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Ombre is omnipresent. French for "shaded", the word in fashion-speak has come to stand for pretty much anything that starts out one colour and morphs into another. Now, ombre coiffures and couture may be a bit much for some – think Katy Perry in her cartoonish "California Gurls" days – but the trend is just nice for a discreet dose of drama on your nails.
Ombre nails may look intimidating, but they're actually quite easy to pull off by yourself. A general rule of thumb, pardon the pun, is to use a lighter shade all over the nail bed, then brush on a darker hue at the tips. The best thing about going ombre? Little boo-boos are perfectly fine – we're living in an age where imperfection is perfection.
Ready to get down and dirty? Prior to getting arty, protect and prolong your nail art by applying your preferred base coat. Done? Now read on for our guide to nailing the ombré look:
Step 1. First, mental preparation. Think of the colourway you're gunning for. We asked nail technician Fan Wenqing of SoQ Nails for advice, and she gave some pretty interesting suggestions: "If you're doing your manicure before a festive party, get your wardrobe ready first. I like contrasting hard and soft, so if you're rocking a black Saint Laurent leather shirt, for instance, get girly with ombre nails that are a pastel duo of say, baby pink and mint green."
Wenqing also says her favourite colours of the moment are russet orange and a rich plum, which she cleverly combines to create an evocative sunset effect.
Step 2. Get your tools ready. Here's what you should have spread out in front of you: your chosen polishes, a plastic sheet, toothpicks and a good foundation sponge.
Tip: Never re-use sponges for your nails, as tempting and cost-saving as that might seem. We've found that old sponges will literally fall apart when dipped in strong acetone and alcohols. Bits of spongy material will clump off and stick to your nails – hellish to remove and incredibly frustrating. Save yourself the grief and use a fresh wedge-shaped sponge; the angled shape will give you precision control.
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Step 3. Select two or more nail polishes, then apply the lightest shade as your base colour. We prefer to be conservative: Wait till the base is bone-dry before you start sponging, so as to slash the chances of your sponge sticking to your wet nails.
Wenqing says that if you're envisioning a glittery finish, start with a darker hue so that the sparkle shows up more – the same way stars twinkle the brightest against the blackest sky.
Consider going the gorgeously glimmering route; your nails will look like mini chandeliers at midnight. Image: Showbit.com
Step 4. Remember the plastic sheet we asked you to have on hand? Grab that and daub on a generous amount of both colour swatches, side by side, so that both hues are almost touching.
Step 5. Grab a toothpick and swirl the shades together where they meet. It's your call as to how steep the gradient is. For less of a "fade", lightly blend the edges; for a more subtle graduation, bring both colours together so that you create a third, "in-between" hue.
Step 6. Dab your sponge onto the polish on your plastic sheet. Angle your sponge and press it onto your nail – you may apply less force if you're still iffy about the process. Using a feathery, stippling motion, dab again and repeat as many times as you want, making sure each layer is dry before re-applying.
Step 7. Last lap! When you've dabbed and daubed to your heart and nails' content, seal all the swirly goodness in with a clear topcoat.
All the sponging may leave your nail a tad bumpy, so you may have to apply more than one layer of topcoat for a smooth finish.
Step 8. For an extra-festive flourish, sprinkle on glitter in a contrasting shade. What you do is to press on a smidgen of glitter polish at the cuticle, then use the brush from the polish bottle to smear the sparkly bits right down to the tips.
Step 9. Clean-up time. Saturate a cotton wool swab with polish remover, then swipe it around the nail edge to remove any excess. And you're done!
Ombré nails can be very subtle, like this lovely peach cobbler effect seen at Zac Posen. Image: Showbit.com
Some final advice: Avoid splashing about with water for a few hours after application to prevent chipping. This means you should aim to do your nails at least a day or two before the big bash. Now go out and paint the town ombre!
Want more? Depuff and detoxify your way to a slimmer and “smaller” face with this step-by-step manual, and stave off the advances of Old Father Time by following these anti-ageing beauty best practices every self-respecting office lady should know. Get your daily dose of beauty at www.herworldplus.com/beauty.