It’s time—you’ve watched a ton of videos, read all the blog posts, and drooled over the gorgeous pictures of acrylic poured paintings. So why haven’t you done your first poured painting yet? Maybe you’re worried about what it will look like, the costs, or what someone else may think?
First off, just breathe. I’ll walk you through your first pour with a few helpful tips. First tip: don’t expect amazing results in the beginning. Mind you, it may be that your first pour is absolutely gorgeous, but don’t be crushed if it’s not what you expected. This is the time to practice, learn how to mix your paints, determine which brands of paints you like, mediums that work for you, color combinations you prefer, etc.
Supplies I Used:
- Artist Loft (in Titanium White and Mars Black)
- Craft Smart (in Metallic Sapphire, Metallic Amethyst, and Metallic Aquamarine)
- FolkArt Metallic Silver
- Floetrol Flood
- Three ounce paper cups
- Artist Loft Canvas Panel
- Disposable gloves
Whoever first said “go big or go home” wasn’t creating their first poured painting. This is practice, so pick up a few inexpensive canvas panels, keep the sizes small (4×6, 5×7, etc).
Using these small canvases, will be gentle on your pocketbook. This way you won’t waste paint, you’ll have multiple canvases to work with, and you won’t worry about trying to cover the sides of a stretched canvas. Remember, this is just practice. It’s time to learn about paints and medium, and possibly some cell formation.
For more in depth info on additional supplies check out our acrylic pouring supplies guide.
Here are the basic supplies you will need to start your first pour.
You will want a good white such as Artist Loft Titanium White, but for all other colors you can go with the inexpensive brands like FolkArt, Sargent, DecoArt, Craft Smart, or Basics by Liquitex. With everything, remember— practice at this point.
Do you need a torch? My personal opinion is no, not if you have good eyesight; and absolutely yes if your vision is poor. The torch is to remove bubbles under the paint, and you can’t remove them if you can’t see them. You can use a toothpick, paperclip, pin, skewer, or anything else with a tiny tip you may have on hand to pop bubbles—again, only if you can see them.
Start with inexpensive canvas panels, which are simply canvas over mdf board. Canvases stretched over a wood frame can be pricey and may even seem intimidating when first starting out.
You don’t need a turntable, specialty stirs or forms, silicone or even a specific room for your painting. You can get by with disposable gloves, paper cups, popsicle sticks and either a torch or sharp object to pop bubbles.
Do you have to use silicone? No. If you layer your paints with the Titanium White, you will normally obtain some cells, but, let’s face it, most of us love those beautiful creations that form from silicone.
Plastic disposable cups
You can lay your canvas on top of cups so that you can easily manipulate all sides, and you can then let it stay on top of the cups to dry when you’re done. Plastic cups are perfect for mixing your paints and medium together, and you can use them to create your pour cup. If you use the small bathroom paper cups, just be careful when mixing your paints. You can easily scrape off wax which will end up on your pour.
Floetrol is a leveling additive, which thins out the paint and allows it to self level as it dries. This will be used in each color you add to your pour cup.
Garbage bags or any plastic sheeting can open up most spaces to painting. Cover the area to keep the paint from damaging the surface underneath. If working in an area with carpet, use a heavy paint tarp as well to protect from splatter or accidental runoff. I also use garbage bags to protect my walls.
Creating Your First Pour
For our sample painting I’m going to show you how to do a flip cup. This is a beginner technique, and you can find other beginner up to advanced techniques in our acrylic pouring technique guide. For this example I used a 5×7 canvas panel. You’ll only need two ounces of paint in your final pour cup, no matter what colors you choose. Dixie bathroom cups are three ounces, so this can give you a good sense of the cup size you need to work on something this small. Once you get more comfortable with mixing and pouring, you’ll be able to decrease this amount of paint.
There is no silicone in the example pour, but as you layer the Titanium White, you should still obtain cells! I’ll give you some samples of cells with silicone and tips as we go.
Start by mixing your paints. Use one cup per paint color and then mix one part paint to two parts Floetrol Flood medium for each paint color. Mix each well and add a drop or two of water to thin to the consistency of warmed honey.
Right before my first pour, I went to the kitchen and warmed up some honey to know what it looked like, and especially what it felt like to stir it with a popsicle stick. I felt really awkward, but it was a huge help!
