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If you often find yourself binge-watching oddly satisfying videos of acrylic pouring, we’re on the same page!
One of the latest trends in art forms, the technique of pouring paints is known to have started in the 1930s by David Alfaro Siqueiros. Nowadays, many budding artists are jumping onto the bandwagon, considering how fun it is to mess around with colors but always end up with an incredible art piece!
Even when it comes to the amount of time and materials needed, acrylic pouring is a convenient art form to pick. So, if you’re someone who is always on their toes with limited art supplies, this method can be a therapeutic hobby for you.
And what better time to develop a new hobby than during a pandemic, when all of us are confined to our homes? Thus, we have curated this extensive guide that goes into all the details you need to know about acrylic pouring mediums.
Acrylic Pouring Mediums 101
- Acrylic Pouring Mediums 101
- What Is A Pouring Medium?
- Properties Of A Pouring Medium
- Can Water Be A Good Pouring Medium?
- Different Types Of Pouring Mediums
- Professional Pouring Medium vs. Alternative Pouring Medium
- Achieving The Perfect Ratio
- What Is The Best Pouring Medium?
- Things To Consider Before Choosing A Pouring Medium
- DIY Pouring Medium
- How To Make An Acrylic Pour Painting
- Basic Acrylic Pouring Methods
- Intermediate Acrylic Pouring Methods
- Advanced Acrylic Pouring Methods
- Cell Formation In Acrylic Pour Paintings
What Is A Pouring Medium?
Since acrylic paints are known to dry fast, a pouring medium is required for free flow and a smooth texture. It does the job of a binder and a diluting agent, thus allowing easy mixing of colors. Additionally, a medium prevents cracking and fading once the paint dries up completely.
In short, it is what makes the thick and dry consistency of acrylic paints more suitable for pouring art techniques.
Properties Of A Pouring Medium
Slows The Drying Process
When the drying process slows down, you get more time to work with the paints, thereby allowing more abstract and fun designs! Also, a slower drying time means no cracking and chipping of paints.
Acrylic paints are relatively thicker than drier forms of paint. Thus, by adding a medium, your paints will become smoother and easier to pour.
Even though you are “diluting” the paints by adding a medium, the pigmentation and saturation of your paints will never be sacrificed. After all, the main attraction of an acrylic pouring artwork is its multiple layers of vivid colors!
Can Water Be A Good Pouring Medium?
Yes and no!
Yes, water is a cheaper alternative to a pouring medium as it makes acrylic paints more fluid. So, beginners on a modest budget can start with water and slowly transition to an actual medium.
However, you get what you pay for. Using water will reduce the vibrancy of your paints and may result in a dry, chapped texture. Since water dilutes the color pigments and binding agents, different colors will not stick on most types of canvases and solid surfaces. Consequently, the layers will not stick together for a long time.
Moreover, as you may have guessed by now, your painting will not be durable on certain objects, especially when placed in an exposed environment. Hence, when you opt for water as the pouring medium, you will be compromising on the vibrancy, quality, and durability of the artwork.
On the other hand, a high-quality pouring medium will offer the fluidity of water while maintaining the true pigmentation of your acrylic colors.
Different Types Of Pouring Mediums
You can find various types of pouring mediums to add to your acrylic paints. Although all of them serve the primary purpose of adding fluidity, their varying properties serve different secondary purposes.
For instance, a glossy medium, as the name suggests, adds a shiny coating to your painting. There is no doubt that the painting will look brilliant, and you will save the extra time and effort of adding a varnish in the end.
However, most pouring mediums are “all-purpose,” which implies that they enhance the flow, vibrancy, and binding properties of the paint.
Professional Pouring Medium vs. Alternative Pouring Medium
Professional Pouring Medium
Products like Liquitex, PEBEO, and Decoart fall under this category. These products are specifically designed to enhance the flow technique of acrylic paints. Besides the properties of a good-quality pouring medium mentioned above, this variant ensures long-lasting pigmentation and prevents any acidic reaction in the paints.
