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Acrylic Pouring Mania

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Have you ever tried acrylic pouring?

Acrylic pouring seems to be very popular.

And after having a go, I can see why.

If you don’t know what acrylic pouring is, have a look at my video over on YouTube

Once you watch my video, YouTube will come up with lots more suggestions for acrylic pouring videos as there are hundreds to choose from.

And there are many people over there who are brilliant at it.

As you will see, I am no expert yet but my video is worth a look if only to make you feel that anyone can do this!

acrylic pouring
What a ‘dirty cup’ looks like after a dirty pour.

What is acrylic pouring?

It is a process whereby acrylic paints are thinned with some kind of medium.

You can use PVA glue but a proper pouring medium is better.

Adding a pouring medium thins the paints to the point where they will pour in a fluid stream.

The paint is usually poured from a cup onto a canvas, tile or whatever substrate the artist is using.

There are various methods of doing acrylic pouring – I know this from hours spent transfixed watching people on YouTube.

I have learned terms such as ‘dirty cup’ and ‘dirty pour’ which appear to be the same thing.

It involves layering various colour paints in a large plastic cup, with additives like silicone or pure alcohol.

You then pour the ‘dirty cup’ onto a canvas or tile etc.

Then there is the ‘flip cup’ method of acrylic pouring which is what I used in my video.

Many of the acrylic pouring artists that I watch on YouTube talk about creating ‘cells’ in their paintings.

The creation of these cells seems to be quite random and caused by the addition of either silicone or alcohol to the paints.

Some of the artists have a more scientific approach and talk about the different densities of various colours which cause some to sink beneath others.

Therefore some artists have a method in their layering.

This is because they know how various colours will react according to their position in the layering order.

acrylic pouring
My very first ‘flip cup’ acrylic painting.

Fancy a go at acrylic pouring? Here is what you will need.

  • A space where you can make a big mess!
  • Some inexpensive acrylic paints, say three or four colours – (I don’t recommend you go for top brand names until you get the hang of this).
  • Some PVA glue or proper pouring medium
  • Some water to thin the glue but not too much.
  • Some silicone – such as tread mill lubricating silicone liquid. And/or…
  • Some 90% Alcohol.
  • A small canvas ( again, I don’t recommend going big or expensive at this stage).
  • Plenty of medium size plastic cups for mixing paints and PVA.
  • A larger plastic cup for layering the paint in.
  • A large aluminium tray or roasting pan (not to be used for food ever again!)
  • Wooden lolly/popsicle sticks for mixing.
  • A small plastic bottle to spray the silicone into if you use the spray can kind.
  • A face mask to protect lungs from sprayed silicone.
  • Rubber gloves because this gets VERY messy!
acrylic pouring

Acrylic Pouring – the Method.

I highly recommend watching a YouTube video for absolute beginners first.

By all means, watch mine (the link is above at the start).

But be aware, although I did get a reasonable painting, I screwed up by forgetting to thin the PVA.

I should ave done that before adding it to the paints.

The PVA should be thinned in a 2:1 ratio (two parts glue, one part water).

A couple of other things went wrong too and I am surprised I got any kind of result!

Instead of thinned PVA glue, you can use an acrylic medium especially made for thinning acrylics.

It’s definitely better to use acrylic pouring medium to maintain the intergrity of the paints.

However, if you are just starting out, try the thinned PVA first.

Acrylic pouring can be very expensive and disappointing results seem to be common for beginners.

Some people really seem to know how to manipulate acrylic pouring to get the most amazing abstract images with recognizable shapes in them.

But for many people, acrylic pouring seems to be quite a random affair which has the power to excite.

This is because abstract images will form on their own during the process.

So once you have thinned the PVA, you need to put about an inch of paint in the bottom of a plastic cup.

Then you gradually thin it with the PVA until it flows off a popsicle/lolly stick in a fluid stream.

Repeat this for all your colours.

Then add a few drops of silicone to each colour.

I used a spray silicone lubricant in a pressurised can.

SAFETY ALERT – do this step outside while wearing a proper chemical grade mask.

You MUST NOT breathe this stuff in.

You need to do this when there are no people or pets around.

I sprayed the silicone directly into a small plastic bottle, then I then used a dropper to drip some into my paints.

Then you need to use the wooden sticks to mix the silicone in.

But not too much or the cells (some people say) will be very tiny.

According to some artists, the less you mix the silicone, the bigger the cells – I don’t know how true that is.

It is a case of try it and see.

Once all your colours are mixed, it is time to pour them in layers in the bigger cup.

Then you take your canvas and either pour the contents of the ‘dirty cup’ over the canvas, or, do a ‘flip cup’.

This is where you place your canvas over the cup and flip it over so the cup is upside down with all the paint running down onto the canvas.

The cup is left in position for a few minutes and then you lift the cup up and away, leaving the paint to run over the canvas and do whatever it will.

Done with a flip cup and partial pour – quite muddy – a lot to learn!
Another try – still muddy – but I will soldier on and learn more.

Once the cup is flipped, it seems best to let the paint spread on its own.

However, quite often, there is not enough paint to flow right to the edges and drip down to perfectly cover the canvas sides.

When you watch the videos on YouTube, you will see people tilting the canvases to get the paint to run and cover the entire canvas.

I have see beautiful sections of many painting disappear over the edge in this quest to cover the entire  canvas and sides.

And this is why acrylic pouring can be incredibly expensive – you can waste large amounts of paint by tipping the canvas.

If a flip pour does not cover the canvas, you can combine it with a dirty pour to fill the gaps.

And if your attempts at acrylic pouring disappoint you – there is hope!

There are usually parts of an acrylic pour onto canvas you will like.

And these can be cut out and used in other projects.

In this post I talk about making stunning jewelry from disappointing acrylic pouring.

And in this post I show how to make beautiful journal covers.

Some people are doing a ‘negative space’ thing with acrylic pouring.

Search the term ‘acrylic pouring negative space’ on YouTube and you will see what is involved with that.

I hope this has given you the desire to go off and watch some videos and then give acrylic pouring a go.

It is really good fun and quite addictive!

If you do an pour and it comes out well, you want to do more.

If you do a pour and it comes out badly, you want to have another go straight away to conquer this beast!

Acrylic pouring is definitely an exciting way of painting that I will be exploring further.

BUT – as I said it can be wasteful and expensive.

And many artists are critical of this method because the paintings can lack intention and a focal point.

But it is fun for people who want to play around with paint.

Have you tried acrylic pouring and did it work for you?