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A Twist on the Ombre or Gradation Manicure

Have you seen the ombre manicure that was featured in InStyle Magazine? In my post on multi-colored nails we saw CND’s version for the Kai Kuhne runway last February that they called a gradation. Either way I think it’s a fun play on the concept of a gradated manicure and much easier to replicate at home.

You may remember that I wore a gradated CalGel manicure at NY Fashion Week last season and while I loved the style, it’s not exactly DIY friendly. So I put my twist on ombre multi-colored nails with, what else, a green version. Check it out!

The idea here is to custom blend varying shades of the same color, working across your hand from lightest to darkest. However I went a different route than the method suggested by InStyle. Rather than combine pure white polish into a dark lacquer, having to create 4 separate mixes, I chose a light green and a dark green with similar color traits and blended them to create the mid-tone hues. I selected Illamasqua Milf and RBL Orbis Non Suficit because they both have a slightly grayed, dusty quality to them and I wanted a muted look.

Products and Tools:
Illamasqua Milf Nail Lacquer
Rescue Beauty Lounge Orbis Non Suficit
Acrylic pigment jars (easily found on eBay or at craft stores)
Toothpicks (for mixing)
Clean nail polish brush. I used one from an empty polish bottle I bought for frankening.

*Have your nails prepped with base coat applied before beginning.
*Apply the polish as soon as it is mixed. Exposure to air will cause it to thicken quickly and dry shortly after.
*Mix the lightest color first and apply immediately before moving on.
*Clean your brush with remover between colors to avoid streaks from previously mixed polishes.
*Regarding my formulas below, I remove the brush from the bottle without wiping it against the sides and the amount that drips off equals one drop.

Note: Because this is a demo I only mixed colors for my middle and ring fingers and left my thumb out. You will want to mix three shades for a full manicure.

Ring finger mix: Start with 7 drops of Milf and add 1 drop of Orbis Non Suficit. For me, the color was darker than I wanted so I added one more drop of Milf.

Middle finger mix: Use an equal amount of both lacquers. 4 drops each of Milf and Orbis Non Suficit.

The Finished Result!
What I love about this look is that it’s much softer than the “Skittles Nails” I’ve worn in the past. It’s not as bright and in your face. In fact you could make the variations much more subtle by choosing polishes that are even closer in tone. Or if you follow the InStyle method, adding white polish, your nails could vary by a single drop.

So what do you think of this look? Is this something you’d be willing to try at home? If you’ve done a similar manicure, what shades did you use? I actually received a message from a reader, Sarah, who blended a gorgeous grayed purple version using OPI Siberian Nights and China Glaze Agent Lavendar. Share your creations in the comments!

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There Are 45 Brilliant Comments

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  1. paiiige says:

    oh! yours turned out so much better than my attempt.. but i am going to try it again!

  2. Tavia says:

    There days ago my nails looked just the same. I had different shades of green on my nails, but amazingly they were all looking great :)It was a wearable combination

  3. milk with tea says:

    This is so cute, I will definitely do this!

  4. Mira says:

    that is so pretty..i love green!

  5. DWJ says:

    I'm thinking of doing this with RBL Teal! This looks so good though!

  6. gildedangel says:

    This is so pretty, I am going to try this!!!

  7. April and Ashley says:

    I love it! I think my sister and I have enough greens or greys to try this now. We did both sport a skittles manicure to a masquerade ball. We matched our nails to the stripes in our awesome dresses. Here are the pictures.

  8. awesomevegan says:

    There are people with so many polishes they could do something similar without mixing LOL. I may have enough pinks already. Hehe. I know that is crazy. :) I think it is cool. I am too lazy to mix my polishes. Ironically I love to paint. Maybe I will mix my own shade someday. :) I tend to just layer if a color isn't exactly what I am looking for.

  9. ali says:

    Wow! I was seriously thinking of doing this the other day with reds/pinks but I wasn't sure if i'd like it so i never got around to it. But it looks so cool that i'm DEFINITELY going to try it out :)

  10. Cali369 says:

    Very cool, I must give this a try.

  11. rosarita says:

    This looks great! I saw the InStyle version but thought it was too much messing around. Your way makes more sense. Thanks :)

  12. Beauty Shed says:

    wow finally ive found a way of being able to wear a complete collection on my nails yay. ive recently been wearing Nubars cleopatra collection which is a divine collection of purples so now i can wear evey shade yay. check them out on, or if you would like i could send you some samples.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Absolutely gorgeous! I've got to try this!

  14. Roberta says:

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  15. igswonderworld says:

    oooh this looks soooo good! I'm gonna make my nail lady try this on me tomorrow!!!