Alternative Pouring Medium
Using an alternative pouring medium is a more budget-friendly option for beginners. Flood Floetrol is a popular option in this category. Its properties are similar to that of a professional pouring medium, but the durability of the artwork is not guaranteed. This is because alternative products usually contain acid, which can cause the painting to fade.
Moreover, factors like UV production and viscosity may differ, due to which experienced artists prefer using a professional pouring medium.
Achieving The Perfect Ratio
We’ll be honest- finding a ratio that works for you requires practice. Depending on the consistency you prefer, we cannot fix the perfect ratio of paint to pouring medium. However, if you’re a beginner and do not wish to waste your paints to poor mixing, start with a 1:1 ratio. Mix the paint and medium for 30 seconds and observe the consistency.
If it resembles liquid honey, you’re good to go. Otherwise, you can add more medium or water. But remember that the amount of water should not exceed 30% of the total volume of the mixture. This is to avoid the negative effects of too much water in an acrylic painting.
Along with practice, patience is key. Instead of adding a lot of medium at once, add small amounts so you can control the consistency. Once you’ve struck the perfect balance between acrylic paint and pouring medium, it will be easier to recreate it in the future for more artworks.
For your convenience, here are some popular pouring mediums accompanied by their foolproof mixing ratios.
|Pouring Medium||Acrylic Pour Recipe|
|Vinyl Glue||1 part acrylic paint|
|1 part water|
|1.5 parts vinyl glue|
|Floetrol||1 part acrylic paint|
|0.5 part water|
|1.5 parts Floetrol|
|Liquitex Pouring Medium||1 part acrylic paint|
|0.5 part water|
|1.5 parts Liquitex Pouring Medium|
Should You Stick To One Medium?
If you’re a budding painter or artist, we recommend experimenting as much as possible. Since perfecting the acrylic pour recipe is a journey in itself, you might as well try out different types of mediums. Usually, expert painters have their favorites, so they prefer using them repeatedly to achieve desirable results.
If you just want to test the waters, we recommend choosing a medium within your budget. Even if you don’t get the best results, you will get an idea of the mixing and pouring process. If you don’t want to use water, try vinyl glue, and slowly progress to professional options.
Do not go overboard with pouring mediums and additives. Note that the mixture should not contain more than two ingredients other than the paint itself. So, one all-purpose pouring medium coupled with an additive for gloss or cell formation should suffice.
What Is The Best Pouring Medium?
While the answer to this is a subjective one, there are some common favorites in the market. Take a look-
Liquitex Pouring Medium
This product is undoubtedly a favorite among artists. It owes its reputation to its uniform consistency and high quality. In fact, in recent times, the brand struggles to meet the demand, with so many people wanting to try the acrylic pouring technique. Unfortunately, this has resulted in a price hike.
Since Liquitex is a brand dedicated to art products, the base price itself is higher when compared to other pouring mediums. Thus, if you’re tight on budget, you might want to consider the next option.
An affordable pouring medium, Floetrol is a hardware product designed for house painting. For this reason, it offers excellent durability and pigmentation. Additionally, it elongates the curing time and allows easy spraying of paint.
Another interesting factor is its ability to form cells. So, you don’t need to add any type of oil when using this medium. You can add Floetrol to a mixture of paint and Liquitex for beautiful cell formation on your artwork.
Similar to Liquitex, this pouring medium also prevents cracking even after adding thick layers of paint. However, one significant difference would be the amount you will need to add to the paint for a smooth texture. Believe it or not- the ratio of GAC800 to acrylic paint is 10:1. Isn’t that extreme?
While it may sound strange to beginners, you can give this product a shot while practicing. Additionally, the brand has its unique “GAC800 + paint + alcohol” formula to get the perfect painting results.
Elmer’s Glue, Book Binders Glue, or any other craft glue also acts as an effective and inexpensive pouring medium. Although some artists may not agree to it, desperate times call for desperate measures! If you strain and mix the glue and the paint properly, you will get a vibrant and high-binding formula.
Since water does not offer many desirable properties of an actual medium, craft glue is a cheap alternative that actually works! However, keep in mind that glue is relatively acidic, which may affect the longevity of your artwork.
