
    I’m going to have to try this one really soon! Thanks again for a great tutorial!

  3. WOnderful color!!! This looks really pretty, so glowy.

  4. Angel says:

    Wow! This is so great! I was just getting interested in mixing pigments with polish, and then you came along woth your tutorial:)

  5. Wow this is amazing, and I really love your blog! Your nail art is so creative and so beautiful!

  6. Annabelle says:

    Thanks!! This was really helpful. I am going to get silicon baking cups ASAP. I just can’t wait to start frankining again. I have all these great ideas i need to make!!! =] Can’t wait for pt 2.

  7. gabrielle says:

    awesome! you covered everything I wanted to know AND happened to cite MAC’s green-brown pigment that just happens to be collecting dust in my makeup case right now. What a great use for a random-ass eyeshadow color. Yay! Off to find some silicone baking cups…

  8. cescils says:

    Thanks for this first part ! I really need to find those silicon cups.
    Looking forward to the next tutorial.

  9. Tabula Rasa says:

    I have way too many sheer polishes I never get to use. Thanks for the awesome pigmenting tip!

  10. Tabula Rasa says:

    Very helpful tutorial! I just bought my first eye powder today to try this out!

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  12. janet oh says:

    Im amazed , beautiful pigmented powder mix, nice

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  14. Cathryn says:

    Found you through Pinterest, and I just did this! I happen to have a pack of eye shadow that I never use in some very dark/odd purples and greens. I added a hint of the purple and a splash of the dark green to some sheer nude polish and got an (unexpected) awesome matte gray! You were so right about the amount of nail polish, too..I added a bit more “to be safe” and ended up with some wasted polish that dried on the bag I was using…20 drops would have been just right for one thick coat on all my nails! I used a cheap watercolor brush instead of the one in the polish and it came clean with a few drops of acetone. Can’t wait to try this again in a few days – thank you!

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by and for letting us know how your experiment turned out! And the cheap watercolor brush is a good idea too. Enjoy your experimenting. 😀

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  17. wifey4lifey says:

    For the clear polish, is it a top coat mixed with the eyeshadow, or just your standard clear polish?

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      It can be any old clear polish, but I don’t recommend a quick-dry topcoat since they are harder to work with.

  18. Erin says:

    i did it with my daughter right away!! it was awesome!

  19. Abigail says:

    I used a MAC glitter pigment called Jewelmarine for this. I painted it on over a teal Essie polish and it turned out great!


  20. i just did this and it works so cool i gotta hit the dollar store now…thanks

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! You can make endless colors- have fun! Try to pick up the eyeshadow with a dry, silky texture.

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  22. Debi Allen says:

    I’m having a hard time finding the essie matte polish, I’m a former nail tech.

  23. Having a hard time finding essie matte top coat, I’m a former nail tech.

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  25. Erica Bass says:

    This is fascinating. I’m going to be obsessing about this until I try it!

  26. Pingback: Pinter-Nails « All Star Mom

  27. StellaPearl says:


    Found on Pinterest!

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  30. Marina says:

    Hello, I admire your art and enjoy reading your blog! As for the frankening, I would like to know how do you clean the silicon cups?!

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      I’m so glad you like the blog! 🙂 The silicone cups don’t need any cleaning- just turn them inside out after any remaining polish has dried and it will peel right off in one clean sheet, leaving your cup ready for the next use. If any polish does remain, just use some regular nail polish remover on a cotton ball to clean up.

  31. Marina Miladinov says:

    Thanks a lot! That sounds really easy and it will be fun to experiment around! Off to buy the silicone cups!:))
    Looking forward to your next post! Many greetings from Croatia:)

  32. Pingback: Vale o clique! « Truue Colors

  33. tessa says:

    I tried this and loved it! Got an amazing color. One question I have, when my fingers got wet the nail polish came off. Is this because I used dollar store pressed eye shadow and clear nail polish? Do I need to use certain stuff? I did make sure my nails were dry first. Any suggestions would be great because I loved this.

    Thank you,

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      Hmm, usually that doesn’t happen- I use the el cheapo stuff all the time with no problems. It could be it wasn’t mixed up enough, so the pigment sat on top and got washed off because it wasn’t properly sealed. Try sealing off the manicure with Seche Vite or a good, solid clear topcoat.

  34. jessy says:

    I’m so trying this soon, thanks for reminding me I had done this in high school with some girlfriends.. It’s so easy and we all have old eye shadows that we will never wear again, what I use to do is mix it and use a small glass shadow jar and put it in.. for those of you who would like to keep all your amazing new colors.. thanks again..

  35. You are a genius!!!! I am sooo trying this! GENIUS!

  36. Monica says:

    I wonder if this would work with an old blush I hate?

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      It should- as long as it’s a powder blush! Blushes can be more sheer than shadows, depending on the color and brand, but the general idea is the same as using pigments or eyeshadow.

