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How to Use a Sponge for Foliage Painting

Colors and sponge on the palette

If you ever wondered how to paint foliage without painting each individual leaf with a brush, then this is the technique for you. By using a sea sponge you can make beautiful foliage that will impress everyone who sees it. A little practice will help, but once you get the hang if it, you'll want to start applying foliage to any and everything. With light pressure and various colors, you can apply values from dark to light with a tap of the sponge. Using non-toxic acrylic paints allows for easy clean up with soap and water.

Things You'll Need:

  • Paper Plate Or Wax Papered Covered Cardboard Palette
  • Acrylic Paint (Your Choice Of Colors)
  • Water
  • Gloves (Optional)
  • Sea Sponge
  • Towel
Colors and sponge on the palette

Pour the paint colors onto the palette. Moisten the sponge with water and squeeze the water from it. Fold it into the towel and squeeze it again to make sure it is only damp.

Three color application on sponge

Pinch the sponge in your fingers so it rounds out a little bit. Tap the sponge into the color. The first color the sponge is dipped into will be the foundation value. If you want dark foliage in the background, then apply that color to the sponge. Tap the sponge once or twice on the palette to work the color into the sponge. Lightly tap the sponge onto the surface and watch the foliage appear. It should be loose and airy.

Lightly tapped foliage using 3 colors

Clean the sponge on the towel and pick up the next value of color. If you are working dark to light, then the next value will be the medium value. (Not the darkest or the lightest, but the middle value) Lightly tap this color onto the surface allowing the background color to show through. This creates the illusion of shadow and light.

Rinse the sponge in water and dry it using the same technique as before so the sponge is only damp. Dip the sponge into the lightest value and tap it onto the palette before applying the color to the surface. Use a light touch to add this value to the foliage.

Forming the ground under the foliage

Step back about 2 to 4 feet from the surface and squint your eyes. If the foliage isn't right, then you will know it needs additional color. Add more of the color allowing empty spaces to show though here and there.


If the paint starts to dry in the sponge, rinse it right away. To form ground under the foliage, use the sponge to pull some of the color along below the foliage. Too much pressure will make globs of paint on the surface.


  • Wear rubber or latex gloves when painting to keep the paint off your skin.
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