Consistency is key: how many times have you heard this phrase throughout your life? Consistency in acrylic pouring comes down to the ratios you’re using for your paint and medium. What those ratios are depends on what brands of paint and medium you’re using.
For this article I’ve tested and researched all the most popular paint brands and mediums so you don’t have to. I’ll share common medium ratios using the examples of craft acrylics, artist acrylics, and heavy body acrylics. We’ll also discuss the benefits and drawbacks of popular mediums, including:
- Liquitex Pouring Medium[/easyazon_link
- [easyazon_link identifier="B005JJVIDU" locale="US" tag="acrylicpour0f-20"]GAC 800
- Homemade mediums containing glue-all
Once you’ve got your paint to medium ratios down, you’re well on your way to creating beautiful pieces, and we’ve got the medium recipes to help!
What is the Right Consistency for Acrylic Pouring?
The right consistency is hard to describe, but is often said to be like warm honey, motor oil, or syrup. For each of the ratios in this guide, this is the goal! The problem is that every brand and color are slightly different, so it will require some judgment on your part.
As you gain experience in pouring you’ll learn how to create the right consistency each time by how it feels and looks. This guide should only be used to get you started and give you basic guidelines, but in the long term you’ll need to create the right consistency on your own.
How Color & Density Affect Consistency and Pouring Ratios
When choosing paints and mediums to combine, there are considerations aside from the brands; you should also factor in the density of the paint that you’re using.
The color of the paint can be a quick indication of the density, if specific density numbers are not available to you. Across the board, certain colors will carry more weight, which means they will require their own special ratios.
The density of the paint will depend on the color and brand, although most brands have similar densities. Most brands, like Golden and Liquitex, have density information available upon request.
Golden density info can be found here: Golden Pigment Density Guide.
Liquitex is working on a new guide and will be updated here when they’re done. Until then you can reach out to them if needed.
What I Tested for This Guide
To come up with the ratios below I tested a number of different paint brands in each category of craft, artist, and heavy body acrylic. However, I didn’t test EVERYTHING because there’s so much, but here’s a reference for you on what I did test.
Artist Acrylics tested: Artist’s Loft, Liquitex Basics, Nicole’s Premiere Acrylics (discontinued), Golden Fluid Acrylics, Arteza Acrylics (in tubes and pouches), Unicorn SPiT (although it’s not really acrylic paint)
Heavy Body Acrylics tested: I have only tested Liquitex Heavy Body, I did not want to spend a lot of time on it since it’s not recommended to use heavy body paints for pouring.
Black and White Paint Mixing and Thinning Ratios for Acrylic Pouring
Black and white paints are both dense paints, and will require more medium in order to achieve the consistency you’ll need for pouring. This is true across brands; whether you’re using craft acrylics, artist acrylics or heavy body acrylics.
In order to make your black and/or white paint flow properly, you can use the following ratios to achieve a good base consistency (please note: ratios for heavy body paints will vary, heavy body paints are not recommended for use in acrylic pouring).
|Floetrol|| 2 parts Floetrol, 1 part Craft Acrylic|
3 parts Floetrol, 1 part Artist Acrylic
6 parts Floetrol, 1 part Heavy Body Acrylic
|Liquitex Pouring Medium|| 2 parts Liquitex, 1 part Craft Acrylic|
3 parts Liquitex, 1 part Artist Acrylic
6 parts Liquitex, 1 part Heavy Body Acrylic
|GAC 800|| 1 part GAC 800, 1 part Craft Acrylic|
2 parts GAC 800, 1 part Artist Acrylic
4 to 5 parts GAC 800, 1 part Heavy Body Acrylic
|Glue-All Pouring Medium|| 1 part Glue-All, 1 part Craft Acrylic|
2 parts Glue-All, 1 part Artist Acrylic
5 to 6 parts Glue-All, 1 part Heavy Body Acrylic
|Water|| 1 part Water, 1 part Craft Acrylic|
2 to 3 parts Water, 1 part Artist Acrylic
6 parts Water, 1 part Heavy Body Acrylic
As you can see, the ratios are comparable across acrylic and medium types.
