Press On Nails: Airbrush Nail Art Techniques Without An Airbrush

Press On Nails: Airbrush Nail Art Techniques Without An Airbrush

We all have seen the beautiful airbrush designs flooding social media. Soft gradient designs are so beautiful and satisfying, so we all want in, right? No problem!

Today, I will share 3 techniques to create gradient/ombre nails without an airbrush.

I want to share some of these techniques because there is so much to learn, research (and consider if you decide to use an airbrush to paint nails. Please research and learn about health-safe airbrushing practices and techniques before going online and ordering any airbrush from Amazon or Wish. There is more to this technique than adding a few drops of gel and acetone to an airbrush machine (a BIG NO! Don't do that) and going ham. You have to wear special masks, like car painting type of masks, and have ventilation to absorb these chemicals because you are basically vaporizing uncured gel, and it's going everywhere, like your skin, your client's skin, every surface on your house/studio, and into your lungs! Again, many artists are trained (not just learning from YouTube) and can teach or guide you through practices, equipment, health hazards, etc.

I suggest saving your money if you're not willing to spend a lot on airbrush systems. Instead, you can try out ombre gradient techniques using products you already own or can easily purchase for a low price. It's important to prioritize safety and work smarter, not harder, to avoid putting yourself or your clients at risk of health issues. As we are dealing with chemicals, it's crucial to educate ourselves on how to use nail products safely and prevent long-term health problems. Allergies are a real concern, and we don't want to risk skin or lungs due to carelessness.

Now, to the nail art techniques!


Because I was trained in soft-potted Japanese gel nail systems, my first learned technique for ombre nails was using a gradation brush. Japanese nail art does a lot of nuance/delicate style of nails, so they created brushes and colors specifically for this technique and to make it easy and quick for nail artists.

If you want to create a gorgeous ombre manicure, you'll need a gradation brush. There are lots of brands and styles to choose from, but I personally love the Leafgel gradation brush ( Use code 'NAILFABS' ) Then, a clear gel, like a base or mixing gel, and a sheer, translucent color.

To get the look, you'll apply a little bit of color in layers.
Start with the first layer, applying the color 2/3 of the way up your nail. Then, use the gradation brush with clear gel to soften the color line. Cure the gel, then repeat the process with the second layer, applying the color halfway up your nail. Finally, use tiny motions to apply the third layer of color just to the tips of your nails, creating a soft and powdery effect. This technique takes a little bit of practice, but with some patience, you'll be able to create a stunning ombre manicure in no time!

I use this technique for press on nails even now, but because I was already trained and had the tools to do it. If you have a gradation/ombre brush, use them! With enough practice, you can get super-fast at it!


And not just any sponge! That's the trick! I've tried so many different types of makeup sponges - small ones, big ones, hard ones - but I could never seem to get that perfect "airbrushed" look I was going for. Thankfully, I found a masterclass on The Press on Portal that taught me some amazing ombre techniques from Jerri! Turns out, the key to getting that true airbrushed look is all about the sponge, the gel consistency, and the way you apply it.

I realized that I'd been using the wrong type of sponge all along, and the wrong gel consistency, and being super impatient! However, I learned that there are different types of makeup sponges, and you want to use one that is not too fluffy and dense, which is super important for this technique. And the potted gel color I was using was just too thick, which was making it really hard to get that soft, powdery finish. But the biggest thing I learned was that it takes a little bit of patience to get the look you want. You'll need to layer the color about 3 or 4 times to get it just right, so trust the process and keep tapping away with your sponge until you get that perfect look!

Eye shadow or nail pigments.

This was new for me, and when working with press on nails, it has become one of my favorite techniques because of how easy and quick it is.

You'll need a few things: some eye shadow, a fluffy eye shadow brush, and base gel. To start, you'll want to ensure your nails have a matte finish. You can do this by applying a layer of matte top coat or buffing them out. Then, it's time to choose your eye shadow palette or pigments. I know BonnieBeee (a Korean nail brand) - has an adorable little palette just for nails! but you can use any eyesahow. Use your brush to gently tap the color onto your nails to create an ombre French nail or the super popular Aurora nail effect. Once you're happy with the design, add a layer of base coat and cure it. When you're applying the base coat, make sure you glide the brush over the design instead of pushing it around - that way, you won't mess up the pigment. To really make sure your design stays put, I always add a second coat of clear gel, like base gel, followed by a top coat. This trick was passed down by my mentor, Paola Ponce.

There! Three easy ombre nail art techniques without using an airbrush machine! If you want to learn more and see these techniques in action, step-by-step, AND the exact product recommendations, you can head over to the Press on Portal and watch the full masterclass.
This is where I got all the tips and tricks on how to get this technique down to the tee for press on nails. Clients can't tell that these were made using pigments or sponges, and my lungs and skin are nice and healthy.

I am an affiliate with Press on Portal, and I do earn a small commission if you decide to purchase the masterclass or sign up for the portal if you click this link. Your support and contributions mean the world to me and help me keep this blog going with the best and hottest information on press on nails, everything!

Thank you for hanging out with me today! If you have any questions, you can drop a comment below or send me a DM on Instagram, or contact Jerri; she is super sweet and will put you in the right direction for sure. Have a great long weekend, and I'll see you back next week for more press ons talk. Byeeee!


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