How to Paint with a Sponge to Create a Decorative Faux Marble Finish

Painting trends come and go, but one remains popular when done properly: a faux-marble finish. Learn more about the techniques used before deciding whether to go the DIY route or hire a professional painter.

Faux-Marbling Techniques
Two techniques that can create a faux-marble finish are sponging and ragging. You can even use both methods during the creation of the finish. Either, or both, will result in a soft, sophisticated background for your artwork and other home décor. Some homeowners paint every wall in a room with a faux-marble finish, while others apply the technique to only an accent wall or columns.

Overview of the Faux-Marbling Process
Both techniques require a smooth surface for the best result, so don't skip the prep work portion of this project; fill any holes and sand as necessary. Once you have a blemish-free canvas, prime the walls you plan to paint, then apply the darkest of your chosen colors as a base coat. You can have two or even more colors contributing to your faux-marble finish, as long as they complement each other.

After your basecoat has dried, which typically takes overnight, prepare the paint for your second coat by mixing one part of the lighter paint with four parts glaze. The contrast between the darker color and the lighter will create the 3-D effect, while the glaze will ensure transparency. Apply the paint for the second coat using the sponging or ragging technique, allow to dry, then apply a third coat if you chose yet another lighter color.

Sponging and Ragging
Sponging and ragging differ for the most part only by the tool used: a sponge or a rag. If opting for a sponge, choose a natural sea sponge with pores of the appropriate size. Smaller pores create a tighter, more focused finish, while larger pores result in a looser, less dramatic effect. Purchase sponges in both large and small sizes, as the latter will help apply paint more neatly in corners and near trim.

With either tool, you simply apply paint and tap lightly, moving the sponge or rag a quarter turn each time. Beginners to the faux-marble techniques should practice on sheets of cardboard before moving on to actual walls.

If you plan to use more than two colors to create the finish, allow to dry completely between coats, always moving from the darkest color to the lightest in the painting project.

Tips for Application of the Faux-Marbling Method
Faux-marbling can be an intimidating project - with good reason - for beginners. An inexperienced painter can easily go overboard and create a garish effect. Perfectionists in particular may get in over their head if they have never used such a technique, as the urge to "fix" areas can prove overwhelming.

If you do decide to move forward with faux-marbling as a DIY project, keep the following in mind:

  • Work in areas of 3 feet by 3 feet.
  • Leave edges of areas jagged to allow for overlap application .
  • Alternate hands to avoid strain and to create a more natural-looking finish.
  • Step back frequently and check your work, making minor fixes as you go.
  • Rinse your sponge regularly with water to avoid over application.

If you decide faux-marbling may be out of your comfort zone in terms of experience and expertise, a professional painter can perform the job for you and ensure amazing results. He or she also can lend their expert eye to color selection. Choosing colors that will not only complement each other but will also build the desired effect can be challenging for beginners. Both application and color selection can make the difference between sophisticated walls and those you might find in your dentist's office.

This article is just one in our series on faux painting techniques.

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