How to Prepare Acrylic Paint for Pouring

Acrylic Pour Mixed Paint
Acrylic Pour Mixed Paint

When I first started my acrylic pouring journey, I was flabbergasted by how many different ways people prepared their fluid acrylic paints?  Some people had a whole system with multiple products and different ratios for each.  None of the recommendations were wrong, per se, but they sure didn’t make sense for a beginner.

An easy way to prepare paint for an acrylic pour is to use one-part acrylic paint and mix it with two parts of Elmer’s Glue-All or Flood Floetrol.  Add water a few drops at a time until you get a consistency where when elevated with a stirring stick to 1” off the surface the paint drips it off and creates a mound and disappears within a second.

As you can see, mixing acrylic pour paint doesn’t have to be complicated.  We’ll go over everything you need to know including why we use more fluid paints, what consistencies are used in which techniques, common mistakes to avoid when mixing fluid acrylic paints, and more.

Why does Acrylic Pour Paint Need Preparation?

Acrylic pouring is an art style where non-viscous or runny acrylic paints are combined and manipulated on a painting surface.   The consistency of the paints allows for the paints to organically mix and meld creating a form of abstract art.

There are many different techniques to use with acrylic paint pouring including these basic and advanced techniques.

While there are some brands to do sell read-to-pour acrylic paints like Arteza and Artist’s Loft, many paints need to be mixed and prepared with water or other pouring mediums to get a consistency preferred by many artists. 

Acrylic Pour Paint Consistency

The consistency of your finished production is arguably the most important part of preparing paint for fluid art.  The right consistency has the most impact of how the paint will react and it one of the few things you can really control with acrylic paint pouring.

When you are first starting out, we recommend trying to achieve the same consistency of paint for all your first pours.  This will give you a perfect starting point to understanding how changing the consistency affects the outcome of your artwork

How to Measure Consistency

There are a few ways to measure the consistency of your fluid acrylic paint.  We’ll go over the two we think are the easiest to follow.  After a lot of paint mixing, many artists say they learn to feel the right consistency in addition to using these types of methods.

The Drip Method

The most common one that we have seen is to dip your paint stick into the paint and pull it out about over the top of the rest of the paint in the container.  Too high and the paint will sink due to the increased height and too low will cause the paint to make a stalagmite/stalactite directly from the stick.

Let the paint drip back into the container and watch how it interacts with the top layer of paint.  We want the paint to drip off the stirring stick and create a slight mount and then immediately disappear.  That mound shouldn’t last for more than a second or two. 

If the paint is thicker the mount will create multiple mounts on top of itself, kind of like an ice cream cone, and then gradually disappear in 3 or 4 seconds. 

If the paint is too thin your paint streaming off the stir stick will look like it sinks under paint or it will immediately integrate into the surface without making a mound.

The Snake or Worm Method

This method is like the drip method in that you want to dip your stirring stick and pull it out of the paint to a height of about one inch also.

With this method, you want to weave a pattern like a work or a snake over the surface of the paint.  Be sure to keep your one-inch distance from the paint surface.

The snake/worm pattern should last at least two seconds before you can’t see any noticeably raised sections.

If the paint is too thick it will be 4 or 5 seconds before it disappears.  Too thin and it will almost immediately disappear.

Pouring Techniques by Consistency

Different Pouring Techniques base on their Consistency

Common Pouring Mediums

There is a plethora of pouring mediums that can be used with acrylic paint pouring.  A pouring medium is simply a liquid additive that you use to extend the paint to help change its consistency without sacrificing its bonding (think dried plastic) qualities.

For the purpose of this article, we are going to focus on three of the cheapest and easiest pouring mediums to acquire: Elmer’s Glue-All, Flood Floetrol, and water. 

Elmer’s Glue-All is just that, glue.  The glue is white in liquid form but dries clear.  It also has the quality of being very sticky and strong when dried.  This paired with the fact that relatively easy to buy and it generally inexpensive is exactly the quality of a pouring medium that you should be looking for as a novice paint pourer. 

Additional information about using Glue-All in our blog post Can You Use PVA Glue for Acrylic Pouring?

Flood Floetrol can be found in most hardware stores in the paint department.  This product is mean to be used with paint to help cut down on brush marks and to thin out the paint slightly for use in a paint sprayer.  This also has binders like the emulsions used with acrylic paints and will dry hard and strong.