Metallic Paint Acrylic Pouring Ratios
Metallics also need special consideration when mixing, since they also are heavier than standard colors.
Metallics can be finicky; if they’re too thin, layering them in a cup may cause a metallic sheen over your finished piece. If they’re too thick, they will sink through the other colors in your painting and either be barely visible, or create a distorted pattern.
The ratios for black and white paint can be applied to metallic paint as well.
With all higher density paints, it’s very important to make sure that you’re mixing your paint properly.
Tip: If you find that your paint isn’t incorporated thoroughly and you’re not sure why, try using a clear cup for mixing so that you can see where there may be pockets of medium that haven’t been mixed in.
Higher density paints will also require additional mixing time, especially if you’re using heavy body acrylics. The best advice for mixing high density paints is to take your time. You cannot over-mix your paint!
Floetrol: Tips, Considerations, and Ratios
Floetrol is one of the most popular commercially available mediums on the market, especially in the United States. Most large hardware stores carry it in gallon jugs, as it is designed for use by professional painters who need to extend the fluidity of their paint.
Floetrol is an adaptable medium and can be used by artists of all levels, but there are a few tips for use that can help you avoid common frustrations.
Where to Buy Floetrol
Floetrol Lumps and Clumps
A common issue with Floetrol is the presence of small to large clumps that form within the medium. These do not break down when stirred in with paint, and will be present in your final pour if you choose not to strain the Floetrol.
These lumps and clumps tend to occur if a bottle of Floetrol has been sitting too long. This does not mean it’s expired or no longer usable! Before using Floetrol, and even if you don’t see any visible clumps when you peer inside of the bottle, make it a practice to strain it first. If you’re having trouble with your pours like lumps, or bumps as well check out our guide: Lumps, Bumps, and Clumps: Solving Common Acrylic Pouring Problems.
Floetrol can be strained through fine mesh paint strainers (usually found in the paint section of any hardware store) or, if you have a nylon stocking, you can also use that to strain your Floetrol.
We recommend straining only what you need; if you strain the entire bottle at once, you may run into clumpiness if it sits for too long.
Shake Floetrol Before Use
It is absolutely imperative that you shake your Floetrol before use. Floetrol can and does separate; it’s just the nature of the product. Give your bottle a good shake before using to make sure that you don’t have any separation, otherwise, if separation is present in your paint mixture, it will affect the consistency and quality of the paint negatively.
Typically, shaking a bottle of Floetrol or straining it will alleviate these common problems, but if your bottle smells sour or does not mix when shaken, return it for a new bottle.
How Floetrol Impacts Your Paint
Floetrol starts as a semi-opaque white fluid, and may alter the initial vibrance of your paints, but it will not affect the final color. Although it starts out white, Floetrol dries clear and will not dilute the finished colors.
Longevity of Floetrol for Pouring
Floetrol is not considered archival, meaning that your painting will fade if you’re using Floetrol alone, with no additives or sealants to keep your painting safe from UV exposure. That being said, this fading will happen over the course of many years, expedited only if your piece is placed in direct sunlight.
Benefits of Using Floetrol
Floetrol is very easy to use and find, but also has the additional benefit of being relatively inexpensive in comparison to artist mediums like Liquitex Pouring Medium or GAC 800. A gallon of Floetrol generally costs about $15-$20 (US). Because you don’t need very much to get your paints to the right consistency, the cost efficiency is difficult to beat. The availability of Floetrol in most hardware stores is also a big bonus!
Drawbacks of Using Floetrol
Because Floetrol is not archival, creating pieces meant to be displayed outdoors or in direct sunlight with it is not advisable. Additionally, the clumpiness of the product does extend your prep time quite a bit.
