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I have always been fascinated by the lovely gradation manicures performed by those lucky enough to acquire the precious liquid from Asia. The smooth transition from one color to the next, much like ombre fading on fabric, was so mysterious and unattainable. Until now…

After reading and re-reading Jen’s gradation tutorial, it dawned on me that I had something similar to what she described as “a sort of watery chemical solvent that fades out the polish.” My bottle of Orly Smudge Fixer is watery and seems to dissolve the polish when repairing smudges, so I figure I’ve got nothing to lose by trying it out as gradation liquid.

Turns out, when she says, “If you have gradation liquid, it’s still not that easy to do a gradation,” she’s not kidding.

The runny nature of the liquid makes it hard to control, but the bottom line is: it works. The instructions Jen reads off her gradation liquid recommend using, “a medium-toned pearly polish. Creme, glitter, etc. won’t gradate well.”

I beg to differ.

In fact, I found just the opposite to be true: glitters works best, shimmer second best and pearly/frosty shades just  look streaky. (In the interest of full disclosure, I did not test creme polish in my experiment.)


Misa Confection Section glitter- This looks so cool- almost like those acrylic nails with the glitter gradation embedded within the nail tip itself. Very forgiving for us beginners.


OPI Star-ring the Rockettes shimmer


Misa Dance Fever silver glitter


Misa Disco Queen gold glitter


China Glaze Romantiques= frosty, streaky FAIL

Now, I hesitate to post the pics of my nails in all their stained glory, but the effect is hard to fully appreciate on the polish wheels alone, so brace yourself…


First coat- french tip.


Second coat- thicker layer on top half of french tip. (to increase opacity)


Third step- Orly Smudge Fixer over entire polished area.

Then, I brushed a little SF from the bare nail up over the line, to break up the distinct border.

Next, drag some of the polish down toward the cuticle, depending on how much gradation is desired.

Finally, I would use both topcoat and basecoat, but I used neither for these swatches in my haste.


Here’s a before-and-after: Luckily, the gradation covers the yellowing effectively and disguises the dreaded VNL (visible nail line) enough that I might be willing to do a whole manicure…It’s a nice alternative to the traditional french.

That said, even with extreme patience, this is no easy feat.

I only swatched on three fingers, using my right hand to do the smudging/grading. I’m not as confident in the ability of my left hand to achieve similar results, at least with this polish. (With the forgiving nature of the Misa glitter, I am less apprehensive.)

Since I do not have any gradation liquid, I can’t offer any sort of comparison, but I am glad I did not spend the extra cash considering the level of difficulty involved in the process, which doesn’t sound any easier with the actual liquid.

I bought my Orly Smudge Fixer at a Beauty Supply for under $5, and would definitely recommend having a bottle on hand for polish smudges. As for its potential as gradation liquid, I am impressed with my initial results and will try again, when I am in no hurry, and in a very good mood.

What about you? Have you tried a gradation manicure, either with or without gradation liquid? Any tips for the uninitiated among us? Any helpful hints are welcome…=]



  1. that glitter gradation is tooooooooo hott!!! I need it!

  2. Wow great post! Thank u.

  3. I can’t believe what a gorgeous effect you got with the SF! Looks really pretty. I will admire but never do that myself. I have enough trouble just painting one shade! That would be something I would get done by a professional.

  4. I have SF at home! I’m gonna have to try this! I tried to use a ‘natural watery basecoat’ and it really didn’t work. I would have never have thought to use SF.
    Thanks so much for this post!

  5. I am really late here but it’s such a coincidence as I’ve been trying gradient manicures all week. The closest I got (and it still wasnt photo worthy) was green tip over brown base with a Nubar glitter for the blending. It’s hard to get it right but I am determined to persevere!

  6. acually now i’d like to try this…i once found a site selling the japanese gradation liquid, and liquid to put magazine pictures on nail…but i did not buy them, i regret it a lot now TT and i cannot find it again…

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