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How To: Ombre Nails

Can’t decide to paint your nails light or go dark this time? Why not Ombre? Ombre nails are a type of manicure in which a gradient effect is created. A dark color at the base of the nail gradually blends into a lighter color toward the tip. Getting it perfect can take time and practice, but this method makes the process simple.

Preparing Your Nails


  1. Soak your hands. Soaking your hands in soapy water gently strips the oil from your skin and softens your cuticles.
  2. Trim and shape your nails. Short nails are in style now, but I always paint them long and cut them down after a few days when they chip to get another few days out of the maincure.
  3. Push back your cuticles. Gently push your cuticles away from your nail. If desired, you may also trim your cuticles by carefully clipping the tops with a cuticle clipper.
  4. Use polish remover. This helps make sure that you have all the oils and contaminants off of your nails and to make sure no polish is remaining on the nail.
  5. Apply a Base. Apply a base coat of the lightest color you will be using on the entire nail.

Creating the Gradient


  1. Taking the Easy Way. So you could use nail polish, but the trick here is to use acrylic paint that will easily wash off the skin with water afterwards.
  2. Use Three Brushes. Using 3 paint brushes and a cosmetic sponge, brush on the darkest color at the tip of the sponge, a mixture of the light and dark color on the middle of the sponge and the lightest color at the bottom being sure to gauge where your nail would end on the sponge so as to be able to see all three colors.

Dab on Color


  • Do it thrice. Take the sponge and dab on the color. Let the layer dry and repeat three times trying to land the sponge the same way on the nail each time. You will most likely have to repeat the step above for subsequent layers.

Apply the Top Coat


  1. Taking the Easy Way-—Again. So there’s acrylic paint all over your fingers, but the nails look great, so protect them first-—then worry about the mess.
  2. Paint a clear top coat on each nail. And since we’ve worked so hard on the gradient, let it dry. Put another clear top coat layer on top and let that dry.

Clean Up Time


  • Clean off Your Fingers. So this is the slightly tricky part-—washing off the paint and not ruining your nails. Since it’s just acrylic paint, a little soap and water does the trick. I use my thumb nail to outline the paint on the cuticle and little light rubbing to clean it off.

The Big Reveal


  • Voila! Ombre Nails!