Color Theory With BLUSH: Layering Jelly Nail Polishes•
Posted on August 31 2022
Welcome to Color Theory with BLUSH! I decided I’d finally put that expensive fine arts education to good use! All jokes aside, color theory is really important when designing and creating nail polish, manicures or really anything that deals with color. I thought I’d share with you some fun layering ideas with our jelly nail polishes and how you can use some basic color theory principles to change the color of your manicures!
Color Theory Basics:
The color wheel is the basis for color theory. Pictured above is a basic color wheel used for mixing paint. If you’ve ever taken an art class, you’ve probably seen one of these before. The color wheel is broken up into three different groups of colors:
-Primary Colors: Red, Blue and Yellow
-Secondary Colors: Violet, Green and Orange
-Tertiary Colors: Red-Violet, Blue-Violet, Blue-Green, Yellow-Green, Yellow-Orange and Red-Orange
Primary colors are the three colors that create all other colors. You cannot create these colors by mixing any of the other colors together. For example, you can’t mix violet and orange together to get red. You also can’t mix blue and yellow together to make red. Red cannot be created by mixing two colors together, it is a primary color.
Secondary colors are the colors you get by mixing two of the primary colors together. For example, when you mix red and blue together you get violet. If you mix blue and yellow together, you get green. Violet, green and orange are all secondary colors because they are obtained by mixing two primary colors together.
When we get to tertiary colors, it gets a little more complicated. Tertiary colors are created by mixing one primary color with a secondary color that is beside it on the color wheel. For example, if you mix red (a primary color) with violet (a secondary color) you get red-violet (a tertiary color). Depending on how light or dark the color is, red-violet could be considered a plum type of color. The key is, you need to use a primary and a secondary color that is beside each other on the color wheel. You could mix violet and blue or you could mix blue and green, but you can’t mix green and orange. Well, you can, but you won’t get a clean, clear color. Which brings me to my next point.
When you mix colors, you want to mix colors that are beside each other on the color wheel. By doing that you will get clean and precise colors. When you start mixing colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel (like red and green), or nearly opposite (like orange and green), you start getting muddy or unclear looking shades usually in the realms of browns or greys. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially when painting on a canvas because sometimes you need those colors. However, for our purposes today, and probably for most nail art applications, you’ll want to stick with mixing colors that are side-by-side on the color wheel.
Just for fun, I put together this photo showing what it looks like when you mix colors that are opposite of each other on the color wheel.
The top finger has two layers of ‘Turquoise Seas’ topped with one layer of ‘Raspberry Rays’. Normally this combination of red and green would give you more of a brown tone, but because we are using a pink and a turquoise instead of a true red and a true green, we get a kinda pretty muted purply-plum color. Since I formulated the polishes and know what makes them up, this actually makes quite a bit of sense because the pink is almost straight red pigment and the turquoise has more blue than yellow in it and as we can tell by looking at the color wheel, blue plus red equals purple. There is just some yellow in it from the turquoise that is muting the purple a little bit.
The middle finger has two layers of ‘Dark And Stormy’ topped with one layer of ‘Riptide Reflection’. These colors are a little more true to mixing purple and yellow and gives us a brown tone with some hints of grey.
Lastly, on the bottom finger, I applied two coats of ‘Islamorada’ and topped it with one coat of ‘Tropical Rum Punch’. This combination gave us an almost black-grey with some brown tones. Again, this blue and yellow are a little more true colors in terms of mixing and it gives us a better representation of what really happens when you mix blue and yellow together.
To illustrate these principles, I’m going to show you how you can use our jelly nail polishes to create different colors. Jelly nail polishes are excellent for this because they are not fully opaque. They have a transparency to them that allows you to build up color but also reveal underlying colors, which makes them perfect for layering. The best part about this is we’re going to do everything on the nail itself. You won’t need any special supplies. No mixing bottles or tools, just your jelly nail polishes.
You absolutely want to use jelly nail polishes for this technique. Using creme or opaque nail polishes will not work because they lack the transparency needed to show both colors. If you want to mix opaque polishes, you will need to physically mix them together in a bottle or on a mixing palette.
The basic technique we are going to follow is to apply two coats of the “darker” color of nail polish and then apply one coat of the “lighter” color of nail polish. I have them in quotes because sometimes the colors are not necessarily darker or lighter, but more or less pigmented. You can follow my formulas if you are using our nail polishes or just use your best judgment if you are using a different brand.
By applying the darker color first and then layering the lighter color over it, it allows you to tint the darker color and show more of a color variance. I noticed that when I applied the lighter color first and layered the darker color over it, the darker color just sort of devoured the lighter one and you couldn’t tell as much of a color difference. If you have two colors that are fairly similar in shade, I would apply the more heavily pigmented one first. And if you are still not sure which one to use, my best advice is to just experiment and test it out. See which polish you prefer to be layered over the other.
Another quick application tip is to apply each layer in a thin coat and make sure it is completely dry before applying the next layer. Thin layers ensure that your manicure dries more quickly and is also less bulky looking. It’s easier to build up layers of color if your layers are thinner instead of thicker.
