Acrylic Pouring Medium Guide: Everything You Need to Know

You will have likely heard the term “pouring medium” used in acrylic pouring. Medium can mean a few different things in the art world, so today we’ll answer the question what is pouring medium and why do we use it?

Quick Links
For your convenience, here are store links to items we mentioned in this article.
Liquitex Pouring Medium
Best-known brand and highly preferred by painters
GAC800
Designed to prevent or limit cracking and crazing
Floetrol
Thins paints for use with spraying
PVA Glue
Used by several popular YouTubers
Elmer’s Glue All
Can be used as a very inexpensive pouring medium
Book Binders Glue
A neutral PH alternative to the regular PVA glue
Lineco 901
Suitable for archival paintings
Sargent Art Gloss Medium
Dries so beautiful and glossy and much more economical

What is a pouring medium and why do you need one Which one is better than the others to use in acrylic pour paintings

If you’ve spent any time reading blogs, about acrylic pouring or taken a look at YouTube videos of artists working, you’ll definitely recognize the term “pouring medium.”

Folks with art backgrounds may already know about mediums, but we know from personal experience that most newcomers have lots of questions about this topic. With that in mind, we wanted to address some of the most common questions, including the following:

What is a pouring medium?
Why do we use pouring mediums instead of just adding water?
Are all pouring mediums the same?
What are the best ones?
Should I stick to one or use several? And how do I choose?

Read on to find all the answers and to see the pouring mediums we recommend to artists of all levels!

What is a pouring medium?

A pouring medium is an additive used to make acrylic paints pour and flow smoothly and freely. Pouring medium acts as both a diluting agent and binder. Mediums give acrylic paint smoother flow and will help paints with a mix of colors to act more uniformly. They also improve the overall integrity of your paints, so that they dry and finish with cracking, separating, or fading. Essentially, a pouring medium makes acrylics easier to work with and much more suitable for the pouring techniques we love so much!

Why Don’t We Just Use Water?

Using water to thin your acrylics is a simple, easy and inexpensive way to make paint easier to work with when you’re pouring. When you’re trying to pour on a budget, water is a great medium to start out with.

However, using water does have major cons. Water will dilute your colors, meaning, the vibrancy of your paint will be lost when on the canvas. Water also dilutes the binding agents in your paints, which means that they won’t stick as well to canvas and won’t work well at all on tougher surfaces like driftwood.

Water can’t completely bind with paint, either, so it results in an uneven consistency when you start working with your thinned acrylics. With water, you may find that your paints flake and lift of the canvas when they dry. Layers won’t stick to each other either.

Overall, your paintings likely won’t have the same vibrancy or quality that they ought to. What’s more, even if they look great initially, this likely won’t last. Water affects the pigments, binders, and finish when dry.

A good pouring medium gives you the fluid dynamics you want from water-thinned paints while making sure the paint retains its integrity and vibrancy. When you use a pouring medium, you typically won’t need any water to make your paints flow the way you want.

Are all Pouring Mediums the Same?

There’s quite a range of pouring mediums out there for you to try! Mediums vary widely and while their primary purpose is to improve the fluid dynamic of your paints, they also serve some practical purposes.

You might add a glossy medium to change the way your piece looks when dry. Or, you might just stick with a standard medium and add a glossy sealant coat later on.

Most pouring mediums fall under the “all-purpose” category. In general, they’ll optimize the consistency, flow and binding of your paints. Floetrol and Liquitex are a great example of popular pouring mediums that are considered “all-purpose”.

This being said, there are some more specific products on the market that are intended for a specific purpose. These are mostly preservatives for adding longevity to archival pieces, or more visually oriented products such as a gloss medium.

Which Mediums are Best?

The “best medium” varies wildly from artist to artist, depending on a number of factors, including technique and paint brand.

Most Popular Mediums

Liquitex Pouring Medium

Liquitex Pouring Medium is one of the best-known brands in the art market. Liquitex is aimed specifically at artists, and has a great consistency and reputation for quality. Because of the demand for Liquitex Pouring Medium due to the rise in popularity of acrylic pouring, Liquitex has often found it difficult to keep up with production, which has resulted in a sharp increase in cost. 

