Some of the best artists currently doing fluid acrylic art had years of experience. Countless hours have gone into experimentation and mastery of their own techniques and methods. As a novice in the field, or a journeyman looking for more to learn, sometimes it can feel daunting trying to incorporate everything these paint pouring gurus already know.
We’ve compiled a list of 24 acrylic pouring tips and tricks that actually work to help you jump-start your acrylic paint pouring mastery. These tips include things like how to help create the perfect dirty pour cup or an ingenious way to get rid of clumps in your Floetrol and old paints.
We are sure you’ve heard of some of these tips, but we also believe a few will surprise you. We hope you enjoy this list of fluid acrylic tips and tricks. If you have tips to share with our community, let us know in the comments section at the bottom of this article.
Acrylic Pour Paint Mixing Tips and Tricks
In this section, we consolidate all tips related to paint preparation. This includes the initial mixing of paint and pouring medium and mixing prepared paints together for techniques like the flip cup or a dirty pour.
1. Use small incremental amounts of medium when mixing heavy body acrylics
When mixing heavy body acrylics for a fluid pour, start with only a few drops of medium. Mix well and then add slightly more medium. Continue until you get the paint consistency that you want. This will keep the heavy thick acrylic paint from clumping or not fully mixing which is common when trying to mix all the paint and medium at once.
2. Use 90% water and 10% medium instead of straight water
Adding too much water to your fluid acrylic paint can reduce the acrylic resin’s ability to bind together which leads to cracking and crazing. Adding a little medium to your water for thinning gives a little extra protection from over thinning. This helps in both the binder ratio, and the speed with which you change the consistency of paint when adding straight water.
3. Use pantyhose or a tea strainer for Floetrol and old fluid acrylic paints
Floetrol and old paints tend to partially dry over time in their containers which creates clumps. These clumps of dried material can cause unsightly blemishes on a painting if not removed.
The first easy way to filter your old fluid acrylic paints is to use a tightly stretched pair of old pantyhose (new works too, it’s just more expensive that way!). Stretch the pantyhose over the lid of the container and make sure it covers the threads on the side of the lid. Then tightly wind rubber bands on the thread to hold the pantyhose in place. Now pour through the pantyhose. This will need to be changed anytime the liquid stops flowing through the makeshift filter.
A second way to filter your paint is to use a tea filter. These miniature colanders/strainers have very small holes and thus will filter out almost all the dried paint or Floetrol that might end up in your containers. When washing this filter, make sure to use a scrub brush as rinsing only won’t remove the small particles of dried paint that get stuck.
4. Use the proper sized cups for flip cup pours
When doing a flip cup, it is important that your paint fills the entire cup. If the paint does not completely fill the entire cup, when the flip is done, the paint will move to the empty space in the cup, which is now at the bottom instead of the top. The more empty space there is in the cup, the more the paints are going mix as they settle to the bottom of the cup.
If cells are desired, the different densities of the paint will cause some cellular formation as the denser paint falls to the bottom of the cup through the less dense paint. When air pockets are available, this denser paint (like titanium white) will just flow around the other paint instead of through the paint, thus limiting the number and quality of cells that might be formed once allowed to spread across the canvas.
Get more information about acrylic pour cells in our Everything You Need To Know About Cells article.
5. Tilt container slightly when mixing a dirty pour cup
Put a spoon, a brush, or a few stir sticks under one side of your dirty pour cup before adding paint. This will cause the paint cup to tilt and allow for the paint to “layer” itself diagonally instead of just horizontally.
This slight change in the orientation of paint in the dirty pour cup can give entirely different results then other traditional methods. You can also try pouring the paint along the lower side of the cup to better maintain the diagonal effect.
6. Pour paint onto stick or spoon instead of directly into the cup
In many cases when creating a dirty pour, you want to stack the paint in layers in the cup. This can be difficult, especially with large quantities of paint or with deep cups.
To keep the paint from sinking quickly into the cup, try pouring onto a spoon or stirring stick that is held just above the current paint in the cup. This allows the paint you are pouring into the cup to slow down considerably before getting to the previous layer of paint and thus limiting it from dropping below the previous paint color.
