My Gel Nail Polish Stash, Organization, Storage & Swatch Sticks! - Gel Polish Stash, Organization, Storage & Swatch Sticks!

It’s been a while since I’ve shown you my stash!  I stayed up late the other night working on creating new swatch sticks and organizing my polishes, and I thought that some of you might really enjoy seeing how I organize and store my stash and swatch sticks.  I know I love getting a peek into other bloggers’ work and storage spaces.

First, if you don’t already know, I keep a spreadsheet of all of the gel polishes that are in (or have been in) my stash.  You can find that online here.  I have also built up a collection of regular nail polish, mostly indies and stamping polishes, but I don’t track those in my spreadsheet.  I update the file very regularly because it helps me stay on top of what I have, and what colors I have swatched (or need to swatch) for the blog.

Normally when I buy or receive gel polish I also swatch the colors onto swatch sticks so that I can easily compare the color(s) with other colors that I already own.  Having the colors on swatch sticks also makes it easy to select one when I want to polish my nails or do nail art.  I have to admit though that choosing a color can be a little overwhelming at times!

Below is a picture that I took with all of my swatch sticks together.  You can see that I put them on binder rings, and most are organized by color.  Some are also organized by brand and then color.  The cup of swatch sticks sits on my work station, and that’s where I put them right when I’m done creating them until I have time to put them on the binder rings.  There are probably another 100 polishes on my shelves that I haven’t even created swatch sticks for yet. - Gel Polish Swatch Sticks

When I post my swatch comparison pictures, I’m often asked about the supplies and techniques, so let’s get into that a little. I like to swatch my colors on clear swatch sticks.  I prefer the sticks over swatch wheels because it’s easier to re-arrange, organize, and label them.  I’m also a little OCD about keeping them uniform, so I try to always buy the same kind with the rounded handle.  I once bought the clear sticks with square handles and I hated them… they didn’t fit on my binder rings and I had to do the swatches all over again.  I usually buy the clear swatch sticks from this listing on eBay– they are shipped from China so it does take some time to receive them. Update 9/18/14:  I just got a new shipment of swatch sticks from this listing and they were not the same kind that I have always received. :(

I find that sometimes the sticks have an oily covering on them which makes the polish application a little wonky, so I use alcohol wipes to clean off the swatch sticks before applying the polish.  I don’t use a base coat on the swatch sticks, I just paint the color right onto the stick and cure each coat.  I do apply a top coat, and for the sticks I just use whatever top coat I have handy – a less expensive brand if possible. - Gel Polish Swatch Sticks

As the picture above demonstrates, I also label each of my swatch sticks. I use a Brother P-Touch label maker to create the labels that go onto the handles.  I like clear labels with black text, but the clear tape only comes in 1/2″ size and I do have to trim them down with scissors to fit.  I think the 3/8″ labels would probably fit on the swatch sticks perfectly, but they don’t come in clear.

Chickettes - Supplies used for swatch sticksAs you saw in my picture of all of the swatch sticks, I organize them on binder rings by color and/or brand.  The 2″ binder rings work perfectly.  I hang the binder rings on my wall using Command wire hooks.  I love that they aren’t permanent and are easy to remove from the wall without leaving any damage or sticky marks.

Below is a current picture of my work station.  You can see that the swatch sticks are hung on the wall beside and below my shelf.  I put them there so that they are within reach when I’m sitting in my chair.  My work station is a little messy, but hey, it is what it is.  I made the work station out of two helmers with a glass table top resting on them.  The helmers, glass top and chairs are all from Ikea.  I don’t have an Ikea near me, so I purchased them online.  And since I’m also often asked about the light that I work under, I use this OttLight from Amazon.  I love it! - nail station & polish shelfThe polish shelf on the wall was custom-built for me by my dad.  It’s the best thing ever!  I have most of my polishes sorted by brand.  I can usually fit two rows of polish on each shelf, depending on the brand/bottle size.  It works great with round bottles.  Some of the larger square bottles don’t fit in two rows.  I haven’t counted, but I think if I completely maximize the space and put two rows of polish on each shelf, I can fit between 5-600 bottles on it.  I love to see my polishes out in the open – stuffing them away in dark drawers makes me sad!

