Pour it Out: Troubleshooting Over Manipulation in Fluid Art

Thanks for joining me for another Pour it Out! Let’s dive right into one of the biggest and most difficult to troubleshoot issues over manipulation!


What is Manipulation in Fluid Art?

In case you’re not quite sure what I mean by manipulation, we use that term to describe the act of tilting and moving your pour surface to move the paint around and create unique designs. This is a big part of fluid art, since you’re pouring paint on the surface without the intent to spread it around with a paintbrush. Tilting and moving the surface is the best way to move those colors around without blending them all together.

Except…when it’s not.


How Much is too Much?

I’m pretty confident that most, if not all fluid artists have over-manipulated at some point. There are a couple of ways you’ll know if you’ve gone too far.


  • There are bare spots on your canvas. This can also be due to a thin or improperly mixed paint mixture, but if you’re tilting your canvas too much, you risk stretching out your paint layer and making it too thin. A very thin layer of paint means that you’ll either be able to see directly through it, or you’ll see the texture of the canvas through the paint; neither of which are usually the intent.
  • Your colors become muddy. Muddy colors can happen for a variety of reasons, but one of them is definitely over-manipulation. The goal of acrylic pouring is to retain your color integrity, even if you’re layering your paint colors in a cup. When you tilt and turn your surface too many times, you are essentially mixing your colors together. This will cause mud, or if your colors are very similar, it will cause them to blend all into one color.


If any of these things have happened to you and you know that it’s not your mixture to blame, you’ve likely over-manipulated your piece. Sometimes, adding a bit more paint can help but other times, you might just need to scrape it, or paint over it. The real question is, how can you avoid it?

The simple answer is that there’s not a concrete way for you to predict how much is too much. It sounds cliche, but the only way to avoid over-manipulation is to communicate with your piece. When you start to see patterns emerging that you like, stop tilting for a moment and study them. How is the color separation structure? Are the walls of your colors very wiggly, or already starting to blend together? If so, more manipulation will likely cause mud. 

In any case, it’s essential to stop and study your piece periodically. Give yourself a few moments to identify what you like about the emerging patterns, or what you don’t like. If you don’t love the way the paint is flowing, add more paint, or start over continuing to tilt when you aren’t feeling a connection to the piece will usually result in frustration.


Final Thoughts

All of us have had a piece that we simply don’t love. Sometimes it’s because of over-manipulation, sometimes it’s not a good day for our brains to create. Don’t give up if you have one of those days!

5 thoughts on “Pour it Out: Troubleshooting Over Manipulation in Fluid Art”

  1. Lol ..just has become my recent issue
    Hahaha.. today twice. I can’t let the paint.. I costs too much when you make big mistakes hehe!. Wiggly jiggly. So funny. I spent a. Hour on each adding more paint.. my problem is that I liked parts of them . I need to learn to le go sooner. Thanks for your push. 🙂

    1. Why don’t you do balloon rolls or kisses on the parts you don’t like?????

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