Common Floetrol Ratios for Acrylic Pouring
Floetrol can be used with all different types of paint; here, we’ll provide ratios for use with craft acrylics, artist acrylics, heavy body acrylics and fluid acrylics.
|Craft Acrylics||1 part Floetrol, 1 part Craft Acrylic|
|Artist Acrylics||3 parts Floetrol, 1 part Artist Acrylics|
|Fluid Acrylics||1 part Floetrol, 2 parts Fluid Acrylics|
|Heavy Body Acrylics||6 parts Floetrol, 1 part Heavy Body Acrylics|
Liquitex Pouring Medium: Considerations and Ratios
Liquitex is a very popular brand of artist supplies, and their pouring medium is preferred by many professional fluid artists. Unlike Floetrol, it is very uncommon for Liquitex Pouring Medium to clump or separate, although this can happen infrequently.
Where to buy Liquitex
Benefits of Liquitex
Liquitex Pouring Medium is a professional artist medium, which means it was made specifically for use with acrylic paint in art. Liquitex Pouring Medium can help reduce the chance of crazing or cracking within your piece, and when cured, lends a glossy finish.
Liquitex is also archival, which means that if you use it to create a piece, you won’t have to worry about it fading rapidly.
Drawbacks of Liquitex
The only real drawback of Liquitex Pouring Medium is the cost. A gallon of Liquitex Pouring Medium weighs in at around $99 (direct from Liquitex’s site), which puts it firmly out of reach for many fluid artists. If you’re selling your pieces, however, it’s worth the investment.
Common Liquitex Pouring Medium Ratios
Liquitex can be used with any acrylic paint – and only acrylic paint. Please don’t use this to try to extend oil paints!
|Craft Acrylics||1 part Liquitex, 1 part Craft Acrylic|
|Artist Acrylics||2 parts Liquitex, 1 part Artist Acrylic|
|Heavy Body Acrylics||6 parts Liquitex, 1 part Heavy Body Acrylic|
|Fluid Acrylics||1 part Liquitex, 2 parts Fluid Acrylics|
GAC 800: Considerations and Acrylic Pouring Ratios
Golden makes beautiful paints and stellar mediums, and GAC 800 is no exception. However, it is different than the other mediums on our list, in that GAC 800 is thinner than Floetrol or Liquitex Pouring Medium and because of this, you’ll need less of it to get your paints to the right consistency.
Where to buy GAC 800
Benefits of GAC 800
GAC 800 is a professional artist medium, which means it’s tailored to art and not to commercial painting. Because of this, GAC 800 is specifically formulated to resist crazing. When cured, GAC 800 gives paintings a shiny, still-wet look.
Drawbacks of GAC 800
Like Liquitex, there are very few drawbacks to GAC 800; really, the biggest one is again, the price. For example, one gallon of GAC 800 costs approximately $130 (US). If you’re a hobbyist, it’s best to experiment with a lower cost medium or buy a very small amount before taking the big dive into a gallon.
Common GAC 800 Medium Ratios
GAC 800 is thinner than standard mediums, which means that you’ll need less of it to get your paints to the right consistency. It’s important to take a “less is more” approach to GAC 800, since adding too much paint will negatively affect the medium’s ability to reduce and prevent crazing.
|Craft Acrylics||1 part GAC 800, 1 part Craft Acrylic|
|Artist Acrylics||1 part GAC 800, 1 part Artist Acrylic|
|Heavy Body Acrylics||4 parts GAC 800, 1 part Heavy Body Acrylic|
|Fluid Acrylics||2 parts GAC 800, 1 part Fluid Acrylics|
Homemade Pouring Medium Using Glue-All
If you don’t want to purchase one of the commercially available mediums listed above, you can make your own pouring medium using Elmer’s Glue-All and water. Elmer’s Glue-All is also referred to as PVA Glue, and it’s important that you purchase this and not school glue, or your recipe will not work.
DIY Pouring Medium Recipe With PVA Glue
- Glue-All – 2 parts
- Water – 1 part
Instructions: Make sure that when you mix the two, you mix them very well, but not too vigorously – you don’t want to create a foam on the top of the medium.
