13 Hacks and Tips for Pouring Acrylics

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.20170704_233730

(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.

hacks_phonebag

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!

hacks_pressnseal

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!

hacks_crazing

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.

hacks_rackplate

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.hacks_metallic.jpg

13. EXPERIMENT, EXPERIMENT, EXPERIMENT! Take good notes if you want to be able to consistently reproduce the same results piece after piece!

78 thoughts on “13 Hacks and Tips for Pouring Acrylics

  1. Great tips! Others may note to that for a budget friendly pouring bin – head to your local store that carries plastic bins or totes. I found a 18x24x8 plastic bin (Home Depot $5) that is perfect for pouring. It also stays level, where as the aluminum trays may not. I place a bakers cooling rack across the top to hold the canvas. Rinses out beautifully and no need to keep buying trays.

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  2. Love the piece, and the break down of the ingredients as well.

    I have been experimenting with pouring, I am using Glue All, and Floetrol as a medium. I had the first couple of projects come out beautifully, but after they dried I lost all color and faded almost black!

    What did I do wrong?

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  3. HI…i have a few questions and I can’t seem to find anyone with answers 🙂 Maybe you can help. On a good pour, like the one’s you have on your post, about how long does it take to dry? And how long does it usually take until you can put a glaze on it to get it “gallery” ready? Just one more question i promise…the gallery that wants to see some of my work once i start (I already have my photography in galleries) want unframed prints to sell so the buyer can choose their own frames. So here’s my question: i see dripping all down the back of paintings i’ve been looking at on youtube and besides tape i’m trying to figure out a way to not get any paint past the sides so they will have the clean back the galleries want. Any suggestions? Thank you!

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    • Hi Pat! I generally leave my paintings to dry flat as long as possible, but at least 2-3 days. You want to make sure the canvas is elevated on cups, a cooling rack or pushpins so that there’s good airflow underneath the piece as well, which will help it dry quicker and more evenly.

      There’s a lot of variables (ambient temperature/humidity, paint viscosity etc), but my rule is “dry to the touch plus a day” before testing an inconspicuous place with a poke of my fingernail before moving it to a vertical position, then a few more days until I’m comfortable leaning them against each other. It’s also going to depend on the thickness of the paint to begin with. I have pieces that have taken 24 hours and some that have taken almost a week to fully cure. When it’s fully hardened to the fingernail test, clean off any silicone before sealing. I really prefer a spray sealer for a brushless finish, and it’s less likely to get messed up by any residual silicone.

      It sounds like what the gallery is asking for when they say “prints” are printed reproductions, usually on 8×10, 11×14 or 11×17 cardstock (I use 100lb or 110lb weight). Honestly, prints are where I make the majority of my money at galleries and shows. I price mine at $10 each or 3/$20.

      I’ve never tried to keep clean sides because I really like the overflow look. You may want to contact the gallery regarding HOW they hang their pieces. You have a few options:
      1) Gesso the back and attach hardware and felt pads to the corners to protect walls.
      2) The most professional way lets you get away with having a messy back anyway ;). I cover the back of mine with brown paper dust cover, then attach any hardware. I may do a tutorial on this topic some day, but in the meantime, maybe this link will be helpful. Good luck to you!! 😀

      http://www.artistsnetwork.com/medium/pastel/picture-framing-tips

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      • Wow! So many great tips! Thank you! I feel much more confident now going forward! When you say ” remove the silicone” how do I do that? God Bless the Artist!

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  4. There are as many ways to remove silicone as there are artists out there, lol. Popular methods include isopropyl alcohol, dish soap or cornstarch. Personally, I give it a once-over with alcohol, give it a few more days and wipe it down again before sealing. Some people go MENTAL trying to get all the silicone off, but a) I think some people forget the paint they use is just glossy lol and b) It really doesn’t matter when you’re using a spray sealant. That’s just my humble and somewhat unpopular opinion, haha

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    • Sure! What I usually do is pour off some of the glue in a gallon of Glue-All and put it aside in another container. Then I add the water directly to the glue jug, with a bit of GAC800 or Floetrol for good measure. Just be sure to shake the living daylights out of it before you use it! 🙂

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  5. Thank you VERY VERY much for a detailed explanation in writing. For crying out loud- I spent a week watching videos and made only a mess! I learned more in the 5-10min it took me to read your instructions than anything else I saw. I now have way more confidence in these techniques. I will never waste time like that again!!(hopefully-lol) thanks a mil

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    • What a lovely compliment! Thank you so much and congrats on your new confidence! I’m happy you found so much useful information in this post. I know how frustrating it can be to wade through all the info out there. Glad I was able to distill it down into something useful! ❤

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  6. Totally blown away with this medium and can’t wait to stop reading and start pouring!! I need to keep costs down for a variety of reasons so….I have read about using masonite ( I LOVE the round paintings I have seen) and am wondering if masonite cake rounds would work? They are considerably cheaper than the ones sold in art supply stores. ANy thoughts? BTW – your explanations and ART are great and gorgeous!

