How to Do Gradient and Ombré Nails |
Photo: Chaunte Vaughn

Some nail trends are particularly hard to master — but different colored nails (also called “gradient nails”) isn’t one of them. It doesn’t require any other skills aside from being able to paint your nails, but the tricky part is color choice. The right color combination will look Insta-girl cool, while the wrong shades will leave something to be desired. To help you pick complementary shades, we’ve rounded up a few inspo images ahead (and shared our own take on the trend above) — but feel free to get creative with your own ideas, too.

Tastes Like Candy

Candy-colored nails are an easy way to interpret the trend — pick a few of your favorite desaturated poppy hues and paint one on each nail.

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A Little Gray

Hues with similar undertones pair well together, too, like this combo of the new Essie Serene Slates Collection. Nail artist Betina Goldstein wears one shade on each finger, and we definitely want to copy them all.

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First of All

Primary shades are the base of every color you can think of — so it’s no surprise they look great paired together. Try this daring look by @gels_by_helena; it’s sure to turn heads.


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Just the Tips

If you want to keep it a little more subtle, combine two of our favorite trends — an updated French manicure and gradient nails — to create a similar nail look to AKIKO Nails NYC. She chooses shades that are reminiscent of spring, so you can do this for other seasonal palettes as well.

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Swipe Right (or Left)

For an extra subtle, minimalist take, try different colored swipes across a clear nail. This is perfect for anyone who struggles to nail a perfect manicure and makes showing off your favorite shades easy.

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Patterned AF

If you want to take it over the top, try a pattern on each nail like these different looks from @nailbrew. The key to this look is complementary shades comprised of reds, blues, blacks and whites.

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Use Your Intuition — or Copy @Gelcream

Sometimes the best method for pairing different colored hues is to trust your intuition and pick your favorite shades, like this look from @gelcream. We absolutely recommend this technique for the artistically-inclined.

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Keep it in the Same (Color) Family

An easy way to achieve the look is to create an ombré effect with different shades from the same color family. There’s a few ways to do this, but we like starting with the most vibrant shade on one nail, and diluting the color for the rest with varying amounts of white polish. The more white polish you add, the lighter the color — ensuring a flawless gradient.

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