Acrylic pouring is a versatile, highly customizable fluid art form that truly caters to every skill level and desired outcome. With acrylic pours, you can create backdrops for dreamscape scenery, coasters and other home decor, and magnificent faux marble counter tops (just to name a few things). With so many acrylic pouring techniques available, it can be difficult to know where to begin. We’ve rounded up all of the current acrylic paint pouring techniques in this compendium so you can learn about them all in one convenient place.
The materials for each fluid painting technique will stay mostly the same; you’ll need paint, a medium of some sort, and a surface. Additionally, depending on the type of result you’re trying to achieve, you may want to add silicone or a bit of water; we’ll discuss any additional ingredients or considerations used with each technique, but assume that if there are no additional ingredients mentioned, the technique requires only paint and medium to achieve. Of course, the beauty of acrylic pouring is that it’s really customizable, so tweak the recipes to fit your needs! If you need more info on materials check out our acrylic pouring supplies post or get our acrylic pouring beginners guide to learn all the basics you need to get started with acrylic pouring.
Basic Acrylic Pouring Techniques
When we say basic technique, we are referring to acrylic pouring techniques that are fit for beginner-level artists and veteran artists alike. These techniques require only a standard amount of preparation, and can be completed using items that most people have in their households already.
For beginners interested in more in depth and comprehensive video guides on basic pours including the clean pour, puddle pour, dirty pour, flip cup, and swipe acrylic pouring techniques then check out our acrylic pouring basics course.
Basic or “Clean” Pour
A basic or clean pour refers to the process of pouring one color at a time on a surface. Sometimes, the goal is to get them all on the surface separately and keep them that way, or an artist may use one color at a time and then use a toothpick or other tool to swirl the colors together in intricate patterns.
Clean pours are great for creating color block pieces or abstract retro art.
Creating a Clean Pour:
- Mix your paint with your desired medium so that the consistency of the paint is like a warm, runny honey. It should flow uninhibited, but should not be “drippy” or thick and sludge-like.
- Once your paint has been properly mixed, take one color at a time and pour as desired on a surface of your choice.
- Manipulate the surface to move the colors around if you’d like the edges of the color to blend, or leave the paint as-is to maintain clean lines.
In every pour, paint thickness is key: make sure that your paint is not too thick, or it won’t dry properly and you will have cracks in your finished painting.
Clean pours are most commonly used with the swipe method, which we will cover further down in this article.
Dirty Pour Technique
A dirty pour refers to the process of layering individual colors in a cup, and then pouring them onto a surface all at once. Dirty pours are the most common pours, and a wide variety of results can be achieved using this acrylic pouring technique.
Creating With a Dirty Pour:
- Mix each color separately (paint and medium).
- Layer your colors together in one cup; you can do this gently by pouring the paint down the sides of the cup, or “plop” the paint colors into each other for a dramatic blend.
- Pour the paint onto your surface.
- Manipulate your surface to achieve the desired pattern and style. Make sure that you do not have a very thick layer of paint on the surface, or your painting will crack.
Dirty pour art is very popular when creating faux marble finishes!
Dirty Pour Examples
Flip Cup Technique
A flip cup pour refers to placing an upside down cup full of paint onto a surface, and then either pulling it off to allow the paint to flow out, or poking holes in the top to relieve pressure and allow the paint to come out from under the cup.
Flip cup pours create beautifully dynamic patterns and blends; cells are also attainable with this technique. If you’re looking to achieve cells, you’ll want to add a silicone or dimethicone to a few of your colors (I recommend only putting silicone or dimethicone in your colors, not in black, white or metallic paints).
Creating With the Flip Cup Technique:
- Mix your paints with mediums in individual cups. If you are using silicone or dimethicone, this is the time to add it.
- Layer your paint in a cup either by pouring it gently down the sides, or by plopping the colors together in the cup.
- Depending on the size of your surface, you can tackle the actual action of flipping the cup in a few ways:
- For small surfaces: Set your full paint cup right side up on your work table. If you’re using a surface that’s easy to manipulate with one hand, flip the surface over and place it over the top of the cup. Then, grasp the cup with one hand and the surface with the other, and simultaneously flip them over so that the cup is upside down on the top of your surface.
- For large surfaces: You can place a small piece of cardboard or plastic over the top of your pouring cup and then manipulate both the cup and the plastic the same as you would with a small surface; then, place the edge of the smaller surface onto the desired area of your larger surface, and slide the cup right off onto it!
- You can also do a very exciting flip cup pour and very quickly flip the cup over onto your surface; this is personally my favorite way to do a flip cup. The paint splatters can be very interesting!
- Now that you’ve got your cup on your surface, you can decide if you’d like to simply pull it off or poke a few holes in the cup to allow the paint to flow out on its own from the bottom once the pressure is relieved.
- Once your paint is on the canvas, you can manipulate it to get the desired effect and as always…make sure your paint isn’t too thick!
