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.

Cost

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. 

ACRYLIC POUR PAINT CALCULATOR

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.
  • Clear Glue – Some glue comes in a clear form. In most cases clear glue is similar to the Glue-All or white glue. Bear in mind that some school glues are also clear so read the label carefully.

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.

62 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
    louise

    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.

        1. I honestly don’t know. As long as you get the right consistency and the glue doesn’t have any odd chemical properties that make it different from glue-all I don’t see why not.

  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?

    Brian

    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.

      1. Hi there David. I am so loving your page.. Very clear, precise and not too wordy.
        I have been using Floetrol and water for my pouring medium and now I know I can use Elmers Craft Glue it is going to lower my costs..
        I too have trouble keeping the cells small unless it is a swipe.
        Doing a Beach Themed based canvas for a lady with real sand and now I know that the Elmers Glue is so applicable and economical I can use that for the real sand.
        Thank you so much for sharing.
        We can all learn something new everyday in life Hey.
        Cheers from Heather in NSW Australia.

        1. In Australia they sell a clear glue, I am trying to remember the name, that supposedly works even better than glue-all. The artist on the channel Pouring Your Heart Out uses it. Her painting are fantastic.

          On the small cells, don’t torch until after you have done all your tilting. If the cells form early they get elongated and stretched by the tilting. Also, if you are using silicone, cut back a bit if your cells are way too big. I usually use maybe one drop per 2 ounces of 60 grams of mixed 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.

    3. I need a recipe for this pour painting, I am 79 and really I can,t remember the ratio , for Elmer’s glue. I do not like the cells at all. They bother me. I have tried a few ,hit or miss on the glue and find the right consistency. I do like this very much,

      1. First mix your glue-all 70% glue to 30% water. That is now your pouring medium

        Next, if you are using craft paints (FolkArt, Craftsmart) mix the same amount of paint and pouring medium (50:50 or 1:1 ratio). If you are using student acrylic (Liquitex, Artist’s Loft) mix 2 parts pouring medium to one part paint. The higher quality paints have more and better pigments so you can mix in more pouring medium.

        Last, check the consistency and add a make sure that each paint is the same. You can add additional water to any that are too thick.

  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. Would the archival time be better if it’s finished with varnish or resin? Want to practice with pva, but if I turn out something good, I’m wondering if an extra finish will keep it going for longer!

        1. As long as they are both UV resistant or have a UV resistant coat before varnishing the longevity should be lifetimes. Where they are stored and displayed probably affects the longevity more than the finish coat.

    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.

  13. Do you worry about the longevity of the glue? I know that I can get fragile over time. I’m looking into using glue as a sculptural element in my work but I’m worried about creating with archival quality in mind.

    1. Glue, especially glue mixed with acrylic paints, will last for 10s of years but I don’t believe it will last a century without an amazing varnish and great care.

  14. hi any advice on how to salvage the edges where i used houseplant and water to prime the canvas the middle is great with paints and floetrol and now realise i should have used floetrol in the priming white but don’t want to waste painting should i just paint over the ridges and canvas showing through bits on edges ? any advice gratefully received

    1. I frequently overpaint on my edges when silicone shows through or I don’t get enough coverage. Especially when I have lots of one color like white on the outside.

  15. Hi, thank you for all these gorgeous videos! I am wondering about using tile and glass for pours. Do you have to prep the surface with anything special? I was thinking of Kilz primer or some type of glass painting medium. Have you found that to be necessary?

  16. Great website and great videos David!! I’m new to paint pouring and you’ve helped me a lot in terms of keeping my costs down while I practice. I’ve started using a PVA glue mix (60% glue, 40% water mixed at 2:1 (medium:paint)). I’m using small canvases so don’t generally use a great deal of paint and sometimes only need splashes of a particular colour. In your opinion, how long would a PVA medium mixed with paint and bottled in squeezy bottles last??
    Thank you and keep up the great work!!!!!

    1. Weeks if you used regular water. Months if you used filtered or distilled water. Just make sure you stir them up regularly and you might need to strain them the longer they sit.

  17. Hi David. First of all, let me thank you for your amazing tutorial. 😍 I learned a lot. I think being “a left-brained artist” helps to go to the point and be precise. Hehe. Thanks.
    I’m a principiant in this acrylic pouring journey and the only thing I can say is… I love it! I’ve been using Floetrol but it can get very expensive in the long run so I hope using Elmer’s glue-all will be less pricey. Like many of us, I’m on a budget. 🤗 Any advice for a budding artist? Best regards.

    1. Start out with one method. Learn everything you can about it. Then move on. Jumping around to different techniques is what most people want to do but you’ll find that you get many more failed paintings (at least in your eyes, other always seem to think otherwise) than you will get real winners.

  18. Hi David, I am very happy I came across your site. I’m very new to acrylic pouring. I ordered Glue All from Amazon and was sent school glue. Stupid me, I didn’t realize until recently that there is a difference and I’ve been using the school glue. Anyway, I did a couple pours and am happy with the results. My concern is can I put a glossy finish on my dried paintings and if it’s okay what should I use. Any advise you can give will be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you, Peggy

    1. I have a video on my YouTube channel on the easiest way to finish your pour and not get brush marks. I’d recommend you start there. Finishing can be a tricky one.

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