Copyright © Helen Eyre 2008. All rights reserved.

By Helen Eyre of Cats Whiskers Face Painting (

• Why use a sponge?
o A sponge enables you to apply paint quickly to a large area or base.
o Sponged paint dries faster thereby allowing you to apply brush work on top without the paint bleeding into the base.

• Why have a base?
o Provides shape and a framework for the design
o Transforms the structure of the face
o Sets the mood of the design with colour choice/direction of light
o Gives direction and flow for the line work
o Provides a comfortable foundation for the client

• Therefore, although your line work will add the final flourish to your design and draw all the components of the face together, the base is equally important to create a fast high impact design.

• Use round high density sponges which have been cut in half or in 1/8ths.
• As with brushes, there are many types of high density sponge. Some are softer or harder than others. It’s useful to have a selection in your kit as they all have their uses.
• The “working” or “drawing” edges of the sponge are usually the shorter ends – you can apply paint to the flat inside edge that cutting exposes or the rounded outside edges.
• To maintain control of the water content of the paint, do not wet the sponge by dipping in water. Instead activate with a water spray bottle.
• Apply water onto the paint using your spray bottle. As a rule of thumb paint needs less water if being applied by sponge than by brush.
• Load the sponge with colour by rubbing it around on the paint (like loading a make-up sponge with a block foundation.)
• Make sure that the sponge is loaded with paint right to the edge.
• Apply pressure above the working edge of the sponge to release the paint onto the skin. You may want to use two fingers to apply even pressure along the entire edge if you need an exact or sharp edge to the sponged paint area.
• For large areas use long flowing movements of the sponge to apply the paint then pat with the sponge for an even finish.
• Around eyes stroke the paint on by following the contours moving from the inside to the outside of the eye. Again pat with the sponge to even up the finished base.
• Squeeze the outside edges of the sponge to create a smaller working edge or use the corner of the sponge to cover the difficult to reach eye / nose areas on a full face. Alternatively use an 1/8th size sponge.

We would recommend washing your sponges after each use in a 60 degree (celcius) machine wash cycle. You can include them in a normal laundry wash with non-biological washing powder. If you choose to follow our practice of discarding the water and sponge after each child into a separate container, you will find that by keeping the sponge moist until it can be machine washed it stops the paint from setting and consequently reduces the likelihood of the sponge becoming stained by paint.

If the paint is lifting off of the face and becoming patchy:
• It may be that the base is being overworked and that the paint is becoming too dry on the skin and being reabsorbed by the damp sponge.
• Some pigments are more prone to being intolerant of overworking than others. i.e. blues and purples
• It may also be that the paint is too dry so you can reactivate the paint on the sponge using the water spray. If the sponge work looks thin and streaky:
• If you’re sharing a kit with another face painter, gauge the wetness of the paint you are using before you automatically add additional water.
• If you leave a fingerprint mark when touching your base – it is too wet. Try patting the sponge on the back of your hand to remove some water. Then add more paint to the sponge without putting water on it first.
• An overly wet base is uncomfortable for the client as when the water evaporates it will feel like a tightening of the skin akin to sunburn.

For a larger area blend the colours on the face:
1. Load the first colour onto the sponge and apply to the face.
2. Load the second colour onto the other end of the sponge and apply up to and over the edge of the first colour.
3. Return to the first colour on the sponge and move the sponge from the first colour area into the second area of colour. This effectively drags or mixes the colours on the face.
4. Lift the sponge and return to the first colour area and repeat this dragging action along the edge being blended.
5. Go back to the second colour on the sponge and work back along the edge from the second colour.
6. Ensure that you keep clear areas of the original colours with a gradually blended patch in between, rather than blending the whole area and loosing the original definition provided by the colours.
7. Work back and forth between the two areas of colour until you are satisfied with the result.

More than three colours blended on the face:

To load more than two colours onto the sponge, pinch the two short edges together to expose the curved part of the sponge and load a third colour there. If you are using multiple colours within a colour group you can load them over each other on the sponge, as shown, which leads us to blending on the sponge.

For smaller areas blend on the sponge:

This is a play on the double loading brush technique. After adding your main colour to the sponge you then add a second colour by dipping just the edge into the paint. You can use this technique in many ways. For example; to create butterfly wings with different colour wing tips, or as a design edging technique.
1. Load the sponge with your main colour.
2. If there is a larger area that requires this colour, such as the main butterfly wing shape, apply this first.
3. Just dip the tip of the sponge into a darker colour.
4. Apply the paint from the sponge with one movement in the area required. You may need to rock the sponge to get even application.
5. The two paints will blend on the sponge as they are applied giving a graduated colour.

Creating rainbows on the sponge: (Brush loading your sponge)

For the rainbow or magic swirl effects, I find that the shorter edge of the sponge is best. The edges of the sponge give the band of paint cleanly defined edges. The disadvantage with loading this edge is that you can only swipe in one direction. There are rainbow palettes available to purchase that provide you with bands of colour in a similar way, but this technique gives you the flexibility to use custom colours for your models and is a way to create
the rainbow should you ever forget to pack them!

1. Activate your sponge with a quick spray of water and wet the colours that your model has requested.
2. Using a paint brush, mix up the paint. Load the wet paint onto the paintbrush so that the paintbrush looks overfull and then transfer the paint onto the sponge.
3. When applying to the arm or the face ensure that you put two fingers on the top of the sponge to apply pressure evenly to release the colour on the sponge, as shown.
4. If the colour in your rainbow doesn’t quite last the distance, you can lightly spray the sponge again to re-activate the paint on it but be careful that you match up the paint correctly or the join will show.


Creating eye design bases on the sponge: For three colours:
1. Start by double loading the sponge, lighter colour first.
2. Use brush loading to add a third darker colour right on the shorter edge of the sponge. The size of the brush used to apply the darker paint can be varied so that anything from a broad band to a very fine line of colour can be applied by the edge.
3. Apply the paint to the eye area and rotate the sponge to take the colour down onto the cheek as well.
4. You can then add your brush strokes to complete the eye design.

For multiple colours:
1. Load your selection of colours onto the sponge using the brush starting at the shortest edge of the sponge.
2. You may find using the curved edge of the sponge makes application easier to control.
3. Apply in a patting rather than dragging motion.

Shapes for a dog’s tongue, cat’s ears, moons and scales can all be created using the sponge. Load the paint, shape the sponge and use it like a stamp to apply the shape. Loading a corner and twisting it 180° will create a moon or circular shape.

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