  37. Jay says:

    How weird. I just got the same pallet in the mail today & it smells weird. Now that i know about how they test & approve stuff thanks to you, the shadows can be put to a better use. Im so glad i stumbled upon your page 🙂

    Love the tutorial , BTW! The green on yellow was genius.

  38. Patty Rowe says:

    Reblogged this on Patty Rowe and commented:
    Nice Blog I ran into on Pinterest! Enjoy!

  39. kathalina says:

    This is so fucking awesome! Can’t believe it!
    Thx a lot!

  40. Valerie says:

    LOVE this tutorial and I plan on trying it today! Thank you for sharing!

  41. tabi013 says:

    Reblogged this on tabi013's Blog and commented:
    Wish I would have known this before I threw away my old eye shadows.

  42. Frida says:

    Thank you thank you THANK YOU for putting in the disclaimer about artist’s pigments- there are a lot of tutorials out there (for example pastels in your hair) that DON’T mention this about art supplies, and honestly, why would it even occur to anyone w/no art background that there could be poisonous/heavy metals in those pigments? Kudos to you for not only the AWESOME tutorial, but for being well-informed!!!

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      It’s my pleasure- I didn’t want to be responsible for anyone getting cadmium poisoning for the sake of beauty! Some areas control the sale of the particularly poisonous pigments, but many places just sell them all off the shelf without much warning. They are quite tempting as they are so cheap and vivid, so I could imagine folks picking them up and inadvertently poisoning themselves. I’ll keep spreading the word!

  43. Jooley says:

    Great idea! I have so much junk eyeshadow close to expiry.

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      Have fun and let us know how it goes! Some eyeshadow formulas can be duds and not play nicely with nail polish, but if the alternative is throwing them away, why not give it a try? 🙂

  44. Khymnee says:

    luv this idea and I definately have extra eyeshadows

  45. Karen says:

    Thanks for posting this. I’ve never thought of doing this until now. A friend sent me the link to your post on Facebook. I’m now Subscribed to your blog and I enjoyed this post do much I pinned it on my DIY Pinterest board.

    Have a lovely weekend,

  46. Camille says:

    So you mentioned that you wouldn’t make a full bottle, but can I still buy a bottle of clear nail polish and then put the eyeshadow in and mix it? would it be the same?

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      You can, but the pigment can get very clumped up. Get some metal BBs and put them in the bottle to help shake it up. I find it’s best to make a fresh batch every time, but it can certainly be put in a bottle as long as it has some metal balls in it to help mix it.

  47. April says:

    I tried it today and I love it! I used L’Oreal HIP loose eyeshadow pigment. Here’s a link to the pic I put on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=4033241704216&set=a.1127937593429.19655.1076854407&type=1&relevant_count=1

  48. Chelsea says:

    This is amazing! I never would have thought!! Thanks for sharing!

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  50. AmyLee says:

    Didn’t know u could DIY. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing the info. & for such well written instructions!

  51. This is so awesome!! I love polishing my nails different colors n Im excited to try this out. Thank you!!

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  54. Kellie says:

    What is the yellow polish you had on??

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      It’s a franken, I don’t recall the yellow but it was pretty generic. Maybe 2/3 OPI Need Sunglasses and 1/3 white?

  55. Gianna says:

    This is fantastic. I have so many eyeshadow colors that I don’t use, and now I can! Also, instead of silicon baking cups I used some aluminum foil that I folded up. That way you can just throw everything away when you’re done!

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  61. Tiffany says:

    Thank you so much for this tutorial! I can’t believe how easy it is 🙂 I have included this on my blog at http://www.doomestic.com for useful sites. I can’t wait to mix up some fantasic colors! Thanks again!

  62. Happytarist says:

    Thanks for this tutorial! I got so inspired that decided to make my version too but with yellow eyeshadow. Things just don’t always as you have planned! Check out how 🙂


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  64. Reblogged this on I'm pinkpebbleperson … and commented:
    Recyling glitter 🙂

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  66. T'leye says:

    This is awesome. I’m a nail tech and this will give me something new to play with 🙂

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  69. Ashley Nicole. says:

    I’m very interested in trying this, but how do you clean the brush afterwards?

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      You can just wipe it on a sponge or lint-free wipe with a little polish remover on it. It’s impossible to clean totally, but you can get a lot of use out of a single bottle of clear polish if you just wipe the brush well between colors.

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  71. Reblogged this on everythingbeautyforyou and commented:
    Best thing I have ever read!

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  73. chickpiggy says:

    This is amazing! Reblogging it 🙂

  74. chickpiggy says:

    Reblogged this on That Chick Piggy and commented:
    Check this out!

  75. Deborah says:

    Can anyone tell me what that MAC eyeshadow color is in the cover photo? Thanks

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