How to Sponge Paint a Room

Young woman painting wall with sponge

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Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 hrs
  • Total Time: 2 days
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $100-$ok150

Getting a little color on your walls is a great idea for when you're looking to breathe new life into a room. Usually, it's a matter of coating walls with a solid color of paint, adding contrasting woodwork, or creating an accent wall that uses another color. An option that is not much harder than painting walls a single color, which can give you stunning results, is sponge painting. It is an especially effective approach for creating an eye-catching feature wall that will stand out as the star attraction of a room.

Using a simple sponge-paint technique, you can quickly transform an otherwise boring, white-walled space into one of the most exciting areas in your home. Most sponge-painting projects use two colors, but you can also experiment with multiple colors applied over one another. You can use as many as five different colors. Perhaps the only drawback is it adds a few extra steps and some time to your painting project.

What Is Sponge Painting?

Sponge painting is a technique that can create a beautiful array of ombre color effects—one color blending into another. It involves nothing more than applying a base coat of color, then using sponges to dab on another color, so the underlying color shows through. Varying the colors, the dabbing technique, and the sponges used gives you creative freedom.

Preparation

Because sponging adds texture and depth to the walls, this is a good technique for walls with some irregularities in the finish. Although sponge painting can mask minor flaws, it will not hide major wall damage. Fix any damaged wall sections before you start painting. Like any painting project, use the same preparation steps as you would for ordinary painting projects: clean the walls and mask off surfaces you want to protect. Also, practice the sponging technique with your color choices on a piece of scrap cardboard or drywall before you apply it to the walls.

Safety Considerations

If you choose to use alkyd-based paint, you might need to use thinner. Wear a mask with a charcoal filter to avoid breathing the thinner fumes. Also, wear plastic or rubber gloves to avoid getting the sticky glaze (or paint thinner) on your hands.

What Is Alkyd Paint?

Alkyd paint is an enamel finish similar in consistency to oil paint. Alkyd paint does not contain oil. It is not typically used on walls and is more commonly used on metal or wood. Alkyd paint is tougher than oil-based paint, which is great for a surface that needs something more durable (like a child's room). The final result of an alkyd painted wall is a hard, semi-gloss finish.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Paint tray
  • Paint roller
  • Paint brush
  • Bucket

Materials

  • Base paint
  • Topcoat paint
  • Faux glaze
  • Paint pan liner
  • Roller cover
  • Stirring stick
  • Natural sea sponge
  • Rubber gloves
  • Glaze extender additive (optional)

Instructions

  1. Paint the Base Coat

    Using a base paint color of your choice, paint the walls. For complete coverage, apply a second base coat after the first coat dries.

    Flat or eggshell paints are best for most situations, but in rooms that get heavy use or where you expect to wash the walls frequently, satin or semi-gloss paint is a better choice.

  2. Mix Topcoat Color and Faux Glaze

    After the base coat dries, thoroughly mix one part of your second (top) color of paint with four parts of faux glaze in a bucket. The more glaze you add, the more transparent the topcoat will be. If you want the topcoat to be darker or denser, use less faux glaze.

    Tip

    Choosing a good color combination can be tricky. If you choose a light color for the base coat, using glaze with a darker tone will darken the room's look. To achieve a lighter look, choose a glaze that is lighter than the base coat. Select a base coat and glaze color that is close in intensity and tone. Too much contrast will look splotchy and spotted.

  3. Prep Your Sponge With Paint

    Dampen a natural sea sponge with water, then dip it into the bucket of glaze and blot or wipe the excess off the sponge. Be sure to use a natural sea sponge, not a synthetic sponge; it randomizes the pattern more.

  4. Start Sponging

    Lightly press the sponge into the corners of the wall and work outward. Tap the sponge onto the wall in a random pattern, leaving a thin coat of glaze on the surface. As you work, do not press down too hard. You might put too much glaze on the surface. Another technique involves rolling the sponge over the surface to achieve a random appearance.

  5. Add More Paint to the Sponge

    When the paint mixture is depleted on the sponge, re-dip it and continue working around the room. Divide your work into small areas. Completing each area before moving the next. Always keep the edge of the painted area wet. If necessary, use a glaze extender additive to slow the drying time of the glaze coat.

  6. Touch Up Areas for Consistency

    Inspect the overall surface from a distance. Use a small piece of sponge to touch up small areas, get into corners, and help create a consistent and random finish. The goal is for all areas to have a similar "show-through" of base paint and a similar look to the glaze pattern.

How to Keep Paint Looking Fresh

Make sure to keep your remaining paint cans and label them with the room, date used, technique, or mixture ratio (if mixed with glaze). If you need to cover a stain or fix a damaged section of a painted wall, you can easily touch up or recreate the effect in that area.

Acrylic Latex Paint vs. Alkyd Paint

You can use ordinary acrylic latex or alkyd interior house paint for a sponge painting project. Latex paint dries quickly. Its downfall is that it dries very quickly, and the sponging technique works best when mixing colors on wet edges. It's good to use if you're accustomed to sponging since you can get several layers applied in a short time, and it can be thinned with water and cleaned up with soap and water.

Alkyd paint dries more slowly, which is an advantage, but if you have to thin it and cleanup, you need to paint thinner. Semigloss- or satin-finish paint works nicely for sponging because the layers remain separate, enhancing the effect. However, never mix latex and alkyd layers on the same surface because they may peel.