Beginner’s Guide to the Dirty Pour Technique in Acrylic Pour Painting

If you are new to painting and especially to pouring, when someone first mentions doing a dirty pour you might do a double take. What is a dirty pour? What exactly do they mean by that term? Why is it dirty? Do they mean that the paints are dirty colors, or that there is something ‘dirty’ about it; like they’ll be pouring paint while dressed only in their underwear? Is it some kind of painting fetish that you don’t know about? I admit the first time I heard the term I didn’t know what to think, but it didn’t sound an attractive way to paint at all!  Who wants a dirty painting?

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What is a dirty pour A term using in acrylic painting and when working with other materials such as resin. Definition, examples and a video to watch about what is a dirty pour.

In fact, many of the acrylic pours you’ll likely enjoy doing, if not most, are dirty pours.  It’s simply a term for mixing more than one paint color in the same container before adding it to the canvas or substrate.

You can also check out this article : Dirty Pouring with a Magic Ingredient!

You can add two, three, four or more pre-mixed colors into your cup or container, and then pour them onto your canvas in a single puddle, in a circle, a square, rows or just randomly across the canvas. The paints mix as they leave the cup blending the colors and creating interesting and sometimes unexpected colors and results. You will usually then tilt the canvas back and forth to move the paint, cover the canvas and the sides and create a composition that you find pleasing. Gravity creates the painting for you!

Example of a dirty pour – closeup

On a larger canvas, several different dirty pour cups might be needed. You can even create ‘double dirty pours’ by using different colors in different cups, such as a blend of blues and greens in one cup, and then reds and yellows in another cup. When poured separately onto the canvas these two different dirty pours can be blended or kept more separate according to the look you are hoping to achieve.

A double dirty pour using two cups with different colors

It can be a lot of fun. Nothing dirty about it – unless you choose colors that don’t work together well in which case you could end up with ‘muddy’ colors.

Luckily there are plenty of videos to put you on the right track with this acrylic pouring term.  Check out some of my videos below that use a dirty pour:

Dirty pouring with a magic ingredient

Another peacock pour with negative space

Dirty pouring an Ice Planet on a vinyl record

Dirty pouring a record with my own mica paints

Or you can watch this dirty pour on a negative space tutorial now!

If you’re interested in learning more about the dirty pour and other techniques check out our acrylic pouring technique guide.

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34 thoughts on “Beginner’s Guide to the Dirty Pour Technique in Acrylic Pour Painting”

  1. Maria. Chavez

    Do you have an educational or informative website?
    I am looking for an informative website.

    1. Oh dear, this was supposed to be an educational or informative website. This is the only website I have. I’m sorry you didn’t find it useful 🙁

    2. Holy Cow – go to youtube and see it in action. There are literally dozens of videos from several different people using a variety media including WD-40, baby oil, silicone lubricant, alcohol… whoohoo! Big fun 😀

    3. Eileen killoury

      I was unable to download “acrylic pouring” by Deby Coles. I would appreciate if you would send it again. I have sent details and paid. Many thanks.

  2. I am very grateful for the many folks who have essentially reached out to the rest of us with instructional video’s and I have watched a BUNCH of them. I am very interested in Pour Painting. Of all the video’s I have watched NOT ONE OF THEM DESCRIBES “the paint” itself. In other words, you will hear the person narrating the video using phrases such as “then you take the paint and you…..” – my questions WHAT PAINT???
    I understand it is acrylic paint we are talking about here but just what SPECIFICALLY are we talking about here? Do you go out and buy “acrylic pour paint”? is there even such a thing? If not, do you make it yourself somehow watering down paint from tubes (such as Liquitex Basics – for example)? If so, how much paint vs how much water? And what about ‘pouring medium’???? some videos mention them as though they are an integral part and others don’t mention them AT ALL. Would someone out there with true know how on this subject please tell the rest of us who wish to learn just what the mean SPECIFICALLY about “paint” – how to make or where to buy and what PRECISELY it is called and whether or not you really need ‘pouring medium’ or if WD40 or “silicone spray” or “Rainex” is better etc PLEASE????

    1. Many of the videos either describe their recipe or it will be included in the description section under the videos. All recipes are different and painters usually develop their own with certain ratios of paint, mediums, water and oil according to personal preferences and the results of their own experiences. All of my videos describe the ingredients and recipe I’m using usually, so perhaps you are just watching the wrong channels. There is no one product that is better than another because everyones experiences with that product might be different so you have to try them for yourself and decide which one you like best. If you want a proven recipe that you can follow, I have one in my Getting Started ebook and two in the Acrylic Pouring for Beginners video class – or simply follow any in my recent videos.