Things To Consider Before Choosing A Pouring Medium
The surface hardness of the pouring medium determines the look of the artwork once it dries up. Some pouring mediums become soft and sticky while others become hard and sturdy. Depending on your preference and requirements, choose a medium that will not tamper with the quality of your paints.
Albeit not a necessity, some projects may require a medium that provides UV protection. For instance, if you’re painting objects or decor items that will be exposed to the sun, a protective medium will prevent potential fading and damage.
Some pouring mediums contain special additives for adding gloss to your paintings. The amount of sheen remains constant throughout. Consequently, your artworks will not require an additional coat of varnish.
Mediums with high flowability are preferred for even distribution of paints while pouring. If a medium does not allow much flow, both mixing and pouring become difficult. While paints with lesser flow behavior may be suitable for some projects, acrylic pouring artwork usually requires a very fluid consistency.
Different pouring mediums require different amounts of time to dry. Some mediums may dry within a few hours, others dry overnight, and a few require a week. Depending on the urgency of your project, you can choose a medium accordingly.
The consistency of a pouring medium should be inversely proportional to that of your paints. For instance, if you’re using dense and thick inks, you’d want a pouring medium with a thinner consistency. Contrarily, thinner paints require a thick pouring medium for the best results.
DIY Pouring Medium
While working on the right ratio of paint and medium, you might feel like a single medium does not suffice. In this case, you can mix two mediums that will guarantee the best results. For instance, a combination of Floetrol and vinyl glue is an effective homemade medium you can store for a week. Here’s what you need to do to make this DIY pouring medium-
Pour out Floetrol and all-purpose glue in separate containers. Keep in mind that the ratio of glue to Floetrol should be 1:4, so pour accordingly.
Strain both the products to avoid lumps and uneven texture. Sometimes the medium and glue can form chunks when stored for a long time. However, it does not always mean that it is “spoiled” or outdated.
Finally, mix both the products and stir them together until they are well combined. This step is crucial to prevent any separation of the mediums in the later stages.
How To Make An Acrylic Pour Painting
Step 1| Prepare The Workplace
Acrylic pouring is a fun but messy technique. If you’re working inside the house, you would want to protect the floor and other objects around the work area. Use a plastic sheet or some newspaper to prevent stains nearby. Once dried, these stains and splashes can be hard to remove, so it is best to avoid them in the first place.
Step 2| Bring Your Tools And Equipment
This technique does not require much tools and equipment, so you might as well keep them nearby. Once you start pouring, you will not be in a position to halt the project every now and then to search for required materials. Additionally, as mentioned before, the process is messy, so we recommend wearing gloves and an old t-shirt/ smock/ apron.
Step 3| Check The Level Of Your Surface
A spirit level will be helpful in this step as the surface must be completely flat to avoid unwanted spills. Even the slightest amount of tilt can cause the poured paint to run across the canvas and ruin your artwork.
Step 4| Time To Mix
Grab a cup or any suitable container and fill it with acrylic paint and pouring medium. Check the instructions of the medium for the correct ratio. Repeat this step for every color you wish to incorporate in your artwork.
Ensure that the mixture has a honey-like consistency for the best results. Also, you can add a few drops of silicone oil for cell formation in your painting.
Step 5| Let The Bubbles Rise
Once the mixture is complete, leave it aside, so the bubbles appear on the surface. This waiting time prevents the formation of pockmarks while painting. You can even prepare your mixture a day before making the artwork.
Step 6| Mix The Colors
Now, take a large container or cup and pour the prepared mixtures into it. Take your time carefully pouring each color in such a way that it forms layers of multiple colors.
Step 7| Flip The Cup
Now is the fun part! After pouring all the colors into the big cup, flip it at the center of the canvas. Try not to spill any paint in this step. After a few seconds, lift the cup slowly and ensure all the paint drains out. You can move the cup in small circles until it is empty.
Step 8| Spread The Paint
Tilt the canvas in various directions until the paint has coated the surface evenly. Don’t forget to cover the sides of the canvas as well.
