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Why is my acrylic pour muddy and 8 ways to avoid it

Unless you’re striving for brown, gray and black all in the same painting, muddiness is an unwelcome visitor to fluid artists. There are a lot of things that can affect the vibrancy of your colors, from the supplies you’re using to the way you’re tilting your piece. In this article, we’ll walk through a few of the most common causes so you can keep your colors bright and clean.

What is a Muddy Pour?

 A muddy pour refers to the over mixing of colors, which results in a brown, gray, or even black color that overwhelms all of the other colors of your piece. Once the colors turn muddy on your piece, it can be difficult to bring the vibrancy of the pour back without scraping or repouring.

How to Avoid A Muddy Pour?

Color choices

If you’re trying to create a Christmas-themed pour using red and green, you’re likely going to end up with mud. Because red and green don’t compliment each other, they create a brown color when mixed together. 

  • Solution #1: Color theory: Understanding color theory will really help you to avoid muddiness due to color choices. Familiarize yourself with basic color theory and you’ll be able to choose your colors wisely and predict the outcome of your pour.
  • Solution #2: Layering: If you really want to create a red and green pour, it’s not completely impossible to do so, but extra care and preparation is necessary. It’s a good idea to pour a thin layer of white or black between the colors to stop them from touching each other. You can do this pouring red, and then tilting the cup to pour black or white gently and slowly down the side so that it rests on top of the red. Then, tilt the cup and pour green slowly down the side to rest on top of the black. 

Paint consistency

If your paint mixture is too thin and watery, your colors will run together either in your pouring cup or on your canvas, no matter how little you manipulate it.

This is a painting where my mixture was too thin and lead to some muddiness where the gray mixed with white and other colors too much
  • Solution #1: Thicken up your mixture. This one is pretty cut and dry— if your paint mixture is too thin, it’s likely that you’ve added too much medium. If that’s the case, add more paint little by little until your mixture has thickened up. 
  • Solution #2: Change your medium. Sometimes it’s less about the actual ratios and more about the medium you’re using. For example, if you’re using water primarily as a medium, you may find that your paint mixture isn’t as stable or strong. Water is definitely more cost-efficient than medium, but you can mix a little bit of water in with a medium like Floetrol and still save money, with the added benefit of strengthening your paint mixture.
  • Solution #3: Change your paint. Sometimes it’s not the medium, but rather, the paint. Many craft paints are very thin, which can affect the stability of your layering in your pour cup. If you’re using a good pouring medium and your mixture doesn’t thicken up when you add more paint, it might be time to consider another brand.

Over Manipulation

This painting I over manipulated and it caused the colors to bleed into each other
  • Solution #1: Sometimes you just have to stop tilting. Over-manipulating a poured piece is the demise of many a good pour! You know how it goes…the piece looks beautiful, and you think to yourself, hmm, if I just tilt it one more time, it’ll look even better. Except one time turns into 10 times and then suddenly, you’re muddy. When your piece starts to look good to you, and you get the feeling you should stop, stop. You can always add more to the piece later on but once you’ve muddied it, there’s really no going back. 
  • Solution #2: Stirring in the cup is a no-no. If you’re using a color scheme like teals, blues, and whites, you can do a little “x” motion in your cup to get a really neat blending effect (only make the x one time). However, if you’re using colors like purple and orange, do not do this. You’ll make mud before your paint even hits the canvas.
  • Solution #3: Layer carefully. Don’t plop and go. When you’re using colors that might not play well together, layering carefully in your cup can save you a mountain of trouble later on. When you’re looking for clear color delineation, you’ll want to layer your colors so that they sit on top of each other in your cup. To do this, tilt your cup and pour the paint down the sides of it so that it rests on top of the layer below it. If your colors are not mixed to the same consistency, this will not work. Make sure that you have equal consistencies with all of your colors so that the colors don’t sink into each other. 


How to Fix a Muddy Pour After It’s Done?

So, you’ve got a muddy canvas. There are a few solutions.

  • Scrape it. You’ll know pretty quickly if muddiness is a problem— long before the paint dries. If you know that you’re not going to be happy with the appearance of the pour and the paint is still wet, scrape the paint right off. Yes, it seems like a waste, but if you don’t like the piece when it dries, it would be a waste anyway. This is the easiest way to start over.
  • Pour over it. If you don’t want to scrape the paint, you can wait until the paint has completely cured (about four weeks) and then re-pour over the painting. Make sure to clean the surface of the cured painting before pouring. 
  • Pour more on it. If you still have some of your colors left and want to try to layer them in a cup for another go-around before the muddiness has dried, make sure to work quickly. Once the surface of your first layer of paint starts to dry, it will become sluggish and difficult to move. 


Final Thoughts

This is an example of a clear painting where you can see clear divides between colors and little mixing

Muddiness is frustrating, but avoidable and fixable. Don’t throw in the towel if you’re not getting the vibrant colors you’re looking for! Come join our Facebook Group (search for Acrylic Pouring) and we can help you troubleshoot on a more personal level if you’re still struggling.


Why is my acrylic pour muddy and 8 ways to avoid it

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