Pouring the paint little by little will also help keep it from sinking through the other sections of paint.
7. Use a scale
If you are anything like us, you’ve had a difficult time trying to recreate the same effects after creating an amazing painting. Part of this is the inherent variability of fluid acrylic painting. However, a good part of the problem was the fact that my paints were slightly different every time we used them.
When mixing paints, if you use a scale and measure your paint, medium, and water you will achieve much more consistent results with your paintings.
A good digital kitchen scale is generally less than $20 and is an invaluable tool in your pour acrylic painting arsenal.
8. Try reusable stirring spoons/sticks
Acrylic pouring creates a lot of potential waste. One way we’ve been able to cut down on the waste created is by mixing our paints with reusable stirring utensils.
Coffee and espresso stirring spoons are long and thin and work quite well to mixing fluid acrylic paint. We recommend getting a set of both 4” spoons and 9” spoons. In addition, swizzle sticks used for cocktail beverages also work well in place of craft sticks.
An added benefit of using the same utensil to stir your acrylics is that your paint consistency check will always be the same rather than varying based on the stirring tool of the day.
Acrylic Paint Pouring Tips and Tricks
Once your paint is mixed and ready for pouring, we have a few tricks to help you make the best or your fluid pour.
9. Add a base coat of paint to help your pour flow better
You’ve probably seen lots of painters do this already, but we definitely recommend adding a base layer of paint to most of your paintings.
The reason is quite simple. The texture of your canvas or painting surface will cause the outside layer of paint to stick and the following paint will roll over the top of it. If you don’t have a base layer, the beautiful paint on the outside edge gets pulled under and lost.
Having a base coast of paint allows all the paint to skirt over the base coat rather than get sucked up under like it would on a dry canvas or surface area.
10. Use excess paint on the corners
Fluid acrylic paint, like water, wants to be a circular concentric form when poured on a flat surface. This physical property of liquids makes pouring and tilting liquid paint on a square canvas a little awkward.
The corners of a square or rectangular painting surface are usually the last things to get paint. The corners are also the place where the most paint falls off the canvas.
By using the last dregs of paint in your paint pour cup on the corners, you limit the amount of paint to have to force to each edge, and thus limit the amount of paint you’ll lose off the two edges of the surface.
11. Use a corner paint catcher
Another method to help limit the amount of paint falling off your canvas in the corner is a corner paint catcher. When held to a corner while you are tilting paint to that same corner you keep the paint from flowing off but allow the whole corner to get coated. Some paint will fall off when removed but not nearly as much as would be lost without it.
In the past we have used strips of cereal box, cardboard, and junk mail postcards and all have worked well. You need a strip about 3” by 8” that is folded in half. Anything longer gets to be too bulky to hold in one hand while tilting the canvas with the other.
12. Prevent drips from flip cups
When you pull a flip cup off the canvas, pull the flip cup off in a direction away from the main section of paint. This will limit the drips that might fall out onto your already poured paint as you pull the paint cup off the painting surface.
You can also put your hand under the cup as soon as you remove it from the painting surface to capture the drips.
In most cases we have found these random drips to be distracting on our acrylic pours. This is really a painter’s preference.
13. Use a comb, hair pick, or a kitchen baster to spread out your paint
A painting knife is not the only thing you can use to move the paint around on your canvas. Try using a comb, a hair pick, or a kitchen baster (the kind with feelers and not suction).
All three of these tend to give us a more uniform layer of paint when spreading on our painting surface as compared to a painter’s knife.
14. Use a bendy straw to blow your paint around
If you don’t have a Lazy Suzan or some other easy way to spin your painting, blowing paint from multiple directions requires that you either move around the table or that you put the straw down to rotate the canvas manually. Both or frustrating and time consuming.
Try using a bendy kids straw to blow your paint around. Blow from the long end and use the short end after the bend to change the direction of the airflow.
There are also quite a few good quality metal straws with a bend that can be used in place of a disposable straws for those of you looking to be conservation minded.
