If you are new to acrylic pouring, or even completely new to art and painting then you might from time to time come across acrylic pouring terms that can really confuse you. A ‘dirty pour’ for example? Yuck! Why would anyone want to do that?
I’ve tried to compile a list of acrylic pouring terminology and abbreviations, some of which apply to painting in general and some of which apply directly to acrylic pouring. If you have any other difficult words, terms or phrases that I’ve forgotten please let me know in the comments so I can add them. I’ll also appreciate any feedback on the descriptions below if you would like to help me write clear definitions.
Acrylic pouring terms and definitions
Abstract – art that does not attempt to represent external reality, but seeks to achieve its effect using shapes, forms, colors, and textures.
Acetate – a clear sheet of flexible plastic often used to swipe one color over another to create cells in the paint.
Archival quality – Refers to materials that meet certain criteria for permanence such as lignin-free, pH neutral, alkaline-buffered, stable in light, etc.
Artist quality – the best quality (and highest priced) paints you can buy. Professional quality paint, with high pigment concentrations and no fillers. Prices range based on the cost of acquiring the pigments themselves, with the natural earth-derived mineral pigments being the most expensive
ASTM – The American Society for Testing and Materials. An independent standard for certain paint qualities, adopted by most manufacturers.
Binder – this is the substance that ‘binds’ a dry pigment together. For acrylic paints, Acrylic Polymer is the binder.
Bleeding – describes the action of one color running into another.
Canvas – cloth used over a stretcher frame or glued onto a cardboard to paint on. Can also be used as the term for the complete unit of the canvas fabric and the wooden frame.
Canvas board – a heavy cardboard with a cotton or linen canvas glued to one side, with the edges folded over to the back. Sometimes also called a canvas panel.
Canvas weight – this refers to how thick the canvas is, usually labelled in ounces, 8oz, 10oz, 12oz.
Cells – a goal of many acrylic pour painters, to create movement in their paint layers where the paint on top separates and allows colors underneath to show through, usually in round or organic shapes.
Color wheel – a circle with different colored sectors used to show the relationship between colors.
Complementary Colour – The color that is directly across from a color on the color wheel. Complementary colors make each other seem more saturated and bright when placed side by side. They can also be mixed together in various amounts to unsaturate each other. (eg. red and green, purple and yellow, orange and blue).
Consistency – the thickness or thinness of paint, basically how the paint ‘feels’ on the brush or canvas.
Dip / dipping – a form of acrylic pour or flow painting where the surface is dipped into the mixed paint to create interesting designs and cells. This is often used as a way of creating art from paint that spilled over the edges of other paintings, to avoid waste.
Dirty pour – a technique where all colors are added to a cup or container at the same time and then poured together to create an acrylic pouring paint effect. A flip cup (see below) is also a form of dirty pour.
Easel– a wooden or metal stand for holding a canvas, a panel or a drawing-board.
Flip cup – a form of dirty pour (see above). All colors are added to a cup or container, the canvas or surface is placed painting side down onto the cup and then the two together are turned upside down without the paint escaping. The cup is lifted allowing the paint to escape and flow across the canvas. See a few of our flip cup tutorials:
- Split color half and half flip cup acrylic pour
- Flip cup and drag without much of a drag
- Flip cup and drag on a black background
Funnel pour – paint colors are added to a funnel with the end blocked. Once all paints are added, the end of the funnel is released and the paints flow onto the canvas as the funnel is moved to create the design.
Gel medium – a semi-solid material that you can mix in with your acrylics to drastically change the texture, consistency and can make your paint go a lot further.
Gesso – Used to prime the surface of the canvas and seal it so you can paint on it. It is a combination of chalk (Calcium Carbonate) and an acrylic polymer medium latex. Gesso increases the tooth of the surface, giving the paint something to grab onto and stick. Usually white in colour, as Titanium White is included in the mixture. (This is why all stretched, primed canvases are usually pure white).
Gloss medium – medium that you can mix in with your acrylic paints to add shine to the paint or use to varnish the surface.
Intensity – The purity and brightness of a color. Also called saturation.
Interference paint – when viewed from different angles the paint appears differently. Painted over a dark color you can see one colour, paint the same colour over a light background and you see the complimentary color. Add a very small amount of black to Interference colors to produce deeper, richer, opalescent effects.
Lightfast – Resistant to fading or other changes due to light.
Matte – flat, nonglossy; having a dull surface appearance. Variant spelling – matt.
Medium – the method in which an artist works; oil-painting, gouache, pastel, pen and ink, etching, collage, sculpture, etc., are all media for his expression.
Mixed media – one or more medium used in the same picture.
Opaque – a pigment that doesn’t allow light through, as opposed to “Transparent” which is the opposite, and does let light through.
Palette – the surface that you mix colors onto, this can vary from wooden palettes to glass, to tear-off paper palette. Acrylics, due to their fast drying nature, benefit from a stay-wet palette. Can also be used to describe the range of colors you are working with, i.e. I’m working with a palette of earth tones in my next work.
Permanence – The ability of the paint to retain its original colors through time. Most acrylic paint colors have high permanence except for wild synthetic colors like neons.
Pigment – the raw material that all paints are made from. Natural or synthetic materials are finely ground and mixed with a liquid binder into a paste to make paint.
Pouring medium – an additive to your acrylic paint, designed to (usually) keep the paint wet and workable longer, and promote it to better flow and move. It may or may not ‘thin’ the paint depending on the product used. Examples might be the Liquitex Pouring Medium, Floetrol, GAC 800 or PVA Glue.
Puddle pour – a technique where acrylic paints are layered on top of each other in several ‘puddles’ before the canvas is tipped to create interesting designs in the flowing paints.
Resin – a type of clear, glossy protective finish sometimes added to poured paintings to bring back the vibrant color of the paint and give the painting depth. Also described as epoxy, this two-part product produces a chemical reaction when mixed and eventually hardens (or cures) to a clear plastic durable finish. See our of the Best Resins for Acrylic Pouring here.
Stretcher Bar – the wooden frames than raw canvas is stretched around.
Swipe / swiping – the process of dragging acrylic colors across each other to mix them and encourage the formation of cells.
Torching – where heat is quickly flashed across the surface of a painting while the paint is still wet. This is often carried out using a chef’s torch and serves two purposes. It will pop any air bubbles in the paint and also encourage the formation of cells.
Transparent – The color is slightly see-through, allowing light to penetrate it. When applied over other layers, some of the layers underneath will show through and will be visually mixed by our eyes with the transparent layer on top. (Eg. laying transparent yellow over a blue layer will visually read as green to us). This is the opposite of an opaque color.
Varnish – generally, a more or less transparent film-forming liquid that dries into a solid film.
Yupo paper– an alternative to traditional art papers. It’s a synthetic paper, machine-made in the USA of 100% polypropylene. It is waterproof, stain-resistant, and extremely strong and durable.
I hope you found this glossary of acrylic pouring terms useful. Share it with your friends and PIN it to your painting boards for later. Don’t have any painting boards on Pinterest yet? Why not start by following the Acrylic Pouring Pinterest boards here.
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.