Gradient nails (aka "Skittles" or rainbow nails) involve painting each nail a slightly different shade of a similar color, or different, complementary colors. If you choose pink, for example, you might paint the first nail a soft and powdery hue. The second nail might be ballerina pink, and so on, until you end with a bold shade of fuchsia. Or, you could paint one nail pink, one nail green, and so on, until you're wearing the rainbow on your fingertips. With 10 fingers and 10 toes, you can channel every color of the spectrum (and then some). Whatever you choose, you can expect the end look to be surprisingly chic—albeit quirky and colorful. So ahead, discover 15 gradient nail ideas to inspire your next manicure.
Primary Colors with Confetti Overlay
The primary colors of our youth—the green, yellow, red among them—get a dose of fun thanks to a confetti overlay. Use a toothpick dipped in white polish to create shapes that mimic the look.
From a deep cherry red to the sweetest baby pink. this gradient manicure from nail artist @lolo.nailedit screams Barbiecore.
These nails get a dose of art and color, with every digit showcasing a different, unique design. The designs are swirled into one another, featuring shades that range from yellow to red.
If you didn't believe us before, this picture will change your mind. The muted pastels all but scream springtime while complementing any and every color you wear. This set of multicolored nails looks especially chic when paired with gold accessories and fresh-faced hair and makeup. To get a similar, cooler-toned result, try Olive & June's Blue Jeans Kit ($40), which includes two shades of blue, lavender, white, and a topcoat.
Bright and Light
If you prefer the boldest and brightest pastels, then mimic this Easter egg mani. Use candy-colored shades of robin-egg blue, sunshine yellow, and bubblegum-pink polishes to replicate this look. After each layer of polish dries, follow it up with a high-shine topcoat for the utmost vibrancy and light reflection.
Pick out your favorite blue, red, and yellow polish and paint them on each nail, one by one. Once the polish is dry, be sure to layer a shiny top coat over each nail to replicate this enviable and eye-catching gleam. We like using CND's Super Shiny Top Coat ($9), since it seals nail color with scratch and UV-resistant shine.
Shades of Green
Slime green nails are one of the buzziest trends on social media (there's even a hashtag on Instagram). Combine that trend with the polychromatic trend by opting for this muted avocado-inspired manicure. We love how the shades of green are accented with a surprising pop of bright yellow.
In order to get the most life out of a manicure, ensure your nails are healthy. Start by gently pushing back the cuticle to reveal the excess cuticle and remove it from the nail, clipping the excess with cuticle nippers before filing the nails.
You can never go wrong with bright, glossy pastels. Here, nail artist @lolo.naiiledit has put together a gradient, pastel rainbow transitioning from light pink to sky blue.
Manicurists at Shoreditch Nails, a popular nail salon in East London, are also privy to this springtime nail trend. We like how the salon utilizes this look with everything from neutral and/or subtle hues to bright watermelon pastels. There's a gradient nail to replicate all year long.
Courtney Trop from the popular blog Always Judging was an early adopter of the rainbow nail trend. This manicure was inspired by her own painting and thus features the similar red, plum, and khaki tones. We haven't figured out how these mismatched colors complement one another so well yet, but we think it's safe to say that her manicure is a work of art.
Abstract Negative Space
If you want to experiment with colors, but you don't want to dive in whole-heartedly just yet, play with negative space designs. Paint just the tips of your nails in the colors of your choice, adding a small swoop up the side to elongate the appearance of the fingers.
While this isn't a true "gradient" manicure that features a different color on each nail, we love the gradient finish within each nail. Nails move from pink at the tips, to a yellow-ish green, and all the way down to a deeper purple.
If subtle is the name of your game but you still want in on the trend, try varying shades of similar colors, like this manicure that features complementary shades of neutrals. We suggest that you try Olive & June's Pink Sweater Kit ($40), which includes four of the brand's best-selling pink, taupe, and gray polishes, as well as a topcoat.
Take this look into fall with an autumnal palette, as seen on influencer Hannah Bronfman. Swap pastels for more subdued neutrals, greens, and taupes when the weather gets colder.
It's not just different colors you can experiment with. Try mixing textures and finishes to find a combination you prefer. We love the glitter accent in this manicure (although matte polishes or shimmers could work, too).