15. Keep tweezers handy
Stuff happens while you are pouring. Your paint might not get mixed quite well enough, you might get small flecks of dried paint or medium in your cup, or you might have a moth fly into your wet painting.
Therefore, it always pays to have a set of tweezers handy so that you can pull these undesirables out of your painting when you see them.
16. Patience: Master the art of waiting
When it comes to acrylic pouring, speed is not the key. There is no need to rush through your pour painting. There are four major areas where having patience and doing things slow and methodically will pay dividends with your finishes painting.
- Take your time mixing your paint. Mixing too fast may introduce bubbles or it may leave thicker paints at the bottom of the cup unmixed.
- When pouring your dirty pour cup, plan on which colors you are going pour and in what order. Consider each color’s opacity, transparency, and pigment composition to help enhance any desired color combinations and effects.
- After your flip or your first pour, take a moment to let the paint settle. Let gravity do it’s work and allow your colors to move on their own before tilting or manipulating your canvas. Once you have waited a few minutes, try torching or blowing the paint to facilitate changes to the surface tension (see the article here about torching and surface tension).
- Take your time when tilting and manipulating your canvas. The faster you move the paint the more change you are going to create. If you like how the paint looks after the above steps, tilt the canvas very slowly. This will help conserve the initial look of your pour.
17. Let it go
Paintings change as they dry. Excessive work on your acrylic pour painting to try and get the exact look that you want is most likely going to leave you disappointed when the painting dries. Some of the allure of fluid acrylic art is its unpredictability.
As times goes on, you’ll get better at predicting how a painting is going to look as it dries, especially when you do a specific pouring technique over and over. Check our lists of basic and advanced acrylic pouring techniques.
18. Lighting matters
Paint looks different when you change the lighting. Direct sunlight, indirect sunlight, incandescent bulbs, daylight bulbs, and soft white bulbs, all produce much different lighting. A painting viewed through each one of these light sources will change.
If you know where the painting is going to be displayed, try adjusting your workshop painting for the same light. If you don’t know where it will ultimately be displayed, we recommend having at least both daylight and soft white light sources in your studio.
19. Don’t be afraid to add more paint or start over
One of the things we like best about acrylic pouring is that it is so easy to make changes to any pours you don’t like. When you finish a painting and you just don’t love it try one of the following:
- Add more paint. It makes the painting cost a little extra but there is no point in keeping a painting you don’t love. Either pour new paint right on top or scrape off all the excess paint and try again. If you do scrape off the paint this might be a perfect opportunity to try a dip pour from our advanced acrylic pour techniques post.
- Let your painting dry and try again. There is nothing wrong with having a few different layers of paint on your painting surface. Just be sure you let the paint cure. You can see the difference between curing and drying here.
- Try a swipe, balloon drop, or hammer technique on your painting. You can also try using your painter’s knife to add some interest by moving small sections of paint around manually.
- If all else fail, EXPERIMENT. Hey, it’s ruined for you anyways. Try something new and crazy.
Learn more about different ways to save a bad pour in our article Can You Pour Over and Acrylic Pour.
20. Remove excess dripping paint to keep more paint from running off
After you are done manipulating your painting, take your painters knife or stirring utensil and remove the dripping paint from the bottom of the painting. This dripping paint will continue to pull more paint off the side of the canvas which, in turn, pulls more paint off the top of the canvas.
You may need to do this a few times as the paint settles. You’ll see far less stretching of paint on the sides of your painting if you do this correctly.
Removing this dripping paint will also let you see if the paint is running off one side more than another. This is an indicator that your painting is not level. Leaving a painting to dry that is not level will result in the dreaded “morning after” effect where the dried painting looks like a melted wax figure when half the paint runs off on one side.
Acrylic Pour Painting Odds & Ends Tips and Tricks
Now for all the other acrylic pour tips and tricks that really didn’t fit in the other categories.
21. Keep a paint pouring journal
Keep a journal of all the pertinent details of your paint preparation and the observations you made while doing your painting. Before and after pictures can be quite helpful here, also.
Here is short list of some of the things any fluid acrylic pour artist’s journal should have:
- Colors used
- Color mixture for each paint used along with any additives. Actual weights or amounts are helpful here too.