My polish stash has also started to overflow onto my bookshelf.  I cleared out all of the other stuff and placed 4 clear nail polish display racks that hold approximately 60 bottles each.  On the top shelf I have a rack filled with stamping polishes, and one filled with indies… these are all regular nail polishes, not gel.  And then the second shelf has two racks that are filled with the complete gel polish collections from Revel and Pink Gellac (you will be seeing more of both of these brands on my blog very soon!). - book shelf with nail polish racks

In addition to all of the polishes that you see on the shelves, I do have a couple of helmer drawers full of regular nail polish, but they are ones that I’m very unlikely to use.  Eventually, I’d like to find something crafty to do with them (last year I made ornaments).   I also store my swatching supplies, nail art supplies, extra cotton balls, etc in those drawers. I think that about sums up my storage, display and organization of polishes and swatch sticks.  Please let me know if you have any questions.

If you want a little peek into the history of my polish stash, just visit the posts here.  I’m absolutely amazed at how my collection has grown in just two years.  If you look at my post from September 2012, I said I had 90 bottles of polish – that included base/top coats, RNP, and gel.  Right now I have right around 500 bottles of gel polish colors, which I know from my spreadsheet.  I have no idea how many base and top coats or RNP’s I have… probably a couple hundred more.  Maybe over the next 2 years I’ll take over the giant empty shelf that’s in my daughter’s room!  She’s away at college and I keep teasing that I’m going to take over her room with my stuff.  LOL

Here are a few close-ups of the swatch sticks… I just love seeing the rainbow of colors!! :) - pink/red/orange gel polish swatch sticks - green/blue/purple gel polish swatch sticks - purple/metallics/glitter gel polish swatch sticks

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54 Responses

  1. Kim P says:

    I love seeing photos of people’s work areas & hearing how they organize their polishes! Love the rainbow of color on your swatch rings!

  2. Sara says:

    Amazing! Right now, my usually otherwise unused dining room table has been commandeered for the last year and a half. I dream of a day I can have a room for my nails and other hobbies. Inspiring indeed.

  3. Mal Timmons says:

    Oh my God Andrea! Amazeballs!! Xxxx

  4. Christine says:

    Wowow this looks so much like what I do!! Please share-how do you organize your swatch sticks? I have such a hard time – I will organize them within general hue and then from light to dark, but then within that organization I feel like undertones are out of order. For example, blue or red-based light pinks end up near each other but don’t look good. I spend too long fiddling with the order but your sticks look amazing!

    I think your gel collection may rival my RNP one. I NEED a nice big wall-rack like yours. I built myself two identical racks that hold about 150 each when I started collecting but now I also have a full, lonely helmer :(

    One day I must start a blog to share my stash, thanks for sharing yours!!

    • Andrea says:

      I do them from light to dark and will break out some of the hues onto their own ring – teals, etc. But they’re definitely not perfect. I try not to obsess too much about that or I’ll go crazy :)

  5. Cathy says:

    I’d love to see your nail stamping plate collection, too.

  6. Carolina says:

    Hi i look your collection and i was wondering what kind of stamping polish do you use?

  7. Jamilyn says:

    Amazing…thanks so much for taking the time to share this with us!!!

  8. Lori says:

    You can purchase the ⅜ clear w/ black for the P-touch on Amazon.

  9. Sooooo jealous of your work area! Mine was just recently turned into a baby nursery so now I just have a teeny corner. I can’t believe how much polish you have! I must get a wall shelf like that. I’d love to get some tips on taking better nail pics. Where do you take yours at? It’s hard to get the colors to show up correctly in mine.

  10. Jamilyn says:

    Do you find that the tips of the swatch sticks have small chunks or pieces of plastic on the tips that you have to file off? The only ones I can find that don’t have those are these

  11. Pam says:

    I have a combo polish/dog room, since I have a lot of nail polish and we show dogs. The polishes and etc. reside in a helmer, a melmer and part of a second helmer: the dogs sleep in large pens with the beds, toys, food and water etc. in the same room. I actually do my polishing at the kitchen table (best light). At one point, I had all my polishes swatched along with an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of everything…but that PC got fried during a bad storm and the data couldn’t be recovered. Since them I just keep polishes by color (and the gels – my new fancy – have their own drawer for the moment). I DO swatch new polishes on nail wheels to see if I like them or not…if not, they go to my friend’s teen daughter!

  12. Kristin says:

    Really enjoying your blog and your expertise.
    Do you ever battle fuzz with your stamping?

