Save Your Work Surface With an Easy Pour Box

I have been pouring seriously for about six months, and a few days ago I was shocked when I noticed what my pour box looked like. It looked like a weary, old warrior, home from battle and ready to retire. It looked rough! (see photo below).

pour box

I decided it was time to make a new pour box. Just in case you don’t use a pour box or don’t know what a pour box is, a pour box is the workbench of the pour artist. It’s where all the action happens. The primary reason to have a pour box is to help keep your studio (or kitchen table) as clean as possible.

Supplies I Used

The pour box is indispensible. When you mix your paints, you do it over the pour box. It can catch any paint that slops over the side of your cup as you mix in a few more ounces of Floetrol or a shot of water.

When it’s time to create your painting, you place your canvas inside the pour box and start pouring the paint. Your pour box will catch all the paint that flows off the sides of your canvas and keep all that excess paint in the bottom of the box rather than on the kitchen table or floor.

When you decide to make a pour box, the most important factor is deciding what size canvas you will typically be pouring on. If you normally pour on an 8×8- or 10×10-inch canvas, then your box only needs to be a few inches larger than your canvas.

A safe bet would be to use a box that is six inches larger than the canvas you plan to use—three inches buffer zone for each side. But as I mention in the video, don’t overthink this. The box just needs to be bigger than the canvas so it can catch the dripping paint.

This is a good example of a simple pour box.

pour box

Finding a good box

The best place to find a good box is at Sam’s Club or Costco. Walmart would probably work, too, but Sam’s and Costco seem to have lots of good boxes. (Look for boxes that hold bread or fruit.)

In my experience, both of these stores are happy to give these boxes away. If you find your ideal box and it has holes or openings on the side or bottom, don’t worry. Simply cover the holes with tape to make sure paint can’t sneak out.

You will need a way to hold your canvas above the bottom of the box so the canvas won’t sit in the puddles of poured paint. The easiest way to do this is to simply place four cups inside the box (see photo above).

This is a quick and easy solution, but it does have one major drawback. You won’t be able to easily save the beautiful layers of paint that form on the bottom of your box. These thin layers of paint are called “skins” and they can be really pretty. So pretty that a lot of artists like to use them to make jewelry.

When I made my first pour box I wasn’t concerned about saving skins, so I went with the cups (see first photo). Now I have friends asking me to save my paint skins for them so they can use them in their art projects. That leads me to the creation of the advanced pour box.

Creating an Advanced Pour Box

pour box

For my box, I ended up using four aluminum rods simply because I had them leftover from an earlier art project. I recommend you use wooden dowels to support your canvas.

Notice the plastic sheets covering part of the bottom of the box. The paint drippings (a.k.a., skins) will easily peel off the plastic and can be used for other art projects.

The advanced pouring box will cost a few more dollars and take just a little more time than the basic pour box. Really, the only reason to go with this style of box is to be able to save the paint skins.

For the advanced box, the only additional items you’ll need are wooden dowels and something to cover the bottom of the box (like a thin piece of plastic, or I’ve been told that wax paper will work as well).

The wooden dowels can be found at craft stores or hardware stores or online and should only cost a dollar or two each. The dowels will be used instead of the cups to hold your canvas up off the bottom of the box.

Typically one wooden dowel will be long enough that you could cut it in half and use it as two of your supports. A large box will need four or five supports. A small box may only need two or three.

Don’t overthink this part…all you need to do is measure the width of your box and make your dowels two inches longer than the box. That way, after you poke the holes in the side of the box, the dowels will stick out about an inch on either side (see photo).

Approximately one inch from the top edge of your box, you will make three or four holes where you want the dowels to go. Do this on two sides of the box (see photo).

I used a pair of scissors to poke my holes, and, I have to confess: I didn’t even measure. I just eyeballed it and it worked out fine. Remember, the pour box is not the work of art—it’s just a container to catch dripping paint.

The final step is to put something in the bottom of the box that will make it easy to remove the paint skins. I visited my local Dollar Tree and found a two-pack of thin plastic sheets you would use in the kitchen to cut veggies or meat on and not hurt the countertop.

Put these in the bottom of the box, and when your paint drippings dry, they should peel right off the plastic and you will have gorgeous skins to use for other projects.

I realize this blog is a bit long, but I wanted to break things down into simple steps. When you watch the video, I think you will see just how easy it is to make a functional pour box that you’ll be able to use for months and maybe even years!

If you like the painting in the video, it will be for sale in my Etsy store at a very reasonable price.

Happy pouring!

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Steve Shaw is an artist and teacher living in Atlanta, Georgia. His days are spent in the classroom teaching his students the basics of art and self-expression. In the evenings and weekends, he paints. Steve has shown his work in several galleries in the Southeast and has illustrated three children’s books. Recently Steve has discovered acrylic pour painting and is putting all his other projects on hold while he journeys down this artistic road.

To see more, follow him on Instagram, visit his website, watch his videos on his YouTube Channel and purchase his paintings at Etsy.com.

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