Finally, water can be used as the medium to help thin the paint the consistency that we are looking for.  Do not use more than about 30% water to paint ratio or else you will dilute the paint so much that it loses its strength and it will peel or warp when dried.

Beginner Pour Painting Recipes

Here are a few of the most common pour paint recipes we see with acrylic paint pourers today.   Read the next section to find out how these ratios may change based on the “body” or thickness of the acrylic paint used.

  • Glue-All
    • Mix 60% Glue-All to 40% water.   Once complete mixed, use 2 parts of this pouring medium to one-part soft body paint (most tube paints are soft body).  In most cases, no extra water is needed.  If it is, only add a few drops at a time, mix, and re-check consistency.
  • Floetrol
    • Mix two parts Floetrol to one-part paint.  Once fully mixed, check the consistency and then add a few drops at a time and re-mix until you get the desired consistency.
  • Water
    • Slowly add a few drops of water per ounce of paint and mix.  Keep repeating until the desired consistency is achieved.

Paint Ratios for Different Body Paints (Heavy, Soft, Fluid, Craft)

Acrylic paint comes in four main types: heavy body, soft body, fluid acrylic, and craft paint.  Each one of the paint types might require a slight change to the recommended pouring recipes above.

Soft Body Acrylics

Most paints that come in metal or plastic tubes or larger containers are going to be soft body acrylics.  Sometimes these are referred to as medium body acrylics.  These look like warm honey went squeezing it out of the tube or scooping it out of the container.   The paint ratios above will work well with medium body acrylics.

Heavy Body Acrylics

Heavy body paints are more like cold honey or toothpaste. They retain their shape when taken out of the container and don’t flatten out much.  These paints usually have a higher pigment load (the amount of pigment per ounce of paint).  When using heavy body acrylics, you probably want to up your ratio to more like 3:1, 4:1, or more with Glue-All and Floetrol.

Fluid Acrylics

Fluid acrylics are specially made to be runnier than soft or heavy body acrylics.  Unfortunately for us, there are two main types of fluid acrylics.  There are those that are highly pigmented from high-quality brands like Liquitex and Golden, and there are those budget fluid acrylics that are soft body paints with more water added to them.

The more expensive fluid acrylics can be mixed with a very high pouring medium to paint ratio, generally, 4:1 or more, while the less expensive fluid acrylics, like Artist’s Loft, should maintain the 2:1 ratio.

Craft Paint

Craft paint is generally a cheaper version of acrylic paint that is not very pigmented at all.  We recommend cutting your ratios to 1:1 and with the glue mixture, upping the glue to water ratio to 70% glue to 30% water or ever 75% glue to 25% water. 

If you do keep a higher medium to paint ratio your paints will be a lot less vibrant and will seem very dull compared to other colors prepared with the recommended ratios.

Looking for more information about acrylic paint brands?  Read about the research we did to find the Best Paint for Acrylic Pouring?

Tips for Mixing Pour Paints

Here are a few tips that we’ve learned over the last two years to get the best acrylic pour mix as you possibly can.

  1. Strain the Floetrol out of the bottle as it tends to get little dried pieces as it sites in its container.  Pantyhose or a very fine flour sifter work well for this.
  2. When mixing thicker paints (heavy body and thicker soft body paints) don’t mix all your paint and pouring medium at once.  Gradually add a little pouring medium and stir and repeat.  This will ensure the thick paint gets integrated completely with the medium.
  3. Don’t add water until after you’ve fully integrated the pouring medium.  Water should be the last thing added to get the exact consistency that you want.
  4. Don’t mix too fast or you will create bubbles in your paint.  Bubbles in a paint pour will create pinholes when they dry which is one reason why we use a torch to remove as many as we can.
  5. Take your time.  Mixing paint for an acrylic pour can be time-consuming, we know, but getting your mixture wrong is the single biggest failure point with fluid acrylics.

Don’t forget to review our 24 Acrylic Pouring Tips and Tricks that Actually Work article.

Why Use Distilled or Filtered Water?

You will see that many artists choose to use filtered or distilled water in their acrylic pours.  The main reason for this is the cut down the change microbes get introduced to the painting.

Mold and mildew can form if paints dry very slowly or in a place where there is lots of moisture in the air.  Any mixed paint that you store for later use will also tend to grow unwanted things more quickly with water from the faucet.

We don’t recommend you store any mixed paint for more than a few weeks, even when kept in airtight containers.

Get more details about things that can make acrylic paint go bad here.

