How to Sponge Paint
OFF the Walls

In this lesson, you will learn how to sponge paint off (also called the negative or subtractive method of paint sponging)...

how to sponge paint example

This method uses the same tools and similar hand motion as sponging on, but here the focus is on removing, not applying, paint and glaze.

The sponging off technique is much "quieter" than the most common sponging on finish.

The effect of this method falls somewhere between that of ragging and stippling - it creates a subtle, softly dappled finish which can add depth and visual interest to an otherwise flat surface.


how to sponge paint off

The color values (lightness/darkness) of the base coat and glaze must be markedly different (3-4 shades apart), or the effect of sponging off will not be apparent.

Related colors make the most harmonious and eye-pleasing combinations for this technique (for example, beige and brown, melon and rust, etc).

TIP: This method can also be a great fix for an initial wall paint color that is close to what you want, but not quite. By sponging off a lighter or darker glaze, you can adjust the appearance of the base-coat color to meet your decorating goals.


how to sponge paint with 2 colors

A base coat in a flat paint finish will soak up all the glaze you apply over it and won't let you take any off. A glossy base coat, on the other hand, will be too slippery, and my cause the glaze to run. So stick in the middle for your base coat, and use a satin or semi-gloss paint finish.

Now for the overlay coat you can choose anything you want when it comes to sheen, but you will get the most aesthetically pleasing result with a flat or satin paint finish.


Mix 2 parts clear glaze with 1 part latex paint, then add 1 part water and stir well until blended.

How to Sponge Paint Off

Tools and Materials

how to mix glaze for sponge painting

  • paint bucket
  • foam brush
  • rubber gloves
  • stir sticks
  • 2 sea sponges
  • clean rags
  • bucket of water
  • measuring cup
  • masking tape
  • drop cloths


NOTE: Follow the instructions below after you've rolled on the base coat, allowed it to dry for a day or so, and protected all the surfaces not to be painted with masking tape.

Also, be sure to review "Tips for Sponge Painting Walls" before starting.

how to sponge paint off - glaze application

1) In a bucket, mix the glaze using the 2:1:1 recipe above. Put on your rubber gloves. Moisten both sponges with water and wring them out well.

2) Dip one of the sponges into the glaze mixture, and apply the glaze by firmly pressing the sponge to the surface, occasionally overlapping the previous stroke.

Cover a 2'x2' section and let about 20% of the base coat to show through. Use a foam brush to cut the glaze into the corners, along the ceiling and trim as you go.

how to sponge paint - glaze removal

3) While the applied glaze is still wet, repeatedly press the clean sponge into the glaze and lift off, removing some of it and revealing the base coat color underneath. When you reach the corner, scrunch up the sponge as necessary to remove the glaze (or use a small piece of sponge).

Vary the painted print by rotating the sponge each time you lift it to avoid an identifiable pattern. Also keep changing the side of the sponge that you press into the glaze so that no area of it becomes oversaturated.

When the sponge stops picking up the glaze, rinse it in water and wring it out. Change the water in the bucket after 10 sponges' worth of glaze or so. Work quickly not to let the leading edge(s) to reach snap time or dry out.

sponge painting technique

4) Repeat steps 2-3 until you've covered the entire wall. The final finish should show about 10% of the base coat color, and have a cloudy appearance.

TIP: Set aside the time to do an entire wall in one session so that the leading edge will be wet when you paint the adjacent section.

Also, you'll get better results with 2 people working side by side: one to apply the glaze, and one to remove it with a sponge.

Now that you've learned how to sponge paint off, go ahead and give your room a custom paint treatment (just practice on some sample boards first)!

Paint Color Cheat Sheets
Paint Color Cheat Sheets

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