  3. You may use cheap acrylic paints for a start and mix them with a mediuim to thin them. If ur on a budget, you may try mixing any craft glue like Elmer’s (3/4 glue mixed with 1/4 water) with a tablespoon of your acrylic. Depends on the consistency that u desire, you may add a bit of water as you mix. Add a drop or 2 of silicone to make cells. I just use Biosilk Hair Therapy Argan and it works just fine than buying expensive brands like Liquitex. However, if you can afford high end brands then use them. Am sure they are priced for best results. Goodluck on your pours.

  4. Sunny Helphinstine

    How do you determine the amount of total paint needed for a canvas or other surface? If I have a canvas that is say, 24X24 inches, how do I figure out how much paint to use, or do I just experiment. I don’t want to use too little, but I don’t want to use too much and have it crack. Thanks for this information. So far, so good, but I want to go bigger and bigger!

  5. Thank you for such an INFORMATIVE well explained website. I am just about to start out with acrylic putting and feel you have given me all i need to know. Thank you

  6. I sometimes wonder about people who criticise or demand more information from the artists that take the time effort and investment to make excellent videos and offer them to the public free of charge. Yes, of course there is an element of self- promotion and advertising tied up with it. Time and materials have to be paid for in some way. For me, I am very appreciative of the skills and expertise demonstrated in the process of informing and teaching those of us willing to learn. So a big thank you to all you video posters; I have learned a great deal and you have given me hours of fascinated entertainment too. Live long and Prosper!

  7. Christa M. DeLeon

    I would like to see the cleanup after a pour. How it is done and disposed of properly. Please help us newbies .

  8. I believe the questions asked regarding this discussion were warranted. Same questions as mine. Techniques are certainly appreciated and very helpful, but the amount of paint, what specific paint, additives to paint, etc.
    , all valid questions for sure. Thanks for the answers given and all the other very relevant information bere. I have watched some beautiful utube videos and am quite excited about this new artform. I especially love the different techniques use, like pouring through a funnel, and a collander, plus hsing plastic wrap draped over the pour. Exciting stuff.

  9. Bev kaplannelson

    Debie I am not sure if this is the right site that I saw people that were putting paint on trivets and coasters and wondered what to use so it would take the heat I have used americana decor soft touch varnish VER and I has soft touch By deco art and I used a cup of boiling water on my coasters and it did not stick and it did not leave a mark perhaps this might help someone even if this isn’t the right site Purchased it on Amazon

    1. Thank you Bev, I have developed a habit (in my whole 4 days of doing this) that for each canvas I do I make trivets out of the same colors as there is always paint left over. Heat would be a factor to consider so for me this was great information.

  10. How do you know when a piece is dry enough to pour a finish on. I have a few pieces I did 3 days ago that appear to be very dry but I hear of people saying 2 -3 or even 4 weeks!, is there a rule of some kind?

    1. It can feel dry after a few days, but it can take weeks to cure all the way. And you want it to be totally cured before applying varnish, so we recommend just waiting 4 weeks. Over time you may learn a difference between the types of paints and how much paint you use and can tell if it’s dry earlier, but to be safe and ensure no cracking it’s best to just wait 4 weeks

  11. I would like to see paint pouring on glass….I have seen some beautiful paint pouring vases…..also using the dirty pour and a lot of the same techniques….the case is usually on a canvas, so then the excess paint is moved around and you end up with two projects!????

    1. Josephine Saunders

      I pour the left over paint from a canvas onto a recycled wine bottle, rolling down the sides as if it’s wax. It’s a nice effect and with a bottle light (with plastic cork and batteries – eBay around one pound) it makes a great gift ????

  12. I have a simple question:
    When I do a pouring picture and I dont like the results what can I do?
    Pour more painting on? erase the paint?
    How do I use the canva again?

  13. Hello,
    I have recently started acrylic paint pouring. After making 10 or 20 paintings my wife was upset that they were piling up in the cellar. I am going to try painting coasters, bottles, shot glasses, bookmarks, etc besides using them around the house and gifts, what do people do with all their work. I am afraid to walk into a room full of relatives and friends because they are worried that I will give them one of creations. Some ideas of what to do with our pieces of art would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  14. Hi, loved the 5 tutorials. With paintings that were duds but I let them dry, can I just paint over them with basic house water based PRIMER, because I used silicone in them?

  15. Thank you for your generosity in providing these free tutorials. I found them extremely useful and inspirational. I have my shopping list ready.

  16. Thank you so much for all your information; it’s a real help when just starting to find out what pouring paint is all about and what to use and how to use it. Certainly something I will get into further and possibly will integrate in my mixed media work. Very ver helpful and very generous!

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