I've been painting with acrylics since childhood and enjoy sharing tips about working in this versatile medium.
If you’re interested in trying acrylic pour painting on a budget, this article will show you the steps to create an abstract "beach theme" painting using low-cost supplies and items you likely have at home.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- What supplies you’ll need
- How to prepare your work area and canvas
- A budget acrylic pour painting recipe using craft acrylic paints and glue
- How to mix the paints
- The series of steps to create a painting
- An idea for an alternative version of the painting
- Answers to a few frequently asked questions
Acrylic Pour Painting Poll
Craft Acrylic Paints - These cost about $1 to $3 US per 2-ounce (59 mL) bottle.
For the painting shown in this tutorial, you'll need these six colors:
- Pale Blue
- Medium or Dark Gold (Either metallic or regular)
- Light Beige
Elmer's Glue-All is a multi-purpose glue that works well as a budget pouring medium. It's non-toxic and has a similar look to professional pouring mediums that cost much more.
For this project, you'll need one 4-ounce bottle. (118 mL)
- Stretched Canvas - Any type of 8x10" canvas (20.3 x 25.4 cm)
- Wood Craft Sticks - The large sticks are easiest for mixing paint and glue.
- Pack of Plastic Beverage Cups - 9-ounce (266 mL) or similar size
- Measuring Spoons - For measuring paint and glue
- Acrylic Gesso - A small bottle or tube of gesso from an arts & crafts store. Student quality gesso is the least expensive.
- Polyfoam Sponge Brush - This is used to apply gesso. (3" or 7.5 cm)
- Pack of Disposable Gloves - To keep your hands clean as you paint
- Plastic Painting Drop Cloth or Garbage Bag - To cover your work area
- Apron - To protect your clothing from paint splashes or spills
- Paper Towels
- UV-Resistant Clear Spray - This is used to protect the finished painting.
The supplies listed above can be found at dollar stores and arts & crafts supply stores.
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Prepare the Canvas
A coat of acrylic gesso should be applied a day in advance to prepare the canvas. Gesso helps the paint mixture grip the canvas and gives a better result.
A small bottle or tube of student-quality gesso costs about $5 to $7 US.
Prepare the Work Area
- Cover your table or workspace with a plastic painting drop cloth or large garbage bag to keep it clean.
- Have your supplies nearby, including disposable gloves, apron, and paper towels for clean-up.
- Place the prepared canvas on a level, raised surface for pouring. This can be four upside-down plastic beverage cups or empty metal food cans. I find cans easier to use because they don’t tip when the canvas is lifted between steps.
Budget Pour Painting Recipe with Glue
I made a pouring mixture using one part craft acrylic paint, one part Elmer's Glue-All, and added a small amount of water to thin it to the right consistency.
Here are the specific amounts to add to seven plastic cups:
2 teaspoons navy
2 teaspoons aqua
2 teaspoons pale blue
1 teaspoon aqua, 1 tsp pale blue
2 teaspoons medium gold
2 teaspoons light beige
4 teaspoons white
Mix the Paints and Glue
Here are the steps to make the pouring mixture:
1. Shake the bottles of paint well.
2. Add the measured glue, paint, and water to each cup.
3. Stir the mixtures until they’re completely blended into a solid color.
The consistency should be similar to warm honey. If it seems too thick, add a small amount of water and re-stir. If it's too thin, add a small amount of additional paint and glue in equal parts.
Note: If the paint mixtures are too thin for a beach painting, it will be difficult to keep the water and sand colors separate.
4. Once blended, keep the sticks in the cups and wait up to an hour for any small air bubbles to dissipate.
5. After that, give the mixtures a very light stir, then discard the sticks.
Now you're ready to paint!
1. Pour a Line of White Paint
Pour a wavy line of white paint about two-thirds of the way down the canvas, as shown in the photo below.
This "divider line" will help keep the colors of the water and sand separate.
2. Pour the Blue Paint Colors
Pour the blue colors from the cups onto the canvas. This can be done in any way but looks best with a larger amount of the darkest shades near the top.
- Try not to let the blue paints touch the white divider line at this point.
- Leave a small amount of paint in a few of the cups, in case you need to fill in any empty spaces later.
3. Add White Paint
Add a few light swirls of white paint over the blue to create the look of waves.
Before the next step, I added some extra white paint to make the divider line thicker.
4. Tilt the Canvas
Before adding either of the sand colors, pick up the canvas and gently tilt it back and forth horizontally to let the colors of the water blend together.
The shades of blue will start to look like abstract waves.
