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How to Create Beautiful Chain and String Pull Acrylic Pour Pieces

When you’re a fluid artist, you have an amazing advantage: everything can be used as a surface to pour on, and everything can be used to pour with!

There are a lot of ways to create interesting, unique patterns in your pours. You can use a variety of household tools in acrylic pours; frosting spatulas, fine-tooth combs, plastic wrap, and…even old necklaces?

Chain pull acrylic pour pieces and string pull acrylic pour pieces are dynamic and versatile. Using the string and chain pull techniques, you can create feathers, flowers, and wispy, delicate designs.

In this article, we’ll teach you how to do a chain pull technique pour and how to do a string pull pour; although they’re very similar, thesubtle differences can mean the difference between success or a mess!

Difficulty

String and Chain pull techniques are not easy. Before you attempt a chain pull technique/string pull, we recommend experimenting with other techniques first. You’ll need a solid understanding of how mediums work. You’ll also want to have some experience in color theory (we can help with that). Now, the Pouring Police are not going to pop out of your paint cup and arrest you if you jump straight into a pull without experience, but we recommend taking it slow.

Chain Pull Acrylic Pouring Technique

When we talk about the chain pull technique, we are referring to the use of metal chains of any type as the main pull tool. You can use old necklaces, bracelets, even beaded eyeglass holders. They don’t necessarily have be linked chains either; you can use ball chain, or even beaded chains.

You can create a few different patterns with this technique too: the two most common are flowers and feathers.

Flower chain pull acrylic pours are created by laying your chain in an “S” pattern and pulling the chain straight off the canvas, unraveling the chain circle to create a “fluted” flower resembling a lily.

Feather chain pull acrylic pours are created by laying your chain vertically or horizontally on your surface and then pulling one end in a swooping motion to the side until you are pulling the chain off in the direction of the opposite side of the chain (see below).

To create a flower chain pull acrylic pour or a feather chain pull acrylic pour using the chain pull technique, you’ll want to follow these steps:

  • Mix a base color paint with a medium as you normally would; we recommend starting with black or white, but you can use any color for this step. Then, pour your mixture onto your surface and spread it evenly.
  • Choose a few colors for the chain pull technique itself. It’s important to make sure you’re choosing colors that mesh well Because of the nature of this technique, you’ll be mixing some of your paint together as you’re pulling your chain. 
  • Mix your chain colors with the same recipe you normally would, except add slightly more medium to thin out the mix. For example: if you typically use one part Liquitex Basics to three parts Floetrol, try a 1:4 ratio instead.
  • Using a paper plate, some tin foil, plastic wrap, or another non-porous surface, lay out your colors in an alternating pattern (as seen in the picture below). You’ll need enough paint to make sure you coat your chain a few times.
  • Lay your chain in the paint vertically. Holding both ends taut and roll the chain gently to pick up paint. Make sure the chain is completely coated to avoid bare patches in your piece.
  • Now, lay your chain in your base paint in either a circular, swirl pattern if you’re creating flowers, or straight if you’re creating a feather pull.
  • Gently pull the chain straight off the surface or to the side and up, as demonstrated below. Do not lift the chain off the base layer of paint as you do so. 
  • Repeat!

You can choose to manipulate the piece after you pull the chain, but if you want to keep your pull nice and crisp, you might want to avoid manipulating so that the added movement doesn’t disturb your lines.

We also suggest wiping off your chain between pulls so you don’t get unwanted color mixing.

String Pull Acrylic Pouring Technique

A string pull is very similar to a chain pull technique in execution, but a bit different when it comes to the final product.

When we say string, we’re talking about things like jute or crafting twine, and medium to thick yarn. These are easy to find at a local craft store, or on Amazon

The biggest difference between a string pull and a chain pull technique is the absorption of paint into the string. Unlike non-porous metal, twine and yarn will become saturated with the paint you’re using. Because of this, you want to be careful how long you leave your string sitting on your surface before pulling it; leaving it longer will result in a heavier paint deposit, while pulling a bit quicker after positioning the string will result in a lighter paint deposit.

String also creates a different texture than chain, because of the fibers in twine and yarn. This is perfect if you’re looking for a feathery, wispy look with soft edges! If you’re looking for a crisp line, though, you might want to consider using chain instead.

You can create a feather string pull or a chain string pull using the same positioning techniques discussed under the chain pull technique, but let’s recap:

  • Feather string pull acrylic pour: Position your string horizontally or vertically on your surface after loading it with paint. Pull the string from one end in a swiping motion until you’re pulling the end you’re holding off  the same side of the surface as the end you’re NOT holding.
  • Flower string pull acrylic pour: Position your string in an “S” pattern on your surface, with one end hanging off the side of the surface closest to you; this will be easier if your string is well-saturated. Pull the end closest to you away from the canvas until the entire string is off the surface.