Step 9| Heat And Blow The Painting
The final step is to blow the paint with a heat gun or a hairdryer. This will help form more interesting patterns and encourage cell formation. Once you’re satisfied with the result, let the painting dry for a few hours or days, depending on the type of paints you use. Try not to store it in a very hot room to prevent cracking.
And that’s how you make an acrylic pour painting!
Basic Acrylic Pouring Methods
Both beginners and experts can enjoy basic techniques in this genre of art. The amount of expertise and preparation for such techniques or minimum, and the materials required are probably lying around your house already. Here are some quick and easy acrylic pouring methods you can try out-
Flip Cup Technique
The steps to this pouring technique have been discussed above. However, there are several ways to tackle the cup to achieve different results. Take a look-
The Quick Flip
This is the most exciting idea out of the lot, making it comparatively messier. But that’s the fun part! Just flip the cup as fast as you can, so the paint is not just poured but also splattered around the canvas.
Slow And Steady
If you’re working with a large canvas, this method is for you. Place a thin piece of plastic or cardboard over the cup and flip it. Try not to spill any paint at this point. Now, place the plastic/ cardboard on the pouring surface and carefully slide it off so that the cup is in direct contact with the surface.
Alternatively, if your surface is small enough to be manipulated, simply place it upside down on top of the cup. Flip both the cup and the small canvas at the same time.
After using any of the methods mentioned above, instead of removing the cup, try poking holes on the sides. This will make the paint flow out and create attractive designs on the canvas.
Basic or “Clean” Pour
Hands down, the easiest pouring art technique is the basic “clean” pour. For this, all you have to do is pour paint directly on the surface. You can either finish your painting after pouring the colors or use any pointed tool to make swirls and patterns while the colors are still wet. Either way, you will end up with a stunning abstract art piece.
A pro tip is to tilt the surface in the preferred direction to cause more flow and movement in the paint. This will blur the stark lines between different colors, creating a smooth effect.
Although this method is easy enough for beginners, some artists may mess up the paint consistency. So, remember to balance between desirable thickness and fluidity when performing a “clean” pour.
Puddle Pour Technique
As the name suggests, this method requires you to pour paint directly onto the canvas and form “puddles” all over it. You can start with one color and top it off with suitable colors. Since this technique results in a more blended look, you should be well-versed with the color wheel to avoid “muddy” patches. For starters, we’d suggest staying away from black.
Dirty Pour Technique
This technique is a great way to utilize leftover paints from other projects and achieve a faux marble effect. In this method, instead of pouring the colors separately, you mix all the colors in one container and drain them altogether. Sounds exciting? Read the steps below to find out how to ace this style of pouring!
Mix the paint and medium for every color separately. When working on a fresh piece, you can choose your favorite colors. However, even if you’re using leftover paint, the result is sure to exceed your expectations!
Now, take a cup and pour all the colors in. You don’t have to worry about forming separate layers of paints. You can make thin lines or simply “plop” the various colors on top of one another.
Pour the contents on the surface. You can move the cup in any direction to create more designs. And as always, tilt the canvas too. Ensure you don’t leave a very thick layer on any part of the canvas.
Use a heat gun or a hairdryer to finish it off. You can even coat it with a layer of varnish or add some dry glitter beforehand for that extra sparkle!
Intermediate Acrylic Pouring Methods
If you feel like you’ve got enough practice with the previous techniques, try the next step to level up! The methods mentioned below will require a bit more effort, but the results will make it all worth it. Let’s dive right in-
Tree Ring Pouring Technique
This is similar to the dirty pour technique, except that your pouring movement needs to be more controlled this time. Although you can use contrasting colors, we recommend using different shades of the same color for a more natural, subtle look. Here’s a step-by-step tutorial of the tree ring technique-
Mix the colors in a container, preferably with a pointy end for a more controlled flow. Try to form separate layers of colors.
Now, pour the mixture at the center of the surface. We recommend using a circular surface since the paint lines are going to be circular. You can start with pouring straight and then make small and controlled swirls.
