Acrylic Ink Pouring Technique: A Step-by-Step Tutorial

Updated on March 10, 2019
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I'm an artist who enjoys working in a variety of mediums. My favorite subjects are animals, nature, scenery, and abstract art.

Learn acrylic ink pouring in this tutorial for beginners.
Learn acrylic ink pouring in this tutorial for beginners. | Source

The acrylic ink pouring technique is a painting method that uses acrylic ink mixed with pouring medium. This mixture is poured onto a surface like a canvas, wood panel, or a ceramic tile to make an abstract painting. There are many ways to pour ink, so the creative possibilities are unlimited.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • What supplies are needed
  • Basic information about acrylic ink and pouring medium
  • The steps to create a painting
  • Clean up tips
  • Tips for this technique
  • Answers to some frequently asked questions

Supplies

Essentials
Optional Items
Acrylic Ink (2-3 colors or a set)
Small Plastic Squeeze Bottles
Pouring Medium
Small Funnel
Painting Surface
Torpedo Level
Small Plastic Cups
Painter's Tape
Wood Craft Sticks
Palette Knife
Metal Food Cans or Plastic Lids
Isopropyl Alcohol
Disposable Gloves
Cotton Pads
Roll of Aluminum Foil
Sewing Needle
Paper Towels
 
Apron or Art Smock
 
Bottles of Acrylic Ink
Bottles of Acrylic Ink | Source

Acrylic Ink

Acrylic ink is a lightfast and water-resistant medium. Unlike acrylic paint which is opaque and thick, acrylic ink is liquid and can be found in opaque, semi-opaque, and transparent formulas. There are many colors to choose from, as well as pearlescent, metallic, and fluorescent shades.

Some brands are:

  • Daler-Rowney FW Acrylic Artists Inks (water-resistant)
  • Daler-Rowney FL Pearlescent Liquid Acrylic Artists Inks (waterproof)
  • Liquitex Professional Acrylic Ink (water-resistant)

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Pouring Medium
Pouring Medium | Source

Pouring Medium

A pouring medium is what the inks will be mixed with so they can be poured onto a surface. I like using Liquitex Pouring Medium with acrylic ink because it’s easy to use and dries to a smooth, high-gloss shine.

Tip: You’ll use a lot of pouring medium compared to ink, so start with at least an 8-ounce bottle.

A canvas, ceramic tile, and a wood panel.
A canvas, ceramic tile, and a wood panel. | Source

Surfaces for Acrylic Ink Pouring

Here are a few that work with this medium:

  • Stretched Canvas - Any size of stretched canvas prepared with gesso
  • Ceramic Tile - Any size or color of ceramic tile
  • Ampersand Gessobord - These pre-primed wood panels have a very smooth surface, which is ideal for acrylic ink pouring.
  • Any type of sealed and primed wood panel

Step-by-Step Tutorial

Here are the steps of the acrylic pouring technique, from start to finish:

1. Prepare Your Workspace

Find a level place to paint in a location where the painting can stay undisturbed until it's dry. Drying takes one to three days, so avoid busy areas like the kitchen.

Pouring acrylic ink can get messy, so cover your work area with a large sheet of aluminum foil. A garbage bag or plastic sheeting also works well.

Tip: To protect your clothing from ink spills or splashes, it’s a good idea to wear a smock or apron while mixing colors or pouring.

Source

2. Prepare the Canvas

If you’re using a stretched canvas, you’ll need to apply gesso in advance so it has a day to dry for each coat.

If you've never applied gesso before, this video from Hobby Lobby demonstrates the basic steps.

