Wargaming Tradecraft: Painting with Sponges

Painting with Sponges


Now that I've got the trees built and gel textured for my Tin Can Tree project it's time to paint them.

Plan A was for Airbrush. heh. Well, that was a bust. Few reasons:
  • My airbrush has a small, gravity fed reservoir. Great for fine detail, tedious in large areas.
  • Paint in an airbrush gets thinned down, many layers are needed to truly bring out colour.
For small details close up, you have a lot of control. Over a large area, noooooot so much. (Unless you take a TON of time) I've included the photo below to show how far I got with the airbrush and where I took it using a sponge. Worth noting, I probably spent significantly less time with the sponge too.



I've talked about sponging before and it's similar to dry brushing. There's some key differences though. The following photo is from the stippling with sponges tutorial, where you want to get as little paint on the sponge as possible, just like when dry brushing.

Don't forget you've already got access to sponges... in blister packs.


Painting with a sponge is more like painting with a brush. You still want to avoid the really clumpy amount of paint on the left side of the above photo, but you definitely want paint on the sponge. All that middle area is your target.


Too much paint, and you'll leave a big ugly streak. While that might work on the first layer or so, it's something you want to avoid when blending and detailing.

When painting with the sponge, mix it up.. wipe it, swipe it, dab it, go crazy! Painting natural things allows for quite a bit of randomness.

If your paint's a little wet, you can blend multiple colours together.

Don't clean off your sponge.. just add some of the next colour and you'll end up with more natural blends.

For raised areas, go the "dry brush" route and use very little paint.



On rougher surfaces, your sponge will have a limited life as it's ground away.

Might get a little messy as you end up with less sponge to hold on to.
It doesn't matter what you're painting, there are always shadows and highlights.

These are often in colours you don't immediately think of. "Brown" trees might actually have orange, yellow or beige in their highlights and reds or greens in their shades.

As you reach the highlights, definitely back off how much paint you're using. The point of layering is that the base colours show through.

Feel free to leave some of the shadows really dark. This contrast will emphasize details. It's also safer to do this on large terrain, when you're really only looking at it from a broad tabletop view, where contrasts look great. Leaving gaping shadow areas on miniatures stands out a lot more when you're looking at them close up.



Try to have an overall consistency when necessary. With a tree, bark tends to have certain universal direction to it. In the smaller stump, I went with a diagonal look. On the larger, I painted horizontally for the most part with some verticals at the top.



In these close ups, notice both how the gel used in the last step really adds to the bark look.

You'll also notice that the paper mache overlaps and a little ridging from the tin cans is fine in this case. Again, it all adds to the appearance of real bark / trees.



Worth noting here, I reached a point where everything was just all brown and black and I couldn't decide how I wanted things to look. So I stopped. After flocking the base and adding some more of the nature effects, I did some final highlights, though I didn't change too much.

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