Date: May 20th, 2012

Gradient Manicure, Ombre Manicure and Skittle Manicure. What is what?

Gradient Nails Ombre Nails Skittle Nails Gradient Manicure Ombre Manicure Skittle Manicure

With the resurrection of the Gradient Manicure trend also a little confusion about its naming and definition went alongside with it. I must confess that I am a little lot obsessed about correct naming and start to cringe when I see a Gradient Manicure being called an Ombre Manicure or even Skittle Manicure. Both Ombre Nails and Skittle Nails describe a completely different look than Gradient Nails.

Especially on German blogs I have seen the term Ombre Manicure (or translated Ombré Maniküre) quite a few times. While “ombre” most widely could be translated with “gradient” the term Ombre Nails describes a whole different technique in the nail art world than Gradient Nails.
The term Gradient Manicure translated one-on-one in German would sound funny (Verlaufs-Maniküre) so I understand picking a better sounding term. So while it technically isn’t wrong it is confusing because the term Ombre Manicure is already established for a different look.

To clear up the confusion I thought it’s time for a Gradient Nails, Ombre Nails and Skittle Nails breakdown. I hope the following illustrations and explanations will be helpful. :)

Gradient Nails
Gradient Nails Ombre Nails Skittle Nails Gradient Manicure Ombre Manicure Skittle Manicure

A manicure is a Gradient Manicure when two or more colors blend in a gradient into each other on the nails. You can achieve this look with the sponging technique which Sammy showed in her perfect tutorial. The definition is easy: a Gradient Manicure is a gradient.

Ombre Nails
Gradient Nails Ombre Nails Skittle Nails Gradient Manicure Ombre Manicure Skittle Manicure

While the term Ombre Manicure is appealing to be used for gradients it decribes a much different technique. The common meaning for Ombre Nails in nail art is not a gradient on each nail – it is a shading from nail to nail with five nail polishes which are applied each on one full nail. In contrast to Skittle Nails the five nail polishes have to be in the same color family though. A classic Ombre Manicure would be for example from black over three shades of gray (lighter from nail to nail) to white.

Skittle Nails
Gradient Nails Ombre Nails Skittle Nails Gradient Manicure Ombre Manicure Skittle Manicure

The classic Skittle Manicure is made of at least two nail polishes which are also applied on the full nail. The colors don’t have to be in the same color family. Basically like the candy Skittles which this nail look is named after.

What if.. combine the different looks? There are almost no limits in nail art so of course Gradient Nails can be combined with Skittle Nails or Ombre Nails. The possibilities to experiment and play are endless. :)

Skittle Gradient and Ombre Gradient Nails
Gradient Nails Ombre Nails Skittle Nails Gradient Manicure Ombre Manicure Skittle Manicure

I hope you find this post helpful. :) Thanks for looking and have a great week! ♥

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93 thoughts on “Gradient Manicure, Ombre Manicure and Skittle Manicure. What is what?

  1. zimmy_b on said:

    Awesome and informative post! I was a little confused with people posting “ombres” that were actually gradients, so thanks : )

  2. Great descriptions and pictures! This gets on my nerves as well, I also get irked when people call there leopard print manis ‘cheetah’ print buuuut that is because I work at a Zoo I guess. Cheetahs and Leopards are two different animals that have two different spot patterns. Cheetahs have just plain old black spots, the print used for manis with a colored spot surrounded by black are Leopard spots :-p

  3. Massey on said:

    I still don’t really understand skittles… How do you do the pictures like that? Its so neat!

    • Skittles is just based on the name for the candy which comes in different colors. It could also have been called Smarties Manicure back then, Massey. :)
      I am a Graphic Designer so creating such illustrations is easier for me. :)

  4. Carla on said:

    You tell ’em! 😀 I am always in favour of clear nomenclature and THANK YOU for putting it clearly for everyone :)

  5. I think the ombre confusion started when Refinery 29 did an “ombre” tutorial but showed gradient nails. That’s what I thought was an ombre at first, then after reading lots of blogs and seeing everyone’s nails I was like “everyone calls them a gradient” (which makes sense cuz I know what a gradient is) so what’s “ombre”. I’m actually really glad you posted this because I hate when people use the wrong word, and hate even MORE when I don’t know if I’m one of those people!! :)
    Nicole recently posted..Black and Yellow, Black and Yellow, Black and Yellow, Black and YellowMy Profile

  6. This post makes my heart sing!! What a brilliant job you did and covering a topic that is near and dear to me. I cringe too when these terms are used incorrectly 😉

  7. Patricia on said:

    Here in Brazil the confusion has taken over! What you call gradient nails is ombre nails here and since it was a big nail polish company that started all the buzz (I mean not the technique but the nomination) taking care of spreading the news all around, I believe the misleading will rule. You see, the definition is so nailed in my head that from now on I will have to stop to think what is what!
    And your illustrations are very nice, totally The Swatchaholic style!

    • Thank you so much Patricia! :)
      Oh noes more confusion? I will continue to call gradients Gradient Nails though because I don’t want or don’t know an other proper name for the real Ombre Nails. :( This term is already used so long that it’s stuck in my head too. Confusion galore! 😀

    • Yes it really is confusing when the same word or term has different meanings in nail art and hair styling for example Wandabh. :( I will continue to call gradients on my nails Gradient Nails to avoid the ombre confusion. :)

  8. Hah, it’s all too technical for my wee mind but I laughed out loud when I read down to the Ombre Gradient and Skittle Gradient. I’m guessing that, by definition, an ombre skittle is mutually exclusive?:)

    • Yes technically an Ombre Skittle isn’t possible Kate. 😀 But.. maybe if you don’t apply the five color family matching nail polishes from light to dark/dark to light but random.. this could be an Ombre Skittle Manicure. 😀 Chaos! *giggles*

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