Sponging On and Sponging Off

VARIABLES: Paint drying time varies according to regional and seasonal climate conditions.

MATERIALS: Latex paint for base coat, second color latex paint for glaze coat, latex glaze, disposable latex gloves, blue painter’s masking tape

TOOLS: Natural sea sponge, lint-free rags or coffee filters, measuring cup or paint bucket with marked measurements, stepladder, roller and pan for base coat, paper or ceramic plates

PREP, PREP, PREP - Most faux techniques require a base coat that is well prepped and primed. Make sure you repair, fill, and sand as necessary, and then apply a primer before you do the base coat. The result will be worth the time spent.

Sponging on leaves much of the base coat exposed. Sponging off leaves a much denser layer of the sponged color.

Sponging on and sponging off are methods of applying a second color to a wall. The first color is rolled on and the second color is either applied with a sponge, or rolled on and then sponged off. Sponging on focuses on the base color. Sponging off focuses on the second color.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT SPONGE. A natural sea sponge works best—the random holes and varying texture create a more relaxed pattern than those of a synthetic sponge. Most paint departments carry sea sponges.

GLAZE IS THE KEY. Glaze, sold in most paint departments, is a neutral finish to which no pigment has been added. Mix paint with the glaze to slow drying time and make it a bit translucent. Use latex paint and glaze for easy cleanup. Manufacturers usually recommend mixing one part paint with four parts glaze, a ratio that works on any wall, but you can experiment to create a different look.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT. Prime and paint a scrap of drywall or hardboard with the base coat and let it dry. Mix varying proportions of paint and glaze and sponge them on or off to see how each looks over the base coat. Start by mixing different ratios in small disposable cups. A good variety of ratios to experiment with are: one part paint to eight parts glaze, one part paint to four parts glaze, and equal parts paint and glaze. Mark cups so you know each mix’s proportions. Practice the technique with your selected ratio before you begin on the actual walls.

EXPRESSYOURSELF - Faux painting is personal expression. Feel free to come up with your own vision.

Sponging On

1 BEGIN WITH A BASE COAT OF PAINT. What you apply depends on the wall. Prepare by masking the room's ceiling, trim, and adjacent walls so you can work freely and quickly. If the wall has never been painted, prime and apply at least one top coat. If the wall has been painted, wait for the first coat to dry and then look to make sure the color is solid. If it is not, apply a second top coat. While you're painting the wall, paint a scrap piece of drywall or hardboard so you can practice the technique.

2 MIX THE SECOND COLOR. Once the base coat is dry, mix your second color—the one you will sponge on—with glazing liquid. 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, and the longer you have to work. Mix different proportions in disposable cups in order to see how proportions affect working time and the final result. Practice on a piece of drywall or hardboard first.

3 USE A DAMP SPONGE. Pour a small amount of the glaze mixture onto a plate. Before you dip the sponge in the glaze mixture, dampen it with water. Squeeze out as much water as possible, then dip the sponge into the glaze mixture.

4 APPLY THE GLAZE. Apply the glaze mixture by dabbing the wall with the sponge. Turn your wrist between each application and use different areas of the sponge to avoid repeating patterns. Work diagonally across the wall rather than straight up and down.

5 CLEAN THE SPONGE. If the holes in the sponge become filled with the glaze mixture, the finish will look blotchy. Periodically blot the sponge on a lint-free rag or coffee filter to keep the pattern crisp. When the sponge gets too loaded with glaze, dip the sponge in water to clean it. Wring it dry, dip it in the glaze mixture, and continue sponging.

6 CONTINUE SPONGING. Step back occasionally to look at your work. To clean up areas with too much paint, press a clean, damp sponge to the still wet paint and lift straight off.

Sponging Off

MATERIALS: Blue painter’s masking tape, latex paint, latex glaze

TOOLS: Measuring cup or paint bucket with measurements, roller, paint bucket and grid, natural sea sponge, lint-free rags or coffee filters

THINK SMALL - Don't try to wedge a huge sponge into corners and along trim. Cut off a small piece for hard-to-reach spots. For a final touch-up use a small artist's brush as necessary.

Sponging off—like ragging off is a subtractive technique in which a base coat is applied to the wall and allowed to dry. Then a glaze mix is rolled on and removed by blotting it away with a sponge until the desired effect is achieved. Sponging off is a great way to work a delicate pattern across a wall. Practice on a sheet of drywall that has been primed and base-coated.

Remember, a hint of the base wall color will show through: This is a two-color or two-tone effect. Coordinate the two layers with some care. The closer the colors or shades of the base and top coats are to each other, the quieter the treatment. You can add more complexity and depth to the wall by lightly sponging on a second coat of glaze mix. Choose a third color or mix up a different shade of the same color by stirring in a different proportion of either glaze or white paint. A base coat that has some gloss will give you more time to work. Prepare by masking the room’s ceiling, trim, and adjacent walls so you can work freely and quickly.

DON’T WORK TOO FAST! If you sponge off a little too eagerly, the wall may end up with bald spots. Step back from the completed dry wall and look for spots that need paint. To fix the problem, lightly dab glaze on the areas with the same sponge you used to take off the glaze.

1 TEST, PRIME, AND BASE. Prepare the glaze mixture. You'll get both translucency and a longer working time by mixing glaze in the second coat. Manufacturers usually recommend mixing one part paint to four parts glaze, but you can add more glaze to increase drying time. After the base coat has dried, begin by rolling glaze on a small floor-to-ceiling section of wall, covering no more area than you can sponge off before the glaze mixture dries.

2 LIFT THE GLAZE WITH THE SPONGE. Begin removing glaze by pressing the sponge against it. Be sure to lift the sponge directly from the wall so that you don't smudge its distinctive effect. Turn the sponge between pressings by rotating your wrist to avoid creating a repetitive pattern. To reach into edges, use a torn piece of sponge to lift off glaze. Continue rolling and sponging off in sections. If a section starts drying out before you sponge it, mist the glaze with water from a spray bottle.

3 CLEAN AND BLOT THE SPONGE. A glaze-saturated sponge is less effective at making a pattern. Blot the sponge frequently with a lint-free rag or coffee filter. Sponge off the glazed area, blot the sponge as necessary, and then roll more glaze into an adjoining area. Rinse the sponge as necessary.

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