Acrylic paint pouring is an ideal way to while away an afternoon, and it’s an art technique that almost anyone can master relatively quickly. WIth acrylic pouring, you can create beautiful swirling masterpieces, and once you get your eye in, you’ll soon get a feel for what colours work well with each other.
There’s plenty of room for experimentation, so don’t be afraid to try new combinations. The results are eye-catching abstract art, and we are delighted to be able to share our expertise with you in this article, a beginner’s guide to acrylic paint pouring.
What is acrylic paint pouring?
Acrylic paint pouring is a random, fluid painting technique, that – quite literally – involves pouring acrylic paint over a surface. It is a great way to create unique, bespoke coasters, canvases, tiles or even flower pots. When poured, the acrylic paint creates beautiful, swirling, marbled patterns. You can tilt your canvas while the acrylic paint is still wet, to further manipulate the patterns. Alternatively, you can use a cocktail stick, or even a fork, to drag the colours into each other while wet.
Acrylic paint pouring is a fabulous on-trend craft, with individual results every time! The craft itself is relatively quick, but be sure to allow enough time to play around with colour combinations, choose your project, as well as setting up and clearing away your equipment, as things can get messy.
Ideally, you’ll need an entire kitchen table-sized area to work – you’ll want to spread out your paints and other equipment so that it’s all within easy reach. Also, make sure you have somewhere where your masterpieces can dry safely for a few weeks where they won’t be disturbed.
What do you need for acrylic paint pouring?
In order to manipulate the acrylic paint so that it can be poured easily, we need to mix it with a pouring medium. Acrylic paint on its own has a thick, buttery consistency, which, when painted onto a surface, retains its brushstrokes. Mixing the acrylic paint with a pouring medium decreases its viscosity so that when poured, it will give a high gloss finish.
Acrylic pouring can be (very) messy, so it’s important to have all the equipment ready before you start. So to do acrylic pouring, you will need:
1. Acrylic paints
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You’re going to get through a lot of acrylic paint, so it’s a good idea to get some larger, cheaper bottles of the more basic colours then supplement these with smaller bottles of nicer paints.
2. Additional white acrylic paint
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You’ll also need a lot of white (or black) paint to use as a base, so be sure to get plenty of that. Opt for larger, value bottles of white/black paint – because, trust me, you will use a lot.
3. Pouring medium
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Mix Liquitex acrylic pouring medium with your acrylic paints to allow easy manipulation of the paints. It thins the paint and gives you more time to work with it to create patterns. It’s easy to mix and is the most popular pouring medium used.
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If you prefer smaller cells, then opt for Floetrol over the Liquitex as your pouring medium. It’s often easier to get hold of and is sold in most hardware stores as a paint extender.
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If you want to create larger, more impressive cells (the bubble-like structures) in your acrylic pouring masterpiece, mix a few drops of silicone in with your paints.
6. Pouring surface
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What do you want to create? Decide what you want to make – be it canvas or coasters, pebbles or pots. If you opt for canvases, then bulk buying is a great option, as it gives you practice canvases, too. I personally always love using pebbles, as they make beautiful decorative pieces (and gifts) once dry.
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Before you pour the acrylic paints onto your surface, you’ll need to mix the paint with the pouring medium. Small cups like these are ideal, as you can pop a lid on the top and anything you don’t use you can keep for later. They’ll last several weeks – so if you’ve hit a creative block, take a step back and come back to it later.
8. Mixing sticks
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To mix your pouring medium with acrylic paints, you’ll need some mixing sticks. Better yet – head over to the supermarket and grab some ice lollies. Enjoy a well-deserved break to eat the ice lollies and BOOM. You’ll have your mixing sticks.
9. Drying rack
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You’ll need somewhere you can safely store your artwork, as artwork created by acrylic pouring can take around 2 or more weeks to dry. This is because of the chemical reactions that take place as you mix the acrylic paint with the pouring medium and the silicone – normal acrylic paint, as I’m sure you know, will be dry in just a few hours. So make sure you are able to store your work somewhere safely, where paint can freely dribble off the sides without ruining your table. Popping an old kitchen drying rack inside a cardboard box is a great option.
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If you’re pouring onto canvas, it’s a good idea to prep your canvas first by painting with a coat of Gesso. This helps to achieve a nice smooth finish when the acrylic paint is poured onto the canvas. It’s not at all necessary, but priming your canvas does help to achieve the best possible results in your acrylic pouring.