  16. Rachel says:

    I'm going to try this – but with two nail polishes that are closer in color for a very gradual gradation. Thanks for the idea!

  17. Euridice says:

    I love this! Thanks for the tutorial, I will definitely try this, or something along these lines. I might start out just using polishes that are already close in color!

  18. Denny says:

    Skittle nails…very cool idea. I like it!

  19. Anonymous says:

    Ok, gave it a try today using a dark purple metallic polish from Victoria's Secret and Sally Hansen's All the White Stuff. Didn't turn out too well, but I learned a few things:
    -use a good brush; mine got very stiff from the remover and didn't apply smoothly. I think it's because it was cheap.
    -metallics lose their metallic nature when combined with a creme
    -you will use a lot of nail polish the first time, so be prepared if it's a polish you like
    -dark pigments need a lot of white to produce any noticeable difference in color

  20. WendyB says:

    Love it.

  21. Ingrid says:

    Too much work. Beautiful outcome…especially since I love greens. But, I would have to pick 5 polishes that created their own gradient. All the mixing etc… a little too much work for me.

    Most fanatics could easily pull from their collection a set of 5 polishes that created a similar gradient.

    I would even like to set mine off with a holo or something.

    OOoo I would put in the work to great a holo colored gradient. Dark holo green to a lighter holo green. Sweet.

  22. Miss Yaya says:

    this method works a lot better than me searching for gradients of the same color in my collection – though really i prob have em all lmao

    great idea. yours worked out mahhhvelous and i hope mine will too!

  23. Janet says:

    ooh, i just tried china glaze platinum pearl and a darker slate blue metallic – turned out soo pretty!!! i just did mine on paper and used the brush from the darker polish's bottle. but that gave me the idea of just mixing polishes!! kinda like frankening on a smaller scale, less risky and more room for experimentation. i am having lots of fun right now!! :D

  24. Snowdrop85 says:

    Sooo pretty, I love the colours, I want to try this but need a clean brush first, can you get them at Sallys?

  25. Bree says:


  26. 3von says:

    What about the thumb ? there are only 4 colours ?

  27. Angela says:

    I LOVE THIS!!!!!!! I’m so going to try this VERY soon! I’m sooo excited! lol

  28. fran says:

    I just tried this (without mixing colors, I just used 4 different blue shades) and I love it :D! thanks for the idea

  29. Laura says:

    I did this a few weeks ago with CG Light as Air and RBL Mismas – it was so so beautiful and quite an attention grabber!

  30. Sonya says:

    This is a great look and I hope to try it soon!

  31. Smackie says:

    Did this with purple and it looked awesome. Tried it with a pink and it looked like a Valentine’s day manicure. I’m going for shades of grey this week . . .

  32. Sandi says:

    Would seem easiest to me to start with several drops of white, stir in a drop or two of your dark and paint nail one, another drop or two of dark, paint nail two, another drop or two…you get the picture. But it all seems too much of a PITA to me. Paint your nails white and then use a sheer. Finger one, one coat, finger two, two coats etc.

  33. cam says:

    did this with light pink and dark pink it looks so amazing!

  34. Jacklyn says:

    Pink and plum for me…for the holiday party! (Brush from the plum bottle worked much better.)

  35. Vivian says:

    Quite lovely, I like the shade on your ring finger.

  36. lex says:

    this looks beautiful, especially against that bloom

  37. fajas colombianas says:

    I personally use the gradients from pink to violet when going out to parties. Or different gradients of pink when going out on a normal day.

  38. Tiffany Anderson says:

    I tried the ombre manicure a very long time ago & I must say, it was a pain trying to get the middle shades to look different. I used a chalky white with OPI’s Funky Dunkey. Next time, I’ll try it with maybe OPI’s Lincoln Park After Dark & Funky Dunkey.
    And even though I’m late to this party, your blog is GREAT! I stumbled upon it after googling “olive green nail polish”. I just came from my local OPI dealer, and they’re out of Uh-Oh (I live in NYC). I suspect this will be the case wherever I go, so I need an alternative.
    Lo and behold, everything I need to choose my nail looks for the season is right here! You have a new fan who can’t wait to read more.

  39. immobilier says:

    hello les gens j’aime bien cet article mais l’ immobilier est ma plus grande passion.

  40. Courtney says:

    I love this because I usually get a lot of different shades at once and then feel I don’t use them as often as I’d like.

  41. Jenni says:

    I love the ombr

  42. Kaoroo says:

    I got some sets of ombre nail polish at by The New Black. They were easier than mixing which is what i used to do before. And they were cheap.I got the blue set
    and the black to silver set- but now I really want the pink…
    They turned out great and no wasting product like when I mixed.