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    • That’s a great question (and thanks for your kind words!). I don’t see why masonite would be a problem, though I’ve never tried it myself. Just be sure to prime it REALLY well with a few coats of primer or gesso, otherwise it may take on too much moisture from the paint and wind up warping. That would really be the only downside I would see. Good luck, and if you get a chance, be sure to let us know how it worked out for you!

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  7. Hello, I am new to this and my daughter wants to have this be an activity at her birthday party. I would like to utilize the alcohol mixture but curious where you state pouring medium. Can I use floetrol for the pouring medium? Just wondering as in the paint mixture number one you actually state floetrol but in paint mixture two you just saw pouring medium.

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    • Hi Sherry! Honestly, for a group of beginners, I would maybe avoid the alcohol version. I think everyone would get the best results (and it would be a lot cheaper) to use the very first recipe utilizing the Elmer’s Glue-All and distilled water and then using a basic silicone spray to promote cells instead of alcohol. You CAN add Floetrol to it if you want, but it’s not necessary. 🙂

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      • Ok – I already have a bottle of floetrol and I had planned on adding acrylic craft paint (basic Craftsmart from Michaels) and alcohol to it, but you recommend using the very first recipe utilizing the glueall-water-silicone and then add the acrylic craft paint to that. So, my next questions are:
        1. What ratio of the acrylic paint to add to the 2 parts glue all & 1 part water?
        2. My floetrol is unopened so I could return it- but you also stated right before the recipes that you can use Floetrol alone for a fraction of the cost of pouring medium. So, should I use paint Mixture Ratio #1 or would I get the best results with DIY Pouring medium recipe?
        2a. How much of the basic craft acrylic paint to use for Paint Mixture Ratio #1? I really don’t know what ‘fluid acrylics means’ – really don’t know much about art at all!
        Thanks for your patience!

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      • Yes, you can absolutely use floetrol alone as a pouring medium! I guess it would depend on how many people you’re talking about and how big the canvases are. For a very large group or to have more on hand in the future, the Glue-All is definitely the more economical choice, as you can get it by the gallon, then thin it out as much as you need so it lasts forever. Floetrol, on the other hand, is ready-to-pour, so the bottle doesn’t go as far. Like the difference between condensed and cooked soup, haha. 🙂

        If you’re going to use craft paints, I would DEFINITELY use the silicone instead of alcohol method. Craft paint has a low amount of pigment in it, and alcohol can cause the paint to kind of separate from its medium. Head a few rows over to the artist paint aisle and pick up a few tubes of Artist Loft student acrylic paints. Get a a big one of white (you’ll use it the most by far), and grab a mix pack of colors with one of their 40% off coupons and you’re all set. It will be a little more expensive, but results will be more reliable.

        For your purposes, I wouldn’t worry about fluid acrylics. They are highly pigmented artists paints that come in tiny bottles, are super expensive and definitely more than you should worry about fo a birthday party activity, lol!

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  8. Hi there, I bought some house paint (sateen finish) for the negative space on my first pour 🙂 – do I need to mix the paint with water or I can use the clear paint? thanks

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    • Hi Sara! I’m not sure what you mean by the “clear paint”. Do you mean pouring medium? If so, you should be able to thin it with water, but Floetrol would also be very helpful. This being said, I have never personally used house paint, but I am about to for a bathroom project. Maybe even today!

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  9. Thank you so much!! Did my first real test pour today and got cells. I’m really excited about this acrylic pour painting. I’m so addicted!! Good bless you and happy pouring!!
    Karin Tolbert

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  10. Hi Kat, thank you for your advice. I have a question, I have made my own pouring medium with PVA glue, acrylic medium gloss, pouring medium, distilled water and floetrol (although when I have used up all these ingredients I might just use floetrol in future) and I’m not sure how much paint to pouring medium I should use? 50%-50%? With high flow acrylics? And would it be the same with student or artist acrylics? And is methylated spirits the same as isopropyl alcohol? I’m from Australia. Sorry, that was more than one question 🙂
    Judy

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    • I read everyone’s comments and am more confused than ever. Would you mind starting from the beginning and clearly stating how much of each ingredient goes in each cup? (And what you can substitute for what.)
      Right now, all I am sure of, is there is a paint cup and another cup with Alcohol or silicone to create cells and at some point you pour them both together before adding to the canvas. Thank you! 🙂

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    • Hi Judy!
      The amount of paint to pouring medium is going to vary greatly. In this respect, I’ve found it’s much better to really judge each paint individually. Each brand and type of paint is going to have different levels of pigmentation and viscosity. Artist acrylics are going to be richer, creamier and more highly pigmented than student acrylics, so you’ll need more medium and/or water to thin them our to a pourable consistency.

