Sponging is a very simple broken color technique that works well for many interior decorating effects. Sponging is easier to perform than many other broken color techniques, making it more accessible for beginning painters. Oil-based or latex paints can be used for slightly different effects. Oil-based paints create a crisp texture, while latex paints create more of a cloudy effect.
In order to perform this interior painting technique, you will need a roller paint tray, a clean rag, and a sponge. A sea sponge is the best type of sponge to use for sponging, because real sea sponges are flexible and irregular, ensuring that the pattern created on the wall is not repetitive. However, commercial sponges can also be used, if you cut and tear them into irregular shapes and use different sides of the sponge as you work.
Before sponging, a base coat must be painted on the wall. Again, either oil-based or latex paint can be used. Next, prepare the glaze by thinning the paint slightly — with paint thinner used with oil-based paint and water with latex paint. If the glaze is too thin, the paint will run down the wall. Pour the glaze into the paint tray, and dip the sponge, first testing it on a hidden surface or a piece of cardboard.
Sponging can be performed in two different ways: sponging on and sponging off. Sponging on is the traditional technique; paint is applied with the sponge. If more than one color of glaze is being used, the darkest color should be applied first, working up to the lightest color. This gives the appearance of clouds, or of colors floating up from the darkest shade.
Sponging off is a reductive method. In sponging off, the sponge applies solvent, instead of paint, giving a softer effect than sponging on. A glaze is painted over the base coat, then a sponge dipped in solvent is dabbed onto the wall, uncovering some of the base color.
With this form of broken color painting, most people use between two and four colors. Different shades of the same color can be used, or contrasting colors, depending upon the desired effect.
Walls are not the only surfaces which can be painted using this technique. Furniture such as cabinets and dressers can also be painted using the sponging technique. However, smaller surfaces should be sponged using oil-based paints, as the softer effects of latex paints may not show up well on the smaller area.
Written by Bronwyn Harris