Gradients 101

Gradient Nail Art Tips Tutorial

As everyone probably already knows, gradients are my favourite. They make any manicure much more interesting looking, and they are quite simple once you get the hang of it. Below, I will talk about what a gradient is, how to create your own, and all of the tips I've learned over the last few years! 


What is a Gradient?

When you google search gradient nails, there are 2 type of pictures that will come up. There are many arguments about which of those are gradients, and which of those are ombres.


Multiple shades or multiple colors fading into each other on one nail.


Multiple shades of one color over an entire hand. Each nail is given one shade of the color, usually going from dark to light.



How To Choose Gradient Colors

Sometimes I have a few colors of polish that I know I want to use in a gradient. Sometimes it is more difficult than that. A trick I like to use to choose gradient colors is to create the gradient virtually first, then match my polish colors to that gradient. I use an HTML Color Mixer, and then play around until I find a combination that I like. 


On this website, it allows you to choose 2 colors, and then it will show you what colors make up the gradient. For example, I knew I wanted to fade from purple to a yellow/orange, but I didnt know which color to use in the middle to make the gradient blend well.



How to Create a Gradient


  1. Apply your base coat and one coat of the lightest or sheerest color in your gradient. 
  2. Apply liquid nail tape around your finger to protect the skin and reduce your clean up. 
  3. Apply your gradient colors to a makeup sponge. I use Face Secrets Professional Makeup Wedges from Sally Beauty. Wait 3-5 minutes. Apply the colors to the sponge again.
  4. Start sponging the polish onto one nail. Use a quick dabbing motion. Try to keep your sponge in the same general area, but dont worry about moving it too much. Dabbing up and down slightly will help the gradient blend. Your first coat is going to be thin, don't worry. 
  5. Reload your sponge and work on the next nail. Complete 1 coat on your entire hand. At this point, your gradient might not look very blended. As you complete more coats, it will become more blended.
  6. Return to your first nail and complete your second coat for your entire hand. Depending on how opaque the polish is, you may need to do 3-5 coats of sponging. 
  7. Once your gradient is opaque and blended, remove your liquid nail tape and apply a top coat. Clean up any remaining polish on your skin with a small brush dipped in acetone. 



Gradient Tips
  • Save your sponges. Once the polish has dried on your sponge, just cut off the used portion and you can reuse the rest of the sponge! 
  • Starting with a base of your lightest color is easier to cover than a base of white. 
  • Thinner/less opaque polishes will take more coats to make opaque. Try using polishes that are all the same opaqueness.
  • If you just dab your sponge in one place, your gradient will not blend. You need to move the sponge a bit. 
  • Almost all mistakes can be fixed by sponging on another layer of the gradient. 
  • If your polish has stopped sticking to your nail and is coming off on your sponge - give your nail a few minutes to dry before applying another layer. 
  • If your sponge is coming off onto your nail - you might want to stop and let your nail dry more. BUT this might also be the quality of sponge you are using. 
  • If you don't have liquid nail tape, you could use regular scotch tape to try to cover the skin around your nail. 
  • Before adding a top coat, it is perfectly normal for the polish to look kind of bumpy. This is a picture of before adding top coat and after adding top coat:
Any questions? Ask away! 

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  • 16astreet on

    Do multichrome polishes work well in gradients?

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