Gradient Nails - Tutorial and Tips

Friday, 26 October 2012

Right, I do love gradient nails, they can look really effective, they are great on their own, but also a great base for stamping / dotting / nail art over the top.  I've mentioned various hints and tips for doing them in different blog posts, but I thought it would be useful to have everything together in one place.

1.  Preparation / Tools Required For The Job
Get everything ready.  For a gradient manicure you need (aside from your polishes which I will explain next!) some cheapy makeup sponges (you can buy bags with tons in either in Superdrug, Boots or even Poundland), a flat surface, a piece of paper, plus cotton buds and nail varnish remover for cleaning up afterwards.

2.  Pick your colours
What colours to use?  The big decision!  I love pastels for gradients, I also love mixing up with dark and lights together, and also just using all the same colours.  Really, you can do just about anything, but what I would recommend is that you pick polishes with similar opaqueness after the same amount of coats (e.g. don't use one colour that you need 3 coats to get opaque with a one-coater, as this just won't merge together nicely, as one will over-power the other).  Decide how many colours you want to use.  If you are going for all the same shades (e.g. a blue gradient) pick three or four colours.  Generally I like to do either contrasting gradients (e.g. deep pink into grey) or different colours (e.g. pink into mint green into grey) so I will use two or three.  Also, last tip; try to keep the tones of the polish similar, e.g. all pastels, all brights.  in particular if you are looking to make your gradient contrasting as mixtures are a bit tricker to get them to merge nicely.  Here are some colours I've used in the past:

3.  Paint your nails with a white basecoat
I use Collection 2000 White, but any opaque white will do (Barry M is decent also).  You do need a basecoat as you are sponging colour on, and you don't really want to be doing it onto naked nail, as you might not get a deep enough colour (depending on the colours you are using) and this helps the colour "pop" more.  It doesn't need to be totally perfect application, as you are going to be covering it up anyway.  Let this dry!

4.  Gradient me up, baby!
Right, now for the sponging!  So, what I'd recommend you doing is getting all your polishes ready, undone and lined up next to each other in the order that you are going to use them.  Get your make up sponge and run it under the tap, and squeeze out the excess, so it is damp.  Now, paint your polish onto the sponge in lines.

Now!  Before you apply this to your nail, sponge it onto the paper (not too hard).  This will allow the colours to smoosh (technical term) together a bit first.

Then take the sponge, and sponge onto your nail 2-3 times.  Don't do this too hard, if you do, the colours won't apply well, and you run the risk of getting tiny bits of the sponge stuck to your nails.  I'd recommend sponging it on 2-3 times, quite quickly and fairly lightly.  Also, move the sponge up a tiny bit for the second go, and slightly down a bit for the third go, again this will help the blending of the colours.  Repeat this for all your nails.  Don't worry about getting polish over your fingers, you can tidy this up afterwards.  You can probably do 2/3 nails per application of polish to the sponge.  Also, the good thing about this is that your nails will dry pretty quickly.  I'd then repeat this process all over again one or two more times, so that your nails will then have good coverage. 

4.  Clean up
Once you are happy with your nails, then you will need to do some clean up.  This is what you need the cotton buds and nail polish remover for.  Tip a little bit of polish into the lid of the nail varnish remover and dip the cotton bud in.  Use the cotton bud to carefully wipe off any excess polish on your fingers.  Be careful not to wipe any of the polish off your actual nails.  Then once your done, top coat, and it's good to go.

And don't forget!  You can always go one step further and turn your gradient manicure into a laser mani, or go dotty!


  1. You are like the actual queen of gradients. *bows* I need to do another soon, they look so good and I want to stamp over them too.

  2. Great tute, didn't know you should damp the sponge, I'm sure this will stop the polishes from getting too absorbed. Can't wait to try this again nuthin' style!

  3. Your nails are sooooo gorgeous. This is a really good tutorial, thanks for sharing :)

  4. Ok... Have read it a gazillion times and will surely help me with the next gradient mission ;)
    Thank you <3

  5. Brilliant post. Can't wait to try this out x

    1. I've actually done an updated version here with more pictures, so this might be a bit more helpful! x

  6. i nvr thought of dampening sponge... thnkz xD

  7. Just started growing my nails out after changing jobs and wanted to try some cool nail art.
    This is perfect because your nails don't have to be massively long and I got great results even on my first attempt (and I've never tried any nail art before!)
    Thanks for the tutorial, it's so helpful! :)

  8. nice tutorial dude.. i like your art.. very gorgeous art.. Love the colors combos and the design. Its nice and neat job.. great job man.. :)

  9. Wow awesome what are you doing man!! your work is very very great and wondering... i am externally impress to see all.. your writing way are very grateful..i like your web is very informative site!!
    Thanks to sharing!!


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