How to Sponge Paint a Room

Young woman painting wall with sponge

P.E. Reed/Getty Images

Getting a little color on your walls is always a great idea when you're looking to bring a new sense of life to a room. Usually, that's a matter of coating walls with a solid color of paint, perhaps with contrasting woodwork or maybe an accent wall that uses another color. But there is another option that is not much harder than painting walls a single color, and it can give you stunning results. That option is sponge painting.

Sponge painting is a technique that can create a beautiful array of ombre color effects—one color blending into another. It is an especially effective approach for creating an eye-catching feature wall that will stand out as the star attraction of a room. And despite the sophisticated three-dimensional look created by this effect, sponge-painting is actually quite an easy skill to master. 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 almost complete creative freedom.

Using this simple sponge-paint technique, you can quickly transform an otherwise boring, white-walled space into one of the most exciting areas in your home.

What You Need

  • Paint tray and liner
  • Paint roller and roller covers
  • Natural sea sponge
  • Bucket
  • Stirring stick
  • Rubber gloves
  • Base paint to cover all the walls
  • Top coat paint
  • Faux glaze

How to Sponge Paint

Because sponging adds the look of texture and depth to the walls, this is a good technique for walls that have some irregularities in the finish. Sponge painting can mask minor flaws, but major wall damage should be remedied before you start painting. Otherwise, all the same preparation steps used for ordinary painting apply to sponge painting: cleaning the walls and masking off surfaces you want to protect.

Be sure to practice this technique with your color choices on scrap cardboard or drywall before applying it to the walls.

  1. Paint the walls in your room with the base paint color of your choice. 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, a satin or semi-gloss paint is a better choice. If necessary for complete coverage, apply a second base coat after the first coat dries.
  2. After the base coat is dry, thoroughly mix 1 part of your second (top) color of paint with 4 parts of faux glaze in a bucket. The more glaze you add, the more transparent the top coat will be. If you want the top coat to be darker or denser, use less faux glaze.
  3. Dampen a natural sea sponge with water, then dip into the bucket of glaze and blot or wipe the excess off the sponge.
  4. Start by lightly pressing the sponge into the corners of the wall. 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, or you will get too much glaze on the surface.
  5. Roll the sponge over the surface to achieve a random appearance.
  1. When the glaze is depleted on the sponge, re-dip it and continue working around the room. Divide your work into small areas, completing each one before moving the next. Always keep the edge of the painted area wet.
  2. 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.

Tips

  • Choosing a good color combination can be tricky. Paint brochures may offer suggestions for complementary colors to use, or the clerk at the paint store can offer help.
  • Choose a base coat and glaze color that is close in intensity and tone. Too much contrast will produce a splotchy, spotted look.
  • If you choose a light color for the base coat, using glaze with a darker tone will darken the look of the room. To achieve a lighter look, choose a glaze that is lighter than the base coat.
  • Be sure to use a natural sea sponge, not a synthetic sponge.
  • Wear plastic or rubber gloves to avoid getting the sticky glaze all over your hands.
  • Begin sponging in the corners and work out. Always keep the wall and the sponge damp.
  • Most sponge-painting projects use two colors, but you can also experiment with multiple colors applied over one another. As many as five different colors can be used.
  • If necessary, use a glaze extender additive to slow the drying time of the glaze coat.