So, What Exactly Is Floetrol?
Floetrol is a medium. For those who aren’t familiar with paints and additives, a medium is something you add to your acrylic paints to make them easier to work with and to make them behave the way you want them to in your applications. Usually, the medium makes paint behave as if it’s been thinned, without you thinning it.
What does that mean, you ask? When you thin with water, you make paints runnier and easier to work with. However, by adding the water, you sacrifice the integrity of the paint so that the color is lessened and the acrylics lose their hold on your canvas.
That’s why we don’t recommend using more than a little water in your mixes (if any). A high-quality medium will give you the movement and longer drying time of thinned paint, but without losing any depth of color or hold.
Floetrol is generally used in house painting (that’s why it’s so cheap!). It’s often used for spraying paint since it makes paint smoother, more consistent, and less viscous. It’s also something that is frequently used when colors are mixed since it helps paint to keep a perfect consistency throughout.
All those characteristics make it ideal for acrylic pouring!
By improving both flow and leveling, Floetrol makes paint easier to work with. You can get those large cells more easily, even without an additional additive like silicone. And by improving flow, it makes pouring that much more interesting.
Flow improvement also helps the paint adhere to canvas more readily. That increases the staining properties of your materials, and it also slows down drying. The longer your paints take to dry, the more you can tweak and finesse your pours!
Perhaps most important, keeping the consistency of the paint even gives your pieces much longer lives. You won’t have to worry about colors separating or the finished piece drying to look different than the fresh, wet pour.
We’ve found in our experiments that Floetrol is also great for working with silicone since it helps to self-level any craters that might form on the surface. Of course, it won’t be able to help you if you use too much paint in the first place! Simply put, it plays nicely with other products, making it very versatile.
Do You Have to Use Floetrol, or Can You Use Another Brand’s Medium?
We actually recommend a few different mediums to new pourers. Some folks also have a preference for another brand, and so they don’t end up using Floetrol at all. Still, we think Floetrol is the best all-around medium on the market.
Why work with Floetrol in particular? For one thing, because it’s manufactured for large-scale use, it tends to be much less expensive than additives that are specifically formulated for crafters and artists. And functionally, it’s just as good to work with.
While it can seem important to stick with the arts and crafts brands when you’re starting out, most of us experienced pourers will search around to find the best balance of performance and price. Hence using Floetrol over some of the “art” brands!
If you eventually try some other mediums and find that one works better for you than Floetrol, that’s perfectly fine. As you’ll see if you check out various acrylic pouring blogs and YouTube channels, everyone has their tools of choice.
For every artist who swears by Floetrol, another is a diehard Liquitex fan! The key thing is to know how to use a medium to improve your results and to find one that works well in your own creative process.
Should I Use Another Medium in Addition?
When we recommend supplies for beginners, we usually recommend Floetrol and a Liquitex medium for the best results. That’s because most of us will use two or three different mediums and additives in each pour.
If you’re on a budget, though, or can’t be bothered, Floetrol covers all the basics by itself. As an expert pourer, you can certainly appreciate the combination of Liquitex and Floetrol. But when you’re starting out, the Floetrol by itself is functionally the same. As you become more experienced and start to tweak your formulas, you may find that you want to add something else to the mix.
If you’re comparing a few different products, it’s worth knowing that mediums come in a few different varieties:
Latex-based (what you want for acrylic pouring)
We like Floetrol because it does everything well! It binds to the paint for the perfect consistency. It doesn’t change the color or finish characteristics. It only tweaks how the paint flows and moves, so it won’t affect aging. In fact, its excellent aging integrity is a big difference between Floetrol and some other additives.
How to Use Floetrol
Floetrol is generally mixed with paints at a ratio somewhere between 20 and 50 percent. That’s quite a range, but we provide it as a general guideline since your ratios will vary slightly with each pour and each paint mixture.
When you start using Floetrol, you can try a few variations and see what feels best to you. Even among advanced pourers and experienced artists, folks use it quite differently.
Here’s a sample recipe to try, courtesy of Danny Clark’s awesome YouTube channel:
Floetrol (2 parts)
Distilled water (1 part; hard water and tap water with mineral content will act differently and change the way paint floats, so stick with distilled!)
Silicone (a few drops)
Acrylic paint (1 part)
You can find a walk-through demonstration of this recipe in the video below. It also has some additional tips you may find helpful.
After being told in high school that she was so bad at art that she should switch to another subject, Deby didn’t paint again for 35 years. Then a stroke released a new wave of creativity and she began exploring with dot painting, abstract and eventually acrylic pouring, and at last the joy of working with color returned.
You don’t need ‘talent’ to be an acrylic pouring artist – just enthusiasm, some basic instruction, and a willingness to try, fail and try again. Paint along with her and learn from her many mistakes, and you’ll soon make great art together.