As acrylic pouring has become more popular, Liquitex has had trouble keeping up with demand. This product has often been out of stock. Artists are also reporting that prices have risen sharply because of the demand, as retailers realize that it’s become a very popular product.Click to check current prices

Because Liquitex is considered an “art” product, the price is higher than other mediums that you can find at a hardware store. Floetrol, considered a “contractor” product, is sold at a lower price and in larger quantities than it’s more expensive counterparts. If you’re pouring on a tight budget, you might want to opt for Floetrol instead of Liquitex.

Floetrol is a hardware store alternative to Liquitex, GAC800 (see below) and other “art” brand offerings. Floetrolis sold primarily as a paint extender for house painters, and thins paints for spraying as well as extending the drying time of your paint. Floetrol is totally inert when dry and has excellent longevity. 

Opinions are varied when it comes to Liquitex vs Floetrol, but the answer to “which one is best” really comes down to you as an artist! Floetrol works well for beginners and intermediate artists, with many pourers using it as a standalone all-purpose pouring medium.

Additionally, you can use Floetrol as an additive along with one of the other all-purpose mediums, since it can promote the formation of cells. Many experience artists use Floetrol in conjunction with Liquitex for this specific purpose.

To learn more about Floetrol and see how to use it in practice, click here for a Floetrol pouring recipe.

GAC800

GAC800 is the Golden brand’s equivalent to Liquitex Pouring Medium. It’s especially designed for pouring techniques and artists like us. The Golden product is different from Liquitex in that it’s formulated to be used in a very high ration compared to paint: up to 10 parts GAC800 to 1 part fluid acrylic! Though many of us don’t work with ratios this extreme, it’s certainly worth it to try Golden’s GAC800 while you experiment. Like Liquitex, GAC800 will prevent or limit cracking and crazing and thick layers of paint.

Golden also has their own formula for pouring that includes GAC800 and alcohol (find it here).

Other Pouring Mediums

PVA Glueis a common glue that can be found in most art classrooms. It’s used and favored by many popular pouring artists, although opinions on it’s quality are varied.   PVA Glue (also known as Elmer’s Glue All in the US) can be used to make a very inexpensive DIY pouring medium. PVA Glue does all the basics fairly well, and has all the binding ability you’d expect from an adhesive.

If you’re trying to be thrifty or you’re just starting out, this is a good way to experiment without investing much money. Having said that, you should know that this product is slightly acidic, and your resulting painting will not be “archival quality.” This is the primary reason why experienced and professional artists prefer a dedicated medium over glue.

Book Binders Glue is a neutral PH alternative to the regular PVA glue, and suitable for archival quality paintings as a result. If you like working with glue as opposed to a special pouring medium like Liquitex or Floetrol, this will help you keep doing so without sacrificing the longevity of your pieces.

Sargent Art Gloss Medium is a less well-known product which is part of the group of specialized mediums we mentioned earlier. Sargent Art Gloss Medium is an excellent clear coat for finishing pieces, but you can also mix in a splash along with an all-purpose medium to add some extra sheen to acrylics.

Lineco 901 is a product that helps to preserve acrylics for archival paintings, so it’s a good thing or add to pieces you’ll sell. With that said, Floetrol and Liquitex do a good job of preserving a piece’s integrity by themselves, but if you’re concerned about longevity, Lineco 901 is a great product for peace of mind.

Novaplex 233 – This product is offered by a small company in California. It’s a fairly popular and economical alternative to Liquitex. Shipping prices can be quite high, though. You’ll also have to deal with ordering directly from the company, since Novaplex isn’t sold on Amazon.

Note: This company also has a great range of paints! They’re a preferred brand of YouTube favorite artist Caren Goodrich.

DIY Pouring Medium

If you’d rather mix things up and make your own medium, you can do so fairly easily!

For example, if you aren’t completely happy with the results of Floetrol and Elmer’s Glue-All individually, it is possible to mix the two and create a custom medium to fit your needs better. For this recipe, you won’t need any water.