- Technique used
- Order the paints were poured on the canvas or into the dirty pour cup
- Was torched used? If so when and for how long?
- Any observation made during the pour
- Pictures of the initial paint on the canvas as well as the final result.
We wish we had started keeping a painting journal the very first time we started painting.
22. Store paintings upright with bakers paper in-between each painting
When your paintings are fully dried and cured, you can store them upright with a piece of baking paper between each painting.
By stacking them vertically instead of horizontally you don’t have any paintings with too much weight on them. The wax-like paper cooking paper will keep the paintings from sticking to one another.
Stacking paintings vertically on a shelf is likely to save you quite a bit of room when you have a lot of paintings to store.
23. Mark the date you buy paint
Whenever you buy paint, write the day you purchase it along with the store you bought it from on the paint container. This way you can keep track of any bad batches of paint you might get or allow you to recognize when older paint might need some additional work before mixing with a medium.
In addition, knowing when you purchase a certain batch of paint will give you a good idea of how quickly you used the paint so you can gauge how much paint to purchase the next time.
24. Keep a few different size paint cups on hand
We recommend you keep at least three different sizes of cups around at all times. A small cup (4 oz or less), a medium cup (8 – 12 oz), and a large cup (16 – 20 oz). Every technique requires different amounts of paint and having some of each on hand will spare you aggravation over time.
For the medium and larger cups, we like for them to be slightly bendable so that we can create a pseudo spout on one side of the lid by bending the cup slightly. For smaller cups this not usually a concern.
We do not recommend using paper cups. They tend to soak up some of the moisture in the paint as they sit, and they don’t keep their form very well after a few minutes. This is bad for keeping a consistent paint texture and for holding the cups for pouring.
We hope you found a few nuggets of usable information from this post. If you have additional suggestions for our acrylic pour tips and tricks page, please let us know in the comments below.
47 thoughts on “24 Acrylic Pouring Tips and Tricks that Actually Work”
Thank you for these tips! I will sure to consult this article when I actually start fluid painting. I feel excited and am doing a lot of research. Your tip regarding keeping a journal and dating the paints is a big deal for me as a laboratory scientist as this is integral in quality control.
Some people can do it in their head. Not me. I have to have it written down so I can repeat my results exactly.
Thank you so much for these tip! I just started “attempting” to create acrylic pours but I am content with the fact that we all have to start at the beginning! Thank you once again Mr. Voorhies!
You are more than welcome my friend. You definitely have to start and starting is where you learn the most.
I am thrilled to be able to access these tips even though I have created my own tactile art I am always looking for more ideas to add to my mixed medium tactile art and acrylic pouring is something I have always wanted to have a crack at. I will certainly return to learn more – thank you Annie http://www.blindalleyart.com
You are very welcome. I will warn you that paint pouring is VERY addicting.
Thank you so much! I have watched so many videos and enjoy them greatly, but reading something is my preferred way of learning. Reading fills in the spaces that videos leave.
I am exactly the same way, hence the YouTube channel and the website to support each other where it makes sense.
So i going crazy trying to decide what I’m going to do , i can see it all in my head but actually doing it , I’m worried it wont turn out , thing is I’m doing it on my kitchen counter well i want to , i obviously cant pick it up to maneuver it around so what do i do ? I’m will follow all your tips here but my creative mind is getting overloaded with ideas and info help please
Are you going to use acrylic paint or resin? Honestly, if I was doing counter tops I look at Stone Coat Counter top videos on YouTube. They explain everything and the resin will hold up better than most everything else besides stone.
Yes I’m using epoxy (resin) with acrylic paints mixing it
Thank you. The tips are very useful for me just venturing into this. I discovered it on YouTube like most and I guess the thing I fell in love with is being able to be a kid again and having fun with colour. I think lots of people lose interest in art because they “can’t paint or draw to look like whatever”and I was one of those people. As a kid it was all about the colour and less about the form.
Yeah, that’s exactly where I was. I loved art but couldn’t do any very well besides color by number. Paint pouring is just so fun to do, even if I don’t always get a beautiful picture.
