Acrylic paint pouring is a very arbitrary art form which is why it is considered abstract art. Pour artists rely on the different paints to act in a certain way as they are put on the painting surface, so they get the results they are expecting. Unfortunately, poured acrylic paint rarely does exactly what you want it to. Pair this variability with the expense of painting surfaces like wood or canvases and fluid acrylic pouring can become quite a drain on the pocketbook. There is a way to recoup some of these costs by reusing old pours.
Can you pour over an acrylic pour? You can absolutely pour over an acrylic pour. This can be done while the pour is still wet or after the pour has completely cured (usually 2 – 3 weeks). Some additional cleaning and preparation may need to be done before re-pouring a painting.
We will be deep-diving into all the different variables that need to be taken into consideration before redoing a failed pour painting.
Why Reuse a Painting Surface?
We have found that one of the most expensive pieces of an acrylic paint pour is the painting surface. Canvas, wood panels, tiles, etc. can be a good portion of the costs of a pour painting. Re-using these materials can save quite a bit of time and money in the long run when done responsibly.
There are materials like paper (see our article on pouring on paper) that are not nearly as expensive and are probably not work the effort of waiting till they are dry to repour. Re-pouring over a wet pour would still be a viable way to save a failed pour, even on paper.
Don’t feel bad about redoing your paintings. Keep in mind that even artists of old, like Pablo Picasso, painted multiple different times on their painting surfaces.
Pouring Over a Wet Painting
The easiest way to save a failed pour is to do so before it dries. When the paint is still wet on the painting surface there are a few options that you can take: scrape and repour, pour directly over the previous pour, or add paint to select sections.
Scrape and Repour
Scraping all the paint off the canvas or painting surface is an easy and effective way to salvage a failed pour. This method does waste the paint that was used but allows you to re-use the canvas without needing to wait for the paint to dry.
When scraping, use a palette knife, a cake spatula (offset icing spatula), or a drywall putty knife to pull all the material off the painting surface. Make sure to get all the paint off the sides and the bottom also.
Our paintings are generally on thumbtacks, cups, or ceiling hooks so the paint puddling underneath after it is scraped isn’t a problem. If there is going to be to much paint left underneath the painting, consider moving it to the side or scraping up into a containing and disposing of it before re-pouring.
At this point, there is no need to let the canvas dry. Some people prefer to wait an hour or two so the paint dries, but we don’t think it is necessary.
Pour on the newly “cleaned” painting surface whenever you are ready. You might need to take some extra care to paint make sure the old paint stains are completely covered with the new paint if the color pallet is drastically different on the second pour.
NOTE: If you had oil or silicone in your pouring mixture, you may want to review the Cleaning Off Oil and Silicone section below.
Pour Directly Over the Previous Pour
If you’ve finished with your pour and you decide you don’t like it, you can simply prepare more paint and pour over the top of your work. The previous pour will essentially become your “base layer” and can be tilted completely off the canvas or select parts can be kept as a background to the new pour.
When you pour over a wet pour, keep in mind that the new paint will most likely react with the old paint on the edges. If the new colors you have selected are of different densities, you could end up seeing some of the old paintings bubbles up through the new paint.
You can Google “pearl cells” to see some paintings where the effect was done intentionally with some beautiful results. These types of cells are less likely to be seen when using similar paints for both the first and second pours.
Don’t Wait too Long to Re-Pour
If you decide to pour over the top of a previous pour, make sure that you do it in a reasonable amount of time. The sides of a pour painting begin to dry almost immediately. Waiting even an hour after the first pour might result in a dried paint texture showing up on the edges and sides of your new painting.
Make Sure You Tilt Off Excess Paint
When you pour over an existing pour while it is wet, you are going to end up with double the amount of paint. Leaving too much paint on a canvas will most likely cause it to crack and craze. Additional information about cracking and crazing can be found in our post Why is My Acrylic Pour Cracking.
Add Paint to Select Sections
Another way to salvage a bad pour is to add small sections of additional paint rather than re-pouring the whole thing. Pour over the areas you dislike and either tilt, blow, or scrape the new paint to create a new look.
Try using complementary colors in this mini re-pour sections to add contrast and interest to a failed painting.
Pouring Over a Dried and Cured Painting
Sometimes you like the look of your acrylic pour painting right when it is finished but something happens during the drying process that ruins the painting. Or it might be a commission that the customer ended up not liking. Because acrylic paint is essentially plastic, once it is dried it becomes a great surface to paint on again.
When considering pouring over the top of a previously dried pour, the first thing you need to do is to make sure that that the paint has fully cured. Sometimes the top layer of paint may be dried but the underlying painting may still be wet or still be semi-solid.
Pouring over a painting that hasn’t fully cured could cause the painting to peel or bubble as the underlying painting is still outgassing the liquids inside of it. You should wait at least 2 weeks for smaller paintings and a few weeks longer for larger ones before re-pouring.
Our article How Long Do Acrylic Pours Take to Dry gives additional insight into this issue.
Cleaning Off Oils and Silicone
If any kind of oil or silicone is used in the painting, this must first be completely cleaned from the painting surface. If these are not properly cleaned, the new pour will not adhere to the old pour and could cause peeling and flaking.
The steps you use to clean a painting would be the same steps we recommend before finishing a painting. Read more about these steps in Ways to Finish an Acrylic Pour.
Filling in Cracks and Crazes
Any surface imperfection that shows on the original pour will more likely show through on the new pour. This includes crack, crazes, slight bumps from a section where the paint was thicker when drying, and any air holes that developed.
These surface abnormalities can be fixed in a few different ways.
- Add small amounts of paint into any crack, air holes or low areas. Use thicker paint for cracks with some depth and thinner paints for small cervices. Paint with or without pouring medium can be used.
- Modeling paste or thicker painting mediums can also be used. These may require some manipulation to flatten the top surface after they are inserted into the cracks.
If you don’t mind the look of these imperfections or there aren’t any that are substantial enough to require remediations then go ahead and get your pour on again. You will be able to see some of these imperfections through the new painting.
Do You Need to Gesso with a re-pour?
In most cases, gesso is not required for a re-pour. The only exception we would give is for very glossy finishes. These finishes may require a light sanding with very fine-grit sandpaper to give some texture to the surface or you can paint on a coat of gesso. This will ensure that the new pour has something to adhere to.
Do you need to sand if you pour over resin or varnish?
If the painting you are going to pour over has a coating of resin or varnish you may want to scuff the surface of the painting and add a layer of gesso just to make sure the new pour doesn’t peel off of the old pour when it is dry.
You don’t need to stand much, just enough to dull down the shinny top coat, and you can use any grit above 100 or so to scuff the previous work. I think sandpaper between 100 and 200 work best.
Gesso really isn’t required as mentioned above but does give you a better surface for the new pour to stick to.
Don’t add pour layers too many times
That last piece of advice we would like to give on pouring over an acrylic pour is to not do so more than once or twice. The more layers of paint that are added, the more likely there will be a problem with the finished result.
Painting over an acrylic pour is a great way to save some time and money. We recommend that you practice on some junk painting surfaces before doing any re-pours for pieces that are meant to be kept for long periods of time.