To create a feather or flower string pull acrylic pour (or a variation of either), follow these steps:

  • First, mix a base color using your regular pouring recipe. The base should be the typical consistency  of  acrylic pours: the consistency of warm honey, or new engine oil.
  • Once mixed, pour the base color onto your surface and spread it evenly; you want the whole surface to be covered. Make sure the paint isn’t too thick or too thin; it should be a nice, even layer.
  • Mix your chosen colors for the actual string pull using your regular pouring recipe, but add slightly more medium to thin out the mix. For example, if you’re using 1 part Folk Art Craft Acrylics to 1 part Floetrol, try a ratio of 1:2 instead.
  • On a paper plate, piece of tin foil or another non-porous surface, layer your colors in an alternating pattern. Make sure you’re not putting any non-harmonious colors next to each other, like orange and purple. 
  • Lay your string vertically into the paint and allow it to soak up the colors for a moment; then, pull both sides of the string taut (gently, so you don’t spray yourself!) and roll the string. You can also use a popsicle stick or  gloved finger to move some of the paint over the string to coat it completely.
  • Once you’ve picked up paint on the string, slowly lift the string from your surface by holding both sides and pulling gently upward. Allow the paint to drip for a moment.
  • If you’re creating a flower string pull, position your string in an “S” shape on your surface, with one edge of the string hanging off. If you’re creating a feather string pull pour, position your string horizontally.
    • Flower string pull: pull the string away from the surface, keeping it straight. The string will unwind as you pull.
    • Feather string pull: pull the string in a wide “swooping” motion until you pull it off the same side as the opposite end of the string.
  • Once you have pulled the string off, you can reload it and add more pulls. If you decide to reload the string, be careful! You cannot wipe off a string in the same way that you wipe off a metal chain; you want to hold up the string with one hand and gently squeeze from the top, sliding your fingers down to the bottom, to remove the excess paint from the string before reloading. 
  • After you’ve created the desired patterns, you can manipulate the piece if you like; but be careful not to over manipulate!

Drying Time and Environment

The drying time for chain pull pours and string pull pours is the same as the drying time for any other acrylic pour piece. We recommend always allowing your pours to dry for at least 4 weeks before sealing them to make sure that all of the moisture has had a chance to work it’s way out before sealing.

You never want to dry your pours with direct air movement on them but especially not with this technique. To preserve your piece’s patterns, make sure that no direct air movement is focused on your drying area.

Final Thoughts

Chain pull technique and string pull acrylic pours create some really amazing pieces, and we encourage everyone to give it a shot! However, this is not a technique for beginners! Pull techniques are among the hardest acrylic pour techniques to master and require a patient learning process. We recommend experimenting with cheaper paints, mediums, and surfaces until you’re comfortable enough with this technique to jump into higher priced materials.

Are you ready to jump in? Check out the Rainbow Feather String Pull Acrylic Pour and Ocean Flower Chain Pull Acrylic Pour step-by-step tutorials below!

Rainbow Feather String Pull Pour Tutorial – Step by Step

Supplies:

  • Liquitex Basics Acrylic Paint (0.5 oz of each color)
    • Quinacridone Magenta
    • Cadmium Yellow Deep Hue
    • Bright Aqua Green
  • Artists Loft White Acrylic Paint (about 2 oz)
  • Floetrol 
    • 2.5 oz for each pull color
    • 2 oz for the base white
    • An additional 3 oz for each color to thin paint if needed
  • 4”x12” stretched canvas
  • (4) Wooden stirring/popsicle sticks
  • (4) Disposable cups – these should be able to hold at least 6 ounces of fluid. You can use reusable cups as well, but make sure you don’t plan on drinking out of them again to be on the safe side.
  • Disposable gloves or cleaning gloves
  • Jute string or yarn – you can find these items at craft stores like Michael’s or JoAnn’s. 
    • We recommend cutting at least three pieces. For this size canvas, you’ll want to cut one that is approximately 6 inches long.
  • A piece of foil or plastic wrap that measures at least the length and width of your canvas

Let’s Make a Rainbow Feather!

Step 1: Prepare Your Work Space

Before you begin to paint, make sure you’re pouring on a surface that won’t be ruined by paint. If you’re pouring on a kitchen counter, dining table, etc., we recommend laying down a sheet of plastic or using an old shower curtain.

Get everything measured and ready! Since you already know how many cups, popsicle sticks and other supplies you need, take the time to measure/count everything out and place it in your workplace. This will help you avoid having to grab something when you have paint all over your hands.