Measure Your Ingredients

The last advice we want to give you when mixing your pourable acrylic paint is to measure your ratios, at least for the first few paintings that you do.

Measuring your paint will ensure that you are always getting the same consistency of paint and will be one less variable you need to worry about when trying to determine why one painting looked so different from another painting.

With experience, you might get to the point where you can mix your paints by feel, but until that time measuring is your friend.


Final Thoughts

Acrylic paint pouring is an amazingly fun art form to learn, even for those of us that are very left-brained and never thought we’d be doing anything remotely artistic like this.  However, not getting the results we were hoping for can be one of the most demoralizing parts of acrylic pouring also

Getting the even consistency paint from day one can really limit some of the beginner mistakes that most acrylic pour artists make and help you do more quickly appreciate the artwork that you create.

David Voorhies

I took up acrylic paint pouring a few years ago after binging fluid pours on Instagram and YouTube. I love that a left-brained technology nerd like myself can create amazing art. Hopefully this websites allows you to experience how fun acrylic paint pouring really is. See more about me here.

64 thoughts on “How to Prepare Acrylic Paint for Pouring

  1. I’ve seen a few sites recommend 10:1 pouring medium:paint. Seems insane to dilute the pigment that much. I’m just starting and can’t figure out if working with thinner viscosity or thicker viscosity paints is better. Does it just matter they are similar viscosity? or does the paint thickness affect the type of blending you get even when they’re all similar?

    1. You can do that with some pouring mediums and some paints. Artist’s Loft recommends that. I’ll have a video out about that early next week. If you have a highly pigmented paint like Arteza you can get away with that. Most of the time I recommend 2:1 to 4:1 unless you want really light colors or a wash type effect.

      Paint thickness really doesn’t matter. That only affects how well it potentially mixes. It is pigment load that you care about. On my YouTube channel I have a video about that also. It is the thumbnail with blue paint that appears to be racing down the canvas.

    1. If you used water, even super clean water, I wouldn’t recommend leaving it more than 2 weeks. If there is no water and it is in a sealed container, potentially months.

      1. I have seen where the colors have different weights and that effects what colors are added in a pour cup first, second, etc. Is there a way to find out this info from each paint dstributor?

        1. Only one has that information available that I know of. Golden. I link to their website in my article “Acrylic Pour Cells: Everything You Need to Know”.

  2. What is the point of the glue? I’ve seen many videos where folks only use Floetrol and water. I saw something that said glue will not produce any cells. It certainly seems easier to skip the glue.

    1. Glue can give more solid colors than floetrol. I personally think it works with silicone much better also. As with all the pouring mediums (and pseudo pouring mediums) it is really up the user’s preference.

  3. I took this brain test and it was so far on the left it could have been in my ear. I believe I have too much water in my pouring medium. I thought it had to be runny to flow. I need to cut the ratio of glue all and water. I was doing 1:1, but it seems I need to add more paint or increase more glue. Is one choice better than the other? Thank you

    1. I use 70% glue-all and 30% water. if the glue is washable or student grade it is more like 90%/10%. Craft paints are 1:1 paint to the previously mentioned pouring medium. Better quality paint is 1:2 up to 1:5 if you are using a highly pigmented paint like Arteza.

    1. Most of them are actually pretty good. Artist’s loft and Arteza are ones I normally recommend of the ones I have tried.

    2. Artists Loft pint ready to pour are fantastic but pricey at 17.00 a bottle. I only buy them on sale at Michaels.

  4. Thank you so much for the information. I’ve been watching YouTube videos and love acrylic pouring. I don’t have an inch of talent when it comes to art but I think I can pull this off.

    I’m grateful that you took the time out to explain the ratios between the paint and medium. I’m going to look for you on YouTube and check out your work.
    By the way do you sell your work?

    1. You are very welcome. I do sell my paintings but that is pretty informal right now. I am trying to get a showroom type setup so anyone can see them and purchase if they want.

      1. Hi, I’ve seen videos where artists use house paint. Have you used this? Seems like an affordable option for white and black paint since it’s the most used. And if you do use it, would you add anything? Thanks!!

        1. I have used out paints for the Sheleeart Blooms technique and for pearl cells but that’s about the extent of my usage. Not because it can’t work, just I haven’t delved much in to using those types of paint over my glue and Floetrol which still end up being about the same price.

  5. Hi David, there’s so much info out there it makes my head spin. Thank you for all your help. 😎😎😎

    1. You are more than welcome. Don’t hesitate to ask here or on my YouTube channel if you have questions.

  6. Best explanation of mixing pour paint I’ve ever read. Specific ratios as they apply to different types of paint was particularly helpful.

