If you are like me, you get super bored with a plain white wall.
I always wanted something new and exciting, so I did some research and some experimenting, and finally did it myself.
Although some of you may have heard of it, let me introduce you to sponge painting!
Sponge painting is exactly what it sounds like, you paint with a sea sponge!
In general, this is done in two steps.
First, you apply the base coat of color. And then dab on sponges using another color in a way that the underlying color shows through well.
Doing this painting technique creates walls with so much depth and so many interesting colors.
I found this while painting the walls at one of my friend’s homes that turned out amazing when completed, and I don’t see myself repainting them any time soon.
In this article, I will be diving in and showing you how you can sponge paint the walls of your home with multiple colors.
The tips, steps, and ideas discussed here are from my personal experiences, if you want you can make a few minor changes if you plan to paint your walls with a sponge.
Tools and Materials Required
Like a lot of painting projects, you will need some basic tools and materials.
To begin with the tools, it’s exactly the same as any other paint project.
You will need:
- a basic paint roller,
- a few paint trays to hold the paints you are working with,
- some painters tape to mask off the wall and
- a small paint brush for touchup work
I also recommend having rags nearby in case you have to wipe off any paint and depending on the size of the wall, you may need a stepladder.
And of course, when you are doing sponge painting, don’t forget the sponge!
I recommend you get the more expensive natural sea sponge as they will make your overall project better due to the more random pattern.
Also, if you didn’t know, you can super easily wash the paint out of the sponge, so if your budget doesn’t allow it, one sponge should do the job.
Then to paint, you will need some paint!
The whole idea of sponge painting is stacking many different multiple paint colors on top of each other.
So, we will need at least 2 different paints. We will need a darker base coat and a lighter color to go on top.
We may be able to get away with 2 colors, but more colors may be better as it will give you a more subtle and cloudy effect compared to the stark contrast with only two colors.
I recommend using at least 5 different paints to give it a desirable look. These paints will be all relatively similar, however, will vary in lightness.
Few other materials
Although a lot of other stuff I will mention here can be optional, they will just make your job easier and may give a better look in the end.
For example, you may want to get a glaze extender, which essentially thins the paint out, allowing you to have more time to work with it, as you will see, we will mess with the paint for a long time before it dries.
In a similar fashion, you may want to get a latex glaze, which also thins the paint, but in a way that makes it more translucent.
As we stack a lot of different colors on top of each other, in my opinion, this glaze will make the wall look better by creating depth.
Sponge Painting Your Wall with Multiple Colors
When you have gathered all your basic paint supplies, start with protecting your hands.
This means you should wear plastic or rubber gloves during the sponge painting which will avoid the sticky glaze from sticking to your hands.
Then follow these steps for painting…
Step 1. Paint the Base Coat and Prep
To begin, you will need a wall with a base coat.
You may already have this, but if you don’t you will need to simply roll on a base coat.
This base coat can be a lighter color, but I prefer to have a dark base and build lighter colors on top of that.
But before that, make sure you are fully prepared, by using painters’ tape on the edge of the walls.
Having some tarps down on the ground may also be a good idea. This will avoid any paint splatters on the surface.
Step 2. Add Glaze and Extender to Paint
This step is pretty self-explanatory. Just add your glaze and/or your extender to your paint.
Each glaze will have a different specification so just make sure you follow what the instructions say.
Make sure you save at least a little bit of all of your colors and some glaze so in the future you can come back and fix any stains or damages that may occur.
Trust us on this one!
It’s awful trying to find the exact paint and the exact glaze years in the future.
Step 3. Apply the First Color using Sponge
All you have to do is a sponge on the paint.
Put the damp sponge in the paint tray and blot off the majority of it on a piece of scrap wood or a tarp.
You will now be holding a lightly painted sponge and you can begin.
I recommend starting in a corner, especially one that is hidden behind the furniture, so you get the feel of it.
To apply the paint, touch it to the wall.
Be careful, there are dozens of factors that will change the amount of paint you will apply.
The most important factor is the amount of pressure you apply to the wall each time you dab the sponge onto the wall.
For the first color you use, you will want to cover the majority of the wall.
But keep in mind, what makes sponge painting so great is not the amount of paint you use, but the amount of paint you don’t use.
The edges of the walls can be covered by dabbing a small paintbrush if you don’t want to hit an adjacent wall with the sponge.
Step 4. Now Apply the Rest of the Colors
Now, you essentially do the same thing with the other colors.
Try to remain consistent on each layer and apply less paint over time.
For example, the last color you will be using should be used on the wall a very minimal amount compared to the first color which will be used very liberally.
