Acrylic pour painting is a trend in fluid painting that has spilled over from the Americas to other parts of the world and has found numerous enthusiastic followers. Acrylic pouring is also known as acrylic flow painting and describes a very experimental style for creating wonderful abstract acrylic paintings.
Would you like to try that too? Unfortunately, maybe you’ve given it a try for the first time and ended up buying tons of material that you don’t need. Then the paint dried up too quickly. Or perhaps after pouring out, you’re full of expectation for perfection only to end up with a strange-looking mess. You are not alone there. As with anything worthwhile, pouring acrylic paint takes practice and patience.
We have put together a small guide to acrylic pouring for beginners, which will familiarize you with the most important techniques and their respective steps. Find out here what you need for the acrylic flow technique and how to proceed step by step!
What is Acrylic Pouring?
Acrylic Pouring stands for the pouring of liquid acrylic paint to create beautiful, abstract pictures. Pouring is a technique in fluid art where fluid acrylic paint is poured onto a canvas. There are different ways to pour the paint which allows obtaining rather varied results. The result is rather random but still a bit magical!
Note: In this article, we will refer to canvas as the painting surface for the sake of uniformity. Meanwhile, you can make use of any painting surface using any of the methods we’ll introduce. Some surfaces may require a gesso primer before painting. The drying time of the acrylic paint will also change from surface to surface.
What Do You Need for Acrylic Pouring?
As with any new hobby or passion, you need to invest in a few key materials. Below, you will find all the important acrylic media, paints, canvases, and much more, which you will need.
Some of the materials needed for the various acrylic pouring techniques are:
1. The painting surface
Have a flat and smooth canvas that can run the paint over the entire surface without creating areas where the paint would accumulate or cling.
Ensure the canvas is rigid to be able to handle it with liquid paint on it. You will therefore have the possibility of using a canvas on a well-stretched frame, smooth wood, metal, glass, ceramic (such as tiles), or even plexiglass for example.
If your painting surface is porous, as is the case with canvas or wood, the surface must be primed, i.e. covered with an impermeable layer. You have two options: either you prepare it yourself, with Gesso for example or you buy a canvas that is already primed (which is the case of almost all the canvases sold on a stretcher).
To prime a canvas or a wooden panel with Gesso, apply a layer of Gesso in one direction and then dry. Finally, if you are using wood, sand with very fine sandpaper.
Start by learning about acrylic pouring on small surface formats, such as 20 x 20 cm. This technique requires a lot of painting and there is a lot of waste. So it’s best not to think too big at the start.
2. Fluid acrylics paint
Regarding the paint, you will have to make it fluid at the end but you are always spoiled for choice. The most common types of paints used for this work are liquid, semi-thick, ink, or slow drying pigment acrylic paints.
The Golden Heavy Body 6 Color Acrylics and the Liquitex 3699303 Basic Acrylics are the most used paints for acrylic paint pouring. Some acrylic paints will be of varying quality and this will largely be a matter of budget. So it’s up to you to make your choice.
3. The medium and the water
The medium is essential for the pouring. It is mainly this that will give the right consistency to your acrylic. To pour it on your support, your paint must be neither too thick nor too liquid. The right consistency is the closest to runny honey.
You have to mix your paint with water and medium, using a stick, to get the consistency of honey, that is to say, the paint must flow continuously, without drops and agglomerates.
The success of your pouring lies in the texture of your mixture! So regardless of the category of acrylic (liquid, semi-thick, ink, or slow dryness pigments) you choose, at the start, the main thing is to get that texture of runny honey!
Acrylic is water-soluble. To make your acrylic paint more liquid, you will need to add some water. Some use distilled / deionized water. They say it would prevent chemical reactions with certain molecules that may be present in tap water.
The pouring medium
Of course you can use mediums developed specifically for pouring called “smoothing medium” or “pouring medium”. Like all specific mediums, they are often a little more expensive. Some are particularly fluid and are great for semi-thick paint. You have to adjust the flow with water to get the right consistency.
