To start off you will need: A cup of room-temperature water, a couple colors of nail polish, toothpicks, tape and scissors. Today i just used two colors, pink and white.
You will need to first paint your nails with a base coat. I just used a clear base coat because i was using two solid colors (white/pink). Most people start out with a white base and use two other colors (like green and pink or something).
I usually put a paper towel under the cup so i have a place to set yucky toothpicks. Also, use a cup you don't care about, or you can throw away after, because it is almost inevitable, you will get paint on the cup.
After your base coat is dry, you will need to put tape around your nails. This is so you do not get nail polish all over your fingers. So the better job you do at taping, the better the edges of your nails will look.
I usually put one piece of tape along the cuticle (base of the nail) then i take one long piece that starts on one edge, the curls around under the nail and over to the other side. Tape all the fingers of one hand, then you can begin with the paint.
Dripping the Paint:
Next comes the fun, but potentially frustrating part. The goal is to make a target with your colors. Start with one drip of one color in the middle of the cup. Wait for it to spread out, then put one drip of the other color in the middle. Continue alternating until you have rings. Your colors should look something like this... but this one needs a few more rings.
Once you get a design you like, get one of your fingers ready to dip. you can slowly turn the cup to reach the right place if you need to. Hold your finger above the place of the design you want:
Continue this until all five fingers have paint on them:
* If the paint isn't spreading:
This could be because of multiple things. First, it may have to do with the brand/type of nail polish you are using. Try using cheap nail polish. I started off using O.P.I. brand, and none of them worked, they were all too nice and too thick. I ended up going to Meijer and just buying some cheap bottles of thin polish. I used "Sinful Colors" and it worked out much better. Second, it could be your water is too warm or cold. I usually set a cup of water on the counter the night before to get it room temperature. If the color isn't spreading, you can lightly tap the rim of the glass to get it to spread.
* If you are having trouble dragging the toothpick through to make a design:
Sometimes when i dragged the toothpick through, the whole surface of paint came with it. This especially happens when the outside ring dries. You need to start dragging before the outside ring dries. It can be difficult to go slow enough for the rings to spread, and fast enough that it doesn't dry on you.
If you are struggling to get a "good looking" design, try pulling all to one point on the edge, this will create the waves, or you can pull in opposite directions to get a zig-zag effect.
* If you are having trouble getting the extra paint off the surface when your nail is under the water:
It may be that it is not dry enough. I usually blow on the surface of the water and it dries pretty quickly. It should stick to the toothpick and come off in a filmy, saran (plastic) wrap looking glob. if the toothpick still isn't catching it, you could use a Q-tip.
* If there is a build-up of "gunk" on the surface of the water:
This can affect how the paint spreads. If there is too much i usually just drop on drip of paint on the water, wait for it to spread, blow on it to dry it, then take it off with a toothpick. It sort of clears the surface. If this doesn't work, then you might just need a new cup of water.
If you are still struggling, or want some GREAT IDEAS of colors and designs, look up SimpleLittlePleasures on YouTube. Colette has some AMAZING videos that show you how to do it!