Sponge painting can be really tricky to do properly, but it’s almost impossible to get a bad result.
If you mess up at any point you can just add more paint on top of it.
Don’t worry about the mistakes, just go with the flow and paint what you think will look good.
The final product will have thousands of different shades of colors due to the overlapping, and you will be proud of your work by the end.
What Colors To Use for Sponge Painting?
No matter if it’s about getting the walls painted in your bathroom quickly or if you want to sponge paint elephant (or owls) in your toddlers’ room – choosing good color combinations can always be tricky.
Fortunately, there are paint brochures available at paint stores that can offer you some good suggestions.
Some of the combinations I have tried are:
- Gray over black
- Yellow over cream
- White over light gray
- Orange or pink over red
- Lime green over turquoise, and many more…
From my personal experiences, I recommend choosing the colors (for base coat and glaze) that do not contrast much.
If you pick the colors that do not match closely (like burgundy over light cream), they can leave a spotted look on your walls that becomes an eyesore very soon.
In most cases, it is best to choose a glaze that is lighter than your base coat which will help in achieving a lighter look.
Remember, the color choice you make should also depend on factors like;
- how big is your room
- how many shades you will be using
- whether you are sponge painting on walls in your living room, walls in the bathroom, or the cabinets in your kitchen
How Many Colors to Use?
Mostly the sponge-painting projects (like those done on walls, furniture, brick fireplace, or clouds on the ceiling) will require 2 colors.
But it’s up to you if you want to use 3 or even more multiple colors one over another.
Make sure you do not go beyond 5 different colors as it will be very hard to manage them.
Plus, the effect you will be getting will not be so graceful.
I remember when I planned to use 7 different colors to sponge paint a rainbow effect on the walls of one of my client’s rooms.
It was the special request of her six-year-old kid to paint the walls something special.
The whole project was a real mess but the smile it left on the face of the kid was worth my time and energy.
Can You Sponge Paint Without a Glaze?
Adding a glaze to the latex paint is not essential while sponge painting, but if you add it will make your artwork something very special on the walls.
So, if you really want to create a more dramatic and decorative look in your room, adding a glaze is something that should not be ignored.
Why Use Natural Sea Sponge for Painting Walls?
The kind of sponge you will use decides the texture and dramatic effect you will be getting out of your sponge painting.
Using a natural sea sponge (and not a standard synthetic sponge) is often recommended as it helps you create a more graceful random pattern.
Plus, washing off the latex paint out of natural sponges is easy and quick.
This means you will be saving enough time and sponges as you can clean and use a single sponge multiple times to complete your project.
The only drawback of a natural sea sponge is it’s more expensive but the results you will be getting will be far better.
Are Sponge Paint Brushes Good?
Sponge paint brushes or foam brushes are not as good as a natural sponge.
But you can use them for the sponge painting technique if the surface you intend to paint is small and you do not desire to get very beautiful textures on it.
In general, these types of disposable foam brushes are designed to give a smoother finish and can be thrown away after getting the job done.
You can certainly use them for sponge painting the cabinetry, window or door trim, old furniture, etc.
Sponging-On vs Sponging-Off Techniques: What’s the Difference?
If you want to add dramatic paint effects, of one color blending into another, sponge painting is a technique to consider.
However, if you want to learn how to use a sponge paint technique to add a popping look to your walls or other surfaces you will need to know more about the different techniques used in detail.
Generally, there are two types of DIY sponge paint techniques used. These are sponging on and sponging off.
Sponging On involves the usage of a sponge in such a way that you apply the glaze to a surface each time you are dabbing the sponge onto it.
Since the main focus here is to add the paint this is also called the positive, or additive sponging method.
Sponging Off, on the other hand, involves putting up the glaze with a sponge (brush or a roller) and then lifting some of it off by using another clean sponge.
As opposed to sponging on, since the main focus here is to remove the glaze (and not apply) sponging off method is also termed a negative or subtractive sponging method.
Which Technique is Better?
Positive sponge painting is fairly easy and quick.
And for this reason, most DIYers try this method first – before mastering the subtractive sponging painting method.
The results you get will be highly decorative but different from these two techniques.
The finished effect will also depend on the intensity of paint colors you have chosen and the number of layers you put on one over another.
The Bottom Line
Sponged on finishes when done patiently with minimal color contrasts can leave a timeless beauty on your walls, furniture, or cabinets.
Although it’s not rocket science to master the technique, you can learn how to get the most delicate and subtle effects with some practice and time.
Make sure you begin with choosing the right tools, start with painting the corners, and always work on a smaller area first to check the results you are getting with sponging paint.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.