DIY Floetrol & Elmer’s Glue- All Recipe

  1. Always strain your glue-all and Floetrol through a mesh paint strainer before using them in pouring. It’s completely normal for lumps to form as these products settle, and does not mean that the product has “spoiled”. Straining will help you to avoid any unwanted texture.
  2. For this recipe, you’ll mix Floetrol and Glue-All at a ratio of 1 part Glue-All to 4 parts Floetrol. For example: if you’re using 3 oz sample cups to measure, you’ll want one 3 oz cup of Glue-All, and four 3 oz cups of Floetrol.
  3. Combine the two products and stir thoroughly. Make sure that they are well incorporated to avoid unwanted separation. Just like that, you’ve got your own homemade pouring medium!
  4. Medium can be stored for a period of time, but we find that up to a week is best. 

How Much Pouring Medium To Use

The amount of pouring medium you need will depend greatly on your project, technique, and most of all, your paint.

If you’re using thicker paint like Liquitex Basics, you might need a bit more medium to get the right consistency. The typical ratio of Liquitex Basics to pouring medium is 1 part Liquitex to 3 parts medium (again, depending on your desired consistency). 

If you’re using a thinner craft paint like Nicole’s Acrylics, you will need less medium to get to the consistency you’d like. Thin craft paints are typically mixed at an even ratio of one part paint to one part medium.

Should I Stick to One Medium? How do I Choose?

As you start your acrylic pouring journey, it’s a great idea to experiment with a range of different mediums. You’ll want to use paints from different brands to find your favorite colors, and you’ll want to play with a range of pouring mediums for the same reason! Eventually, you’ll find on that clicks with you and your process.

Most experienced pour painters will have their favorite product or favorite paint “recipe” and will usually not deviate from it. That’s because they can be sure (as much as one can be) of getting a repeatable and consistent result when they pour.

Our advice to you: start with whatever medium is available to you logistically or what’s within your budget, and test it out with your favorite brands of paints to see if you like the results. Try a few of your own side-by-side comparisons and see if the premium products work better and are worth the extra investment.

You probably don’t want to use more than two pouring mediums or additives, as a general rule. For example, most people use an all-purpose medium (such as Liquitex or Floetrol) and then a more specific additive, like the Sargent Art Gloss to give a shiny finish or some silicone oil for better cells.

Overwhelmed by Options? Let us break it down:

For beginners on a tight budget: PVA glue, such as Elmer’s.

For the average beginner or intermediate artist: Floetrol.

For a professional artist looking for a great well-rounded all-purpose medium: Floetrol, GAC800, or Liquitex Pouring Medium.

A Note on Costs

Many of these mediums, and others are available on Amazon. We’ve made a handy comparison page which lists many of the common choices. Included are Floetrol, GAC800, Liquitex Pouring Medium, gloss mediums from Sax and Sargent Art, PVA glue, bookbinders glue, and more.

Why Pouring Mediums Are a Good Idea

A good pouring medium gives you the fluid dynamics you want from water-thinned paints while making sure the paint retains its integrity and vibrancy When you use a pouring medium, you won’t need much (if any) water to make your paints flow the way you want.

There are a number of advantages to working with these additives. Pouring mediums actually bind to the paints, unlike water. There’s no separation or weakening. In fact, many mediums can strengthen paints and prevent cracking/crazing!

Mediums don’t sacrifice color, either. As long as you stick to reasonable ratios of paint to medium, you should see results with very satisfying color depth. A pouring medium may also extend the drying time of the paint, making it easier to work on your painting for a longer time or to create faux finishes. You get a valuable window to perfect your cells, finish up the edges of your canvas, and do any last-minute tweaks!

Wrapping Up

We hope we’ve answered all your questions about pouring mediums! They can be a confusing subject for many beginners, but they’ll make your pours much easier to work with and your results that much better. Let us know if you think we’ve missed something! Feel free to share in the comments about your favorite pouring mediums or any differences you’ve observed working with these products.

Happy pouring!