Benefits of DIY Pouring Medium
The obvious benefit of making your own pouring medium is the cost; this is the second most cost-effective medium available. You also have more control over the consistency and customize it to your benefit.
The other benefit is availability. In some countries or areas Floetrol and other mediums are not as readily available so DIY medium is the only option.
Also some people just like their DIY medium better. They think it’s easier to use and makes their work look better, so test it out!
Drawbacks of DIY Pouring Medium
Because of the amount of water used, and because Glue-All/PVA Glue is not meant to be used in this way, you do risk your paints breaking down and becoming less pigmented when creating pieces with this medium. Although the painting may look beautiful when poured, a few years down the road, it will likely be faded or peeling.
Common DIY Pouring Medium Ratios
|Craft Acrylics||1 part DIY Medium to 1 part Craft Acrylic|
|Artist Acrylics||2 to 3 parts DIY Medium to 1 part Artist Acrylic|
|Heavy Body Acrylics||6 parts DIY Medium to 1 part Heavy Body Acrylic|
|Fluid Acrylics||2 parts DIY Medium to 1 part Fluid Acrylic|
Using Heavy Body Paint: Behavior in Acrylic Pours
If you’re not familiar, heavy body paint is exactly what it sounds like: a thick paint. Heavy body paints are very pigmented and are typically the consistency of a very thick toothpaste, making them difficult to mix for a fluid consistency.
When talking about acrylic pouring, we usually advise against using heavy body acrylics in paint pours. This is because the amount of medium you’ll need to use in order to get the heavy body paint to the proper consistency is sometimes double or even triple the amount you’ll need with a craft or artist acrylic. This means more waste without any additional benefit.
If you do decide to use heavy body paint, keep in mind that the standard ratio for a heavy body paint and medium is about 6 parts medium to 1 part heavy body. That means that if you have an ounce of heavy body paint, you’ll need to add 6 ounces of medium to thin it out, as opposed to a craft paint, where you’d only need to add one ounce of medium.
Adjusting Ratios for Different Pouring Techniques
In general, you can use the same consistency and ratios for each technique, and you’ll get a great result. However, there are some benefits to adjusting these ratios and playing with consistencies to get unique results.
Thick vs Thin Consistency
There is such a thing as too much medium, or too much paint!
A consistency that is too thick will make it difficult for the paint to flow. Because the paint cannot flow properly, you may struggle to manipulate the colors around the surface of your piece. Additionally, you may have issues with cracking and/or crazing because of thick spots in the paint.
Use Thicker Consistency for 3D Objects
A thick consistency is useful in certain applications, such as pouring on 3D objects. Because the paint is slightly thicker, it won’t run off the surface you’re pouring on as quickly, which can help you avoid too much color mixing.
Thinner Consistency For Cells
A thinner consistency can be helpful when using the swipe technique to achieve cells, since it’s a bit easier to break the surface tension of the paint.
Cells are created as “denser” paint falls below “lighter” paint. So it’s important that the paint on top is fluid enough to allow the “lighter” paint to rise. This is also why a lot of swipes are done with white or black paint, because it’s naturally denser so falls more easily creating cells.
For example: if you’re interested in creating cells using the swipe technique, you’ll achieve this by breaking the surface tension of the top layer of paint with whatever swiping tool you’re using. If your paint mixture is too thick, you’re going to have a hard time breaking the surface tension properly, which can result in a muddy piece.
For more info on cells check out the post Acrylic Pouring Cells Recipe: Detailed Instructions to Make Beautiful Cells.
Use Thin Consistency for Dutch Pours
If you’re creating a Dutch pour, you might consider thinning your consistency just slightly so that your paint moves easier, but remember to adjust all of your paint ratios when doing this so that your primary background color doesn’t swallow up the thinner paint.
