Even if you aren’t searching out new art techniques, you’ve probably seen paintings created using “acrylic-pouring,” which is also known as liquid art or fluid art. By pouring paint instead of applying it with brushstrokes to a canvas, paintings become flowing, complex, and practically psychedelic. It’s like tie-dye or something you’d see under a microscope. How are artists creating these effects?
What is acrylic pouring?
Pouring acrylics mixed with a thinning medium onto a canvas from a plastic cup is a fantastic way to generate effects like marble, glazes, and more. The secret is that the colors flow wherever they want; the artist has limited control. Every painting is different, even if the exact same colors are used. The technique has become popular in recent years because it’s not only beautiful, it’s very easy. You don’t need to have fancy brushes or even fancy paint to create unique and professional-looking pieces. If you’ve always wanted to try abstract-painting, but have no idea what you’re doing, acrylic-pouring is the way to go.
There aren’t really “rules” for acrylic pouring as long as you’re using the right supplies (which we’ll cover a bit later), but there are techniques that get you different effects. Before starting, you should know about the straight pour, dirty pour, dripping, and creating cells.
This is when you just pour one color onto your canvas and tilt the canvas around to create lines, shapes, and more. You can also use wooden sticks to manipulate the paint in a more controlled way. You wait for that layer to dry before moving to the next one.
With the dirty pour, you add more than one color into a plastic cup, and then pour it on your canvas. The idea is that the paints do not blend together into one, so they can’t be too runny. Take a look at the video to see a dirty pour in action.
Want a bit more control over your paint and smaller lines or dots of color? Mix more of your pouring medium into the paint to thin it out. Cut a small hole in the bottom of your plastic cup, fill with thinned paint, and move it around. You can also use a liquid dropper and stud the canvas with whatever colors you want.
One of the coolest effects in acrylic-pouring is cell creation, which is what makes paintings look like agate stones or microscopic images. You get that effect by mixing a specific ratio of a substance like alcohol into the paint. As you pour this mixture onto your canvas, the alcohol evaporates from the paint, creating those cells.
Curious about acrylic-pouring? Let’s go through what you’ll need:
- A clean, cool, dry work area
- Plastic sheeting to protect your floors
- Canvas (a sealed panel is best, or you can prep a normal stretched canvas with gesso)
- Fluid acrylic paints (Golden Fluid Acrylics or Liquitex Soft Body Acrylics have great color and will last)
- A painting medium (you need to add something other than water to your paints to get the best results; Liquitex Professional Pouring Medium or GAC 800 are popular)
- Pure silicone oil to create cells (like Demco Acrylic Silicone Oil)
Once you have your supplies and your work area is properly cleaned and protected, you’re ready to go! Spend some time making sure your paint to medium to oil ratios are right. In general, the ratio of paint to medium should be about 1: 2.5 if you’re using student-grade paint, while artist-grade paint needs 1: 5-7. If you look around the web, you’ll see different ratios, so start on the cautious side to see if it’s what you want. To flow properly, your paint+medium mixture should have the consistency of warm honey. For silicone oil, if you want cells in the piece, you only need a drop no matter what kind of paint or medium you’re using. With the paint mixture now prepped, get to pouring! For acrylic-pouring inspiration, check out Instagram. There are countless artists out there sharing their work and techniques.
Pouring with acrylic creates unique artwork, but did you know that some artists use fire in their pieces?