I have a small side table 29×26 that I picked up and it happens to have a warp area in the middle. I was wondering if pour painting it would somewhat cover the imperfection it has? Maybe not so noticeable. What do you think? Or is there something I could use to level it some before I paint ?
Thank your for your time.
I would cover the table with a thin layer of epoxy resin first, let it cure then paint over that, and then do another coat of epoxy resin.
You could also use a wood filler, sand it down really well, put a primer coat on, and then paint over the top. For a table I would always recommend having a resin top coat for its strength and durability.
wow! great ideas for this newbie. I did start a notebook and wrote quite a few of these tips down. Thanks!
I’d like to say I could remember everything like when I was young but that just isn’t how this middle ages guy’s brain works anymore. Plus I rarely get to work on art right after research so this is a good stopgap until I get back to pouring for sure.
Hi, I just watched your 7 tips I knew when I started acrylic paint, thanks for the tips, I a semi retired 66 year old. I just started experimenting with pouring art, I at my 3 rd try and I’m really disappointed, I just cannot get to grips with the right ratio medium to acrylic and the amount of paint (volume)I should prepare for the surface area I have. The first 3 I tried were on a 40 X 40 cm canvas and they are still far from average. Like you said I don’t wish to stop because I’m still far from success. Sorry I did not introduce my self, I Pippo Giuliano, from Malta, Europe.
You are very welcome. Don’t despair. We all have the same problems when we start. Try looking at my article about preparing paint for pouring. It should help you get close the right ratios and the consistency to get some good results. If not, leave a comment or email me and we’ll figure it out.
Will do, thanks, this weekend I work on the 4th.
I use and used the 8*10 from the dollar tree until I get the technique down alot cheaper too a 1.00 per canvas then move to bigger canvas
Great tip. That first learning time can be expensive for sure Shirley.
I’ve finished watching some of your videos about Pouring Mediums, painting techniques, different paint types, etc.
Thanks so much. Watching people do their paintings is fun but I really needed the info you shared; the WHY and HOW.
Now I can get started.
I’ve done Bob Ross paintings for years but just found out about acrylic pouring this week and think it’s crazy awesome. I’ve seen some beautiful pieces and I’ve seen some the artist thought were beautiful, but I’m not so sure…oh well, that’s art.
Thanks again. Now I have to go LIKE and SUBSCRIBE. Where can I go to see a gallery of paintings for sale?
I don’t have a gallery setup yet. They just keep stacking up in my art room. Trying to do some research on all the different places to market now.
What do you suggest for a ratio with the base coat? I can’t seem to find a consistency that works… Do you use floetrol or liquitex pouring medium in it?
My base coat is the same as the regular paint (unless I am doing the Shelee art style). I calculate how much paint I need for the whole canvas then take about 30% to use as the base coat. I haven’t had any problems covering the paintings when I do this.
Hi David, thanks for all this. I am hoping you might have some insight for my on different paint consistencies for different techniques. I saw a chart once that equated “no mound” through “mound on mound on mound” with what techniques each works best for. I have searched everywhere I can think of to find it again, but without success. Have you seen that, or could you make one? Many thanks for your consideration, Brooke
So the two good videos on that I have seen were from Mixed Media Girl and Gina DeLuca. You are probably referencing Gina’s where she has 5 cups of purple in a row. Interestingly enough my video this next week on Saturday morning is about acrylic pour paint consistency.
I just wanted to say thank you so much for all you do for me/us. Me getting to watch you test things, so I don’t have to, is so incredibly helpful. I’ve learned a lot watching your shows and I hope to keep learning. My ex husband is in the IT industry, so I can only imagine how not easy it was to do the artsy stuff. My hats off to you good sir! (If a girl can say that lol)
Absolutely you can say that. And thank you so much. I am glad my scientific approach is helping people.
Very helpful, although I still can’t figure out how I can mix my paint in large containers to get it ready to have them on hand in squirt bottles instead of just using it directly from the tubes they come in. Is there a basic way to start out with them + floetral, even though I may need more floetral in the pours? Any help would be greatly appreciated!