You may choose to first add the smoothing medium, almost as much as paint, to understand the future consistency of the mixture. Then, you can add the water to make it sufficiently fluid.
Some artists in paint pouring art used the following quantities instead: 1/3 paint + 1/3 medium + 1/3 water.
In truth, these dosages depend essentially on the type of paint or even the brand. If you are using liquid paint, add little or no water. Always think about the consistency of runny honey you want and adjust slowly.
After a few paintings, you can experiment with other mediums or even mix them, which will allow you to obtain relatively different effects.
4. The Floetrol or PVA—Alternatives to pouring medium
These are much more economical than the pouring medium. You can use these DIY products to achieve similar effects.
As you will need a significant amount of medium if you get deeper into acrylic pouring, we suggest you opt for one of these substitutes afterward.
PVA is none other than “white glue”. It is polyvinyl acetate (PVA) widely used in bookbinding. The advantages of this type of glue are that it:
- allows pigments to bind, which means if you use dry pigments directly, you can create your acrylic painting with this type of glue
- is completely transparent when drying
- is flexible
5. Silicone oil
Finally, silicone oil is essential if you want to build cells (which is usually the goal of pouring enthusiasts). A few drops are enough. The more you add, the more cells and smaller you will have and it might get too much.
Tip: With 3 to 4 drops maximum for half a cup of paint, you can obtain medium-sized cells (up to 2 cm in diameter).
6. The tools
Some tools for carrying out the pouring are: the work surface, gloves, cups, sticks, smoothing medium, silicone oil, and torch.
7. Other essentials
- Small cups or jars to prepare your colors, and larger cups for your pourable mixes
- Sticks or other objects for mixing the paint (disposable or washable)
- High tacks or even a metal grid to take the painting while the edges are covered with paint and to facilitate drying
- Gloves and lab coats so you don’t get dirty with all this liquid paint, some of which are more or less toxic.
- Protections (such as old newspapers, plastic bags, cardboard boxes) or recycling bins to collect the paint and avoid dirtying your home.
- Professional kitchen burner for bringing out more cells in your work
- White ceramic tiles if you want to use a surface other than canvas
- Brush set for post-processing your pours
- Craft sticks made of wood
- Painting knife set for swipes or similar
- Butane gas to refill the kitchen burner
- Gesso as a primer (or to paint over unsuccessful pours)
- Resin as a glossy varnish
- Push bottle
- Lots of white paint (as it is needed so often)
- A lot of patience
How to Pour Acrylic for Beginners？
A simple and popular technique is the flip cup, which is nothing more than an upside-down cup. The colors are poured into a cup one after the other. This is then put upside down on the canvas and flipped up so that the paint can run from it onto the canvas.
You’d need paint, pouring medium, reusable cups, wooden sticks, a burner, silicone, and an old rag for this technique.
Step 1: Prepare your canvas
Align the canvas with a spirit level. Nothing is worse than a canvas where the paint runs around uncontrollably.
Step 2: Dilute the paint
Depending on the size of the canvas, you will need a certain amount of diluted acrylic paint (diluted = acrylic paint mixed with pouring medium). The most recommended pouring mediums are the Liquitex Professional Gloss Pouring Medium and the Golden GAC 800. High-quality acrylic paints include the Golden Heavy Body 6 Color Acrylics and Liquitex 3699303 Basic Acrylics.
Put some acrylic paint in the cup and about 2-4 times as much pouring medium. A fixed proportion is difficult to say, as it depends on how pasty or liquid the acrylic paint used is. Likewise, the pouring medium has different levels of viscosity.
Start with about 1: 1 paint to medium and stir the medium thoroughly into the paint with the wooden stick. Gradually adjust the flowable consistency with a little more pouring medium.
The color should flow from the spatula like honey – not too thin and not too thick. With practice, you’ll soon get the hang of it.
Some do not use water in the mixed paint. Some believe that water makes the paint too thin and therefore uncontrollable on the canvas.
Mix all colors according to this principle. Choose two to three colors and add some silicone oil. The silicone oil provides the pretty round cells that make the colorful pictures even more interesting.