Flip cup painting is so much fun, because you never know what you’re going to get!
If you want more info on flip cups, check out our flip cup walkthrough for beginners.
Flip Cup Pour Examples
Puddle Pour Technique
A puddle pour uses a dirty cup to create a puddle of paint in the middle of a surface that can then be manipulated either by moving the canvas/surface or using air to manipulate it.
This technique naturally blends the colors, and works very well for tri-color rainbow pours (magenta, yellow, and cyan), since the blending can create new colors. Just be sure to familiarize yourself with the color wheel first so that you don’t end up with muddy colors.
Intermediate Acrylic Pouring Techniques
Once you have the basics of paint mixing and poured paint behavior down, it’s time to move on to the next step of fluid acrylic pouring techniques. If you want some guidance for new techniques to try check out our acrylic pouring recipe book with 33 different recipes of all types of techniques including swipes, resin, marble, flip cups and many other pours.
Swipe Acrylic Pouring Technique
A swipe refers to the process of pouring individual colors and then using a tool like a slightly damp, flattened paper towel or a cake frosting spatula to swipe the paint. This is a great technique to achieve cells.
Creating Using a Swipe:
- Mix your paint and medium to the desired consistency.
- You can choose to keep your colors separate, or mix them together for a dirty pour; whichever you prefer.
- Once your paint has been mixed and you’ve poured it on your canvas, take a flat, thin tool and gently swipe from one end of your canvas to the other. Don’t put too much pressure on the canvas, or you will scrape off the paint or mix the colors too much, which can produce mud.
- Optional: If you have a torch, you can use it after a swipe to help cells pop out if you’ve added silicone or dimethicone.
The swipe technique is one of my favorite acrylic pouring techniques, because it can be used to create more controlled designs; many artists use swipes to create the appearance of hair trailing behind the silhouette of a woman or even a horse.
Swipe Acrylic Pour Examples
Tree Ring Pouring Technique
A tree ring pour utilizes the dirty pour technique, but changes up the way you actually pour the paint onto the canvas to create a mesmerizing design.
Creating a Tree Ring Pour:
- Mix and layer your colors in a cup as you would with a dirty pour.
- Gently squeeze your dirty pour cup so that it creates a pointed “pour spout”. Then, begin pouring the paint on the canvas in a tight, circular motion until all of the paint is on the canvas.
- Manipulate the canvas in a circular motion to retain the tree ring appearance of the pour.
Tree ring pours can create a lot of depth! Be mindful of the colors you combine and how you combine them; play with light colors and dark colors layered on top of each other to create really stunning blends and lines!
Tree Ring Pour Examples
Swirl Tree Ring Aqua Colors
Travelling Tree Ring
Balloon Smash Acrylic Pouring Technique
This technique is every bit as fun as it sounds! A balloon smash is an acrylic pouring technique that uses a bouncy, inflates surface to create unique shapes in mini puddle pours. A balloon smash can be done in conjunction with a clean or dirty pour, and creates flower-like designs.
Creating a Piece With the Balloon Smash Method:
- Mix a base color of your choice (white, black, etc) with the medium of your choosing and pour a thin layer over your canvas; spread it to all four corners (or all the edges, if you’re using a round canvas/surface).
- Take your medium-mixed individual paint colors or your dirty cup and pour small puddles on the canvas. Start with one or two, just so you can see how the colors work together.
- Taking an inflated balloon, beach ball, or other blow up item that has a rounded side, and “smack” the middle of each poured puddle. You can do this hard, or use gentle pressure; try it a few different ways to see which method works best.
This technique creates beautiful abstract flowers and marine imagery, have fun with the unique shapes you can create with this method.
Tip: Try using a straw to blow out the edges of your smashed puddles for a silky, gauzy look.
Controlled Marble Pour Technique
A controlled marble pour is the technique of creating a faux marble finish with a carefully planned pour. In the Beginner section, we discussed that this is attainable with a flip cup pour, but you can also control the results with a more intricate method.
Creating a Faux Marble Finish With a Controlled Marble Pour:
- Choose your colors wisely. It’s recommended that you stay at three shades of the same color (for example, black, dark gray, and white). Keep in mind that marble has gradients, and these gradients are typically in the same color family.
- Choose a marble line color. In natural marble, you can see that there are either light or dark lines throughout the marble; you’ll need to choose which color will make up this line.
- Combine your desired colors and medium. Carefully layer your two main marble colors in a cup, retaining your third marble line color.
- Using the dirty pour method, pour your layered two marble colors onto your desired surface and gently manipulate to blend their edges.
- Gently squeezing your pour cup to make a pour spout, take your marble line color and drizzle it in lines across the surface. Keep in mind that marble lines often intersect because they run throughout a piece of marble, it’s a good idea to make lines that run off the side of your piece to give a 3D look.
- Once you’ve made your lines, manipulate your piece again so that the lines flow with the marbled background.
