Ombre Nail Art – popular techniques for gradient nails

Ombre nails have been one of the most popular trends featured in the spring/summer  Fashion Week and in glossy magazines everywhere. Whether you refer to it as “gradient nails” or “faded nails”, the reality of the matter is we’ve all fallen in love with this nail art technique and the chic subtle effect that it brings to our manicures.

A lot of you might have seen this coming, but in case you missed the memo, Ombre remains a popular trend even as the summer begins to fade in our memory. Due to its major revival by fashion lines and hair color trends, the Ombre technique has been adapted color-wise to the fall/winter season and promises to stick around in the year to come. So are Half Moon nails and Triangle Moon Manicures, so be sure to check out the tutorials. If you love nail art, you might as well be interested in learning how to do the Marble Art manicure.

The Ombre nail art technique is a fairly simple one, though it does require a bit of patience and a gradient selection of nail polishes, that not all of you may have. If that’s your case, remember that white & black nail polishes always come in handy to lighten or darken any shade. You can also use them as a base and achieve the Ombre Nail Art CNDs Wanda Ruiz created for Jen Kao.

Jen Kao Ombre nails

Jen Kao Ombre nails

That being said, I think it’s probably the right time to give you guys a list of everything you’ll need to achieve this wonderful look so we can finally start this step by step guide on how to create Ombre Nail Art.

Tools needed to create Ombre Nail Art:

Before you start, make sure you have all of the tools needed to create Ombre Nails at your disposal and that everything is easy to reach. You’ll need to move fast in order to pull off this design, so you won’t even afford to keep the lids on your nail polishes.

Glamorous Ombre nail art

Glamorous Ombre nail art

DIY Ombre Nail Art

In order to achieve this look, you can choose complementary colors or color block hues, but I find it best to use gradient colors (dark to light and all in the tonal family). Experiment with different combinations and see what works for you.

Step 1: The first step is to do a basic manicure so your nails and cuticles look good and to apply the lightest nail polish color as a base coat. After it has dried, get a cup of water and soak the sponge you will use for the design. Squeeze the sponge out until it’s damp, so it will keep the polish from soaking up too quickly.

Step 2: Quickly apply the darkest nail polish of your choosing at the base of the sponge, in a couple of coats. Use the second darkest color and repeat the procedure above the first nail polish coat. Continue until all your nail polish colors are placed on the sponge in a gradient.

Tip: You should complete this step quickly, so the polish doesn’t dry out.

Step 3: Dab the sponge on the plastic sheet or foil, slightly moving it up and down in the same spot a few times so the colors blend together.

Step 4: Press the sponge on your nail, again moving it up and down in the same spot so you can achieve a perfect gradient.
You will have to re-apply the polishes on the sponge for every nail, or every other nail if you move fast enough and the polish doesn’t dry.

Step 5: Clean up the excess nail polish on the skin around your nails and your cuticles using a brush or Q-tips dipped in acetone or nail polish remover.

Step 6: Finish with a Top Coat, or how many it takes to smooth out the surface of the bumpy nail design. The final coat will also make it appear more blended.

Ombre Nail Art

Ombre Nail Art

Ombre Nails Tutorial

In case the above technique fails you, there is a second one you can try, slightly different than the other. Start off by repeating the first step, follow the directions below instead of steps 2 and 3:

Instead of placing the nail polishes directly on the sponge, you can use the plastic foil to place a generous amount of the two nail polishes right next to each other. Using a toothpick, swirl the colors together where they meet. That area will determine the length of the graduation, so mix them according to your liking.

Take your sponge and dab it directly down on to the polish a few times, slightly moving it up and down in the same spot a few times so the colors blend together.

Continue with steps 4, 5 & 6 to finish the look and that’s it. I hope you’ll have better luck with this one!

Cute ombre nail designs

Cute ombre nail designs

Ombre Manicure

For those of you who prefer a more simple and probably more present manicure, the gradient nail effect can be achieved by painting each of your nails differently, in sequential shades.

In order for this to work out, you’ll need if not five distinct nail polish shades, at least two or three colors from the same tonal family. You can use these blended together to create new mid tones.

Now that you have five shades, paint the nails on each hand from light to dark. I like having the darkest color on my thumbs, but you can reverse it and apply the deepest hues to your pinkies.

Ombre manicure

Ombre manicure

Regardless of the order you choose, apply the polish with a small paintbrush, or use your original polish brush and clean it between colors.

Have you tried this techniques before? Tell me what you think in the comments!


As a professional make-up artist and beauty enthusiast, Luiza's expertise has become highly prized over the years. As owner of this site, she set her mind to create a publication for those who are focused not just on beauty trends and popular brands, but also on the industry's most well-kept secrets.

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