How to Do Acrylic Paint Pouring: Easy Techniques

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Acrylic paint pouring is all the rage among artists, professionals and amateurs alike. With paint mixed to a thin consistency and poured onto a canvas, gravity does all the work as you tilt the canvas in different directions to create one-of-a-kind patterns. Sometimes, the artwork looks like marble, and other times, it looks like geodes. No two pieces are ever alike. There are countless ways to do paint pouring, and this tutorial will show you three basic techniques to get you started. These paintings are so fun to create, and the results are so magical that you'll be totally addicted.

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Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

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Things You'll Need

  • Plastic tarp

  • Pouring medium (like Floetrol)

  • Acrylic paint

  • Plastic cups

  • Scale

  • Popsicle sticks

  • Water

  • Silicone oil

  • Stretched canvas

  • Push pins

  • Plastic gloves

  • Palette knife

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Step 1: Cover Your Work Space

Paint pouring is a very messy endeavor, so be sure to line your work space with plastic tarp. If you're working on the floor, block off your work space from curious pets that may step all over the dripped paint. (I learned this the hard way.)

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Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Step 2: Mix Your Paint

To mix the paint so it spreads easily around the canvas, you will need to add a pouring medium and some water. Art stores sell products specifically labeled as pouring mediums, but these tend to be overpriced. I recommend a product called Floetrol, which you can find at any hardware store. It is used as a paint additive to prevent brush marks when painting houses, but it works wonders as a pouring medium at a fraction of the price.

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The proportions of paint, pouring medium and water needed are approximately one part paint, one part pouring medium and one-half part water. However, these are just estimates because different paints have different viscosities, even within the same brand. Start by adding some pouring medium to a plastic cup.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Then, add an equal amount of acrylic paint. It's hard to tell how much paint you're adding since it sinks into the pouring medium, so I use a scale to help determine the amount. Mix the two parts with a popsicle stick.

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Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Gradually add water and mix until the paint has the consistency of a melted, runny milkshake. One way to test the paint is to see if it runs smoothly off the end of the popsicle stick and lands in the cup of remaining paint without making a mound.

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Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Repeat for all your colors and include some white and black paint as well. They create contrast that sets off the other colors.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Step 3: Add Some Silicone Oil

Silicone oil helps to create all the little amoebalike shapes in the patterns. They're appropriately called "cells." You can use basic silicone oil you would find at the hardware store. Add three drops in each paint cup and stir well.

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Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Step 4: Prepare Your Canvas

Flip your stretched canvas over to the back side and insert push pins in each corner. You may need to tap gently with a hammer or mallet to secure the pins. The push pins elevate the canvas so paint can drip onto the tarp, preventing the canvas from sticking.

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Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Brush some of the white paint mixture over the canvas to prime it. This first layer of paint acts as a lubricant, helping the paint spread even more easily. Now comes the fun part: pouring the paint.

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Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Straight Pour Method

Step 1: Pour the Paint

With the straight pour method, you simply pour the paint from the cups directly onto the canvas. In this example, I am pouring the paint in stripes of alternating colors.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Tip

Things are about to get messy. Be sure to wear plastic gloves and have plenty of extra gloves handy.

Step 2: Add Contrast

For some dramatic contrast, pour a few thin strands of black paint across the canvas.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Step 3: Tilt the Canvas

Tilt the canvas in different directions to spread the paint all over the canvas. Keep tilting the canvas up and down and back and forth to keep the paint moving until you are happy with the pattern.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Step 4: Clean the Edges

Use a palette knife to scrape any excess paint on the bottom edges of the canvas. You can also use the knife to fill in any areas along the edges that didn't get any paint.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Allow the canvas to dry for 24 to 48 hours.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Dirty Pour Method

Step 1: Pour Layers of Paint in a Cup

With the dirty pour technique, you first take a new cup and pour layers of color into the cup instead of onto the canvas. When adding layers of paint in the cup, hold the cup at an angle and pour the paint onto the side of the cup rather than straight down. This way, the layers of paint remain distinct.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Step 2: Pour the Contents of the Cup

Pour the layers of paint from the cup onto the canvas in any pattern you wish. You can pour it all in the middle at once or disperse it around the canvas.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Step 3: Tilt the Canvas

Tilt the canvas, moving it in all directions to spread the paint layers until the canvas is completely covered and you are happy with the pattern.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Clean the edges with a palette knife and let the canvas dry for 24 to 48 hours.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Inverted Cup Method

Step 1: Pour Layers Into a Cup

As with the dirty pour method, pour layers of different colors of paint into a cup.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Step 2: Place the Canvas On the Cup

Turn the canvas upside down and place it on top of the cup. The front of the canvas should be facing down toward the paint.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Step 3: Flip the Cup and Canvas

Holding the cup steady against the canvas, flip them both simultaneously so the cup is now inverted on top of the canvas. Then, lift the cup to release the layers of paint.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Step 4: Tilt the Canvas

As with the other methods, tilt the canvas in different directions to create your pattern.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Clean the edges with a palette knife and let the canvas dry for 24 to 48 hours. Here are two different examples of paintings using the inverted cup method.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

A Bonus Technique: The Dip

Step 1: Press the Canvas Into Paint Drippings

You'll undoubtedly have a lot of extra paint accumulating on the plastic tarp as you tilt the canvases and the paint drips off. Don't waste that paint. Use it to create more art. Just turn a canvas upside down and press it into the paint drippings. Make sure you press down on all sides so every part of the canvas makes contact with paint.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong
Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Lift the canvas and your artwork is revealed. Tilt the canvas in different directions if you desire. Clean the edges and let it dry for 24 to 48 hours.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Acrylic paint pouring is so fun and easy. It will make an "artiste" out of anyone. Hope you have plenty of wall space!

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

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