Can You Use PVA Glue for Acrylic Pouring?

Acrylic Pour with Glue Large
Acrylic Pour with PVA Glue

These days there are many kinds of paints, surfaces, pouring mediums, and additives that acrylic pouring artists use to create with.  Each of these items has its strengths, weaknesses, and associated monetary costs.  With this in mind, we are exploring one of the more inexpensive, but highly effective, pouring mediums commonly available to most artists; PVA glue.

PVA, or polyvinyl acetate, glue works quite well as a pouring medium.  The texture and composition mix nicely with acrylic paints and dries into a sturdy, slightly flexible, solid that adheres to many different painting surfaces.  PVA glue is also relatively inexpensive and easy to find in most countries.

Read on for more information about the composition of PVA glue and a few of the advantages and disadvantages of using PVA glue in your fluid acrylic pouring project.

Why Use PVA Glue in Acrylic Pouring?

PVA glue is a multi-purpose glue made from polyvinyl acetate.  This glue is most commonly used as an adhesive to porous materials like wood, cloth, paper, and cardboard.   

Vinyl and acrylic resins are similar in composition with vinyl being a much cheaper alternative, hence its use in things like house paint and glue.   The vinyl resin is both a hardener and a binder which makes it an ideal candidate for extending acrylic paint without compromising its strength and composition.

Here are a few of the other properties of PVA glue to consider before using it as a pouring medium.


One major factor in favor of using PVA glue for your acrylic paint pour is the price.    All-purpose glue like Elmer’s Glue-All can be found any almost any hardware, grocery, or convenient store.  This glue costs a fraction of the price of most name brand acrylic paint pouring mediums.

Fewer Cells

When used in an acrylic paint pour, glue tends to have fewer cells form naturally when compared to other pouring mediums like Floetrol or Liquitex Pouring Medium.  This is especially beneficial when you are looking to get more solid colors in your paint pour techniques like a ring pour.

Cells are a tricky business with fluid art and we recommend you read our article specifically dedicated to cells here.

Strength and Drying Times

PVA glues were created to improve the strength of the glue and to minimize their drying times.   PVA glues are made of binders/resins, water, and ethanol or acetone.

THE binders/resins create the bonding connection between surfaces.  The water gives the mixtures it’s fluidity and contributes to how long the material takes to dry.  The ethanol or acetone is used to control how quickly the glue dries.

Drying times for acrylic pour artists are less important than a woodworker where minutes can be important.  Acrylic pour artists expect their paintings to take a day or two to dry and a few weeks to fully cure.  You can learn more about drying times of acrylic pours in our article here.   

Glue Provides Sheen

Since many acrylic paints are more matte, when combined with a pouring medium made of semi-gloss glue and water you get a shinier result when dried. 

PVA Glue is Non-Toxic

Another plus for using PVA glue as your pouring medium is that it is non-toxic.  These glues are made from synthetic materials that do not create very much outgassing.  No special equipment like masks or gloves is required when using PVA glue.

How to Acrylic Pour with Elmer’s Glue-All

Common Ratios for Using PVA Glue in a Pouring Medium

Many acrylic paint pouring artists us PVA glue as the base of their pouring medium.  Here are a few of the most common ratios we have seen for a pouring medium.  PVA glues are usually quite thick so water or another liquid is added to give the medium a less viscous consistency.

  • 2/3 PVA Glue – 1/3 Water
    This is the most common recipe for using a PVA glue like Elmer’s Glue-All in a pouring medium that we have seen.  The ratios are relatively easy to eyeball without needing to use a scale.
  • 70% PVA Glue – 30% Water
    This is the ratio we use most often in our painting with a medium made from PVA glue.  This gives a slightly thicker consistency that works well for any pour that you want the colors to stay a little bit more solid and not intermix as much.  A tree ring pour is one of the pours we like to use this mix on.
  • 50% PVA Glue – 25% Water – 25% Floetrol
    This is the mixture we use when doing a flip cup or a dirt pour where we want some small natural cell to come out.  This also works well with a swipe as it produces some pretty spectacular lacing. 

For craft paints, we mix a 1:1 ratio of paint to glue-based medium.  For student quality acrylic paints the ratio is 1:2 parts paint to pouring medium.  Heavy body acrylics and professional paints the ratio goes up to 1:3 or 4 depending on how vibrant you want the colors to look.