  13. Cheri says:

    As always…. so impressive!:) Is that a paraffin bath on the bottom shelf, left side of your bookshelf? If yes, can you share a little info about it please? I’ve been trying to pick one out for myself.

    • Andrea says:

      Yes, it’s a Remington Deluxe paraffin bath. It’s pretty big and takes a lot of wax to fill it up. It also takes a long time to warm up, but once you get it going it’s great. Mine was given to me by a friend.

  14. NMeyer says:

    How I would LOVE to raid your swatch sticks! It’s so hard to find the right color- especially since you can’t shop for gels in a store…. :(

  15. Serena says:

    But, are those your nails and hands on Pink Gellac swatches on their website? They seem so familiar ^v^

  16. Nelly says:

    Hi Andrea,

    I’m looking to buy more stamping plates but the Konad ones are so expensive. What do you recommend for a better value?

    Thank you

  17. Viviane says:

    Uhh I want them all ♥

  18. Karen says:

    I bought a lot of gel nail polishes this year, but I was reading a forum and they say that they only last 2 years, after that it gets old and it doesn’t cure anymore. Is that true? Do you have some old polishes, and are they still good?
    I would be so said if I had to buy all my nail polishes again in two years.
    Thank you!! Loved your collection!!

    • Andrea says:

      That’s what they say, but I haven’t found it to be true. I have polishes that are several years old and they are still fine. Sometimes they get a little thick, but you can add gel polish thinner to them and correct that. Trust me, I’d be very upset if I had to replace all of my polishes every 2 years. LOL

  19. Anna Lisa says:

    Hi Andrea!
    Thank you for posting this. I love how you organize your space!
    May I ask what gel polish thinner you use and can it be used in all brands?
    Also, would your dad be willing to share his measurements and instructions for building your shelf? I’d like to attempt to build one with my hubby!
    Thank you!

    • Andrea says:

      Hi Anna – I’m not sure how I missed this question. I use LaRosa gel polish thinner from Esther’s Nail Center. I think my shelf is about 4′ x 3′ and the shelves are spaced 4 1/4 ” apart. :)

  20. Dana says:

    This is a beautiful thing.

  21. Dani says:

    I loved this post, thank you! Loved seeing how you organize your space.

  22. Desiree says:

    Hi, I’m just wondering how you paint your swatch sticks? Ive heard a lot of people say that they do it underneath inside of on top.

  23. Julie B says:

    Hi Andrea,
    I had to come re-read this post and ooh and aah over your swatch collection! I’m shopping for swatch sticks now, because my collection is growing (yay), and I wanted to see what kind you use. I love the way you have the colors organized! There is so much gorgeous sparkle and color, it makes my heart so happy!! LOL

  24. Desiree says:

    Oh wonderful! Thank you!!!

  25. Jenny says:

    Just had a look at your spreed sheet of colors! Its obvious that you use a lot of different brands of gel polish. My daughter loves to do her own nails but its more of just a hobby. With that being said, gel polish can be quite expensive. What is your favorite brand that you use and which would you say is the least expensive?

    • Andrea says:

      Hi Jenny. I don’t really have an absolute favorite brand – there are many with great qualities. If you’re looking for quality gel polish at a reasonable price I recommend checking out Revel, ibd and INK. :)

  26. Elizabeth Grainger says:

    Do you know the best way of removing polish from the swatch sticks if made slight error and it’s gone onto handle?? X

  27. Jill says:

    Do you do more than one coat on the swatch sticks? Do you cure between each coat and then after the top coat as well?

  28. Kelly Williams says:

    Which glass table top are you using from ikea? I am thinking of how I want my setup to look and yours looks awesome. Thanks!!!!

  29. Shirley says:

    Hi Andrea! How do you cure your swatches. I have to put my hand in with my swatch so that my 18G Gelish LED Lamp comes on. Is there another way without me having to put my hand in each time?

    • Andrea says:

      There is a way to make the Gelish lamp go into manual mode where you have to just hit the button to turn it on. I think you plug it in while your hand is in the lamp.

  30. Hannah says:

    Hey Andrea, just wondering what the ‘X’s’ mean on your swatch sticks? Also is it necessary to use the top coat for gel swatch sticks? Thanks, love your collection and space so cute and functional.

    • Andrea says:

      The x’s are colors that I no longer own. Some of them were borrowed or sold. I always prefer to top coat my swatch sticks so that you can see what the final result will look like and to protect the stick from scratching or fading.