    Bravo David!

  7. Hello David. I just purchased Blickcrylics and cannot find pouring medium ratios anywhere. I use floetrol but can use glue/water if you think it’s better. Thanks.

    1. Floetrol works great. For Blick I am usually at 2-3 parts medium to 1 part paint for the thicker paints (most of them) and the thinner ones are 2 and sometimes a little less than 2. Try 1:1 then decide if you should go 2:1 or 1.5 to one. You are better off adding a little at a time than adding too much. Thinning is much easier than thickening.

  8. THANK YOU!!! This is SO clear and concise! After struggling with paint consistency for the past year, this is extremely helpful!

    1. if this was helpful, you should also check out my YouTube video (leftbrainedartist) also which has some good visuals on the same consistency theme.

  9. Thank you so much for breaking down all of the information. I watched all your videos and it helped a lot.

    1. You are very welcome Patrice. Thanks for watching and reading. I hope it was helpful and that your next pours are even more spectacular.

  10. You make it sound so easy. I suck at measuring Anything that’s why I don’t follow recipes but I do think I can hopefully follow your guidelines and get better pours. I’ve only been at this for a couple of months and already sold quite a few but I’m hoping with your help my work will be more artistic. Thanks.

  11. Being the absolute beginner I read everything about acrylic pouring and yours were the most helpful to me. I am still experimenting with craft paint and it still is not clear to me , if I can use Floetrol with craft paint. I used Glue all, but am wondering about Floetrol.

    1. You absolutely can use Floetrol as a medium. You’ll get a few more tiny cells and swipes and things will give a little better lacing because Floetrol is just better at that than Glue.

  12. You say your paint to Floetrol ratios are usually 1:2. I am using Arteza and have watched your paint brands comparison video, where you appear to be saying to use 1:4. Is this what you would recommend? Thanks.

  13. Than you, thank you for all this info! I’m a beginner and spend hours reading and watching utube posts. Your page here has helped me more than all before! I will continue to pay close attention to all you advise on paint pouring! So great to have found you!

    1. You are more than welcome Barbara. Don’t hesitate to ask more questions with the contact form if you have them.

  14. What would be causing the pinholes in my pours? I’ve been adding Silicone Lubricant that was in the automotive section and thought maybe I have been adding too much or maybe too much water with my medium and paint. I feel like my consistency is great. I never lay down gesso before pouring, but I think I may start doing that. I’m looking to get some really big cells. I do use a torch, would a heat gun be better? My first couple of pours, I had no silicone, so I used some ky lubricant and did not have the pinholes on those canvases. Please help!!!

    1. In my experience, pinholes come from newly mixed paint. If you leave the paint to sit for 4 – 24 hours after mixing those little mini bubbles come to the surface and pop. If not, they wait to come out till after you’ve done your pour. It does seem odd however that the one pour with KY didn’t show them? Did you wait a while after mixing the paint before doing that pour?

      1. No, I mixed it then after I poured the paint, I squirted the KY into in and then started with moving the paint around on the canvas. I’ll definitely try letting the paint set for awhile. Should I add the silicone to the paint when mixing it and let it sit in the paint or do I add the silicone right before pouring?

        1. You can do it both ways. If you leave your paint it is just going to rise to the top anyways and you’ll have to very slowly stir before you use. However, it might help usher those pesky bubbles of air to the top. Either way works.

      2. No, I mixed it then after I poured the paint, I squirted the KY into in and then started with moving the paint around on the canvas. I’ll definitely try letting the paint set for awhile. Should I add the silicone to the paint when mixing it and let it sit in the paint or do I add the silicone right before pouring?

        1. This is paint that doesn’t get mixed well or it is dried medium/paint from the bottle. If you use floetrol ALWAYS strain it. It is notorious for leaving little dried chunks. Try mixing small amounts of medium in to the paint completely then add more and more slowly as you mix completely. Some paint types don’t like to mix well when you start with a ton of medium. Decoart medium is one I have problems with.

  15. Reading this helped me to understand what I was doing wrong…While I was chasing consistency, measuring all my ingredients and giving it all al thorough mixing, I had been using the THINNEST paint and medium mixture (all mixed with the exact same ratio) as my “Gauge” and thinning the other paints to match – and they were all too THIN!
    You’ve given precise definition to the “warm honey” analogy. Well done!
    I can’t wait to whip up some new colors…This time with the correct consistency.