Step 2: Mix Your Paints

Once you’ve got your workspace all set up and ready to go, it’s time to mix your paints. In three separate cups, mix Quinacridone Magenta, Cadmium Yellow Deep Hue, and Bright Aqua green with Floetrol. Take your time with this step so that your paint is incorporated fully! Your paint and Floetrol mix should be a solid, consistent color with no white patches of Floetrol. This may take a bit of time, but it is essential. 

Chain Pull Technique mix your paints

Typically, Liquitex Basics are mixed at a ratio of one part paint to 2-3 parts Floetrol. Mix it with about 3.5-4 parts Floetrol. Essentially, the goal is to get your paint to be thinner than your base paint.

In the fourth cup, mix your white paint with Floetrol. Depending on the base white used, you may need to adjust the ratio listed in this recipe; you want your white to be the same consistency as a nice, warm honey or engine oil.

Step 3: Layer Paints 

Chain Pull Technique layer

After you have fully and completely mixed your paint and medium, it’s time to layer your paint! Unlike flip cup pours, for example, you won’t be combining your colors in a cup. Instead, you’re going to carefully pour them in strips or “layers” on your aluminum foil.

Your colors don’t need to go ina specific order; these colors are harmonious! We do recommend mixing it up a bit, though. Make sure you get some yellow next to some magenta, but then switch it up and put magenta next to aqua green. That way, you’ll get a broad spectrum of colors.

You’ll want to layer about 4-5 inches of paint. This will leave a part of your twine bare, making it easier to pull.

Step 4: Apply Base Color 

Pour your base color on your canvas so that it evenly covers the surface. The goal is NOT to get this layer too thick! J ust evenly cover the canvas, as you would with a normal pour. If you pour the layer too thick,the thinner paint in your pull will sink to the bottom layer.

Chain Pull Technique apply base color

If you have some white left over, that’s ok! It doesn’t mean you haven’t used enough. You can use this extra to touch up any areas you don’t love.

Step 5: Soak the String

Hold your string taut by grasping both ends, then slowly and evenly lay it into your layered colors. You can either twist the string to cover it or lay it flat and use a popsicle stick to push paint over top of the string. Let the string sit for a minute in the paint if you want a more vibrant result, or pick it up after a moment if you are looking for a more moderate color load.

Chain Pull Technique soak the string

Step 6: Lay the String on the Canvas

Pick the string straight up and out of your pull paint to avoid excessive mixing. Then, carefully place the string on the canvas in the base paint. You want to lay it such that the few inches of string without paint are furthest from you. It’s ok if it hangs off of the canvas.

The length of time to leave the string on the canvas goes by the same theory as soaking the string: the longer you leave the string in the base paint on the canvas, the more paint will flow into the base paint, leaving you with a deeper color load.

However, this can also cause some heavier feathering, and while that’s sort of what we’re looking for here, we definitely don’t want a blob!

Step 7: Pull the String!

Finally,  it’s the moment you’ve been waiting for – time to actually pull that string! For a feather pull,you’re going to want to grab the paintless end of the string that you’ve laid furthest away from you, and pull it in a swooping motion towards you, and then off the canvas. 

While pulling the string, it’s important not to lift the string as you pull. This can cause some of your paint not to deposit or not swipe, and it won’t leave you with the feathering you’re looking for.

Once you’ve reloaded your string, follow the same directions again, except swoop on the opposite side this time to create the other side of the feather.

Step 8: Repeat

You can pull as many times as you like, but remember that eventually, the colors will start to mix in a way you may not like. Even though the colors we’ve chosen here are harmonious, it doesn’t mean that the tertiary colors they create will be! 

Step 9: Drying and Sealing

Once you’re happy with your piece (or at least are ready to allow it to dry), make sure that your canvas is on an even surface in an area with minimal air movement and  a steady temperature between 67-75 degrees. We recommend allowing your painting to dry for at least 3 weeks, but 4 weeks is recommended. Remember, just because it LOOKS dry doesn’t mean it has cured completely since the bottom layer of paint takes quite a bit of time to properly dry.

Ocean Flower Chain Pull Technique Tutorial

Supplies:

  • Liquitex Basics Acrylic Paint (0.5 oz of each color)
    • Bright Aqua Green
    • Phthalocyanine Blue
    • Light Blue Permanent 
  • Artists Loft White Acrylic Paint (about 2 oz)
  • Floetrol 
    • 2.5 oz for each pull color
    • 2 oz for the base white
    • An additional 3 oz for each color to thin paint if needed
  • 4”x12” stretched canvas
  • (4) wooden stirring/popsicle sticks
  • (4) disposable cups – these should be able to hold at least 6 ounces of fluid. You can use reusable cups as well, but make sure you don’t plan on drinking out of them again to be on the safe side.
  • Disposable gloves or cleaning gloves
  • Chain of any type: we used a very thin link chain for this one, but any size you have will do. You’ll need 2-3 6 inch segments.
  • A piece of foil or plastic wrap that measures at least the length and width of your canvas

Let’s Make Beautiful Ocean Flowers!

