Pouring an Ocean Tidal Pool Using the Balloon Press Technique

It seems that every so often in the paint pouring community a new technique is born and suddenly everyone, including me, is trying that new idea. Trying new things gives me a fresh perspective, keeps paint pouring challenging and helps me grow as an artist. Still, as much as I enjoy the new ideas that are shared, there are some techniques that I return to again and again because they give me consistently nice results. The trick for me is trying to figure out different ways to use them so I don’t fall into a rut, producing the same paintings over and over.    

Two of my favorite techniques are the swipe and the balloon press. Like many pourers, I’ve frequently combined the two with beautiful results, but one day I looked at several of my paintings together and noticed something comical about my balloon swipes. While some of them looked like lovely flowers, some looked more like, well, powder puffs! I asked my husband to look at them and being the kind soul he is, he said, “They look like sea anemones.”  

My painter brain got very excited about that idea and I decided to deliberately combine an ocean swipe pour, with a balloon press in the colors of sea anemones and see what happened. The result was exactly what I had hoped, the look of a tidal pool either as the tide was coming in causing waves to flow over and around the anemones, or with the anemones beginning to be revealed as the waves receded. I hope my video will help you create something similar.  

Supplies I Used:

  • A swiping tool. I use varying sizes of spackling trowels and a metal chopper/scraper   shown in the video.
  • A balloon, blown up to approximately the size of a soft ball.  
  • Basics Titanium white, Cerulean blue, Prussian blue
  • Amsterdam acrylic paint in Turquoise blue, Sky Blue Light, VanDyke brown, Olive green light and Pthalo green, Quinacridone Magenta and Basics Ultramarne Violet.
  • Silicone (2 drops in 3 oz. of colors noted)    
  • A rag or something to clean off your swiping tool and balloon between uses.

To make the “water” look:  

Basics Titanium white, no silicone, Cerulean blue mixed with a little yellow and silicone, Prussian blue with silicone.

Amsterdam brand Turquoise blue with silicone, Sky Blue Light with silicone and VanDyke brown with white to lighten it, no silicone.  

To make the sea anemones:

No silicone.

Amsterdam Olive green light and Pthalo green

Amsterdam Quinacridone Magenta and Basics Ultramarne Violet.  

Instructions and tips

  1. For the water look, alternate paint colors in an oval shape, ending with rings of white over the blues and brown.
  2. Swipe in wavy patterns from the center outward.
    (Tip: Slightly alternate directions of swipes to make the movement of the water look more realistic rather than pulling every swipe straight out from the center like a flower. Also, clean paint off your swiping tool between swipes to be sure it doesn’t muddy the white on the next swipe.)
  3. To make the sea anemones, layer drops of two colors where you want them and press the balloon into the paint.  
    (Tip: Getting the balloon press to look right can be challenging. I often begin by using my balloon to pull some paint off the canvas where I want the sea anemone. I do this by doing a press, then wiping off the paint pulled up on the balloon. Once I have some excess paint off, I put my drops down and press. As you’ll see in the video, this can sometimes take a few attempts before I’m happy with the results, but by pulling paint off if I don’t like the look, I have the ability to re-try and fix it.)

  4. As always, I hope you have fun with the process and that you’ll share your results!  

9 thoughts on “Pouring an Ocean Tidal Pool Using the Balloon Press Technique”

  1. Thanks for the explanation, makes it easier later as one watches the video!
    The sea anemones they are! Love the colors

  2. Enjoyed the video but at no time did you mention the paint dilutions,what with and how much silicon was used.
    Can you advise.

    1. Hi Jan, you’re right, I should have added that information! I use Floetrol as my pouring medium and I usually start with a 1part paint to 2 parts floetrol ratio, keeping in mind the idea of getting the consistency to that melted ice cream thickness. I wish I could give you exact ratios but the densities of the different paints make them all slightly different and I just have to eyeball it until I get it the right thickness. As for the silicone, I use 3 drops of silicone for a 3 oz cup of paint. I hope that helps. Thanks for watching the video.

  3. Rosemarie Altberg

    Easy to follow your steps. The water turns out very nice, a lot of movement. I will have to try the balloon technique.
    Thanks for sharing

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