Tilt the canvas to stretch the paint as much as possible till the entire surface is covered. For this technique, most artists avoid using any additives for cell formation. Since this method aims to mimic the look of tree rings, we believe the painting looks best without any cells.
In the case of a long, rectangular canvas, you can try the traveling tree ring effect. Follow the same steps but move your hand in different directions while making swirls.
Controlled Marble Pour Technique
Now, here’s a technique for achieving the perfect marble effect with a little bit of planning and manipulation. We recommend using just three colors of the same family. You can even add one metallic shade. Follow the steps below to mimic the gorgeous gradients of real marble-
This method is at the intermediate level because the artist must be well-versed with color theory. Looking at pictures of marble will give you an idea of the kind of colors and effects you should aim for. Accordingly, choose the colors you want to blend and the color that will make the dark marble line.
Carefully mix two shades in a cup, ensuring that they form different layers. Do not mix the third color at this point.
Pour the contents of the cup onto the surface. Tilt the canvas to blend and merge the colors.
Now, squeeze the cup or use one with a spout to pour the third color. While pouring, lift your hand higher to form a thin line and drizzle the paint across the canvas. Try to create intersecting lines for a natural marble effect.
Tilt the canvas for the last time to manipulate the poured paint.
Swipe Acrylic Pouring Technique
For this method, you can mix different colors separately or combine them for a dirty pour. In fact, you can use any of the basic pouring techniques to start a swipe painting. Then you can use a flat tool like a spatula, popsicle stick, or a piece of cardboard to swipe the paints across the canvas.
Remember to be gentle since you don’t want to scrape off the paint or merge the colors too much. Additionally, we highly recommend using a heat gun to enhance cell formation. Once you’ve got enough practice, try mixing neon colors with black for some vibrant and stunning results.
Ballon Smash Technique
This technique is like reverse paintball! But we guarantee the fun quotient is no less. Along with the art tools required for acrylic pouring, you must have a balloon or any inflated spherical object. Read on to know how to ace this exciting technique-
You can start with a clean pour, dirty pour, or both- that’s up to you. Pour the paint all over the canvas and manipulate it to cover the entire area. You can even use the swipe technique to do so.
Pour a contrasting color in such a way that it forms a small puddle. The number of puddles depends on your preference. However, we recommend trying it out with just one or two to understand how this method works.
Now, take a balloon and place it on each puddle. Different amounts of pressure will result in different designs, so experiment as much as you can. This technique is perfect for recreating marine life or outer space in an abstract form.
Advanced Acrylic Pouring Methods
Once you are confident with the basics, it’s time to challenge yourself with these advanced techniques. These methods will require more precision and patience, so buckle up!
Resin Pouring Technique
Resin is a transparent substance of high viscosity used in acrylic pouring artworks to create depth. If you want to create an abstract representation of ocean waves, this style is the one for you.
Read the instructions of the resin product before starting. Most of them produce harmful fumes, so we recommend wearing safety glasses and gloves when working with resin.
Add your paint to the resin and not the resin to your paint. This blunder can ruin the consistency, so be careful in this step. Also, make sure you know the working time of the resin and mix the paint within that time frame.
Pour the paint and resin mixture on the canvas. Use your hands to blend the colors wherever needed.
Use a heat gun or any pointed tool to get rid of the bubbles on the surface. However, do not overheat the painting, or else the resin may burn. After 24 hours, your wonderful piece of art is ready for display.
String Pull Pouring Technique
This technique creates whimsical abstract designs which resemble feathers, flowers, and more. Besides sturdy canvases, we think this technique will make beautiful greeting cards for your loved ones.
Start by mixing your colors with the desired medium. Remember to dilute the “background” color more than the rest so that it is thinner and allows the string paint to retain on the surface. Cover the canvas with the background color.
When it comes to painting the string, you’ve got two options. One, you can use the dirty cup method to pour a little bit of paint mixture on a flat surface and cover the string with it. Two, you can form a color pattern on a flat surface.
For instance, pour a line of pink, follow it up with purple, and then white. Repeat till the line of paint is long enough to saturate the string.
