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.
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 an inch 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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.