In each cup of the selected colors, there are 3-4 drops of silicone or a sprayer if you are using silicone spray. The silicone is only carefully folded in. Do not stir too vigorously, otherwise only mini cells will form. You will see an oily streak in the paint. This is normal.
Step 3: Fill a large cup with paint
From the mixed colors, you have to make an acrylic pouring with the flip cup technique – which is the upturned cup. Start filling a large cup with paint. You have to work with contrasts! Layer the colors in high contrasts – light color, dark color, light color, dark color, etc. – in the cup.
Let the colors run in with a little distance from the edge at the top or run down over the edge of the cup, otherwise, the color in the cup will mix too much (which then goes more in the technique of dirty pour).
Make sure you have the color theory in your head. Red and white make pink. Yellow and blue on top of each other quickly result in a green. Red and green become an unsightly, squishy brown. Yes, there are a few things to consider when layering paint in the cup to get a nice, attractive result. The more colors you use, the more colorful your picture will be.
Let the cup stand a little. The color begins to interact in the cup and small air bubbles rise to the top. After a few minutes, the image in the cup would have changed a little on its own.
Step 4: Flip the cup onto the canvas
You need to flip the colors in the cup onto the canvas. But first, put on gloves or you have to put up with greasy fingers. Take the cup in one hand and the canvas in the other hand. Place the canvas on the cup upside down. Hold the two together tightly and turn the cup onto the canvas.
Put the canvas down securely and let the cup rest on its head for a few seconds. This allows the paint inside the cup to run down onto the canvas.
Step 5: Flipping the cup across the canvas
Push the cup a little away from the center and quickly pull it off across the canvas. Due to the rapid movement, all of the paint flows out of the cup roughly in the middle above the canvas.
Let the paint run out of the cup on the side of the canvas. Be careful not to spill over the pretty blob of paint with drops from the mug.
Let the paint rest briefly on the canvas. Usually, the first cells will pop open by themselves.
Step 6: Heat the paint
When the paint is heated, the cells pop open. Light the gas burner and carefully pass the flame over the paint. It is a beautiful sight when thousands of small cells emerge. At the same time, the heat ensures that the air bubbles burst.
Step 7: Tilt the canvas
Now the paint has to be distributed over the whole canvas. To do this, carefully tilt the canvas to the direction that you want your paint to flow. Note: the more you tilt, the more the cells stretch and dissolve, creating a kind of marbling.
The canvas should be covered with paint all around over the entire edge – including in every corner and curve. You can pick up any paint that has flowed down with your finger or a painting knife and spread it around the edge of the picture.
Finally, you can heat the picture again to lift the last cells to the top and loosen air bubbles.
Step 8: Let the paint dry
Let your picture dry in a place protected from drafts and direct sun. Occasionally, you can wipe off the paint that appears at the edges with a wooden spatula. It takes about 1-3 days for your picture to be completely dry. Even longer for a larger canvas.
Step 9: seal the paintwork
To protect the painting and the color, you can seal the poured acrylic painting with a varnish. You can use high-gloss varnish which can make the colors shine even more. The Liquitex Professional Gloss Varnish is the most used gloss varnish for sealing acrylic paintworks. The varnish is very fluid and is applied liberally with a wide brush. Sometimes two or three coats of varnish are needed to create a uniform surface.
Note: Before the varnish, the remains of the silicone must be removed!
Other Techniques in Pour Painting for Beginners
The flip cup technique is not the only method of pouring acrylics, either is it the simplest. In the following section, we’ll see some of the most common paint pouring techniques.
Traditional pouring technique
Traditional acrylic pouring is the basic and most simple of all acrylic pouring techniques. One of the advantages of this technique is that it is easy to do. The pour has pure color gradients. You can control where each color goes. The disadvantage of this technique however is that the colors don’t interact very strongly with other colors, it’s more difficult to create complex designs.
How to pour
- To start with this acrylic pouring process, the paint is mixed in separate containers.
- It is then poured onto the canvas.