Comments

    1. Self Leveling Gel is wonderful. I use the one from Golden. I haven’t done pouring yet, like yours, but I do something similar with self leveling gel and a large frosting spreader. I can’t wait to get started with pouring as I have so many ideas in my head. Right now my speakers are not working and my computer guy can’t figure out why. So frustrating. I am a fine artist and I paint abstracts with acrylic.

    2. I have ordered “Acrylic pouring” by Deby Coles. I have sent my details but I have not received it.

    3. Can someone tel me if there is a difference between Elmer’s Glue All And Elmer’s school glue?

    1. I’ve not but I have seen others who do. Its a nice way to use up left over paints and then leave them around town as little found treasures to make someone’s day

    2. My sister-in-law has done at least 20 to 30 rock pours and they are beautiful she put them in her garden and seals them with a Polycrylic but I am not sure which one , Glossy for sure. Mostly on slate but she has done bigger rocks too.

    3. I have poured on many rocks. After paint has dried I spray with a high heat resistant clear spray from Amazon. I live in South Texas where it gets really hot. I also use it to spray on poured tiles. Also sometimes throw a little glitter on the wet paint on tiles and rocks.

  1. Thanks for your info. I am in UK and struggling to find supplies at reasonable prices. Amazon has some things but they are awfully expensive here so I’m trying to find household alternatives. I love your site, I use your prices to compare others here in England. . I wish I lived in USA. I’ve been an artist for 17 years and have used/painted most things, but I’m excited at the prospect of pouring! I’m going to convert my garage into a studio.

  2. I think I’ve s seen some use part pouring medium, part floetrol and a tiny bit of GAC 800. Do you use this and if so what percentages of each so you use?

    1. I tend to stick with one, or maybe two mediums in my recipe, although I’ve seen some painters use 6 or more different additives in their paints. I don’t personally see the need for that although each has different properties and you might want to mix and match and get the properties of each. You will find it much easier starting out to just use a single medium, get used to working with that one and then switch out or change your mix once you are more experienced.

  3. What is the ratio of pouring medium to paint? And, what is the purpose of adding a silicone product? How many paint colors are best to start with?

    1. Everyone has their own recipe or ratio or formula that they like to use so there is no set correct answer to that one. Silicone oils and other additives can make it easier to achieve cells in your painting if that is the look you are going for. For newbies, I would say try three colors plus white and avoid black until you are more confident with your mix and consistency of paints.

  4. Se puede usar como medio algo q en Argentina se llama Fijador o Sellador? No consigo ninguno de los propuestos y lo he practicado con cola plastica escolar rebajada con agua y no he obtenido buenos resultados. Además quise comprar Floetrol o Liquitex en Amazon y me dicen que no hacen envios a Argentina.

    1. Desearía poder ayudar, pero no estoy familiarizado con los productos que puede obtener en su país. ¿Tienes una buena tienda de arte? Es posible que pueda obtener un medio brillante para probar, o explicar lo que quiere hacer y ver si tienen alguna sugerencia. O en su tienda de bricolaje, busque un producto a base de agua que se usa para ralentizar el secado de las pinturas para el hogar que se usan en las paredes. Es posible que deba experimentar con algunos productos para ver qué funciona.

    1. Ebook och videoklassen kan tas i Sverige, även om de är på engelska. Men produkterna uppfylls av Amazon i USA och skickas inte till Sverige.

  5. Newbie here. I picked up some Floetrol over the weekend and tried some pours. No cells at all. Disappointing. What am I doing wrong? Could it be that all of my paints are opaque? The tubes do not specify. I will do some testing to determine opacity, but might this be the problem?

  6. Adding silicone oil after u mix ur paints promotes HUGE cells.. the less u stir the bigger the cells. I use a pouring medium recipe of 1 part Elmers GLUE All to 2 parts Floetrol… another recipe I use tht works well is 2 parts GLUE ALL to 1 part distilled water.

    1. We appreciate the suggestion, Ren! Many acrylic pouring artists aim for large cells so they may find this helpful to try out.