    1. It will make a HUGE difference for sure. Some techniques work better with that thin paint you mention but most use a slightly thicker mix for sure. Good luck Gary.

  16. Hello David. I live in Europe and therefore use metric measurements. I have done quite a few pours and have had successes and misses. However, I have been commissioned to do a huge canvas (1×1,5m) and the look the client would like, is consistent with pouring. However, I have never done anything this huge in pouring. I am an intuitive artist and have done very large pieces. Is it possible? I have watched many pouring videos, however, nothing of this size. Is there any pointers you have for this size?
    Thank you for your informative videos and sections. It is invaluable.

    1. I have a video on my YouTube channel, also LeftBrainedArtist, from a few weeks ago on a 2′ X 3″ canvas. Not quite as big but the principles are the same. It really is very similar to normal pours on a macro scale. Make sure you pre-paint the sides and that you make enough, even much more than enough, paint. The rest is very similar.

  17. Hi David,
    Thank you for all the advice on here much appreciated! Can you help with my issue by any chance?
    Im struggling with puddle pours (which I keep thinking ‘should’ be easy!😂but they a have been a disaster for me so far) For example I wanted a thin strong black outer ring so poured black first but as it spreads into the white background paint it mixes & gets lost as pale grey. Then as I keep ‘puddling’ the other colours seem to often ‘roll over’ & cover each other or end up mixing rather than staying nicely defined and each pushing the last out. (Hope that makes sense) Any suggestions about where Im going wrong? Im using Arteza with a 70/30 glue/water pouring medium.
    Thank you.

    1. Here are a couple of suggestions.

      Increate the amount of paint on any of the outer layers. The outdoer circle is WAY bigger than the center and will require much more paint keep it’s presence on the outside.

      Add a base layer of paint. The outer layer disappears because the paint gets stuck on the bare canvas and the rest of the paint pushing out from the middle makes it roll over on itself. Having a base layer of paint makes it slide across instead of getting stuck on the outside.

      For the issue where the paints are mixing, you need to thicken up your mixture. If you want the colors to stay and not mix you need a thicker set of paints. The more water you add the more likely this will happen (that includes the water in thin mediums).

  18. Hi David and THANK YOU for your detailed instructions for us beginners. I’ve always been a crafty person but APP has me stumped. I’ve watched so many video’s from so many artist my brain hurts. My questions is and it may be the results of BRAIN OVERLOAD but here’s goes, what is the “base” coat white, black or other color made up of ie is it just the pouring medium with a “color” in it or is it something else? If it’s something other than the PM can you please tell me the recipe for it. Signed, Dinah a THANKFUL frustrated beginner that’s suffering from major headaches!

    1. Generally the base coat is the exactly the same thing as other paints. Just made up in big batches. There are some techniques like the SheleeArt blooms or the Pearl Cells that use a house paint base instead.

  19. When you give ratios of glue all/water/paint, how are you measuring them? By weight or volume? I was working with epoxy and mixed them 1:1 by weight instead of volume and all my pieces turned out soft. I don’t want to mess up my paints!

  20. Hi David, this info is invaluable… as others, I’ve binged on many videos on pour painting and was wondering what those heater items are that some people use.. is it a heat gun of some sort. I’ve also seen hairdryers used to move the paint which looks pretty easy but they still use a type of heat gun too for ‘cells’.

    1. I use a cheap heat gun or a kitchen torch Debby. If you search the website for “best torch” I show the ones that I use.

  21. Hi, loved comments and your replies
    What to do really large cells using silicone oil, how do l achieve.
    Regards jill

    1. Thicker paint, 1 drop of silicone per 2 ounces (30 grams) of paint. Don’t torch till the you have tilted off at least 1/2 your surface (2 corners for square/rectangle, etc) Then torch from a far so cells come up. If you get to close you get tons of cells that merge into each other and don’t get large. Then finish tilting, and torch again slowly at the end. Then wait.

  22. Hi David,
    From another of your posts, I was looking for the article: “How Much Paint to Use for Acrylic Pours….to give you an idea of how much paint normal canvases take” and only saw this. But I have to commend you on the exhaustive content you put in your articles and videos and detailed replies you take the time to give. I’m a left-brained creative and newbie pourer so this is great.

    1. Thank you so much Lynn. Answer questions is how I learn and making these resources is how I cement them in my brain. I am so happy it is helping others.

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