I’ve been wanting to do this tutorial for a long time, but schedules and rainy weather were conspiring to make a mess of it. Unfortunately, tonight was not great either, but it’s the rainy season in Japan until about July. There’s no good sun to take photos in, and the nail polish dries really fast in this weather. I got my guy to be the nail model for a couple of photos because I couldn’t polish and take photos fast enough. The photos didn’t turn out well, but I was determined to do this tutorial tonight!
Nail gradations are very popular in Japan. Color fades out usually from the tip of the nail to the cuticle. To get the look, they use something called “Gradation Liquid,” which is a sort of watery chemical solvent that fades out the polish. I have had a lot of readers contact me to get this, but I’ve never seen it outside of Japan. A bottle costs around $12 US.
If you have gradation liquid, it’s still not that easy to do a gradation. The instructions say to use a medium-toned pearly polish. Creme, glitter, etc. won’t gradate well. I decided to do a very quick n easy pink pearl French gradation. I chose a Japanese dolla-store special, but any color in a similar tone will do. Not too light, not too dark.
First, paint the polish on about 1/2 as wide as you want the gradation. I just wanted gradation tips rather than the whole nail, so I made a pretty thin stripe just over the white part of my nail.
After letting it dry for about 30 seconds to one minute (it’s hot and dry here , so polish dries pretty fast), draw under the stripe with the gradation liquid. This will sort of “melt” the polish and blur the sharpness of the tip line.
Then brush the tip with gradation liquid from towards the cuticle a few times if you want it to be more gradated. This will wash out the color more and distribute it all over the nail. I just wanted a tip this time, so I didn’t do that.
Sorry, the picture isn’t very good. It’s a nice subtle gradation and looks better in real life. I’m getting tired of the rainy season, and it only officially began last Thursday.
I know most of my readers probably don’t have any access to gradation liquid, so I tried a gradation on my guy without using it. He has lovely giant thumbnails and I can’t polish and take a photo at the same time in this weather. You will need to work fast on this gradation, so have all your supplies out and ready to go.
The trick is to pick complimentary colors that will blend together well. I used Essie All Lacquered Up, an orange red creme, Essie Capri, an orange creme, and China Glaze Orange Marmalade, an orange glass fleck sparkle. They are all in the same color family and tone. Mixing lights and darks in a gradation will usually give a muddy result. Choose colors that are fairly opaque in one coat- sheer and semi-sheer will be harder to work with.
First, paint the entire nail with the lightest color. In this case, it was the CG Orange Marmalade. (Isn’t my guy a good sport for helping out?)
Then paint the second darkest color over the middle half of the nail. Work fast!
Finally, paint the darkest color on the tip.
All the layers need to be wet. Use a clear polish and stroke gently from the tip to the base of the nail, going in one direction only. Do one stroke down the center, and one on each side. Make sure the brush is loaded with enough clear polish so it won’t drag on the nail. This will make the colors bleed into each other and give a nice gradation.
I’ll try to show some more examples when the weather is more favorable, but I thought I’d give you something to try over the weekend!