    1. If you want to incorporate glitter into your pours, some artists have had more success using glitter paints that don’t sink into the other acrylic paints used for the pour. Glitter glue might have a tendency to affect the consistency and finish of the artwork.

      If you’re using resin, you can opt to mix in micro glitter for a different effect.

      Here’s a blog post that I hope will help you out, too: https://acrylicpouring.com/create-resin-like-pours-using-glitter-paints/

  7. I also live in England and I use PVA glue from Poundland, various makes of acrylic paints, and a silicone spray that’s meant for cars also from poundland. I used Mod Podge for the pouring medium originally but it got a bit expensive and pva seems to work just as well.
    Cass Art sell Liquitex items.

  8. Just started pouring 2 weeks ago and am obsessed. I was mystified by why I get such a variety in density of cells, then I read on one of your posts BARELY STIR IN THE SILICONE,as if you’re mixing it up, just do ONE stir! Thankyou so much. I missed that detail right at the start of my information gathering.

  9. I’ve been doing the pour art for a little over a month now-and I found that I tend to get the best results for a variety of cell sizes-when I drip the Silicone oil directly over the finished pour!! I then come in with my heat gun to burst small air bubbles, encourage some small cells to form and promote some drying! Question: what is the difference between ‘Elmer’s Glue-All Glue’ & ‘Elmer’s School Glue’? I’ve used the latter as a pouring medium (sometimes with a little distilled water added; sometimes without), and have had some inconsistent results.

  10. do you need the heat torch if you don’t want cells? what purpose does it serve other than helping to form cells, if any?

  11. Can you use mod podge for medium to use with acrylic Pouring.I’m very interested in acrylic pouring.I will be starting this weekend.

    1. I tried Mod Podge as pouring medium and the result was not too good. It was all cracky and stuff so I don’t suggest it.

  12. Help !
    Can’t get Floetrol in Singapore. Liquitex is a bit steep.
    What else can I use a pouring medium?

    1. I am using all the sample paints from Home Depot, I also got some acrylic paints for crafts, both work well.

  13. Your Video Course and Beginners’ eBook are great. I went through them as a total beginner and was introduced to all the basics, along with helpful exercises to get started.

  14. Thoughts on using acrylic paint thinners? I live overseas and can’t get my hands on most of these supplies, but a lot of hardware stores here sell acrylic paint thinner. I’m wondering if this is a good additive to my thick acrylics to get them flowing better? Appreciate any input:)

  15. Can I use temperature paint for paint pouring projects? I bought them thinking it was the same as acrylic paint. How much pouring medium should I use with these paints?

  16. Thank you….good information.! Finally found a”sight” that explains about the mediums and the different brands etc. But reading some of the comments, “cells” were mentioned…?? What are the cells????

    1. Cells are the little circles that appear in the paintings where one color floats to the surface around another color. They look like large “cells” like from biology. It’s often something that people are trying to have appear in their paintings. If you search for acrylic pouring cells you can see some examples.

  17. Hi!

    I have Sargent Art Acrylic Paints.

    I am trying to find out if Floetrol is the same consistency as the Liquitex
    medium. There are some recipes for Liquitex with Sargent with but I cannot
    find much for Floetrol and Sargent. I tried (for paint to Floetrol) 1 to 1, 2 to 1,
    bit of water, etc. but am not getting the results I want. Maybe I am way off.
    Don’t know.

    If you don’t have the info, are there any Forums for Pour Painting that I can
    join and ask questions?

    Thanks,

    James

  18. I tried to order your book, but when I got to the check out part and it ask for my mailing info it wouldn’t let me put in my state. I tried several times and finally quit trying. I had given you all my credit card information, so I’m not really sure what happen.

  19. I have been told you have to use white ova glue not clear. I was wondering why this is. I just did my very first pour and used pva glue, unfortunately I wasn’t told until after I’d done it about not using clear

  20. I bought some apple barrel poring medium and when I opened it even after shaking vigorously it looks like cottage cheese. What’s wrong with it

  21. A reader inquired about using house paint. I use a white or off-white house paint every time I pour. I use it as a base coat on my canvas so the paint will flow freely. Never had a problem.

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