Tips and Techniques

How To Do A Perfect Gradient.

Whether it’s part of a more detailed nail art design, or just by itself, gradients look beautiful and add a bit of vibrancy to your nails. They are also very easy to achieve once you perfect your technique. This guide will outline the basics on how to create a perfect nail polish gradient, although as with most nail art techniques, practice makes perfect.

What you will need:

– A base coat of your choice (can be a peel-off base coat, unless using nail vinyls/striping tape).

– A top coat of your choice (glossy or matte).

– Two or more nail polish colours.

– Liquid latex (or latex-free alternatives).

– Cheap, triangular make-up sponges.

– Acetone

– Clean up brush.

Step 1

Apply your base coat and then leave to dry. Once it is completely dry, you then need to apply a base colour to your nails, before you start with the gradient. If the colours you are using are opaque, then I would recommend choosing the palest as your base colour. However, if two or more of your colours are sheer, then I advise that you use a plain white base colour, as this will provide more opacity to the colours without causing any discolouration.

2018-07-05 22.34.13

In the example above, I have used the pale yellow polish as my base colour as it is the lightest and the sheerest out of the four colours I used for this gradient.

Wait 10-15 minutes for your base colour to dry, before moving onto the next step.

Step 2

Before starting the gradient, apply the liquid latex to the skin around your nails and cuticles, and wait until it is completely dry.

2018-07-05 22.42.47

The liquid latex protects your skin from any excess polish that is transferred whilst sponging it on and makes it much easier to clean up once you are done.

For anyone who is allergic to latex, there are latex-free options available, such as Etsy’s latex-free nail tape, which can be found here.

Step 3

To start off the gradient, you will first need to decide what order you are going to have the colours, and loosen the top to the bottles so that you will be able to apply the polish to the sponge quickly and with ease. The make-up sponges used to create the gradients can be found in most drugstores and are usually very cheap to buy.

2018-07-03 13.34.43

Take the first colour you wish to apply to the top of your nail, nearest to your cuticle, and paint it in a single straight line across the sponge. Next, quickly add the second colour below it, creating a slight overlap between the colours. Repeat this for however many different colours you are using. The sponge should start to look like the one in the below picture:

2018-07-05 22.46.36

As you can see, some colours are standing out more than others. This is normal and will change as soon as you build it up with more layers.

**Tip: It can be very tempting to initially apply a few coats of polish to the sponge, in order to achieve good opacity from the first attempt. However, if the polish is too thick on the sponge, the gradient will end up looking blotchy and the colours will not be as finely blended into each other. For best results, apply a thin layer to the sponge and dab on the nail. Do not re-apply the nail polish to the sponge until there is a single layer of gradient on each of the nails on that hand, or if the polish on the sponge has started to dry and is not transferring. If the polish on the sponge ever completely dries, do not try to re-apply the polish on top, the sponge will not be able to absorb it and the gradient will not blend well. if this occurs, just simply cut off the part of the sponge with the dry polish, and start over.** 

2018-07-03 15.50.03

The image above shows how your gradient will turn out if you overload the sponge with too much polish.

Step 4

Once the polish is on your sponge, start to dab it on your nail; taking care to keep the sponge in a similar position so that the lines between the colours end up fairly straight, and very slightly dab the sponge up and down so that the colours blend together seamlessly. Unless the polish you are using is really opaque, it will take a few layers until you reach full opacity. See below, what the first layer should look like.

2018-07-05 22.46.29

As you can see, some colours are standing out more than others. This is normal and will change as soon as you build it up with more layers.

Step 5

Unless the polish you are using is really opaque, it will take a few layers until you reach full opacity. Once you are done, the end result should look as in the picture below.

2018-07-05 22.53.06

Step 6

You may find that the finished gradient tends to look slightly grainy, rough, or bumpy, but this soon evens out once you apply your top coat. Adding the top coat also further blends in your gradient, making it look smooth and seamless. See the picture below where the glossy top coat has been applied, in comparison to the previous picture without the top coat.

2018-07-07 12.46.29

Final Thoughts

As I said previously, even though I aim for this guide to help as much as possible, in order to achieve a perfect gradient you need to practice a lot until you can hone your technique. I suggest you start off by using a peel off base coat, and just keep practising with different colours and styles of gradients; that way you can easily peel off the design you don’t like, and start over without having to keep using acetone. Eventually, you will discover your own dos and don’ts when creating gradients, and will be producing superb results. Just be patient and keep at it!


Products Used

UNT: “Ready For Takeoff” Peel Off Base Coat.
Barry M: Wet Set Quick Dry Topcoat.
Miss Sporty: Can’t Stop The Color 040 “Blue Pencil”.
Miss Sporty: Can’t Stop The Color 010 “Lemony Loveliness”.
Miss Sporty: Clubbing Color 027 “My Blooming Spring”.
Maybelline: Color Show 60 “Roof Terrace”.
I ❤︎ Nails: “Paint n Peel” liquid latex.

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7 thoughts on “How To Do A Perfect Gradient.”

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