Ombré nails (just like ombré hair) are a type of manicure in which a color gradient is created. A light color on the top of the nail gradually blends into a darker color toward the tip. Getting the perfect ombré effect can take time and practice, but there’s a lot of room for originality to make your ombré effect unique.
Clean up your nails. Use a cotton ball lightly soaked in nail polish remover to remove any nail polish currently on your nails. Gently trim your nails with nail clippers until your nails are at your desired length.
You can also push back your cuticles using a rounded manicure stick. This will help elongate your nail beds so your nails look longer.
Alternatively, you can push back your cuticles using your thumbnail on your opposite hand.
Apply a clear base coat. Paint on a thin, clear, base coat to all of your nails. A clear base coat protects your nails from getting stained by colored polishes, and helps extend your manicure by decreasing the prevalence of chips in your nail polish.
Apply your base color coat. With ombré nails, your base color is usually a white polish, or the lightest color you plan to use for the ombré effect. A white polish will help colors seem more vibrant, but using the lightest of your planned ombré polishes will give a softer, more subtle ombré effect. Paint this background color on all of your nails.
For an opaque base, paint two coats of your base color. Allow the first coat to dry completely before adding the second coat.
To help your nails dry faster, it’s better to paint two thin coats of polish rather than one, thick and heavy coat of polish.
Paint your ombré colors onto a makeup sponge. Paint your ombré colors in straight, horizontal lines side-by-side across a small makeup sponge. The area of the sponge you paint should relatively be the same width as your nail. Start by painting a line across the width of the sponge with the lightest color of nail polish. Then paint on the next darkest color underneath the first color. Finally, paint the darkest color of polish underneath the second line of polish. Be sure that all the colors are painted right next to each other with no exposed sponge between the colors. Paint a couple coats of polish onto the sponge for each color so the polish is wet enough to stamp onto your nail.
Normally, two or three colors are used to create the ombré effect, but you can experiment with different colors and combinations to see what you like best.
It may help to dip the makeup sponge in water first before painting on the colors. Dip the makeup sponge into water. Wring out the sponge until approximately 80% of the water is removed. Then paint on the nail polish colors.
Dipping the sponge in water will prevent the sponge from absorbing too much polish and having the polish dry up too quickly on the sponge.
Stamp the polish onto your nails. Stamp the polish onto your nail by pressing the sponge (with the polish side down) on top of you nail repeatedly, lifting the sponge away every couple of stamps to check and see if the ombré is dark enough and to your liking.
Roll the polish onto your nails. Roll the polish onto your nails by placing the side edge of the sponge next to the side of your nail. Slowly roll the sponge (with the polish side down) over your nail to the other side of your nail. Do this repeatedly to darken the polish colors and increase the ombré effect.
This process will transfer some nail polish onto your skin surrounding your nails. To prevent this you can edge the skin around your nails with a thin layer of petroleum jelly or place tape on the skin surrounding your nails. Otherwise, you can use nail polish remover to clean the sides of your nails later.
There is a lot of freedom with how you transfer the paint to your nail. You can adjust the placement of the sponge (stamping vertically on the length of your nail, tilting the sponge to specifically stamp on a certain color) to make your ombré effect unique and original.
Reload the sponge. When you have finished the ombré effect on one nail, reload the polish onto the sponge so the ombré colors remain wet and vibrant. Paint the nail polish colors in the same fashion as before, lining the sponge with the lightest color and moving down to the darkest. Make sure all the polish colors are side-by-side touching each other.
Keep in mind, if you try to ombré you nails with a sponge that isn’t damp enough with polish, the dry sponge can actually pull off your base color coat and ruin your polish.
If you stamp or roll your nails quickly, you most likely only need to add polish to the sponge for every other nail.
Apply a topcoat. Once you have given all of your nails adequate time to dry (about 10-15 minutes), add a topcoat of clear polish to your nails. You might want to consider doing two coats of a topcoat to smooth out your nails, since the sponging makes the surface of your nail a little stippled and bumpy.
Clean up the skin around your nails. Use a small paintbrush or Q-Tip dipped in nail polish remover to swipe along the edges and cuticles of your nails.
The cotton on the Q-Tip will help rub off polish on the skin, whereas the paintbrush can be more exact in removing excess nail polish.
Clean up your nails. Whenever you paint your nails, you want to have a nice, clean canvas. Remove any remaining nail polish currently on your nails with a cotton ball lightly soaked in nail polish remover. Cut your nails down to your desired length using nail clippers. File down your nails even more if you want them shorter, and smooth out the sharp corners of your nail.
Consider pushing back your cuticles with a manicure stick to expose a bit more of your nail bed. You can also use your thumb nail from your other hand to push back your cuticles if you don’t have a manicure stick.
Apply a clear base coat. Paint on a clear base coat to protect your nails from being stained by the color in colored nail polishes. A clear base helps to extend your manicure by making chips in the polish less prevalent.
Allow your clear base coat to dry about 5-10 minutes before applying any more nail polish.
Apply your base color coat. Paint all of your nails with your base color. Your base color can be whatever color you want, it’s really up to you. To get a solid base base, consider painting on two lighter coats of polish as opposed to one, thick and heavy coat. Wait a few minutes in between coats (about 5-10 minutes) so the polish has a chance to dry completely.
Two light coats of polish will increase the opacity of the color without making the layers of polish gooey.
Add your first coat of glitter. Unscrew the brush from the bottle, and wipe the sides of the brush on the inside neck of the bottle to remove most of the glitter polish. You want very little glitter on the brush for your first coat of glitter. Paint over your entire nail, making sure that the top portion of your nail near your cuticle is barely speckled with glitter. The bottom portion of your nail can have a bit more glitter since it will be layered with glitter anyway.
Allow this first layer of glitter to dry for at least five minutes.
Paint your second coat of glitter. Wipe off the brush a little less this time so there is a little more glitter on the brush. Paint the lower half of your nail, focusing on applying more glitter toward the end tip of your nail. Allow your nails at least ten minutes to dry completely.
Obviously, you can make the bottom half of your nail as glittery as you would like. Just be sure the ombré glitter gradient transitions from thin to thick, smoothly.
You can always add another coat of glitter to the bottom 1/3 or 1/4 of your nail, but then you run the risk of having a very wet nail (full of layers of polish). A wet nail heavy with polish will take a long time to dry.
Experiment to see what you think looks best and works well in terms of drying time.
Add a clear topcoat. Paint on a clear topcoat to seal your nails and smooth out your nail surface.
You may consider adding two thin coats of your topcoat, only because the glitter can make the surface of your nail quite bumpy. You want all the glitter to be covered, so the glitter doesn’t get caught on any clothing or scratches your skin.
If you use petroleum jelly around your nails to keep the polish off your skin, be careful not to get any on your nail, because the polish won’t stick.
Paint your thumb nails last. By painting your thumbnails at the end, you can use them to clean up any mistakes around your cuticles on the opposite hand. Remove any excess nail polish on your thumbs with polish remover before painting them.