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The Acrylic Pour Swipe

The acrylic pour swipe, also called swiping can be used for a variety of reasons. Some artists do nothing but swiping as they enjoy the diversity it provides, others may use it to highlight and define a specific area, create a form—or the illusion of a form and of course there is always the cover up. This article will focus on how to do your initial swipe with tips along the way to help you avoid common stumbling blocks and misconceptions.

Supplies I Used:

Key Components in All Swipe Techniques

A typical swipe has two or more colors, including paints with varied density. This weight variance can easily be obtained with the use of white from most brands of acrylic paint, in particular Titanium White or in the case of this pour, Happy Medium Paint Ready to Pour, Pure White. This heavier weight tends to sink to the bottom of the paints, settling directly on the canvas, which aides in the creation of cells.

The swiping tool you choose will determine the type of swipe you create, and the width of surface area each swipe covers. A swipe can be created through a variety of everyday items such as a damp paper towel (which is used in this pour example), artist spatulas, your hand, fingers, stir sticks, plastic wrap or scraps, or even silicone makeup pads—just to name a few.

On my first swipe I used my hand—and literally left bare canvas holes everywhere on the painting. Yes, I literally wiped off the paint. Looked like a monkey manhandled my pour! I seriously thought the videos showed them taking the paint off when they swiped. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. So if you tried your first swipe and didn’t obtain the results you hoped for, don’t worry; been there—done that.

Lighter than Air

I finally figured out my problem was I continuously used too much pressure. I wanted to manipulate the swipe, and when I tried, all I would do is leave holes with the canvas showing through. I adopted the mantra “Lighter than Air.”

This lighter touch was the hardest skill for me to master. I practiced with inexpensive and leftover paints on old canvases; and even practiced with run off paints before I finally could perform a credible swipe. Each time I’d want to use a new tool I’d go into practice mode again. If I’m not paying attention, the monkey swipe still happens and I pull paint off canvas! Hence the need for the mantra “Lighter than Air” —it keeps me focused.

Pic 2 Zen Monkey

Now, I have a small container where I keep my swiping tools labeled “Lighter than Air.” You don’t want to push or pull the paint, but rather just lightly float across the top with your swiping tool. You may want to practice on a few smaller pieces before you try this on a larger piece.

How to Create a Basic Swipe

For the swiping example, I am utilizing something almost everyone has available—the paper towel. This will be a swipe on negative space, basically all that means is I’m swiping on a portion of the canvas, and I’ll have solid color borders.

Tip: Do not tear your paper towel, if you want a smaller strip, cut it with scissors to prevent unwanted particles in your painting.

No mixed pour cup needed for this simple swipe, you’ll be pouring individual colors from separate cups.
To keep it simple I’ve only used three individual colors:

Happy Medium Paint Ready to Pour Pure White (two ounces) Brand is already pre-mixed, no silicone.
Liquitex Basics Cadmium Yellow—Paint:Floetrol 1:3 ratio, (half an ounce, once mixed) add two drops of silicone.

Art Advantage Phthalo Blue—Paint:Floetrol 1:3 ratio, (half an ounce, once mixed) add two drops of silicone.

Tip: I mix my paints in silicone or glass cups, and then transfer them into plastic squeeze bottles or paper cups so I have additional control as I pour smaller amounts and/or thinner lines. The rim of the paper cup can be pinched creating a simple spout to aide in line pours.

Pic 3 Pinched cup

Warning: Mixing your paint and Floetrol in the wax coated paper cup can create floaters in your painting; and trying to mix in the bottle may leave you with lumps or an inconsistent color when dry. Only use them once you have your paints mixed.

The Pour

Cover entire Canvas Board in a thin layer of white; including the sides of the canvas, approximately one and a half ounces of paint.

While the canvas is still wet, layer the center of the canvas with all yellow and blue paints in random lines, waves, circles, puddles, etc. You can create a pattern, variation in colors, or go completely random as I have done.

I added white (a quarter of an ounce) along the top edge of my blue and yellow section, and a few random lines of white, just to make sure there is a consistent amount of paint throughout the middle section.