Common Problems From Thin Consistency
- Muddy colors – A consistency that is too thin will cause colors to run together, and will also cause colors to break down when you manipulate them. If you notice that the delineation between your colors is very thin or nonexistent, it’s likely that your mixture is too thin.
- Bare spots – A thin paint mixture will cause your paint to run off your surface, leaving bare spots behind.
How to Fix Poor Paint Consistency
Too thick – Add a little bit more medium to thin it out. You can add more, but you cannot take it out once you’ve added it, so start a little at a time and mix well in between additions so that you can find the best consistency while wasting the least amount of product.
Too Thin – Add a little bit more paint. The paint will help to thicken up the mixture, and add more pigment.
Which Medium is Best?
The question of which medium is best is really subjective; it depends on your budget, your painting style, and whether you’re selling your paintings or not.
Professional Artist Mediums – Liquitex and GAC 800
|Helps avoid cracks and crazing||Expensive|
|Extend longevity of painting||May be afraid to experiment due to cost|
|Rarely need to pre-mix|
|Designed to work with acrylic paint|
There are a lot of benefits to using a professional artist medium. Professional mediums are formulated to help you create a beautiful piece, and to protect it years down the road. Professional artist mediums help you avoid cracks and crazing in your piece, which can ruin an entire painting if they occur.
Professional artist mediums also extend the longevity of your painting to protect it against yellowing, peeling, fading, or any of the other nasties that can happen to unprotected paintings over time.
This being said, professional artist mediums are also costly, oftentimes two to three times more expensive than professional painter or DIY mediums. If you’re experimenting, this cost might stop you from being as free with your experiments, or it might stop you from wanting to pour at all. Unless you’re selling your paintings or an intermediate level artist, you do not need to purchase a professional artist medium right away.
Professional Painters Medium and DIY Mediums – Floetrol and PVA Glue
|Inexpensive||Have to pre-mix|
|More widely available in certain areas||Need to strain to avoid clumps|
|Free to experiment because inexpensive||Paintings won’t last as long without sealing and protection|
Professional painters mediums have been around commercially for a long time, and have been used for painting homes and thinning down paints for spraying.
Because they are commercially available and very cost efficient, professional painters mediums are the go-to for many artists; beginner and pro alike. Using a less expensive medium also means that you won’t be as scared to experiment and waste a little bit to find your style. The same goes for DIY mediums, as the ingredients are usually inexpensive.
Unfortunately, while professional painters and DIY mediums are great for the short term, they don’t always hold up to long term wear. If you plan on making a piece that will be in direct sunlight or is meant to be used functionally, these mediums aren’t for you. Using a proper sealant over the piece will slow down the fading and yellowing, but it is still likely to occur over time.
|Free to experiment because inexpensive||Increases chance of cracking/crazing and other issues|
|Available everywhere||Paintings won’t last as long|
There are many artists who use water as a medium, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that – after all, if it works and you’re happy with how it looks, that’s the goal.
While water is the most economical choice possible, it’s also the choice most likely to cause issues with your painting later on. Acrylic paint is beloved by many a parent because it is water soluble, meaning it breaks down in water.
What this essentially means is that when you mix your acrylic paint with water, you’re reducing the quality and strength of the paint. Water breaks down the pigments and binders present in acrylic paint, which is not ideal. While acrylic paint is relatively waterproof once dry, mixing water directly with wet acrylic paint can do more harm than good.
When you’re starting out, and if you’re on an extremely tight budget, there’s no harm whatsoever in grabbing a few inexpensive bottles of craft acrylic, 16 cent ceramic tile and a cup of water and creating your first pour. But, if you want to create a vibrant piece that will stand the test of time, water as a medium is not the way to go.
Acrylic pouring is an abstract art technique, which means there’s really no right or wrong way to do it. The ratios we’ve outlined here, the advice about consistencies and mediums, they all serve as a great foundation on which you can build your own opinions and unique formulas. As long as you’re using safe materials and enjoying yourself as an artist, the sky’s the limit with acrylic pouring.