Note: You don't need to apply gesso to a tile or Gessobord.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
An example of aluminum foil and tape covering the back of a flat wood panel.An example of how to cover the back of a stretched canvas. This works best when the foil is flat against back of the canvas.
An example of aluminum foil and tape covering the back of a flat wood panel.
An example of aluminum foil and tape covering the back of a flat wood panel. | Source
An example of how to cover the back of a stretched canvas. This works best when the foil is flat against back of the canvas.
An example of how to cover the back of a stretched canvas. This works best when the foil is flat against back of the canvas. | Source

Cover the Back

If you’d like to keep the back of your canvas or wood panel clean, cover it with aluminum foil secured with painter’s tape. This step is optional, but prevents messy ink stains on the back of your work.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
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Raised Surface

Your canvas, board, or tile needs to be on a level, raised surface so the ink can flow over the edges. Some items you can use for this are small metal food cans, or plastic food lids that are at least 3/4" high.

You’ll need between one and four of these depending on the size of your surface.

Tip: Use a level to see if your surface is flat. If it's not, the ink will pool on one side as it dries. The iPhone has a great level app that's an alternative to a regular level. There are similar apps for Android as well.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Small plastic cups with pouring mediumAdding drops of inkStirring the mixture
Small plastic cups with pouring medium
Small plastic cups with pouring medium | Source
Adding drops of ink
Adding drops of ink | Source
Stirring the mixture
Stirring the mixture | Source

3. Mix Ink and Pouring Medium

  1. Set out a small plastic cup for each ink color you plan to use. For small paintings, three-ounce cups are usually large enough.
  2. Add some pouring medium to each cup. Estimate how much you'll need to cover your entire surface. This becomes easier to do after a few paintings.
  3. Lightly shake the bottles of ink before opening them. Ink separates in the bottle, so this returns it to a smooth consistency. If the ink hasn't been used in a while, you might need to shake it longer.
  4. Use the dropper on the bottle to add ink to each cup. It’s very pigmented, so you can use one drop or many, depending on the size of your surface and how saturated of a color you want. If you’re not sure how much to use, start with one or two drops, stir, then add more if needed.
  5. Use a wood craft stick to stir the mixture. Continue stirring until it’s completely blended and becomes one solid color.
  6. Keep the wood craft sticks in the cups, and wait about twenty minutes for any air bubbles to dissipate.

Stir the mixture until it's one, solid color.
Stir the mixture until it's one, solid color. | Source
Keep the sticks in the cups until right before you're ready to start.
Keep the sticks in the cups until right before you're ready to start. | Source

4. Pour the Ink

Before starting, check the cups to see if any of the ink and pouring medium has separated. If so, give it a light stir before removing the craft sticks.

Make sure your canvas or board is clean and dust free, then place it on your raised surface.

Now you’re ready to start. Here are three easy pouring methods to try:

  • Method 1 - Pouring from Cups - Pour the ink directly from the cups onto your surface in any way you like.
  • Method 2 - Pouring from Plastic Squeeze Bottles - Pour your ink/pouring medium mixtures into small plastic squeeze bottles. A small funnel makes this easier to do. From here, squeeze the ink onto your surface. Pouring from a bottle gives you more control over where you put your colors.
  • Method 3 - Use a combination of pouring from cups and squeeze bottles to create your painting.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
These are the colors used in the demo painting below.Small plastic squeeze bottles like this can be found in craft supply stores. For large paintings, use condiment size bottles from a food supply store or dollar store.
These are the colors used in the demo painting below.
These are the colors used in the demo painting below. | Source
Small plastic squeeze bottles like this can be found in craft supply stores. For large paintings, use condiment size bottles from a food supply store or dollar store.
Small plastic squeeze bottles like this can be found in craft supply stores. For large paintings, use condiment size bottles from a food supply store or dollar store. | Source

Pouring Ink Demo Photos

These photos are an example of how to pour the acrylic ink directly from cups onto a surface.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
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Tip: Leave a little ink/pouring medium in your cups or bottles in case you need some extra after the next step.

Ink spilling down the sides
Ink spilling down the sides | Source

Blend With a Palette Knife

If you'd like to blend or swirl colors with a palette knife or wood craft stick, this can be done before the next step. This is optional, because the colors will blend on their own when the surface is tilted in Step 5.

Either a plastic or metal palette knife can be used.

