Welcome! I’ve been pretty well obsessed with poured acrylic painting lately. There’s so much I love about it: deciding the palettes, the uncertainty of the mixing and the beautiful color wheel of surprises that are revealed when you pick up that flip cup and see the beginning of the creation!
While I haven’t been doing this very long myself, I have learned a LOT recently, and I just wanted to pass a long a few little nuggets of wisdom that I have gleaned along the way. This isn’t exactly a beginner’s guide to pouring exactly, but if you’re new to pouring, hopefully this list helps at least a little to answer some common FAQs and share some hacks, tips and method to make pouring easier.
(As a side note, I don’t endorse one brand over another in the products I recommend here. When I suggest brand names, it’s just shorthand (like kleenex or bandaid) unless otherwise noted. I certainly don’t get paid to mention them… Though if you know someone, send them my way… I’m not proud. Broke, but not proud…)
1. Protect your phone. Looking at a picture on your phone for inspiration? Have that pouring medium recipe pulled up, but want to keep your phone safe in your work area? Put your phone in a ziplock bag! My Samsung Edge 7 fits PERFECTLY in a snack-size ziplock bag. The one drawback to this is that it can make it difficult to take photos, if that’s your thing. However, you can cut a little hole in the baggie and use painter’s tape to to tape it closely around the lens, allowing the camera to be unhindered.
Throw your phone in a baggie to protect it while you work!
BONUS TIP: If your next phone upgrade isn’t worth it, hang onto your old the phone and dedicate it as a camera! It may be decommissioned as an active phone, but did you know you can still connect to the internet? Not only can you use it as a camera, but when connected to wifi, you can also us it to upload to your social media or blog!
2. Keep your paints fresh without airtight jars. Some people like to mix their paints ahead of time to cut down on air bubbles. Sometimes you’ll have leftover paint from a pour that you’ll want to come back to later, but airtight plastic containers are a total pain if you’re only trying to save paint overnight. Press n Seal plastic wrap is AMAZING for this. Simply group your cups together, cover them with the plastic wrap, and run your finger firmly over the rim of each cup. This seals them super effectively and cleanly! You can also use this tip to seal your paint brushes between gesso sessions!
Keep your paint fresh, right in their cups!
3. Tighten up that saggy-ass canvas. Are you a cheapskate like me? Do you buy the crappy student-level canvas that’s all loose and saggy? Maybe it’s an old canvas? Something you picked up at a yard sale? You can make it nice and taut again by spraying the back of your canvas with water, lightly rubbing it down and letting it air dry. Use cotton pads to get right up in the corners, otherwise they may pucker. Specialty liquids and sprays specifically made for this are available at art supply stores, but 9 times out of 10 water works just as well!
4. Keep the ambient temperature down. 68F-70F is ideal, and stay away from drafts. Nothing will make your painting craze faster than heat and draft!
Crazing happens when the top layer of the paint dries faster than the rest
5. The SUPES secret pouring medium LIQUITEX DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT!!111! *ahem* Want to know the absolute best pouring medium out there? What brand is best? I’m about to blow your mind right now… it just doesn’t effing matter. I’ve have achieved both great and horrible results with every form of pouring medium I’ve tried… and they all work (and all word together) as long as you have the right consistency, you can pretty much use whatever combo of pouring medium, Glue-All (not School Glue), Floetrol and water you want and it will make medium. The rest is up to you!
BONUS TIP: Save yourself a ton of money and a trip to the art store and make your own pouring medium. YouTubers and poured art gurus will expound endlessly on their “fool-proof recipes” for DIY pouring medium for maximized cells, but most of the time they’re full of so many different additives and fluids that you wind up paying more than if you bought it pre-made! In it’s simplest form, all you need is Elmer’s Glue-All (NOT “school glue”) and water. (Well, that’s not true. In it’s true simplest form, you can use Floetrol alone for a fraction of the cost of pouring medium) Here’s a few basic ratios to get you started:
* DIY Pouring medium- 2 parts Elmer’s Glue all : 1 part distilled water (add Floetrol as desired… or not!)
* Paint Mixture Ratio #1- 2 parts Floetrol : 1 part distilled water : 1 part artist quality acrylic paint (for fluid acrylics, use a 1:1:1 ratio). Add several drops of pure silicone to enhance cell formation.
* Paint Mixture Ratio #2- 2 parts pouring medium : 1 part isopropyl alcohol 71% or higher : 1 part high-flow acrylic. (The alcohol is there to promote cells. Do not add additional silicone to this mixture!)
6. Light ’em up! Wondering where to get a tiny torch? try your local smoke shop or head shop. A good one should only be about $15 and they sell huge cans of replacement fuel!
8. Make contact! Use a sheet of acetate (like an overhead projector sheet or Yupo to swipe. Allow to make good contact with about half the sheet and lightly drag the white paint across the surface of the colored paint. This helps prevent you from dragging the paint too deeply across the canvas.
BONUS TIP: Use a piece of cardboard bent at a 90 degree angle to make yourself a “corner catcher”. Position it around the corner of the canvas when you tilt to keep more paint on the canvas and to provide even coverage on the sides.
8. Get Heavy. For a heavy, intense white, add a little gesso to your Titanium white paint.
9. Speaking of gesso… did you know you can tint it? Not only does gesso come in white, it also comes in black, grey, metallics, and even clear! Tint your own gesso to your desired background color when priming your canvas, using high flow acrylics or powdered pigments. You kill two birds with one stone when your prime, and it adds visual interest to any negative space piece while helping to hide any bare spots.
10. Back of house inspiration Places like Smart & Final carry a lot of restaurant supplies. Using a large catering platter or roasting pan really helps to contain the mess. They’re also super cheap, and disposable once you’ve abused them enough.
BONUS TIP: Lay down a sheet of freezer paper, plastic side up between your canvas and the pan. This keeps your platter extra clean, and you can slide the paper off between pours, allowing you to easily keep your acrylic skins!
11. Keeping your canvas or panel elevated is important! It allows extra paint to flow off freely and, more importantly, it allows air to circulate beneath the painting, helping it to cure more quickly and evenly. Push pins on the back of canvases do this beautifully! Add 4 pushpins to the wood at the back of the canvas to elevate your piece and promote airflow. The best part? You can push the pins in as little or as much as necessary to adjust the height, allowing you to make the substrate perfectly level!
BONUS TIP: You can also use a cookie cooling rack from the Dollar Store for the same purpose, which has the added bonus of providing a clean base to pick up and tilt. The drawback is that it isn’t as easy to adjust the levelness.
A catering platter and cooling rack make for a great pouring tray that can be reused!
12. Don’t skimp on metallic paints. The cheap shit doesn’t show through. Use liquid metal or add mica. In fact, stay away from cheap craft acrylics when possible because they are so low in pigmentation. If you must use the cheap crap, bolster it by adding some higher quality paint to add a little more pigment. In general, buy the best paints you can afford. When shopping, the levels of quality (from lowest to highest) are “Student”, “Studio” and “Artist” or “Professional” quality.
13. EXPERIMENT, EXPERIMENT, EXPERIMENT! Take good notes if you want to be able to consistently reproduce the same results piece after piece!