acrylic pouring techniques

Acrylic Pouring Techniques: A Complete Guide for Fluid Artists

Acrylic pouring is an incredibly fun form of painting—watch as mesmerising colours swirl before you as you pour cups of vibrant colours onto the canvas. There are a multitude of different acrylic pouring techniques that allow artists to create a variety of effects. From dazzling cells to colours that spread across the canvas, lacing effects and more.

In this guide, discover the main acrylic pouring techniques for fluid artists. This includes puddle pour, flip cup, dirty pour, and swipe. Each technique is unique in its own way with many variations that can be explored to create beautiful abstract designs.

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Traditional pour

pouring paint

This is the most straight forward pour technique. Select a palette of colours for your painting and use separate pouring cups for each colour. When selecting a palette, think about which colours may harmonise or contrast with one another, depending on the effects you want to achieve.

Mix each acrylic pouring colour with a medium, to increase flow and extend the body of the paint. The medium could be Liquitex Pouring Medium, Golden Pouring Medium, or Floetrol, for example. Make sure to read the medium bottle to mix the correct ratio of paint to use with the medium. Alternatively, take a look at our acrylic pouring mediums guide to find out the quantities you can mix with each one. To achieve cells, add a couple of drops of silicone oil to each cup.

To create the pour painting, simply pour the colours where you want them to go. Choose to work on a wet base, by first applying a coat of white paint to the entirety of the canvas. Plan your composition first, or be completely spontaneous with your paint application. Interchange between different colours, interlacing them to gradually create flow patterns across the canvas. Use other pouring tools and supplies, like a palette knife to spread particular colours, or a straw to blow colours, to allow them to splay even further. Then use a heat gun to get rid of any air bubbles that may have appeared in the paint.

When you’ve poured the colours from your cups, tilt the canvas to cover the sides and edges. If you still have gaps on the corners or edges of your painting, use a palette knife to fill in the bare sections.

Puddle pour

The Puddle Pour technique is a classic acrylic pouring technique that can create stunning abstract paintings with rich layers of circle effects.

To create a painting with the puddle acrylic pouring technique, first choose the colours of fluid acrylics you want to use in your painting and pour each individual colour into separate cups. Then mix each colour with the pouring medium according to the manufacturer’s instructions until they reach a fluid, even texture.

Starting with your first colour cup, pour a small amount directly onto the center of the painting surface. Keep layering your additional colors on top of each other by pouring the next colour onto the previous one. Tilt the painting surface in different directions to create additional movement or to thin out the layers of paint.

Be careful not to overwork the paint, which can lead to an unappealing muddy effect on the painting surface. Also, make sure to use a level surface to pour the paint to ensure that it will be even.

Dirty pour

The dirty pour technique, also called the straight pour, can be used to create incredible marbling effects. It’s a great option for artists who are just starting out with this type of art form and want to explore different ways to create depth, and movement in their paintings.

Mix your paint with the pouring medium until you get a creamy consistency like runny cream. If necessary, add more of one or both ingredients until it reaches the desired vibrancy and consistency.

Then pour multiple colours into a larger cup. You can pour a little of each at a time. Once ready, slowly pour out onto the canvas while tilting it if necessary so that each colour has time to move around and blend as you’d like them to do before they dry up completely.

If desired, use a tool such as a palette knife to move around some of the paint and create new swirl patterns or textures before letting it dry completely. Finally, if you’ve used silicone oil in your mixes, don’t forget to use a heat gun to get rid of those air bubbles!

Flip cup pour

The flip cup pour is an acrylic pouring technique that can create beautiful swirling, that are both unpredictable and aesthetically pleasing.

To start, mix your paint with the pouring medium, using one cup per colour. Then, to perform the flip cup pour technique, pour your mixture of colours into one cup. Pour a little of each colour at a time. Think about the order that you pour the colours into the cup, as the colours next to one another will swirl and blend.

If you choose, you can leave a little of one of the colours over. You can then use this to cover the sides if there are any gaps after you’ve finished your pour. Of course, just like with any of these acrylic pouring techniques, add silicone to create cells in your artwork.

Once all the colours are in the larger cup, place the canvas on top of the cup, aligning it with the centre. Then, holding both the cup and canvas firmly together, flip them upside down.

You can leave the cup on the canvas to allow the paint to settle, before lifting the cup to release the colours. The cup may move a little with the flow of paint coming through the sides.

Get creative and customise this technique however, you want. For instance, before you flip the cup over, you could pour additional colours over the canvas. This is so that the paint in the cup blends into the ones on the canvas. Remove the cup to release the colours, then tilt the canvas to make the colours reach the edges. Finally, once it’s dry and complete, seal your painting using Liquitex Polymer Varnish if required.

