The beauty of a tree ring pour is the distinct bands of color, circling each other without mixing. Preventing this style of painting from turning into an undefined, muddy mess requires more than simply mastering the physical technique of rotating your hand as you pour. Below are my Top 4 pro tips beyond pouring technique for creating the quintessential tree ring lines.
Tip 1: Opaque Colors
While transparent colors create whimsical blending effects in fluid art, opaque colors are best if you want the crisp tree ring contrast. Opaque colors are less likely to overpower or cover up one another. You can increase your opacity by:
1) Choosing naturally opaque pigments (most paint brands indicate opacity right on the tube);
2) Adding a small amount (5% or less) of titanium white (not zinc white) to your color (caution: this will lighten your color some); and/or
3) Adding opacifying medium to your color (this will not change your color at all). My favorite opacifying medium is from Tri-Art).
Tip 2: Thicker Paint for Better Layering
The key to tree rings is to stack each paint color in your cup, avoiding them mixing as much as possible. A perfect tree ring cup will look like layers of cake from the side. In this case, thicker paint makes this task easier as the colors are less likely to sink into each other as you pour them into your cup. If you normally thin your paint with water, you’ll want to avoid that in this technique. You can also consider using only heavy body acrylics (no fluid acrylics) for your paint mixes to make them thicker. Lastly, adding naturally thicker pigments (like whites and blacks) to any pigment will also thicken it up.
Pour each color into your cup slowly to prevent too much mixing. Remember that the first color in your cup will be the last color out of your cup, and therefore the most dominant… so layer accordingly!
Tip 3: Specialty Cups
Experiment with angled, square cups to make pouring easier and more interesting. I find that pouring out of a corner (as opposed to a round cup) is easier to control. It also allows you to vary the thickness of the lines and speed of the pour more easily.
Split cups are ones with a divider (or dividers) down the middle of the cup. It allows you to get the benefits of two pour cups in one, creating interesting variations in your tree ring.
As a bonus, most specialty cups are reusable, so you save money over time while also producing less waste. Some of my favorite specialty cups include the 3D printed cups from LEDBFG on Etsy. A less expensive option are the Colorations Double-Dip Divided Paint Cups, although to my knowledge they only come in small, round sizes.
Tip 4: Extra Paint
Overstretching as you tilt is never a good idea, but it is especially detrimental to a tree ring pour. The more you tilt, the more the colors blend together and create a muddy mess. Keep your lines crisp by using extra paint in your cup so you have to tilt very little to cover your canvas. For example, I would use 12-16 ounces of paint for a 12-inch square canvas (1.5-inch depth).
In addition to these tips I’ve created a course where I cover tree ring pours in more detail as well as other techniques. We’ll go into detail on the “why” behind acrylic pouring so you can use paint and medium properties (like opacity, sheen, viscosity, and tinting strength) to predictably create beautiful paintings. As this is a new course to AcrylicPouring.com I’ve decided to offer a discount as well, so click the offer below and it will automatically take 20% off:
I look forward to seeing your next tree ring pour! Tag me on Instagram or send me a DM to show off your work.
As a professional artist with corporate training experience, Briana marries her two loves of painting and teaching into this online course. She is best known for her fluid acrylic abstract paintings, which feature bold color palettes, clean lines, and as much of an emphasis on the canvas edges as the painting itself. She also has an online course where she teaches how to predictably create beautiful paintings and gain in depth knowledge of how pouring works.