Thursday, April 4, 2013

Gradient Nail Tutorial

Have you just been sitting at home, wondering over and over to yourself, "How do you paint gradient nails?"  Great!  Today's post is just for you.

Start off with a base coat (I use Essie's All in One Base Coat) then pick out the two colors you want to use.  I chose Essie Butler Please and Essie Mint Candy Apple (currently one of my most favoritest colors).  Paint your nails the lighter of the two colors.  (You can do gradients with more than two colors, but we're starting small today.  Baby steps!)

I painted my ring finger white (OPI My Boyfriend Scales Walls) because I wanted to show you all what a gradient looks like when you sponge it on over white, and not one of the colors used.

I used two coats of the mint and white polishes because the first coats went on really streaky, but I'm fairly certain in most cases you could just paint one coat and then immediately start your gradient.

Wait til your base color is fully dry before you begin the actual gradient.  You can even use a quick-drying top coat if you're worried about it.  If it's not dry, when you sponge on your gradient the sponge can end up removing some of the base color and reveal your natural nail.  (I made this mistake when I was creating my St. Patrick's Day nails.)

Next, I gathered my supplies.  (I took a picture of the supplies, but it was super blurry, and not in an artsy way, so you'll just have to use your imagination.)

Supplies needed:
-nail polish (2 shades)
-wax paper (or some other kind of non-stick disposable surface)
-make-up sponge
-nail polish remover (we use 100% acetone)
-q-tips and/or small brush

Before you begin, start my wetting your sponge, and then squeeze most of the water out of it.  You don't want the sponge to be dripping, but if it's wet the nail polish won't soak up into the sponge as fast.  And that means there's more for your nails!

Start by making two puddles of your nail polish on the wax paper, making sure the two colors touch.

Yes, my puddles go a little father than touching and are actually overlapping. Oops.
Then, use your toothpick to swirl the edges of your two colors together.  This step is recommended, but not required.  It's possible to get a good gradient from just having the two colors touching, but I've found that swirling them together helps make the transition from one color to the other on your nails more of an ombre effect.

Next, dab your slightly damp sponge on top of your nail polish puddles a couple of times.  Dabbing more than once helps mix the two colors on the sponge (in addition to your swirling action earlier).

As you can tell from these pictures, I can usually use the same sponge for multiple gradients. (That's why the sponge used here is visibly not a fully make-up sponge.) When I'm done, I just snip off the used end and save it for later!  This is great if you're worried about the cost of sponges!  (I actually have no idea how much they cost; Lisl bought the bag we currently have.)

Then, take your sponge and dab it a couple of times onto your nail.  You'll need to be careful to make sure the area of the sponge with the nail polish lines up with your nail.  I usually try to aim for the area where the two colors meet to fall exactly in the middle of my nail.  You can decide what's best for you, but I would definitely recommend looking at the sponge so you know where each color is going to fall on your nail.

I'm sorry there are no pictures of me actually dabbing the sponge on my nail.  I was home alone when I did this manicure and there's just no good way to take a picture of both of your hands doing something!  (I mean, I'm sure you can do it using some kind of camera attached to your forehead, but I don't yet have that kind of technical know-how.)

Repeat all of these steps for the rest of your nails.  A word of caution: the nail polish often starts to break down make-up sponges after a while.  When that happens, the sponge will start to leave little sponge particles on your nails when you dab them.  So, you can either work quickly, or you might have to change sponge surfaces.  What I did was do one hand, then cut off the side of the sponge I'd just used and started over with a blank sponge canvas!

When you're done, your nails will be pretty, but your fingers will be super messy!  That's where our trusty friends acetone and q-tips come in.

Dip a q-tip in the acetone (I usually pour a little into the cap of the bottle, but you can also just dip it directly into the bottle).

My acetone cap looks a little gross.  Obviously, I use the cap to clean up my nail mistakes a lot.

And then just use your q-tip to clean off the edges of your fingers!  For more fine-tuned work around your cuticles, you can use a small make-up or paint brush.

These are starting to look better!
 After you've cleaned them up a bit, here's what you should have:

I really loved the textured feel these nails had after stamping.  I wish I owned a matte top coat (that's something we need to invest in, Lisl!) because I think they would've looked really neat with a matte finish.  But if you don't like the bumpy look, don't worry!  Some top coat will smooth them right out.  Here's how mine look once I applied a coat of Essie Good to Go.

The only thing I wish I'd done differently with these nails was put the darker blue on the tips, rather than at the cuticle.  As you can see, in some places the sponge couldn't get the darker polish all the way to the cuticle, so there's some lighter mint polish peeking through at the base of the nail.  If you want to avoid this problem, I recommend doing what I did on my St. Patrick's Day nails.   (Interestingly, I did the darker color at the base on my Easter gradient nails and didn't notice this being a problem.  Maybe it depends on what colors you use and how stark the darker color looks against the lighter background?)

One final thought: remember how I painted my ring finger white?  I really thought going in that sponging the gradient on top of white instead of mint would make the gradient look a lot more washed out and less vibrant.  Obviously, I was wrong, cause you can't tell at ALL that the base was different for my ring ringer in any of these pictures!  So, if you want to conserve your lighter color and have a lot of white to use, maybe consider opting for a white base!

NO difference in the ring finger and other fingers.

Any questions?  Hit me up in the comments!

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