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Once you’ve created a design you’re happy with, you. might like to varnish it to protect it from the dings of everyday life. If your artwork is going outdoors (for example, if you’ve created some lovely acrylic poured pebbles), then be sure to get an outdoor varnish suitable for protection against the elements.
How to do acrylic paint pouring
First, protect your workspace. Find a way to raise your blank item up, so that the paint can dribble over the sides and your work won’t end up sticking to the newspaper while it’s drying. Using a drying rack or an old box is a good option.
Here – we’re using upturned (tasty Chinese) sauce containers in a cardboard box.
Next, decide what you want to pour onto! I’m using a 6 x 6″ mini canvas (which I am fully intending to decorate my office space with), and this is a really nice size to work with. Because the canvas has a somewhat rough surface, it’s a good idea to paint the surface with Gesso before you start pouring. It’s not at all necessary – but I like the smoother result it makes when pouring your paint.
Once painted, leave to dry.
Next, choose the colours you want to create your acrylic pour with. We are doing what’s called a “dirty pour” in this tutorial.
Take each of your chosen colours of acrylic paint, and pour a blob into a small container. Keep the colours separate at this stage.
Try to keep your colours to a minimum, three-six different colours is enough. Any more than that and you risk your art looking dirty. (Unless of course, that’s the look you’re going for.)
Next, mix your pouring medium in with the acrylic paints. It’s a good idea to gradually build up the mixture, as different brands of acrylic paint and pouring medium take slightly less or slightly more.
We’re using Floetrol for this tutorial, so begin with a 1:2 ratio (so – one part Floetrol to two parts acrylic paint). Mix well until the mixture becomes homogenous. You are aiming for a maple syrup-like consistency (so that it’s easy to pour). Add a little more Floetrol, or a little more paint until this approximate consistency is reached.
Repeat for the other colours. Don’t worry if you end up with too much mixed paint – it keeps, so anything that is unused can be stored in a sealed pot until your next craft session.
If you want cells in your acrylic poured artwork, add 1-2 drops of silicone oil into each of the paint mixtures. If you don’t have silicone oil, coconut oil or hair serum (yes, really) is a great alternative! Don’t add too much – it won’t make a difference after a certain point, and you’ll just end up wasting your oil.
TOP TIP: If you want lots of smaller cells, stir the silicone oil into your paint mixtures. If you want fewer, big cells – don’t stir. For medium cells, stir very gently – go slowly, once or twice around the pot with your stirring stick.
Leave your paints to stand for a few minutes, to give any air bubbles time to rise to the surface and burst. If you’re really organised, you can prep your paints the day before pouring, and leave them overnight to guarantee there are no air bubbles.
But if you’re just pouring for fun – sometimes air bubbles add a little something to the finished pieces, so it’s down to personal preference. We left ours for around 30 minutes before pouring.
Now for the fun part. Grab a new, clean cup – this will be your “dirty” cup.
One by one, pour your colours alternately into the new cup. Go slowly – the aim is to get the paints sitting in layers on top of each other.
Next, you want to manoeuvre the dirty cup containing the layered paints onto the item you’re decorating. For a canvas, this is relatively easy. Lay the canvas face down on top of the cup, then flip the whole thing upside-down. Try not to make any spillages during this stage.
Ready? Take a few deep breaths, do a final check to make sure your surfaces are covered, and slowly lift up the cup. Rotate the cup back and forth in a small circle to make sure that all the precious mixture is out, and on your canvas.
As the paint pours out in all directions, you can manipulate the flow by tilting your canvas. I like to try and get all of the canvas covered in colour, but there’s something to be said for leaving patches of white – again, it’s down to personal preference. If you want to achieve a latte effect, now is the time to take a toothpick and drag it back and forth through the paint.
If you have a pallette knife, you can use this to pick up paint droppings and cover the sides of the canvas where the paint didn’t reach. If like us, you’re using canvas board (as opposed to thicker stretched canvas) this won’t be much of an issue.
Finally, leave your artwork somewhere level and safe from little hands (or little paws) where it can dry. You’ll need to allow at least two weeks of drying time – but we’ve found that it can often take up to a month to dry completely.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our beginners guide to acrylic paint pouring. We have plenty of other fun projects here on Gathered, too. Why not learn a new skill with how to make balloon animals, or how about our ultimate guide to loom bands. Do you have any tips for acrylic pouring? Share them with us in the comments below!