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, which brands you like, 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).
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.
You don’t need to spend a fortune, especially when just starting out. For more in depth info on supplies check out our acrylic pouring supplies guide, but for the basics here are eight tips for pouring on a budget:
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.
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 cardboard. 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.
Forget the silicone for now. If you layer your paints with the Titanium White, you will normally obtain cells.
Lay your painting on top of paper cups. They are perfect for manipulating the canvas and of course to allow your painting to dry. Be careful not to scrape the sides and bottom too much or you may end up with wax in your painting.
Garbage bags can open up any space 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.
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. 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 percent Titanium White
20 percent Silver
20 percent Mars Black
10 percent Aquamarine
10 percent Sapphire
10 percent Amethyst
Warning! Be sure to always use a pour cup size close to the 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. Here I used the exact same paint colors, layers, and amounts; all I did was use a much larger pour cup (eight ounces) to show you the difference in cup sizes. This side by side shows the difference between a muddy pour (pour cup too large) and a clean pour (pour cup just big enough to hold the layered paint).
Due to canvas size, I only added a small puddle of white paint in the middle of my work canvas. If using a larger canvas panel or a stretched canvas over a wooden frame, you’ll want to cover the entire canvas with your white paint prior to pouring. The coated canvas allows the paint to slide across the canvas and fully cover the sides.
Now for the real fun, preparing your Flip Cup. The easiest way to do this is to lay your canvas upside down on top of your flip 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, you can pass the torch over, one very quick pass to pop bubbles. Not necessarily needed, but again, it helps with cells and bubbles.
Next, take your time and gently start tilting the canvas, allowing the paint to flow. You can use one of two tilting methods, both work well.
Tilt your canvas to one corner or side, then back to the middle; 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.
Keeping the mass of paint in the center of the canvas, slowly tilt the canvas in a clockwise motion, spreading the paint across the canvas.
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. Step back and look at the canvas from a different angle, if needed, 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.
Here’s the hardest part, don’t do anything more, walk away, let the magic happen as it dries.
Be sure to leave comments below if you have additional helpful hints you learned from your first pour.
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.