Pic 4 Paint applied

The Swipe

Lightly dampen one sheet of your paper towel. I usually use a spray bottle with water. I wanted a three inch swipe, so I folded it over, but you could also cut a three inch strip from your towel.

Note: If you want to swipe the entire canvas, use the full edge of paper towel.

It’s time to get in the zone, and remember “Lighter than Air.” Using an ultra light touch, lay damp paper towel on the canvas edge (about half an inch of towel only) over the white puddle on the edge and slowly pull straight across the canvas. Do not lift the towel; instead keep moving across in one solid motion—edge to edge.

Pic 5 Towel placementPic 6 After the swipe

Now to get rid of the bubbles and help with cell formation, quickly pass a torch over entire painting. Note: This should never be more than 1-2 seconds on any small painting.


Be careful to look at your painting so you know which areas you really want to keep and which you don’t mind sliding off the sides. Be patient and allow your paint and gravity to do the work for you.
Because this is a negative space painting, I wasn’t trying to cover the entire canvas. I tilted a little towards each side, but mostly top to bottom so that the swipe stayed in the middle of my canvas.
After one final pass with the torch, I walked away and let it continue to do its own thing.

Featured ImagePic 1 Final

Remember to practice prior to swiping on something you really care about, or may want to sell. The swipe can be intimidating and frustrating at times, but well worth the time and energy to master it.

14 thoughts on “The Acrylic Pour Swipe”

  1. Mª Dolores Márquez

    Es una lástima que comience en español el texto y luego al intentar leer mas ya sea en inglés y por ello me es difícil comprender todo lo que escribe, mis conocimientos del inglés, son escasos y el libro está en inglés,al no haber en el mercado en mi idioma, se puede decir que apenas podría recopilar la importante información, el precio del libro es un regalo , sin embargo, por los motivos mencionados, no lo compro, no obstante quiero agradecer todos los vídeos que veo, la considero una gran artista y sobre todo me encanta la combinación de colores, dato muy importante para conseguir esos resultados de su obra tan geniales y bellos. Muchas gracias por darnos a conocer sus obras,
    que son todas magnificas

    1. Tina Swearingen

      M, I’m not sure which post you were replying to as I don’t mention a book on my post. On behalf of all acrylicpouring.com writers, thank you for your comments. We love feedback. This let’s us know how we are doing as writers and where we can improve.
      Again thank you. Tina

  2. I am an art facilitator for artists with disabilities, we use sheets of laminated paper (recycled/oops copies) and lay it wherever they want to swipe, get a nice even “suction” on the paint and pull, straight back.. so if they are pulling higher, I’ll light the canvas so it’s parallel with the canvas and pulls away evenly in whatever direction they choose.. this is been a huge help with those heavy handed artists.. I just tell them to let it float across the top 👍🏼 We have not tried the damp paper towel, but have yet to fail with laminated paper 😍

    1. Tina Swearingen

      Hi Vicky, thank you for your work with individuals with disabilities. I hadn’t heard of laminated sheets, but I’ve used overhead projector sheets in the past. If something works for you, go for it 😉

  3. I’m loving all the tutorials on the varied types of pours! Have been looking at all these great instructions for quite some time now & finally today done my first “little” flip cup pour! So excited, not the best,I think I used too many colours for a tiny canvas, but will keep working on them& it will eventually come, I’m sure! Haven’t tried a swipe yet, but sure plan to! I’m no quitter, so plan to be watching you all for a long time! Thanks so much for all the info.!Happy Pouring/ Swipping!!

    1. Tina Swearingen

      Suzette, thank you do much for the kind words. Please continue to try. The one suggestion I have is try with 4 colors only for your first couple of paintings, it does make a huge difference. You’ll get there, it’s so worth the effort. Do a few more practice paintings, and keep notes on what worked and what didn’t; then adjust your next painting according to what you’ve learned. 🙂

  4. Got an email with links to The Pour Saving Gravity Swipe
    by Tina Swearingen. However, that link does not work. Where can I access it? I was really interested in the technique.

  5. Tina
    I’m relatively new to acrylic pouring. Your work is awesome. Would it be possible for me to send some questions to you by email?

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