How to Stencil Using a Sponge

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If you are looking to add texture to a stenciled design, using a sponge to apply your paint is one easy way to do it. In this blog post, we will explore how to stencil using a sponge. This technique is great for many home and hobby stencils like our Herringbone Pattern Stencils or Hearts Allover Stencil.

You can choose to use something like a large sea sponge to create a stone effect or use a fine grained, soft sponge like a make up sponge for painting on glass surfaces. When painting with a sponge, your print will have a somewhat primitive look. If that isn’t what you are going for, look to our blog posts on How to Stencil Using a Roller with Liquid Paint or How to Stencil with a Brush.

No matter what type of sponge you select for your stenciling project, use a clean, dry sponge for each color. You will want to prepare the sponge by misting it lightly with water. Knead the sponge in your hand until the dampness has permeated it and your sponge is no longer stiff. You don’t want the sponge to be wet, just damp.

Next, you will want to pour several spoonfuls of paint onto a plate or palette. If you can pour more than one color without mixing them, do so, otherwise start with one color at a time.

Apply your stencil to the surface you will be painting. My Wonderful Walls stencils are self-adhesive but other commercial stencils may need an application of low-tack spray adhesive or tape.

Now you will dab your sponge into the paint. On a fresh spot on the plate or palette, dab the sponge up and down to work the paint into the crevices. Now offload (remove) some of the paint by dabbing your sponge onto a stack of paper towels. Because sponges tend to retain more paint than a brush be careful when making your print. Using a light touch, you can continue to dab the sponge all over the cutouts until all the areas are filled in.

Just like with any other stenciling project, you can remove the stencil from the surface before the paint is fully dry. You will be able to continue the process as you like until you have achieved the desired effect.

Another great way to use a sponge with a stencil is to create a faux stone effect on a wall, floor or other surface. You can combine sets of three or four colors to imitate granite, weathered concrete, terra-cotta or sandstone. Acrylic house paints are perfect for a project like this. Using the same basic steps as above, start with a base coat of paint in the color you want to be most prominent. (You may need to do some research on what different stones look like to decide the colors to use.) Apply an uneven layer of your base coat over the stencil cutouts with a roller.

Now, using a sea sponge dab on the other two or three colors in no way attempting to blend them. Let the paint start to dry then roll over the entire thing with a hardened stencil roller or rubber brayer. Exert just enough pressure to blend the colors slightly. Then roll over the surface again, even harder. This will cause the colors to blend and lift patches of the sponged-on paint. If not, you can spritz the surface with water lightly, wait a few seconds and roll again. The dampened bits should lift onto the brayer. You can then remove your stencil from the surface and move on. While this might seem like a lot of work when you can easily buy paints that mimic different stone effects, this will be much easier to paint over if you decide you tire of it as the texture is an optical illusion.

Now that you know how to stencil with a sponge and create some special effects, you are ready to redecorate that boring wall in your home you’ve been staring at! Let us know in the comments if you have ever used a sponge for painting or stenciling.

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  • Tara Woodbury
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