Fluid Acrylics: What are They and Why?

One of my favorite weekend pastimes is strolling through my local AC Moore, gawking at all the art supplies; I’m especially drawn to the aisle with the Golden and Liquitex paints.

I’ve seen other artists in the Acrylic Pouring Facebook Group talk about fluid acrylics. Naively, I assumed they were just referencing acrylic paint that was thinned with Floetrol or some other medium—as it turns out, there is actually a magical, if not challenging, world of fluid acrylics out there that I had never heard about!

Supplies I Used:

What Are They?

Fluid acrylic paints are very runny and highly pigmented. They can be used for a number of different processes; airbrushing, creating watercolor-like paintings, splattering, and, of course, pouring. You can either make your own fluid acrylics using water and medium, or, you can purchase premade fluid acrylics. Likely the most popular pre-made fluid acrylic is the Golden Acrylic Colors line of fluid acrylics, which come in a wide variety of colors.

Fluid Acrylics 1

Using Fluid Acrylics

For this article, I’ll be discussing the use of Golden Fluid Acrylics—I haven’t yet made my own, but will be doing so in the future as Golden Fluid Acrylics are a bit pricey for me.

My first experiment with fluid acrylics was on a set of ceramic tiles. I mixed the fluid acrylics with GAC800, and had a few observations right off the bat:

  • The mixture was very, very runny. Since the tiles are only 4×4, I only mixed about two tablespoons total and I did that at a ratio of 1:1.
  • The fluid acrylics mixed very quickly with the GAC800, after about four stirs with my stirring stick, the color was fully incorporated which was a nice change from my work with Floetrol.

When I do ceramic tile pours, I typically use the dirty pour method; I layer the paint in one cup and then pour it on the surface. I found that when using fluid acrylics with GAC800, layering was a challenge. If you use this particular method and want layering, I would strongly recommend tilting the receptacle and pouring your desired color down the inside of the cup onto the existing paint; the side of the cup will slow down the flow and help the paint to layer instead of just prematurely mix.

Finally, it was time to pour! Having worked only with thicker acrylics and Floetrol, I was in for a big surprise when I started to pour the fluid acrylic mixture—it ran directly off the side of the tile. Perhaps my ratio of GAC800 to fluid acrylic was too high, I’m not sure; but it was very difficult to keep the paint on the tile. I manipulated each tile and set them down to dry, somewhat happy with the results. I noticed that this very runny consistency lended to new, thinner swirl lines and more intricate patterns—something I’ve wanted to achieve with my pours for some time now.

With this particular experiment, and with every experiment I’ve done since, I have been very disappointed in the final result. What starts out as vibrant, dreamy colors dries into a dark, nearly unrecognizable piece that has very little differentiation between the colors. The only time I was able to stop this radical darkening was when I used Floetrol mixed with only a few drops of GAC800, and increased the amount of added fluid acrylics. This can get expensive very quickly though; Golden Fluid Acrylics are not cheap, and the ones I purchased came in a very small bottle.

Fluid Acrylics 2

Future Use and Experimentation

This all might sound a bit negative, but I actually enjoyed working with these fluid acrylics. By tweaking ratios and usage rates, I’ve been able to slowly coax the vibrant end result out of my pieces while maintaining a very fluid pouring consistency. I’ve also been able to experiment more with air manipulation with the fluid acrylics, and have had more luck achieving a “laced” look by doing so.

My suggestion is to find a few small bottles of fluid acrylic, or make your own, and experiment on a small surface first. If you’re like me and have only really used thicker acrylics, you may be surprised at the texture and fluidity, but you’ll love the new patterns and swirls you can achieve.

What has your experience with fluid acrylics been? Do you love them, hate them, or want to try them?

3 thoughts on “Fluid Acrylics: What are They and Why?”

  1. Love your articles. So very well written and very informative. you always make me feel like jumping up and doing what you just did! Although my budget is prohibitive I will be watching out for sales on Fluid acrylics! Thank you for all of the time and effort you put into keeping all of us informed and learning! I know I’m very grateful.
    Again thank you so kindly
    Carroll Duran

    1. Hi Carroll!

      You made my day, I’m so thankful that I can contribute!

      There are ways to make your OWN fluid acrylics too! I haven’t experimented with that yet, but once I do and get a good formula, I will absolutely share with the editors of this blog. I think making your own will probably prove more cost effective and give you a bit more control over the exact color.

  2. I would like to hear more about your air manipulation and the fluid acrylics. I just ordered an airbrush to use in place of, or in addition to, straws and blow dryers. Having some familiarity with fluid acrylics on Yupo paper and watercolor paper I can appreciate your big surprise at the runoff. I am still trying for the Lacey look and am to heavy handed with both the hairdryer and the straws. But it sure is fun trying. Thankyou for all your inspiration.

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