NOTE: Most glue looks slightly opaque (or misty white).  When added to acrylic paints the colors will look lighter.  When the glue dries, it will dry clear and your colors will show brighter than they looked in the original liquid mixture.  Keep that in mind when mixing your acrylic pour paints with a glue-based medium.

Don’t forget to read our Best Acrylic Paints for Pouring article to get insight into some of the great acrylic paint brands we use.

Additives for PVA Glue based Pours

  • Silicone Oil
    A drop of silicone per 2 oz of paint will help bring out cells in a pour with a PVA glue medium.  You may need to torch the pour after it is on the canvas to help break the surface tension and allow the oil to filter to the top.

    Torching early before tilting the canvas will allow for the cells to grow and be stretch the longest and therefore you’ll get the largest cells. Torching at the end of the pour, after the majority of your tilting is done, will give small and more round cells (since there is no tilting to make the odd shaped).
  • Isopropyl Alcohol
    Just a small amount of isopropyl alcohol added to a PVA glue medium will produce a lot of tiny cells.  Do no torch a pour with alcohol in it as it may light it on fire. 

    Be warned the alcohol in opaque colors like white does tent to make that color dry blotchy.  This is one additive we recommend practicing a fair bit with as it reacts differently to each paint and medium.
Acrylic Pouring with Glue and Water – Elmer’s Glue-All as a pouring medium review

Alternative Glues

There are a few different types of PVA glue that you can use.   Here I a list of the most common ones, at least the United States. 

  • Glue-All or White Glue – This is a multi-purpose glue that we use the most.  Elmer’s is a popular brand in the US but there are a few others.
  • School Glue – This a watered-down version of the Glue-All.  It is made to be washable, even after it has dried which is why it is favored in-school use.  This will work for practice pours but we don’t recommend using it for artwork you want to last longer than a few years.  If you use silicone you can’t wash that off before putting a resin or top coat on or you will pull up the color. School Glue also dries a smoky white where Glue-All dries clear.
  • Bookbinders Glue – This glue is specially made for long term use.  It is PH neutral so that it won’t break down or yellow over time. 

Is PVA Glue Archival in Pour Paintings

Archival refers to the lifespan of a material and how well said materials keeps its original color, texture, and form.  Because the composition of PVA glues varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, every glue is going to have a different archival quality.

Most PVA glues, like School Glue, Clear Glue, and Elmer’s Glue-All are slightly acidic.  These glues will last years but will break down over time in part because of the acid.   However, based on what we’ve seen from other artists, this time tends to be in the decades for acrylic pour art.

Many fine artists prefer book binder’s glue or other similar acid-free or PH neutral glues as they will last much longer than traditional glues.  Bookbinders and acid-free glues are also more expensive than more common PVA glues.

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.

36 thoughts on “Can You Use PVA Glue for Acrylic Pouring?

  1. Thank you for your articles, I am learning a lot from them. I am not a professional artist…yet. I started pouring as a way to release stress plus its pretty cool and I needed art for my house.

    1. That is how I started out too. I think it is awesome that a math/computers guy like myself can make such amazing art. Enjoy the journey and thanks for the comment.

  2. hi and thanks for the awesome blog. can PVA wood glue be used when mixing with the paints or as a medium, if not why? thanks again

    1. PVA glue can definitely be used as a pouring medium and be mixed with paints. You can also mix PVA glue with other pouring mediums to get the texture, finish, and effects that want.

  3. Thanks so much for your article! It’s been so helpful. I was wondering how long you’d recommend to wait before coating the pva glue and acrylic pour. I’m looking to do resin coating. Thanks for your help!

    1. I would still wait at least 14 days before sealing/finishing. You could get away with 7 on smaller canvases but anything bigger than 8X10 I’d wait 2-3 weeks. You don’t want any of the water to be outgassing after you put the resin on or it will cause it to go smokey looking or pull away from the canvas.

  4. Loved this article.
    Have been playing around with different mixes for a couple months!
    Amazing fun!
    Now that we r on lockdown, stocked up on elmers glue and some others.
    Can’t wait to try👍🏻👍🏻Ty

    1. You and me both. I got a gallon of floetrol, Liquitex pouring medium, and Glue-All. Going to have some fun as soon as I have some spare time.

    1. Yes. Almost any glue will. I’d shy away from kids and school glue just because it doesn’t last as long and can be dissolved easier with water even after dry.