Step 1: Prepare Your Work Space

Before you begin to paint, make sure you’re pouring on a surface that won’t be ruined by paint. If you’re pouring on a kitchen counter, dining table, etc., we recommend laying down a sheet of plastic or using an old shower curtain.

Now is the time to prep your space.  Since you already know how many cups, popsicle sticks and other supplies you need, take the time to measure/count everything out and place it in your workplace. This will help you avoid having to grab something when you have paint all over your hands.

Step 2: Mix Your Paints

Once you’ve got your workspace all set up and ready to go, it’s time to mix your paints. In three separate cups, mix Bright Green Aqua, Phthalocyanine Blue and Light Blue Permanent with Floetrol. Take your time with this step spthat your paint is incorporated fully! Your paint and Floetrol mix should be a solid, consistent color with no white patches of Floetrol. This may take a bit of time, but is essential. 

Typically, Liquitex Basics are mixed at a ratio of one part paint to 2-3 parts Floetrol; you want to mix it with about 3.5-4 parts Floetrol. Essentially, the goal is to get your paint to be thinner than your base paint.

In the fourth cup, mix your white paint with Floetrol. Depending on the base white you use, you may need to adjust the ratio listed in the recipe; you’ll want your white to be the same consistency as a nice, warm honey or engine oil.

Step 3: Layer Paints 

Chain Pull Technique layer paints

After you have fully and completely mixed your paint and medium, it’s time to layer your paint! Unlike flip cup pours, for example, you won’t be combining your colors in a cup. Instead, you’re going to carefully pour them in strips or “layers” on the aluminum foil.

Because we’re working with blues, you don’t need to worry as much about color mixing – they all go together! You should alternate colors to make sure that each color gets a turn; that way, you’ll get more color variation.

Step 4: Apply Base Color 

Pour your base color on your canvas so that it evenly covers the surface. The goal is NOT to get this layer too thick! You want to just evenly cover the canvas, as you would with a normal pour. If you pour the layer too thick, the thinner paint in your pull will sink to the bottom layer.

If you have some white left over, that’s ok! It doesn’t mean you haven’t used enough. You can use this extra to touch up any areas you don’t love.

Step 5: Coat the Chain

Pick up your chain with both hands and hold it taut. Then, slowly lower it into your paints. You can either twist the chain to coat it or use a popsicle stick to move the paint onto the chain. Unlike string, a chain isn’t going to soak up the paint, and there is only so much paint you can pick up. Leave a small tail of your chain, at least an inch or two, out of the paint so you have a clean spot to pick it up.

Step 6: Place the Chain on the Canvas

Pull the chain straight up and out of your paint with one hand and slowly lower the other end of the chain onto your canvas to create an “S” pattern or other swirls. Once you’ve laid the paint-covered part of the chain full into the paint in the desired pattern, let the chain sit for a moment with the 1-2 inch unpainted segment hanging slightly off the canvas closest to you.

Step 7: Pull the Chain!

Once you’re ready to pull, pull the chain slowly straight towards you. The chain will create the blooms of the ocean flowers by unwinding and sliding as you pull it.

You can experiment with pulling it quickly or slowly, but make sure you’re pulling it straight towards you for the best effect.

Step 8: Repeat

You can layer as many flowers as you like, but if you layer too many, you will start to lose the crispness of your lines and the definition of your flowers. For this reason, we recommend you only repeat the process 3 or 4 times on this size canvas.

Step 9: Drying and Sealing

Once you’re happy with your piece using chain pull technique (or at least are ready to allow it to dry), make sure that your canvas is on an even surface in an area with minimal air movement and a steady temperature between 67-75 degrees. We recommend allowing your painting to dry for at least 3 weeks, but 4 weeks is recommended. Remember; just because it LOOKS dry doesn’t mean it has cured completely since the bottom layer of paint takes quite a bit of time to properly dry.

After you’ve allowed the piece to dry, now it’s time to seal! Check out our recommended sealants here

We’d love to see your beautiful feather pulls  and chain pulls and help you troubleshoot! You can share your pieces in our Facebook Group for feedback and advice

3 thoughts on “How to Create Beautiful Chain and String Pull Acrylic Pour Pieces”

  1. Excellent written explanation! I do a lot of chain pull flowers, in different techniques, and your step-by-step is very well written. Good job!

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