The Dirty Pour is similar to the Flip Cup. The paints can be poured gradually into the larger container in several layers, or they can be poured in completely. Before pouring paint on canvas, the paint can be specifically prepared and mixed. Exciting color combinations can be created during the pouring process.
The disadvantage of the technique is you will have less control over how the colors are distributed.
How to pour
- Pour the colors into one breaker and stir them gently
- In this case, you will not place the cup on the painting surface, like in a flip cup, but you will pour the colors out.
- With the last little bit of paint left on the bottom of the cup, you can try pouring it in other colors to create interesting transitions
- Again, you have to move the canvas up and down until the paint evenly distributes on the surface.
The puddle pour is different from the others because it’s a more uniform method that is based on the baseline.
The advantage with this is you are in control of which colors interact with each other. It’s an easy to create pattern
One of the disadvantages of the technique is colors don’t interact very strongly with other colors.
How to pour
- Instead of pouring the colors randomly onto the canvas, the colors are poured into “puddles.”
- You make each of these puddles bigger by pouring extra paint in the middle. Try pouring lots of littles puddles using multiple colors. Then, when you tilt and move your canvas to distribute the paint, these different puddles merge and create abstract shapes.
- You can either pour large amounts so that the color is very bold, or small amounts to get greater variation in color as the puddles expand.
Acrylic pouring through a sieve
One of the most popular acrylic pouring techniques for advanced users is sieve pouring. The technique works best for a screen with larger holes. Small holes do not allow the paint to flow well and cause the paint to dilute more than you would like. It will therefore be muddy.
The sieve pouring creates a petal-like effect that is very beautiful. Another advantage of this technique is that correctly layered dirty pour can create amazing color transitions. The common disadvantage of the technology is if you use too little paint, you will lose the petal effect by tilting and spreading the paint.
How to pour
- The technique is the result of a dirty pour. However, instead of pouring the paint directly on the canvas, you can pour through a strainer or sieve resting on the canvas.
- The paint is then allowed to flow out from the sieve through the various openings, creating a kaleidoscopic effect.
- Depending on the shape of the sieve, you can take use various techniques to prepare your acrylic pour. For example, you can use hot glue to compact individual holes to control the flow of paint in a targeted manner.
- Be careful while removing the sieve. Ensure no paint drips onto the canvas. Hold your hand under the sieve as you lift it to avoid unwanted drips.
You can use a funnel instead of a strainer. You may decide to block the funnel hole with a finger. You can also hold the end of the funnel down on the canvas to hide it. Use your funnel as a dirty pour cup or pour in a prepared dirty pour. Try holding the funnel in one place and then moving it to see which method you like better.
How does acrylics pouring work?
Acrylic paint mixed with a specific medium will spread out and create graphic shapes. If you add silicone oil to it, the paint will form what is called acrylic pouring: cells. The more silicone oil you put in, the more small cells you will get.
How are canvases stored optimally?
Always store canvases upright and never lying flat. Do not touch the front as this will transfer fat to the surface. If you have several pictures, you can put a piece of cardboard between the painting surfaces so that they don’t stick to each other.
How much paint and pouring medium do I need for my picture?
As a rule of thumb, you need about 100 grams of pouring liquid for a 10cm x 10cm canvas. You can easily find out the amount needed with a pouring calculator.
How long does acrylic pouring take to dry?
Once you’ve poured the painting, you have to leave it to dry for around 24 hours. If the paint is thick, you’ll have to wait for up to 72 hours.
There are various types of techniques for pouring acrylics on canvas. The special thing about it is that the results are not predictable. Every picture created using the acrylic flow technique is an experiment. It’s a creative art that produces unique results.
The nice thing about it is that you don’t need any previous experience in drawing or painting, but with just a little practice you can create your first successful works within a short time. Nevertheless, pouring offers enough scope and techniques to keep discovering new things. The material used, especially the pouring medium and the colors, play a major role in this fluid painting technique.
You’ve seen five techniques for pouring acrylics in fluid art painting. Now it’s your turn to start pouring!