So you want to do a gradient on your nails, but you're not quite sure how to go about it. I've heard people say it's intimidating, they're worried the polish will dry or they'll mess it up. They're afraid they won't have the skills required to do it correctly, or that something bad will happen. Well, let me tell you this- it won't.
There's a very important fact to keep in mind- it's only nail polish. As long as you make a few preparations, the worst you'll have to deal with is cleaning the polish off your fingers. It comes off. It's really ok! The next time you try, it'll go a little better, and before you know it you'll be doing gradients with the best of them!
- base coat
- polishes (2 minimum)
- top coat
- a makeup sponge or two
- nail polish remover or acetone
- cotton buds or a brush
- cotton balls or rounds
- newspaper (to protect surfaces)
- petroleum jelly (for easier cleanup)
- scissors (to cut sponge)
- a pantyliner (for sponge cleaning)
If you were to try to make gradient from colors across from each other on the color wheel, like blue and orange, they would make a muddy grey/brown in the center where they meet. It's not terribly pretty, although understanding the color wheel can come in very handy when you're mixing your own colors! But for now, back to gradients!
The first thing I would suggest is to put down a layer of newspaper on the surface you're going to be working on. You're working with lots of polishes and sponges and things, and if you're anything like me it's safest to put something down between you and your antique coffee table. Nail polish on furniture can be bad, but nail polish remover on furniture is even worse! Then make sure you've got everything you'll need for a while, because this can take a bit of time. Grab a soda or a bottle of water, the phone, the TV remote- whatever you need so that you don't have to go digging for it with wet nails. Also, visit the restroom- wet nails are not compatible with potty breaks!
You'll also want to wipe your nails down with nail polish remover on a cotton ball or round. This helps remove oils and things that can make your polish come off, and helps dry out your nail so that your base coat can really adhere. Then you need to apply 2-3 coats of your base color, depending on how much coverage you want.
I'm basically using yellow, orange and red for this gradient, but I also have two pinks I want to use for sparkle and easing the gradient. (Pink + yellow = orange too!) So, looking at my nail, I decided I wanted to put the pale pink down over most of my nail, then put the orange polish over about half of my nail, and put the red just on the tip of my nail.
You can draw it out if it helps you, or you can just eyeball it and estimate in your mind. Either way, it does help to get an idea of just where you want each color to start and end. If you use fewer colors, you'll have larger sections, and vice versa. Remember- it's all up to you, and you really can do whatever you want. There are no hard and fast rules!
Loading the sponge is easy. You simply paint on the polish, just like painting your nail! However, I found that for the yellow and orange, it helped to paint them both onto the sponge like in the photo to the right. This helped the colors blend a bit more, and made a much smoother gradient. You don't have to do this, but it's an option.
To sponge the color on, you simply put the sponge over where you want the color to be, then pat it onto the nail. You don't need a lot of pressure... just pat pat pat the color onto the nail. It will build up fast enough, and you'll still have a bit of control over it. Yes, this will get all over your fingers. That's why we have the polish remover, so we can clean up afterwards.
If you find that your red has gone up too far, just put some orange back onto the sponge and pat it over the red. You can really make a smooth gradient if you take your time with this. Just try to be patient, and work with it. Small pats of color really give you more control over the gradient.
I hope this helps. It's less tutorial and more of high points, but I couldn't really figure out how to write "pat pat pat the orange down. Then pat pat pat some red on top of the orange. If it's too much red, pat pat pat some orange on top." I think you guys can figure that part out on your own! :D
I hope this gives you the courage to try it. Remember, it's just nail polish, and you can always fix it if it's awful. If you do decide to do it, take a picture, I'd love to see it!
Til next time!