If you know the ratios that work for you (eg. 2 parts medium, 1 part paint and about 1/2 part water) you could just mix a batch based on weight. That is one reason why I recommend new paint pouring artist weight their stuff as they mix to get a good idea of what the mixture consists of. Then it is just a matter of figuring out how much you need of those ratios to fill your container of choice.
Hi read all topics but I just purchased ready to use acrylic paints with a lot of same colors can I just pour them in clear bottles ith no medium or anything else some seem very then and some are very thick. Da sorry I’m new at this and I’m 85 any answer I would appreciate.thanks loads.
You can add water or medium to ready to pour paints but not much at all or the color quality degrades too much. Definitely make sure they are the right consistency for the technique you are using before you use.
put powder on your hands before putting on the painting gloves. It makes it much easier to remove the gloves.
Have a bucket of water handy so that you can wash the gloves as you work and dry and save a lot of plastic or whatever type of glove from going into landfill.
Great tips Elta!
Hi David, I also appreciate your website and sharing the results of your experiments and tests to validate procedures and expected results. My wife and I found acrylic pouring randomly on YouTube and now we are hooked. Since I am the scientist/engineer, I am usually the one mixing paint to consistancy and also worry about specific gravity and opacity, but she asked me to write down the procedure so she can do it herself. I found your procedures and just passed along to her. Hopefully she uses the scale:-)
I did want to note to your followers, that as an artist I always have a plan for a painting and would normally make a sketch first or use a photo, etc. This won’t work for purely random flow paintings, but I can say that I nearly threw away one of my first attempts, but after it fully dried I noticed that with a little work (few hours) it became my favorite piece. I’m not sure how to share it with you, but it is a bit disturbing which to me is great art!
Acrylic pouring does take away some of the deliberate creation for sure. As you get in to it though you see what you can and can’t influence and I really love the unpracticable nature of some of the pouring techniques. I can’t even draw a good stick figure so being able to feel artistic with this art form is a huge blessing for me.
David – I’ve been pour painting for a year with mixed results, mostly good. Lately when I do a layered cup straight pour using 6-8 colors on my white base canvas, I get white paint “cells’ that show up all around the edges of my painting. Those white paint ‘cells’ are not supposed to be there. What causes them to appear? What do I need to do so they do not appear around the edges of my painting?
Thanks for your help.
Those are pearl cells. They happen when you use a base paint that is “lighter” than your main color paint. Latex house paint when use as a base paint almost always does this. Using a white paint that has lighter pigments (cover white or any cheap craft white) is also a cause of this.
Use a good titanium white and make sure your base paint consistency is the same as your main paints to keep these from happening.
New to paint pouring and have a question.
So I did a paint pour and blew it out with a straw.
I like the art piece, but there is literally one small section I’m just not keen on and it could almost do with a touch up. ( one blown out bit just not as nice as the rest of it about an inch in area).
Can you mess on a dried piece or will it mess the whole thing up trying to change it once dry on one section?
Any help would be fab
You totally can add some color to tried paint. Lots of artists add accents and other colors to make their paintings pop after they are dried.
Thank you for this informative article! I am new to paint pouring & love the results. I am no artist at all but this makes me feel like one! Especially since all of my projects are “originals”! I did a pour on a plate & picked it up with my gloves and got some smeared paint on the bottom – how do I remove this?
That is how I feel Dale. If you feel like an artist than you are one though! It’s hard for me to believe but that is the realization I have found. You can try and use a plastic scraper to pull it off. Just depends on how stuck on it is. A little hair dryer to warm it up might help loosen it up too.
I used paint catching with the idea of using it for the base coat. It turned out looking like tiny feathers. I love it. What do I need to do to protect it. The paint was a mixture from several paintings saved in 1 cup.
I used paint catching with the idea of using it for the base coat. It turned out looking like tiny feathers. I love it. What do I need to do to protect it. The paint was a mixture from several paintings saved in 1 cup.
On my YouTube channel I have a few videos on the best ways to varnish. I can’t post the URL here because my SPAM filter removes links but if you search “varnish” on my channel you’ll find them.