Sponging a wall is a technique that you have probably never heard of, but you have probably seen many times in well-decorated homes. It gives an elegant look, sort of a mixture of paint and wall paper with the textured, 3D look it gives. Sometimes this process is referred to as faux painting.[1]

The process of sponging is simply using sponges to apply or remove a second color to an existing wall that has already been painted with another base color. The first color is rolled on with a roller and allowed to dry.[1] Then the second color is applied either with a certain type of roller which is then sponged off, or is simply sponged on as a highlight to the base color. [1]

The method you choose will produce slightly different results.

Before You Begin

How to Sponge Paint a WallCredit: OpensourceBefore you begin the sponging process on the walls, you will need the following items:

  • Blue painter’s tape
  • Natural sea sponge
  • Coffee filters or any kind of lint free rag
  • Measuring cup
  • Paint bucket marked for measurement
  • Ladder if you are going to be accessing high areas
  • Roller and tray for base coat
  • Extension pole for role
  • Based coat latex paint
  • Secondary latex paint color
  • Glaze coat
  • Latex gloves
  • Pasta plate or a plate with curved edges

Base Coat

The process will require a base coat on a well-prepped wall free of defects and imperfections. Make sure you have filled any holes with putty or surface compound, then lightly sand the area with 120 grit paper. Wipe the wall with a damp cloth to remove any leftover dust.

Next, apply blue painter’s tape around the trim and ceiling corners, and remove any wall or receptacle outlet covers.  Place a drop cloth on the floor and tape to the baseboard.

  1. If the wall has never been painted, prime it first. You may tint the primer slightly by adding a small amount of the base coat color to the primer. If the paint on the existing wall is an oil based paint, use a stain blocking primer.
  2. After the primer dries, apply a base coat.
  3. After the base coast dries, examine it with full natural light to make certain there are no light spots in the color. If so, apply a second coat. Normally, if you tinted the primer, a second coat will not be necessary.

While your base coat dries, you can create your second coat by mixing the second color you chose and the glaze color.  The standard ratio is one part paint to four parts glaze. The higher the proportion of glaze, the longer it takes the paint to dry so take that into consideration if time is an issue. Experiment with different ratios in disposable cups then test them on a spare piece of wood or drywall.

McCloskey 6197 Special Effects Translucent Color Glaze, 1-Quart, Oil
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Sponging On

The process of sponging on leaves a lot of the base coat exposed so take that into considerationSponge a WallCredit: Opensource if you like the base color, but simply want sponging highlights.

First, wet your sea sponge, then squeeze out the excess water. Pour a small amount of your paint/glaze mixture that you prepared in the previous step into a small plate. It is best to use a plate with raised edges such as a pasta plate so the mixture does not run off the edges.

Next, saturate one side of the sponge with the mixture then apply it to the wall by dabbing it with the sponge.

As you dab, reposition the sides of the sponge to get different patterns on the walls. As you dab, go in a diagonal direction instead of up and down.

As you proceed, the sponge may become clogged with the glaze mixture. Stop and clean it off by dabbing it with a coffee filter to absorb the clotting out of the sponge holes. You can also use a lint free rag for this process.

If that does not completely clear the mixture blobs out of the holes, dip the sponge in clean water and wring it out, then continue dabbing the mixture onto the wall as before.

Occasionally walk away from the wall and take a long view in full light to verify you are not missing any areas.  If you notice an area where you pressed the sponge too hard , take a clean, damp sponge and dab that area of wet paint to remove it, then try it again.

Painting with a Sponge

Sponging Off

The process of sponging off is a little different because it leaves a much denser layer of the sponged color that you will apply. This is a great way to work delicate patterns across walls with only a hint of the base color showing through. So if you prefer your base color, you may want to try the sponging on method discussed above.

Begin by rolling the glaze mixture onto the base coat in an up and down motion for several rows ( or columns in this case). You do not want to roll more area than you can sponge off before it dries.

Now you will lift off the glaze with a sea sponge turning the sponge periodically to get a different pattern on the way.

After you have sponged off the first two columns, continue to roll several more feet of the wall in up and down motion, then repeat the sponging off process for that area.

As described in the previous section, sometimes the sponge will become clogged with the wet glazed mixture making it ineffective at creating the distinct patterns.  Stop and clean it off by dabbing it with a coffee filter to absorb the clotting out of the sponge holes. If that does not completely clear the mixture blobs out of the holes, dip the sponge in clean water and wring it out, then continue sponging off the wall as before.

Swissco Sea Wool Natural Bath Sponge, 6 Inches
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(price as of Jun 7, 2015)

Final Thoughts

Choosing the right type of sponge is the key to getting a great sponging look. A natural sea sponge works best by creating a random pattern. Prepping and priming the wall is crucial to getting a professional look. Mix different combinations of paint and glaze and then practice sponging them on or off to see how they will look on the base coat before you begin to sponge the entire wall.

If you are interested in other methods of personalizing your home with paint, there are other options such as ragging on and off with paint instead of using a sponge.

Sponge Painting Walls

The Natural Sea Sponge, 8 to 9-Inch, Yellow
Amazon Price: $12.99 Buy Now
(price as of Jun 7, 2015)