Marble lines in black, white or metallic colors are visually stunning—we recommend browsing through pictures of marble first so you can familiarize yourself with how marble lines work.
Advanced Acrylic Pouring Techniques
Once you’ve mastered the concepts and mechanics behind the beginner and intermediate pour techniques, it’s time to explore more advanced fluid art techniques!
String Pull Pouring Technique
A string pull uses a piece of string or a chain to create feather-like wisps of color on a poured background. These light and airy designs can then be outlined to create striking feathers, or left as-is for a natural look.
Creating a Piece Using the String Pull Method:
- Mix your colors with medium. You’ll want to mix your “background” color slightly thinner so that your string pull paint doesn’t get swallowed up by thick paint.
- Pour your background color over your canvas or surface. Spread it evenly.
- Loading your string:
- If you want a random string pull (i.e, colors are not placed in any particular order), you can create a dirty cup and then pour a small amount on a piece of tin foil or other flat surface. Then, saturate your string in the paint.
- If you want specific color placement, keep your colors separate and create a line of paint on a flat surface like tin foil in alternating colors: for example, first you’d pour a line of blue, then pour the next segment of the line with red, then the next segment of the line in yellow. Stretch your string and lay it in the line of paint, turning it to coat it evenly.
- Feather Pull:
- To create a feather, take your string and lay it stretched on your canvas. Then, take the top of your string and pull it towards you, dragging it flat against the canvas. Repeat, pulling in the opposite direction for the other side of the feather.
- Flower Pull:
- To create a flower pull, take your string and coil it on the canvas, with the tail of one end pointed towards you. Gently pull the string or chain towards you without lifting it from the canvas, and allow it to uncoil itself as you pull.
- Try not to over manipulate the design.
String or chain pulls can be difficult to master, and everyone has a preference for paint consistency. Experiment with background consistency and string paint consistency to get the effect you’re going for.
String Pull Acrylic Pour Examples
Flower String Pull
Feather String Pull
By Gina DeLuca
Resin Pouring Technique
A resin pour is created by mixing acrylic paint with typically a two-part resin to create depth and layers. Resin is transparent, and you can add just a touch of acrylic to simply tint it, or more if you want the color to be opaque. Resin pours work very well for creating ocean pours. In fact, the ocean pour used as an example below was created by Ann Upton, who offers a resin course that teaches how to make these types of paintings.
Creating a Resin Pour Piece:
- Follow the directions on your resin container for mixing and temperature.
- Once your resin is mixed and ready, add your paint. Do not add resin to your paint, add your paint to your resin. Mix the resin and acrylic paint thoroughly, making sure that it’s well incorporated. It’s important to check the working time for your resin so you can work quickly without sacrificing precious mixing time.
- Pour your resin onto your surface. You can use gloved hands to blend the colors, but be careful not to mix them or you may get mud.
- Use a torch or your own breath and a straw to pop the surface bubbles. A torch works best, but make sure you hold the torch a few inches from the surface and pass over it quickly to avoid scorching the resin.
Typically, resin will cure in about 24 hours, and then you’ve got an amazing piece! Make sure that you protect your hands and your eyes when you’re working with resin; resin is difficult to remove from skin, and getting it in your eye is extremely painful, too!
Resin Pour Examples
Dutch Pouring Technique
A Dutch Pour or Blow Pour is created by pouring paint (usually using the dirty cup technique) onto a canvas and using a blow dryer or other air manipulation to spread the color. This is a great technique if you’re looking to create abstract flowers or other unique and interesting shapes!
Creating a Piece Using a Dutch Pour:
- Mix your paints and medium, and choose a background color (mix that with medium, too).
- Pour your background color onto your canvas or surface and spread it around.
- Layer your colors, dirty cup-style, and then pour several puddles on the canvas.
- Using a blowdryer (or a straw and your lungs) (start on low, high can be messy), blow the paint so that it spreads, connecting each puddle.
To add a bit more bling to the piece, you can also premix gold or another metallic and drizzle it on your Dutch pour after you’ve blown out the other colors. Then, use a straw or manual manipulation to gently blend the metallic so that it looks natural against the poured colors.
Dip Pouring Technique
A dip is done by pouring on one canvas or surface, then taking another canvas/surface and pressing the two face to face.
The dip technique is tricky because it can produce rather muddy results if the artist isn’t familiar with color theory.
You can use either a clean pour or a dirty pour for this acrylic pouring technique. Once you’ve poured on one of the canvases, press the other firmly against it and then slowly pull them apart. You can then manipulate the pieces if you like, or leave them as-is if the paint isn’t too thick. This technique creates really amazing ripples and waves, as well as feathering and blending!
There are many ways to create a stunning poured piece of artwork. You don’t have to strictly stick to the directions of any one acrylic pouring technique either—mix and match and experiment!
Flip Cup – Tina Swearingen
Dip Summer Greens – Linda King
Resin Pour – Ann Upton