  5. Hi,
    I just made some pouring medium with glue but when I poured I had lots of small bubbles.
    I tried to pop them with a propane torch, a heat gun then finally a hairdryer…. nothing worked.
    Any advice.
    Really wanted to try the glue method as it’s so much cheaper.
    Appreciate your help!

    1. That happens when you mix the paint vigorously, either in the cup or shaking in a bottle. If you leave your paints for an hour or so after you mix them up you’ll get rid of the majority of those bubbles.

      Also make sure your room temperature is a little warmer. For example in Utah I keep my house at 68′ but I have a little space heater while I am working to get that up closer to 73/75′.

      Another thing you can do is pop them toothpick also. Just poke the center.

      I agree on pouring with glue. SO MUCH CHEAPER.

  6. Hi, this was a great topic and I learned a lot thank you. Wanted to know if you know of any additives that make acrylics matte. Similar to matte medium. Thanks again!

    1. Floetrol is the best matte pouring medium to use. I just did a roundup of 11 popular pouring mediums (videos coming out in the next few weeks) and Floetrol was the only matte one.

      Also keep in mind that if your paint is very glossy you’ll have to add a fair bit if Floetrol (at least 1:1 if not 2:1) in order to dull the acrylic paint.

  7. Why does the following happen? I have my pouring medium already mixed up made up of PVA glue and water, when I had this to my paint and start to mix it goes all creamy fluffy sand looks like sand is mixed with it… it only happens with the PVA… can any one help?


    1. Which brand of PVA are you using?

      I have used a few paints, especially more heavy body paints, and gotten kind of a gritty consistency because the paints didn’t incorporate all the way. Could that be the problem?

  8. You have a great site with very detailed information. Just got into pouring and LOVE it! I have a huge bottle of Elmers glue used for a paper mache project and didn’t realize it could use it for this. I went thru a bottle of Floetrol in one night and thought it was kinda pricey to practice my pouring. Thanks for all the great info.

    1. That is exciting. Now you just have to find a place for all of them to dry. 8)

      Glue and Floetrol and definitely great for beginners and are by far the cheapest pouring mediums. I’ll have a post/video out this week about the most common pouring mediums and some of their properties. I think that would be another post you might be interested in.

  9. Hi, thank you for your informative articles they are a great help.
    Could one use wood adhesive in the same way as PVA glue? The one I have says it is resin based.
    Kind regards, Maria

    1. Yes it is possible but I have not tested this myself. You’ll need to test how the colors look and be careful of setup time since those do tend to dry very quickly on the surface.

  10. Thank you for really good information!!
    I am really struggeling with getting cells to stay small, they turn gigantic most of the time.
    But you are saying that torching closer to the canvas will heat up the paint and stop the cell enlargement process? In that case I am really happy!

    1. The key to small cells is to torch as late as possible. Torching early gives the cells the most amount of time to grow and to be stretched. I just put out a new video on YouTube, also Leftbrainedartist, today on my review of pouring with glue and I show how the cells from early torches are much bigger than the cells from late torches.

      You never want to have your torch very close the surface of the paint. Maybe a quick drive by to pop air bubbles. Otherwise you’ll scorch the paint.

    2. I have updated the article to give additional details about that. I apologize that it wasn’t clear and it was partially incorrect before. If you need any more guidance please let me know.

  11. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. I have the Glue-All and thank goodness I found your video before I tried it. So much great information!! And your pour was gorgeous!!

    1. I am glad it helped. Anything I can do to keep people from making my same mistakes is totally worthwhile for me.

    1. I’ve never tried wood glue. I would assume the PVA version would work fine but you’d have to experiment. Do let us know if you try it and how it works please.

    1. Absolutely you can. Just make sure you wait at least 3 weeks before doing so. You want every single bit of moisture out of the painting so it doesn’t get trapped between your paint layer and your varnish or topcoat.

  12. Thank you for your article, which i have to be honest i found to be the easiest and most understandable that I’ve come across. Concise and straight forward – thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge. I’m ‘m fairly new to paint pouring and have had soooooo many what I thought were failures! I love paint pouring -it is so addictive, but for me it has meant some commitment to keep trying and learn to be less critical of myself, which is a challenge. However I have hung some of my pieces (albeit in the bathroom!). As you can imagine lockdown has been great for me!! Stay safe stay well paint pourers.

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