Below I’m showing the color variations in three coat applications. While I could see a color difference in real life by layering one coat of a color over one coat of another color, it did not show up very well on camera with just two layers. I found that the camera picked up the color variations best if I did two coats of the first color and one coat of the second color. However, feel free to experiment with this too! If you want an even greater depth of color for the variations below, I’d recommend painting two coats of the first color and two coats of the second color for four layers total. If you really want the top color to be more prominent, try one coat of the first color and two coats of the second color for three layers total.
Let’s create some colors!
1. ‘Raspberry Rays’ + ‘Tropical Rum Punch’
2. ‘Tropical Rum Punch’ + ‘Riptide Reflection’
While it doesn’t appear super prominent in this photo, the combination of ‘Riptide Reflection’ layered over ‘Tropical Rum Punch’ actually created a really pretty peach color in real life. In our application photo near the bottom of this post you can see the difference better.
3. ‘Turquoise Seas’ + ‘Riptide Reflection’
‘Turquoise Seas’ is not a true green, but rather a turquoise and when paired with ‘Riptide Reflection’ we get a lovely lime green! I wouldn’t call it quite a yellow-green, but it’s still pretty fun nonetheless.
4. ‘Islamorada’ + ‘Turquoise Seas’
‘Islamorada’ topped with ‘Turquoise Seas’ gives us a bit of a muted teal here. As mentioned earlier, ‘Turquoise Seas’ has quite a bit of blue to it, so we aren’t getting a true blue-green, but a little bit more of a muted teal that leans blue.
5. ‘Dark And Stormy’ + ‘Islamorada’
This is honestly one of my favorite combinations (along with the next one). I used this combo in our last post as well with ‘Periwinkle Party Popper’ for a lovely jelly sandwich! You get a sort of darker indigo or blue-violet with this pairing, which I find unique and lovely!
6. ‘Dark And Stormy’ + ‘Raspberry Rays’
Also a favorite pairing of mine is ‘Dark And Stormy’ topped with ‘Raspberry Rays’. This was the first combination I ever tried when I started layering jellies and it hooked me right then and there. Who doesn’t love a good plummy purple?
Application In Nail Art:
This is all fine and good, but how are you going to apply this to your nail art or manicures? The basic answer is that you could paint all ten fingers in a layered jelly color combination, but what’s the fun in that? Let’s take it to the next level and mix and match layered and non-layered jellies in a fun skittle mani!
Yes, you knew I couldn’t do this post without a skittle mani…or two…
1. Warm Tonal Gradient Jelly Skittle Mani
The first tonal mani features a layered gradient of ‘Raspberry Rays’, ‘Tropical Rum Punch’ and ‘Riptide Reflection.’ It’s bright and sunny and feels like summer! Want to really make this design pop? Top with a layer of ‘Sundrop’ or turn it into a jelly sandwich! (not pictured)
Get This Look!
-Apply 1 coat of ‘Raspberry Rays’ to the thumb and index fingernails.
-Apply 1 coat of ‘Tropical Rum Punch’ to the middle and ring fingernails.
-Apply 1 coat of ‘Riptide Reflection’ to the pinky fingernail.
-Allow all fingernails to dry.
-Repeat the first 4 steps.
-Apply 1 coat of ‘Raspberry Rays’ to the thumb fingernail.
-Apply 1 coat of ‘Tropical Rum Punch’ to the index and middle fingernails.
-Apply 1 coat of ‘Riptide Reflection’ to the ring and pinky fingernails.
2. Cool Tonal Gradient Jelly Skittle Mani
The second tonal mani features a layered gradient of our cool jelly shades, ‘Turquoise Seas’, ‘Islamorada’ and ‘Dark And Stormy’. While this mani is also fun for summer, I think it’s a great transitional mani as we head into the cooler fall and winter months. Bump it up a notch by adding ‘Mermaid Scales’ or ‘Periwinkle Party Popper’ as a topper or jelly sandwich! (not pictured)
*The fingernail application order is a bit different for this one since the colors are going from light to dark instead of dark to light.
Get This Look!
-Apply 1 coat of ‘Turquoise Seas’ to the thumb fingernail.
-Apply 1 coat of ‘Islamorada’ to the index and middle fingernails.
-Apply 1 coat of ‘Dark And Stormy’ to the ring and pinky fingernails.
-Allow all fingernails to dry.
-Repeat the first 4 steps.
-Apply 1 coat of ‘Turquoise Seas’ to the thumb and index fingernails.
-Apply 1 coat of ‘Islamorada’ to the middle and ring fingernails.
-Apply 1 coat of ‘Dark And Stormy’ to the pinky fingernail.
A short disclaimer on these manicures: I did not finish these with a glossy top coat! Jelly polishes are wonderful in that they dry down to a glossy finish. Feel free to wear them as is or top with a glossy top coat for even longer wear time.
So, what jelly polishes are you going to layer together?
Read more of our ‘Color Theory’ series here: