How to master gradient nails, autumn’s ultimate nail trend

Forget rainbow nails, it’s time to go tonal. Stylist delves into the grown-up trend that’s soothing to the soul.  

Recently, you may have spotted a different kind of nail trend taking over your Instagram feed. While pearl embellishments and tortoiseshell paint jobs are definitely having a moment, many of us have been opting for something more understated (and easy to DIY). Enter: tonal manicures, the perfect trend for the indecisive among us this autumn.

Similar to summer’s playful pastel and rainbow frenzy, gradient nails involves wearing different shades within the same colour family. 

“Tonal nails are a grown-up and minimalist way to express personal style,” says Tina Michael, founder of Shoreditch Nails, which has seen a surge in tonal requests. “It’s the perfect way to accessorise your outfits, especially as tonal dressing is such a thing right now.” 

There’s a reason the gradient has such an oddly satisfying allure, and not just because it removes the element of decision. If you’ve ever gazed at a wall of paint swatches for longer than strictly necessary, it’s because a group of tonal shades strikes a chord within us.

“While statement, standout colours are powerful in their own right, there’s something about the harmony of coordinated tones,” explains Ruth Mottershead, marketing director at luxury paint showroom Little Greene. “Harmony is soothing to the soul, and an array of harmonious shades resonates with our senses and reminds us of the same palettes we see in nature.” That explains our universal love for colour coordinated bookshelves, too. 

Happily for your bank account, it’s likely you’ll have two or three shades in your collection already. Pick three or four from the same family and add white to your pinky nail to lighten the shade on top – or blend your own custom hue on a piece of paper.

The bit that requires the most effort is creating the palette, but we’ve done the hard work for you by selecting five of the most satisfying colourways. Prepare to be on-trend and smugly serene. 

Berry Picking

From left to right: Nailberry Oxygenated Nail Lacquer in Lait Fraise, £14.50; Nails Inc Scented Nail Polish in Peach Tease, £10; Barry M Nail Paint in Ginger, £3.99; Smith & Cult Nail Polish in Lovers Creep, £19; Essie Nail Lacquer in Bordeaux, £7.99.

Sunset Strip

From left to right: OPI Nail Lacquer in Suzi Needs A Loch-smith, £13.50 (mixed with white); Essie Nail Lacquer in Hay There, £7.99; Manicurist Paris Green Nail Colour in Bird of Paradise, £12; Cienna Rose Enriched Nail Lacquer in Peach Melba, £9; J.Hannah Seven- Free Nail Polish in Ghost Ranch, £20

Warm Welcome

From left to right: Mavala Nail Colour in Ivory Beige, £5.20; Essie Nail Lacquer in Clothing Optional, £7.99 (mixed with white); Sally Hansen Keratin Strong Nail Colour in Mauve Along, £7.99; Kiko Smart Nail Lacquer in Rouge Noir, £2.50; J Hannah Seven-Free Nail Polish in Artichoke, £20

Keep It Cool

From left to right: Barry M Gelly Nail Paint in Cotton, £3.99; Rimmel 60 Seconds Nail Polish in Rain Rain Go Away, £3.49 (mixed with white); Nars Nail Polish in Kalymnos, £16; OPI Nail Lacquer in You’ve Got That Glas-Glow, £13.50; YSL La Laque Couture in 22 Beige Leger, £21.50.

Marine Life

From left to right: Chanel Le Vernis Longwear Nail Colour in Prune Dramatique, £22; Jessica Custom Nail Colour in Thunderbird, £8.95; Suqqu Nail Colour Polish in 0237, £18; Kure Bazaar Nail Polish in Caicos, £15 (mixed with white);; OPI Nail Lacquer in It’s A Boy, £13.50

All images: Pixeleyes

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