Nail Art Tutorial: Pastel Rainbow Gradient

Hey everyone!

So, a while ago (just over 6 months I think) I did a nail design which I guess I would describe as a 'diagonal rainbow gradient' and got a huge positive response from it. I was featured on a few big Instagram fashion/nailart accounts and gained a huge amount of followers from it. Tons of people asked me to do a tutorial for these nails and I've only just gotten around to doing it!

These are the only (filtered to death) photos that I could find of the original design. I'm so proud of how far I've come in terms of the length and shape of my nails as well as my clean up skills.

Here are some photos of my recreation of the original mani...

Slight improvement, right? :P

andddd, now, on to the tutorial! (**PIC HEAVY** click through below to view it)


  • Base Coat and Top Coat
  • Glitter topper nail polish (optional)
  • Pastel yellow nail polish
  • Pastel green nail polish 
  • Pastel blue nail polish 
  • Pastel purple nail polish
  • Pastel pink nail polish

  • A few makeup sponges (have 3-4 available)
  • Small dish of water
  • PVA glue
  • Paintbrush for applying PVA glue
  • Nail polish remover and small angled (brush for cleanup) 

China Glaze 'Strong Adhesion Base Coat', Northern Lights 'Hologram Top Coat', Seche Vite 'Dry Fast Top Coat'

Coloured nail polish L-R: Australis 'Rub-a-dub-dub', Sally Hansen 'Mint Sorbet', Ulta3 'Soft Hydrangea', Australis 'Peek-a-boo', Sinful Colors 'Star Fish'

Makeup sponges, PVA Glue, water


Paint all nails with a base coat and allow to dry


Paint each of your nails as follows:

  1. Yellow on thumb
  2. Green on pointer
  3. Blue on middle
  4. Purple on ring
  5. Pink on pinky
You may need 1-2 coats depending on the polish. 


Dip your paintbrush in PVA glue and apply a thick coat of it on the skin around your nails, being careful not to get it on your nails or cuticles. It's important that you get the thickness of the glue right because if it's too thin it will be a huge pain to peel off later!

This may look and feel weird but if you don't apply glue when doing gradients the cleanup is HELL. I've seen others use tape to protect there skin but I find the glue much easier.

Wait until the glue is completely dry (this could take 10 minutes or more). You will know when it is dry because it turns clear and shiny like this:


Now you're ready to start sponging! I find that using a damp sponge allows you to get a smoother blend between colours but it's not 100% necessary. To begin, put your makeup sponge in water and squeeze gently. You may want someone else to do this for you so the glue doesn't get wet and peel off. Squeeze the sponge so that it is damp but not dripping.


You will be starting with your thumb. Apply a line of green nail polish along the edge, then apply yellow and pink, so that they are slightly overlapping.


Gently press the sponge onto your nail so that the stripes on the sponge are diagonal with the green edge on the side of your thumb that is next your pointer finger. Start with a rolling motion and dab a few times to blend.

You will need to repeat this process a few times to reach opacity. Allow each layer to dry between sponging.

Once you are happy with the colour, move on to your next nail.


Repeat steps 5 and 6 on each nail, alternating the colours you use for each nail. Use a new side of the sponge for each nail. You should apply the polish to the sponge so that the colour on the edge of the sponge is the same as the base of the nail to the left of the finger you are sponging, the middle colour the same as the base of the nail you're sponging and the third colour the same as the base of the nail to the right of the nail you're sponging. (oh god I hope that made sense)

Remember to press the sponge onto the nail so that the stripes of polish are going across the nail in a diagonal direction.


Once you're satisfied with your sponging, wait until your nails are dry and peel off the glue!

If you've applied the glue successfully, it should peel off in one piece.


Take your small angled brush and dip it in nail polish remover (acetone is best). Dab it once on a piece of paper then slowly and carefully run the brush around the edge of your nail closest to the cuticle. 


Once you have finished cleaning up, apply one coat of glitter nail polish (optional), add a top coat and you're done!!

I hope that you found this tutorial easy to follow. If you have any questions at all please leave a comment!

If you use this tutorial to recreate this look, please upload it to Instagram and tag @caitnails and use the hashtag #inspiredbycaitnails because I'd love to see it!

Caitlin, xo


Laura said...


Nailedbyjasmine said...

Such an amazing manicure and tutorial! *swoons*

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