Swipe acrylic pouring technique

The swipe technique involves laying colours down on the canvas, then using an instrument, like a large palette knife, a squeegee, Catalyst Wedge or even a piece of cardboard to ‘swipe’ and drag the paint across the canvas. There are multiple ways you can approach this technique. For example, you could apply the colours first using the traditional pouring method, or by using the straight or ‘dirty’ pouring method.

When the colours are on the canvas, use your swiping tool to move the colours around. This could be in one big swipe, or by manipulating individual colours to expand them and make them flow in unique ways! Plus, the results that can be achieved with silicone oil and this technique are incredible. This is because silicone oil naturally sinks to the bottom of the paint, so using a utensil to drag the paint will encourage the silicone to rise to the top, therefore releasing fantastic cell shapes and patterns.

Dutch Pour

The Dutch pour, is one of the most exciting acrylic pouring techniques that can yield some of the most fascinating results. The premise of this method, is to use air to move the colours around the canvas. Whether you use a straw, a mini air blower with a compressor or a hairdryer, you can use the air to move your paint and create some beautiful, captivating pieces of art.

First, mix fluid paints into individual cups and mix with a pouring medium and water until you reach a consistency that resembles heavy cream. Optionally add in some silicone oil, to create cell effects.

Then, cover the canvas by pouring the colours where you want them. You can layer the colours in lines, puddles, or however you want! The final step is to use your air blowing tool to move the colour around. In order to enhance the way colours splay and spread in interesting patterns on the canvas, pour a base of pure white to cover the canvas before pouring the colours on. Plus, if you’re using silicone oil, make sure to get rid of those bubbles with a heat gun before proceeding to blow air on the canvas.

If you’re using a hairdryer, try to use it on a lower speed setting at first, especially if you’re working on a smaller canvas. This is prevent colours from moving around too fast. If you’re using a straw to blow colours, it may take a while if you’re working on an extra large canvas.

Create cells in your acrylic pour painting

Cells are one of the most interesting aspects of acrylic pour paintings. They are characterised by small or large circular shapes in which the paint colour breaks and reveal the underlying layer of colors. The beauty of cells is that they create a texture, pattern and depth within the painting.

To create cells in acrylic pour paintings, silicone oil is added to the paint and pouring medium. The oil creates surface tension that pushes against the paint and medium. This creates cells as the paint and medium mixture dries.

As a rule of thumb, use up to 3 drops of silicone oil mixed into approximately 30 mL of paint and medium. However, using too much silicone oil can make the cells too small and cramped.

Different types of silicone oil can produce different cell patterns. Some artists prefer to work with dimethicone, while others may use coconut hair serum or some other types of lubricants.

Additionally, cells can be enhanced using a torch or heat gun to increase the surface tension of the mixture. Swiping with a palette knife can also create interesting patterns.

Other factors that can affect cell formation include the consistency of the paint and the amount the silicone has been mixed in the paint and medium mixture. More mixing will result in smaller cells. Pouring in a circular motion or creating a lattice pattern can also encourage cell development.

Ribbon pour

The ribbon pour technique, is another freestyle technique. Mix fluid colours in individual cups, then pour each colour in a larger cup, one by one.

Drizzle the colours across the canvas in a zigzag pattern, like a ribbon twisting from side to side. You can optionally pour a heavy colour on the canvas first, to create a wet base, like titanium white.

Use a heat gun to pop any bubbles and tilt the wet canvas so that the paint covers all the edges. This is a fun technique to use when you don’t want any cells, but you can use a few drops of silicone oil in the colours if you do want cells.

String pulling acrylic pouring technique

For this technique, you’ll need some thick string! Jute or cotton works best. Mix your chosen colours in their individual cups with a medium and optionally coat your canvas with a single colour.

Then, place your string on a piece of foil or plastic wrap and pour the colours over the string to completely coat it, creating swirling patterns. Pick up the string and hold it over the canvas, then slowly drag it across your canvas to create a marbling effect. This is an awesome technique for creating petal and flower designs. Make sure to wear gloves when creating string pull pour paintings, as it can get quite messy.

Strainer pour

To create amazing peacock feather designs across the canvas, use a sink strainer. This strainer technique works by first mixing colours and medium in individual cups, then pouring these colours in a large jug. Place the sink strainer in the middle of the canvas and start pouring the rainbow of colour mixes through.

Watch the magic unfold as the colours blend together and cascade down your canvas like a peacock’s tail. For extra cells, you can use silicone oil in the mix.

Finish the painting off by tilting the canvas to cover the edges and using the heat gun over the surface to pop any air bubbles. You can also fill in the edges with extra paint leftover that you didn’t use in the pour.