Layer your paints in a three ounce cup, starting with Titanium White. Next, add each color, with white between every layer. Pour about 1/3 of each color per layer, creating multiple levels until you have about two ounces of layered paint in your pour cup. You will likely have paint left over, just set it aside to use for another painting.
For the sample painting shown, I used the following percentage of each color in my three ounce pour cup:
30% Titanium White
20% Mars Black
Warning! Be sure to always use a pour cup size close to the total amount of paint you’ll be pouring. If your pour cup is too large, your paints all mix together as they run out of the cup, creating a muddy look with little to no cells. For a clean pour cup mix, use the smallest cup possible.
Right before you start your pour cup, coat your entire canvas with the titanium white. The coated canvas allows the paint to slide across the canvas and fully cover the sides.
Now for the real fun, preparing to create your Flip Cup. The easiest way to do this is to lay your canvas upside down on top of your pour cup and then invert both, holding them together as you set the canvas down. Leave the cup upside down for at least 60 seconds. This starts the formation of cells.
Next, gently and slowly remove the cup.
Again, leave the paint alone for at least 60 seconds.
If you are using a torch, pass it over very quick to pop bubbles. Do not hold it in one place or you’ll burn the paint. You can pop bubbles before or after you tilt, or both. It’s up to you.
Next, take your time and gently start tilting the canvas, allowing the paint to flow.
Tilt your canvas to one corner or side, then back to the middle; then tilt to the opposite side, and then back to middle, repeat to each side or corner until the canvas is covered. Basically, you want to keep the mass of paint in the middle of the canvas, slowly stretching it out to the sides and corners.
Once it has spread across the entire canvas, it’s okay to let additional paint run off the canvas as needed. Try to keep your cells on the canvas, while allowing the portions you may not be happy with to run off.
It’s okay to set it down and step back to look at the canvas from a different angle, to determine which side or corner to allow any extra paint to run off.
If you’re using a torch quickly do one rapid pass, or take the time to use your toothpick and gently pop the bubbles as seen below.
Here’s the hardest part, don’t do anything more, walk away, let the magic happen as it dries.
Okay, so you’re looking at this and thinking, why aren’t there more cells. I wanted to show you that you can obtain some cells without the use of silicone.
To create a larger amount and different types of cells, you can use silicone in the form of treadmill oil, OGX Coconut Milk, or something like Pixiss Acrylic Pouring Silicone. In my opinion, the OGX seems to produce the best cells.
The only difference in the process is you will add silicone to the individual colors as you mix them. Like most things, there is a sequence to doing this.
In this next example, I used silicone in the green paint only. Mix your paint and medium as normal, get it to the consistency you want (remember warm honey). Next you will add a couple of drops of your preferred silicone oil and stir into paint/medium mixture (four to six) times. Don’t go crazy stirring or you’ll break down the silicone and end up with tiny cells. Just four to six stirs around the cup is perfect.
Then go ahead and create your pour cup layering your paints. Of course you can add silicone to as many colors as you wish, just be sure that you do not add it to the base coat that goes under the pour. As a rule, I never add silicone to my titanium white.
Do your flip cup as described above. You’ll immediately notice a difference when you lift the cup, that is instant cells as seen here even before you torch or tilt.
Just thought I’d do a quick example to show you what it looks like if you use silicone but forget to stir it in. It still works, but doesn’t give you the uniform look that you may be hoping for.
Lastly, here is the silicone pour with oil mixed into the green paint only. As you can see we have evenly dispersed cells throughout. Getting your mixture of paint, medium, and silicone down is again why this is practice time.
Don’t be intimidated by this process, there is a learning curve, but everyone learns in their own way and at their own pace. Now is your time to practice and start a whole new adventure in acrylic pouring.
Be sure to visit acrylicpouring.com and our blog to find more articles, tips and thousands of members anxious to help each step along the way.
Since she began creating art in 2007, Tina Swearingen’s focus has evolved from repurposed conceptual art into the creativity and flow of acrylic pouring. Her pours are inspired by the movement and colors of Southern Arizona’s amazing thunderstorms, and the majestic beauty of the Pacific Northwest, which she now calls home.