Makeup Sponge Nails: gradient nails made easy

Makeup sponge nails are so in style for spring. They are fast, easy, and fun, and are a simple way to have cool nails with a gradient or ombre look. We decided to make ours look “easter-y” and springy… just for fun! You already know that we, um, are completely incapable of drawing a straight line. So that’s why we loved tie-dyed nails and ombre nails or gradient nails. Believe it or not, makeup sponge nails are faster!  We know, hard to believe.  Just follow our steps for makeup sponge nails and customize however you wish. You’ll be creating cool nails in no time at all!

spring nail trends

Step 1: Paint your nails white. You can choose other colors too, but silver or white provide a nice background to allow the colors to “pop”. Sponging softens the colors somewhat, which is why white is a good base layer.

Step 2: Choose at least 3 colors and a clean makeup sponge. Bright colors are best since they become muted.

Step 3: Paint lines of nail polish on the end of the makeup sponge, at least the length of your nail and the width of your nail. The lines can overlap, and they don’t have to be perfect (YAY!). Paint at least 3 colors and up to 5 colors.

Tip: Make sure you can fit all the colors on your nail. We found on our first few nails that enough green didn’t show up, so we readjusted. But, your nails don’t have to be perfect for this to look good and we actually liked them without much green for a more ombre or gradient look.
Tip: You can practice on a piece of paper first and then progress to your nails.
Tip: Roll the makeup sponge back and forth across your nail to make sure the color is across the whole nail, top to bottom and side to side.

Step 4: Clean up the sides with nail polish remover, and cover with a coat of clear nail polish (our photo is pre-clean up and pre-clear coat) and that’s it. You are done and have cool ombre nails in just a few minutes. Makeup sponge nails are fast and you don’t have to have a steady hand – perfect!


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  • Miss Z

    I really like this idea. I’ve tried this technique a few times but I’m not having any luck. My colors won’t transfer from my sponge onto my nails. I am letting the base color dry first and I’m testing my colors out on paper before placing them on my nails. Any more suggestions?

  • PopCosmo

    You are right that the polish on the nail should be dry. Are you using a new wedge sponge and bright colors? If your sponge is old, it may be absorbing the color… try cutting the edge off first so it’s completely clean. Maybe a different type of polish for the base coat… or try no base coat! Let us know if any of these tips work.

  • islegirl1

    Try soaking the sponge in water first, then squeezing the sponge out… this should keep the sponge from absorbing the nail polish.

  • brokel

    this is so cool I did it with rainbow colors and it looks amazing

  • PopCosmo

    Yay! So glad it worked out for you. Feel free to post a photo on our FB page :)

  • katty

    im having the same problems, I applied a base coat and a nude color to make them pop. also i bought new sponges, and i layed my colors out on the damp sponge and when i push down, the color is pushed into the sponge! i tried a few times, and i bought new polish but it wont work :(

  • PopCosmo

    Katty, Thanks for stopping by! Seems that the problem is that you are using a DAMP sponge. Try using a DRY sponge and it should transfer the color without absorbing it.

  • Kat

    Hi um were do u buy the sponge??

  • PopCosmo

    We bought ours at a drugstore! Any drugstore or beauty supply store will have a package of makeup sponges or makeup wedges. If you can’t find them, just ask — they are more common than people realize and are usually found in the makeup section. Some people use the egg shaped ones, but we like the wedge shaped ones because you can cut off the part you use and re-use them for this manicure project!

  • julie

    Tried it looks ok but ended up with bits of sponge on my nails :-(

  • PopCosmo

    That’s odd! Did you use a new sponge? The white makeup ones? They should not flake at all!

  • Princess101

    So should I put water on the spong first?!

  • PopCosmo

    It worked better for us on a dry sponge. If the sponge absorbs too much color, try wetting it a bit and squeezing out ALL the water.

  • Hope4192

    Well i tried it, but i took my nail polish off with it. I looked terriable! What should i do!

  • Di

    This never works for me and I have tried numerous times. The sponge either soaks all the polish up very, very quickly before I get a chance to put the lid back on the polish bottle I am talking about, it dries that quick. If I wet the sponge, the colour does not stick to my nail, even if I squeeze all the water out. Bits of sponge are left on. And lastly, no matter what colour I put on the sponge, it does not show on the nail, no matter what the contrasting colours are. I seriously have tried numerous times, none of it works.

  • Not fair

    When I paint my sponge it will never stick on my nails an I have no idea what to do like it dries in seconds!