      High Flow acrylics, on the other hand, are generally the most pigmented, but also the least viscous. They’re basically like ink. With these you may need to adjust the the thickness of your mixture by adding a little more Floetrol to thicken it up a bit.

      As far as the alcohol goes, basically all isopropyl alcohol is methylated, but not all methylated is isopropyl. I’ve never dug tooooo deeply into it myself, as I personally much prefer silicone, but I found a few links that may help you out on this one:

      Description of the difference between them: https://ecolink.com/info/denatured-alcohol-vs-rubbing-alcohol/
      A good thread of other artists discussing its use: http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-329720.html

      Hope this helps!

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  11. “you can use Floetrol alone for a fraction of the cost of pouring medium….”

    Yeah, right – flowtrol is £25 per litre here!

    Plain old pva glue is £11 for 5L. 66:33 with water and it’s SO much cheaper than flowtrol.

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  12. Hi Kat, I’ve used the house paint for the negative space on my painting and it looks lovely, however there are a few bubbles so not sure how to avoid them next time I pour?
    I have a friend who wants to buy that painting, I did use a few drops of silicone, is it enough only to spray sealant now because the painting is completely dry – I mean I don’t need to “clean” the painting prior to using a spray sealant ? – there are some comments earlier about the cleaning the silicone 🙂 Thanks

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    • Hi Sara! Thanks for the comment! Bubbles often form when air gets trapped in the paint while stirring or shaking. You can mitigate them a bit by tapping the bottom of the cup on the table a few times to dislodge any air pockets before pouring. You can also leave them to sit a few minutes to give the bubbles a bit to rise to the top. Sometimes you can do a very quick pass-over with a lighter or torch to bring them to the surface once it’s poured.

      As for cleaning off the silicone. I would give it quick wipe down with alcohol or a damp cloth, but I wouldn’t worry too much about it when using spray. Some people OBSESS about getting every single drop off, but that’s really not necessary unless you’re sealing it with resin. 🙂

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  13. This was so much fun and when I first got the goodness on my tiles it looked awesome but than my cells shrunk. There is still some but not big like they were at first. Can you help me understand what I did wrong or what else I need to do? I used 1 part glue all, 1 part paint and 2 parts flowtrol and a spray of silicone and it looked so cool. I mean really but now that it’s drying which I think will take days the cells are just so much smaller. Maybe just try 1 part everything, but wanted your opinion too.
    Thank you so much for your information, this is so new to me but so COOL!!
    Blessings!

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  14. Hey Kat! My name is Gabi and for my final art project in school I am doing cup acrylic pouring, I started searching for recipes and different methods I could use and I got very confused! From what I understood from what you wrote all I need is a pouring medium mixed with water and acrylic? Can you please tell me what you use now? I did try a few just water mixed woth acrylic paind and it did come out very nice but no cells… I guess thats what the pouring medium will give you right? So if I use floetrol/pouribg medium/water mixed with acrylic am I going to have cells? Thank you in advance 🙂 ( and sorry for my english… it isn’t the best I know..)

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    • Hi Gabi! What a cool project!
      While a lot of people have great results without, the secret ingredient that will give you the cells you’re looking for is a few drops of silicone in each. 😉

      Also, a big part of it is the order in which you layer your paints in the cup! You want to layer in order of heaviest (titanium or zinc white) to lightest (yellows and neons). Here is a great list to show you the heaviness of each color, from lightest to heaviest. When preparing your cup, start with colors at the bottom of the list first (white base), adding color in order as you work your way up the list to yellow.

