How to Shadow Fade Your Nails

Use lighter and darker polish of any color to create a fade effect on your nails.
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The shadow fade, or ombré effect, is a nail-art trend where each nail seamlessly fades from a darker shade on the tip to a lighter shade toward the base, or from one color to another. The shadow fade is a unique way to jazz up your manicure, and it can be either subtle or bold, depending on the colors you use. Seal your work with a clear topcoat to give your nails smooth, chip-resistant surfaces that keep your shadow fade fresh all week.

Dip a cotton ball in non-acetone polish remover. Rub over each nail to remove any traces of old nail polish.

Dip your nail brush into your clear base-coat polish, and place the tip of the brush at the center of the base of the nail, at the cuticle. Drag the polish brush along the center of the nail from base to tip. Paint another stroke to the left and right of your center stroke, moving from cuticle to tip, so that your nail is covered with a thin layer of clear polish. Repeat with all of your nails, and wait until the polish has dried completely.

Open your bottle of base-color polish -- the polish you will apply to the entire nail. Paint a stroke of the polish down the center of the nail, moving from cuticle to tip. Repeat to the left and right of the center stroke to create an even coat of base polish. Repeat with all nails and allow them to dry completely.

Place a piece of aluminum foil on your work surface; the foil should be the size of a standard book. Alternatively, you can use a paper plate.

Pour five to 10 drops of the base-color polish in a tiny puddle on the foil or plate. Pour five to 10 drops of your second polish right next to the first polish, so that the two colors are touching.

Place the toothpick where the colors meet, and draw tiny circles and swirls to mix the two colors together. Blend the colors until you see a soft gradation instead of two separate hues.

Dab the cosmetic sponge lightly in the polish mixture. Press the sponge lightly against the first nail, so that the darker (or complementary) polish color lands at the tip of the nail and your base polish color lands toward the center and base of the nail. This will create the fade effect. Rewet the sponge in the polish if necessary, then continue with each nail. Wait until the nails are completely dry.

Dip a pointed cotton swab into the non-acetone polish remover. Use the swab to carefully wipe away any polish on the skin around each nail. Allow all of the nails to dry completely.

Open your bottle of clear topcoat polish. Paint a stroke of the polish down the center of the nail, moving from cuticle to tip. Repeat to the left and right of the center stroke to create an even topcoat. Seal the edge of the nail and prevent chips by running the brush horizontally across the nail tip. Repeat with all nails, then allow to dry.

  • If you choose to use two different colors for your fade, make sure they blend well. For example, red and yellow will blend to create a red-orange-yellow ombré, but red and green would blend into a brown shade. White and black polish will blend to create either a lighter or darker shade of your other polish color.
  • Warm your nail polishes and prevent bubbles by gently rolling each bottle in your palms before opening. This will help the polish run more smoothly over the nails. Don't shake the bottles, as this may cause the polish to form small bubbles on your nails.

Lindsey Robinson Sanchez, from Bessemer, Ala., has written for the "Troy Messenger," "The Alabama Baptist" and "The Gainesville Times," where her work was featured on the AP wire. She has a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Florida. She writes style, beauty, fitness, travel and culture.