Blending some of the colors with a palette knife.
Blending some of the colors with a palette knife. | Source
Plastic palette knives
Plastic palette knives | Source
The painting before it was tilted
The painting before it was tilted | Source

5. Tilt Your Surface

Once the ink has been poured, put on your disposable gloves and slightly tilt the surface so the colors can interact, blend, and create interesting designs.

Try not to let too much flow over the sides until the majority of the surface is covered.

You can add more ink from the cups or squeeze bottles if you’d like, but try to do this quickly. Within about ten minutes or so, the pouring medium will start to thicken. After that, if you tilt the painting or add more ink, the surface might look bumpy.

Continue tilting in different directions until you’re happy with the look of the painting and enough ink has flowed off the sides.

The goal is to have an even layer that coats the entire surface.

This is the painting after it was tilted. The colors have blended together and look more muted because some of the ink has spilled over the sides.
This is the painting after it was tilted. The colors have blended together and look more muted because some of the ink has spilled over the sides. | Source

Tip: If you don’t have quite enough ink and pouring medium mixed to completely cover your surface, either mix a little more or just add plain pouring medium to fill in the empty spaces. It will blend with the nearby colors when the surface is tilted, so it won’t look completely translucent.

When you’re done, carefully place the painting in the center of your raised surface so it can start to dry.

If you see any tiny air bubbles on the surface, you can use a thin sewing needle to pop them while the pouring medium is still wet. There usually aren't many air bubbles with this technique.

Very wet ink
Very wet ink | Source

6. Let the Painting Dry

The wet painting will look as smooth and shiny as glass, so it’s important to prevent dust particles from landing on it as it dries. Keeping windows closed and fans off are two of the best ways to avoid dust.

The colors will continue to shift and blend in the first few hours of drying. This is normal and makes the painting look more interesting and unique.

Avoid moving or touching the painting until you’re sure it’s fully dry. This can take one to three days.

Clean Up Tips

Ink is easiest to remove from hands or other surfaces before it dries. Use a mild dish soap and warm water, or a pumice soap for stubborn stains on hands.

If the ink is already dry or won't come off with soap and water, try a small amount of isopropyl alcohol on a cotton pad or paper towel.

Acrylic Ink Pouring Technique Tips

  • Buy some small canvas boards to practice new techniques or try out color combinations.
  • Turn a regular ink color into a metallic one by adding a few drops of metallic ink.
  • If you’re not sure what ink colors to choose, buy a set. It’s an easy way to try a few colors that look good together.
  • Keep a small board, tile, or canvas nearby while you paint. If have enough ink and pouring medium left in your cups, you can do a second painting.
  • You can paint on top of an acrylic ink painting once it’s dry. Just use a small paint brush and some acrylic ink mixed with pouring medium to add additional designs or highlights.
  • You can also use acrylic paint to paint on top of a dry painting.

Wet ink: a close-up of metallic silver blending with nearby colors.
Wet ink: a close-up of metallic silver blending with nearby colors. | Source

Frequently Asked Questions

Is acrylic ink the same as acrylic paint?

  • The pigments in acrylic ink are held in a thinner medium than acrylic paint, so they're in a liquid form. Paint is thicker and opaque.

Is acrylic ink the same as alcohol ink?

  • Artwork done in these mediums can look similar, but acrylic ink is water-based and alcohol ink is alcohol-based.

Can I use acrylic ink with acrylic paint?

  • Yes, acrylic ink is compatible with acrylic paint. Just keep in mind the consistency of these two is very different.

Is the acrylic ink pouring technique the same as acrylic pour painting?

  • The techniques are similar, but are some differences. Once you learn one, it's easy to learn the other.

Paintings created with the acrylic ink pouring technique often have a stained glass appearance on smooth surfaces. This is one I did on a wood panel.
Paintings created with the acrylic ink pouring technique often have a stained glass appearance on smooth surfaces. This is one I did on a wood panel. | Source

© 2019 Carrie Kelley

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