In this step, you can choose whether you want to perform a flower pull or a feather pull. For a flower pull, place the string in a curved zig-zag design with the end pointing at you. Then, pull the string towards you in a smooth motion.
The feather effect is relatively easier to perform. Place your string straight across the canvas and pull the top part towards you. Be gentle and allow the string to drag across the surface. Repeat on the other side to form a full feather.
Remember that this technique is quite difficult to master, so don’t get disheartened in the first few tries. With regular practice, you will gain better control over your hand movements and form suitable paint consistency.
Dutch Pouring Technique
This is something most of us have tried during the art class in school. Also known as blow pour, this acrylic pouring style involves “blowing” the paint to form interesting shapes and designs. Perfect for producing abstract varieties of flowers, stars, and snowflakes, here’s how you can create a Dutch Pour painting-
Combine your background color with the desired medium and pour it on the canvas. Ensure that no blank spaces are left.
Mix the rest of your colors with the medium in separate containers, preferably with a pointed opening. Then, pour the colors on the canvas one by one. You can use the dirty pour method to layer the colors or simply form puddles all over.
Grab a straw and blow the paint to connect the puddles. You can even use a blowdryer on a low setting.
Cell Formation In Acrylic Pour Paintings
As mentioned before, adding silicone oil to your mixture will result in cell formation, further enhancing the beautiful patterns in the painting. However, the type of oil can determine whether your artwork will be adorned with large cells or multiple, smaller ones. Keep in mind that you must add the oil to the mixture before pouring it on the canvas. Doing it afterward will not form any cells.
Silicone Oil vs. Hair Oil
When looking for an additive, you can find two types of silicone oil on the market. One has a low viscosity that adds more flow to the paint and forms large cells with relatively more saturated color gradients.
On the other hand, silicone oil with high viscosity slows the flow behavior of the paint and forms small cells. Moreover, the color gradient is not as sharp with this type of oil.
Hair oil is another additive that is easily available and can help you achieve stunning results on your painting. Adding hair oil allows the paint to form large cells with multiple smaller ones inside. But before purchasing a hair oil for this purpose, check the ingredients and ensure that it contains “Dimethicone.”
Acrylic Pouring Kit
If you want to kick-start a new hobby or profession in acrylic painting without making blunders, we suggest opting for a pouring kit. Such a set contains two types of pouring mediums, silicone pouring oil, mixing cups and supplies, mini canvases, and more. With some acrylic paints and this kit, you can have fun with colors right away!
Painting Ground For Acrylic Pouring
While you can try acrylic pouring on any surface, starting with a flat canvas is your best bet. This will help you practice with different patterns and gain expertise in the field.
A typical canvas consists of a thin board with a cotton cloth tightly covering it. Most canvases are acid-free, meaning your painting will not distort and degrade due to any chemical reaction. Thanks to its solid base, you will get enough stability while pouring acrylic paints.
This painting ground is a hardboard coated with acrylic gesso. Other than acrylic paints, this pre-primed painting ground is suitable for oil paints or a mixture of both.
You can use plywoods of different shapes and sizes to form decor pieces with acrylic pouring techniques. These boards are sanded smooth to provide an easy surface to work with. Suitable for professionals and beginners alike, you can never go wrong with a wooden board.
Preparing The Painting Ground
If you are using a gessobord, you may not require any priming for the painting ground. In other cases, you can use a Gesso to facilitate better adherence and low penetration of the colors. Besides checking that the canvas is leveled equally, don’t forget to keep it at a raised position to allow the poured paint to fall naturally.
You can use thumbtacks, glasses, or cups to ensure a raised and balanced position of the painting ground.
Albeit a bit tricky to decipher, abstract art forms are a lot of fun to create. The result can either look like an avant-garde artwork or a messy kindergartener’s first drawing! There’s no in-between.
Regardless, acrylic pouring has a huge fan base, and hopefully, after reading this guide, you can understand why. With so many different techniques, you can try your hands (preferably gloved) on all of them and even encourage other family members to join in. What’s better than spending some quality time together and ending up with unique paintings?
With that, we’ll be signing off now. Happy painting!