Monday, April 23, 2012

How To: Sponging

With sponges you can create nice gradients, glittery tips, or an original base for crackles or stamping. And here's how you do it!

Materials needed:
- Polish of your choice (I'm using China Glaze Mistletoe Kisses, Kinetic Candy and Aquadelic here)
- Top coat
- A cleanup tool, like a brush or pen, and remover
- A sponge
- A placemat or some other surface where you can dab your polish on
- Optional: tape or vaseline/cuticle oil

Any kind of sponge will do as you can see, makeup sponges, a kitchen sponge, or an eyeshadow applicator. Whatever you prefer. And if the sponge's too big, just cut off a smaller piece.

Start with applying a basecolor and let it dry. Apply some polish to your placemat (or other surface), and dab your sponge in it. If there's too much on your sponge, dab it on the placemat before using it on your nails. Start working from the tip (1) further up (2 & 3). After you applied more polish to your sponge, start from 1 again. This way you'll end up with just a small amount of polish on your sponge when you're at 3, creating a nice gradient.
Make sure to sponge the sides of your nails as well.

When working with colors, I always use some of my basecolor on the placemat as well. A small error can easily be fixed by just blending in some of your basecolor. And again, if there's too much polish on your sponge, or the color isn't mixed well, just dab it onto your placemat.

If you sponge too enthusiastic, like I did here, it can happen that your base gets too soft again and you sponge it all off. Doesn't that look lovely? >.< But no worries, you might be able to fix it without starting all over! Just apply some of your sponging polish directly from the bottle with the brush onto the damaged area. Try to blend in the border a bit with your sponge, but don't go too far, or you'll just wipe it all off again. It probably looks like a big blob of color at the tip, but top coat often solves that!

Here you can see the result after a cleanup and applying top coat. If you had a little accident like I did on my ringfinger, make sure to have plenty of top coat on your brush, and polish the top coat floating (don't let the brush hit the polish).

I recently saw another way of creating a gradient, and I'm not sure who came up with it, but I've messed with it a bit lately and I think it's a great idea! So I wanted to share it as well :)

Start with applying a basecolor and let it dry. Cut off a piece of a larger sponge and apply your polish in stripes directly to the sponge. Dab your sponge onto your placemat and then on your nails. It's as simple as that! Just add more polish when needed, dab it in the sponge a bit, and before you know it, you have a straight gradient on all nails!
And if you're rushy like I was, and think you can apply it decent anyway, you'll end up with gradient fingers too! So yeah, don't think you can sponge this without making a mess, tape off your fingers (or use vaseline or cuticle oil) when using this sponging method.

The gradient you'll create like this is more straight and on a smaller area than when you create one with the first method, and the result reminds me a lot of the mood polish effect. This way is a lot faster (if you fix your fingers, that is) and easy to get even on all nails.

China Glaze Kinetic Candy with China Glaze Electric Beat.

Other tips:

- If you want to stamp over your sponged nails, apply top coat first. The gradient can be a bit bumpy, top coat will even the surface of the nails and that'll help with your stamping.

- You can of course sponge in any direction, I think sponged tips is most common, but sideways, diagonal or starting at the base works too. Or a different direction on each nail!

- I used 2 colors for all the examples above, but you can of course use more colors as well.

- You can also use stripes of polish on a surface you can polish on (like my placemat), then use a toothpick to make a gradient between the stripes and dip your sponge in your gradient, then sponge your nails. This way you can create a larger gradient area than shown in the last example above, where the gradient is on a smaller area, if that makes sense.

- Instead of using a sponge, you can also use plastic wrap (saran wrap, cling film) to sponge with. Apply the polish(es) on a placemat or something alike, dab a ball of wrap in it and sponge your nails with it.

- Instead of using a sponge to apply a glitter gradient, you can also use the brush of the polish. Make sure there's very little polish on the brush and dab from the tips to the middle (just like in the photo with 1-2-3 explanation above), so you end up with just a touch of glitter in the middle. Repeat that, but then only on parts 1 & 2, and then again on just the tips (1).

- For gradient stamping, have a look here! And for gradient stripes you can find my tutorial here :)

If you have any other tips, I'd love to hear them so I can add them here as well! :)


  1. Very helpful, thanks! I've only tried sponging once so far & I think with your tips I'll do better next time. :)

  2. great post! I've seen the 2nd method you used here in a japanese nail art book once. I've always wanted to least it looks beautiful, and I wanna try now! your combo Kinetic Candy and Aquadelic is really pretty and yeah, it does remind me of those mood polishes! :D

  3. Super helpful post. I recently got the sponge kit from Essence (haven't used it yet), but I don't I will repurchase it as makeup and kitchen sponges work just as well and are a lot cheaper. Love that gradient you did with the makeup sponge. Looks dead easy.

  4. This is a great post, thank you so much for it! It'll be a great help with my sponging tries. :)

  5. Thanks for this! My spongeing never comes out very spongey looking. :/ I'll have to try this again with your tips. :)

  6. This is such a brilliant tutorial! I tried a glitter gradient the other day and totally messed up so I'm glad you've posted this!

    Amy x

  7. Thanks for posting! Great advice & love the pictures. So pretty. :)

  8. I love that reverse version =) I already know how to do sponging but I didn't knew about the "double-sponging", so thanks! Always fun to learn new ways.

  9. Thnx for sharing. I didn't know the second method yet. But I'll sure give give it a try one of those days.

  10. Little Miss PolishApril 23, 2012 at 7:23 PM

    very nice tutorial!
    Thank you!

  11. You made such a wonderful tutorial!! I love your manicures! :D

  12. Wow it turned out great for you! Very pretty.

  13. This was very helpful! I'll have to test out those techniques soon...

  14. I always enjoy watching a good tutorial, and yours is very helpful, thank you so much. :)

  15. Great tutorial Bregje! I'll have to try the second method for sponging out, and your tip of starting at the tips is really going to help me out in the future. ^_^

  16. great tutorial -thanks for sharing!

  17. I am a newbie at this & this was VERY helpful! I been saving my not-worth-anything-to-apply-eyeshadow sponges & I think I am ready to go!!

  18. This is such a great tutorial! Thanks. I've never been able to come close to mastering sponging! This has made me want to persevere :)

  19. I've tried both methods and I personally prefer the second. It just gives me so much smoother gradients :) You do both well though! I love the color combination of the first!

  20. Thank you so much!! Will have to give it another try, love the look so much!!

  21. This looks great! I've never done one of these mani's, I want to check it out though!

  22. Great tips. I had never hear of the 2 colors right on the sponge. I'm going to try that.

  23. Wow, I LOVE your post. The pictures are gorgeous, and despite the fact that I've used the sponging technique before, you really make this seem so easy. This would be a great guide for beginners... Fantastic post!!

  24. i did the sponging by painting three colors in stripes onto a coated paper plate, then dabbed my makeup sponge into that so they blended before putting on the nail. you just have to keep the stripes skinny so the middle color doesn't get too close to the cuticle, or it looks like you only used 2 colors. i used orly gumdrop as the base color, then a darker turquoise i bought from claire's and a sparkly navy blue from cover girl (can't rememer the color names!!), then used a black crackle on top, as seen here:

    pretty cool in person. :)

  25. Thankyou for this great post Bregje, the second method I will try defintely!

  26. This is the one I've seen over and over. :]

  27. excellent tutorial!

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  29. Priscilla ContrerasAugust 17, 2013 at 5:39 PM

    Putting a thin coat of Elmer's school glue on your finger/cuticle area will make it easy to clean up excess polish by just peeling it off.


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