      This list is specific to Golden brand, but applies to other brands as well. Hopefully this helps, and please let me know if you have any more questions! Good luck!
      http://www.goldenpaints.com/admin/image/get_assets/density-of-pigments-used-in-golden-acrylic-colors.pdf

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  15. So, you know how in cartoons they frequently show someone’s head exploding (like ➡️ 🤯). That is how I was feeling with all the overwhelming amount of options and unclear opinions of artists who try to “explain” their recipes. I haven’t had any motivation to pour recently because the last three projects I did turned out terrible! 😩 The first one I ever did is still my best! So after reading this I finally felt like my blown mind went into reverse/rewind. it all came back together in an organized, truly simple way and unscathed 🤩 YAY! Thank you SO MUCH for writing this. I think you saved me sanity. 😋💋
    ~Lauren from Oregon~

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    • YAY!! The information out there can be totally overwhelming and contradictory. I wrote this piece because I felt like you when I started and wanted to distill the process down to the essentials. Good luck with your new pieces!!

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  16. What great information you’ve provided! I did my first acrylic pour yesterday. Loved it! But when I checked my canvas board pieces this morning, they were all cracked. I was researching why and found this article. Thank you for providing these very helpful recommendations. I’m back to the canvas better informed!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Hi! I am brand new, after being fascinated on youtube for a few days. I did first pour Saturday and let’s call it a learning experience. Anyway, I just assumed that a fan circulating air in the smallish room would be a good thing to help it dry, but your advice is the opposite. Thanks! I will turn off the fan immediately, and only run it when I am in the room actually creating. Thanks for the tips! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Curious…in one of your replys to a question, you speak of “printed reproductions” on heavy weight stock. What does that entail? How can I make a printed reproductions of one of my fluids?
    Best info. on working with fluids. Thank you!!

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  19. Great article! I’m wondering if you can give me some advice – I’ve got what I think is an acrylic pour painting on canvas (given to me as a present 7 years ago). It’s been fine for ages, but I’ve recently moved house and in the move it has developed some very large cracks. Is there any way to repair these cracks or if not, is it possible to stop them getting bigger? Or is there nothing I can do?

    Thanks,

    Hannah

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    • Hmmm, good question. There’s no way to actually repair the cracks like new, but what a lot of fluid artists do is use liquid gold. The Japanese practice a tradition called Kintsugi, which is “the art of repair”. They use gold or silver to mend pottery and ceramics, treating the result as part of the piece, part of its history. (See https://kenchawkin.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/kintsugi.jpg)

      You can do much the same with poured art and liquid gold leaf or metallic gold paint. Use a small brush to get the gold right down in the cracks, then wipe away any excess of the surface. Obviously it won’t look the same as before, but hopefully it can even improve it! Embrace the Wabi Sabi!

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  21. Thanks so much for the helpful info . I just did my first set of acrylic pours and I have one question. Why does it look like there is a thicker layer on top. I did move it around to let it drip off the sides but now that it is drying it looks like there is an extra layer on top. Any thoughts on this?

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  22. Ok so now that these 1st time creations have dried over night, a few of them lost all their detail and darkened. Each one was mixed by a different person and contain different colors. I am thinking that the ones that darkened use on 3 colors an did not include any white or enough contrast. I’m a newbie so it’s just speculation. Thank in advance for your expertise ; )

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  23. Thanks so much! You laid out the basics and have a great wit and sense of humor! I’ve read about a million blogs and posts…. and this was the first one that I didn’t need to reread! So perfectly simply explained! Thanks again! And you get an extra star for saying shit!! Love that!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Great tips thanks. It was also fun to read, I just love your wording. My grammar is just about the same. Say what you mean and mean what you say and and be direct. Cracked me up.

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  25. This was so helpful thank you so so much because I knew Within Myself it was more to it than what they were showing on some of those YouTubers I appreciate you be blessed stay blessed

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  26. Thanks Kat for all of your advice. I have been obsessed with pouring for couple of mo. now. I have painted landscape. Oil as my medium for twenty years. It’s all of the hacks and techniques that has made me a pretty good artist. Thanks for the breakdown. And your sense of humor. Kat Hill

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  27. After months of trying & getting dismal results you have given me crazy, bright & cell-filled results in the space of an afternoon!

    You’re tips have helped immensely with what hours of YouTube videos simply brushed over.

    BIG thanks hugely!

    Keep up the great work & let paint flow!

    Mitch

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    • Generally I’m a HUGE fan of Rustoleum Triple-Glaze spray, but it takes a few days for the smell to dissipate from the surface. If it is for a more professional piece, you could really use any artist-grade varnish you like. Some people, like me, love a high-gloss, plasticine look, but others like semi-gloss, satin or matte. No matter the finish, I do really prefer spray-can sealants though because there is zero chance of brush marks in your varnish. Hope this helps!

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  28. hey…. I live in India and Elmers glue-all is not available… any ideas of an alternative? what is it that makes it different from regular school glue?

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