5. Add the Sand Colors
Next, pour the light beige and gold paints onto the lower portion of the canvas.
As with the blues, try not to get too close to the white divider line.
6. Tilt the Canvas Again
- Pick up the canvas and tilt it back and forth horizontally so the sand colors can blend.
- Continue until paint has covered the entire canvas and you're happy with the overall look of the painting.
- A clean craft stick can be used to spread the paint into any empty spaces.
- When you're done, place the canvas evenly on the plastic cups or metal cans so it can start drying. It will take one to three days to be dry enough to move.
7. Seal the Painting (Optional)
Finishing a painting with a clear acrylic spray will give it protection and make it last longer. I added three light coats of Krylon UV-Resistant Clear Acrylic Coating, allowing time to dry between coats.
Tips for applying a spray:
- Give the painting a few weeks to fully dry before doing this step.
- Follow the instructions on the can and use in a well-ventilated area or outdoors.
- Test a small area in the corner of the canvas to make sure the spray is compatible with your paints.
- Two or three light coats work better than one heavy one.
Alternative Painting Idea
If you'd like to try a version of this painting technique that's even easier, substitute two different shades of blue for the sand colors.
Skip the divider line and beach, and create a painting with blue and white, which will have the look of abstract waves.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a pouring medium?
- A pouring medium is a liquid that's mixed with the acrylic paints to help make them flow. It's also what gives pour paintings their unique "marbled" look.
What's the difference between budget pour painting supplies and artist quality supplies?
- Besides cost, the main difference is the durability of the materials. Glue can yellow over time, and craft acrylic paints can fade. However, budget pouring medium and craft acrylics are a good option for those who want to try this style of painting or practice new techniques.
How can I clean up acrylic paint?
- Acrylic paint is easiest to remove before it dries. Start by using dish soap and warm water. For stains on hands, a bar of soap with pumice grains can help remove paint. If you need to remove dried paint, use some isopropyl alcohol on a paper towel or cotton pad.
Pouring paint is not an exact science. Adjustments may be needed to the paint recipe or process depending on the brand of paints used, or your specific style preferences. It can take some trial and error to find what works best for you. After some practice, your painting results will be more consistent.
If you’d like to try pour painting with artist acrylic paint and pouring medium, see my article How to Do a Pour Painting: A Tutorial for Beginners. It includes details and tips you may find helpful as you experiment with acrylic pouring.
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about this fun painting technique and wish you the best of luck in your creative projects.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: I like "cells" in acrylic pours, can this be done with Elmer's Glue-All?
Answer: I get some cells with Elmer’s Glue-All on its own, but they’re not nice and round. It helps to add some silicone oil and/or Floetrol to the mixture for better quality cells.
© 2019 Carrie Kelley
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on August 04, 2020:
SteffyF - You're welcome! Yes, that should work. It doesn't have to be Elmer's. Thanks for the question.
SteffyF on August 03, 2020:
Many thanks for the excellent, and clear, instructions. I have been put off trying this up to now because of the cost of the materials but this seems to make it possible. I have one query though : I live in France so do not have access to Elmers glue. Would a normal PVA glue be the same? Thanks
Muriel Attwood on June 28, 2020:
I want to try this
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on March 09, 2020:
Tina, The use of a medium helps make the marbelized look seen in this style of painting. When acrylic paints are thinned down with water to the point where they can flow around on the canvas, the colors tend to run together if no medium is added. Technically, it's not 100% necessary to add a medium, but the painting will have a different look. Thanks for your question.
Tina T on March 09, 2020:
Random question: why can’t one just use acrylic paints as is, thinning when necessary? Why must there be an additional medium added? If I can just paint with plain acrylics, why wouldn’t the same hold true just because I apply them differently (without a brush)?
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on January 09, 2020:
Hello Maureen, You're welcome. Thanks for your comments, and I hope you and your friend enjoy painting :)
Maureen Smurthwaite on January 08, 2020:
Thank you for making this simple too follow.Hope to start a pour very soon and also have a friend to also do a Acrylic pour along side of me.Thanks to you.Maureen Smurthwaite
Doreen T. on December 29, 2019:
I just finished reading most of your blog and lessons and tips and I find your website is the absolute best. After reading so many websites yours is the most comprehensive and the best. I can't say it enough. Thank you thank you. Your explanation and directions are the best and now I feel confident to start pouring thank you so much.
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on December 14, 2019:
bhattuc - You're welcome!
bhattuc on December 13, 2019:
Well explained. Thanks.
Kyle on November 11, 2019:
Following your directions are so fun ,,,i felt so overwhelmed watching others they act like were supposed know all the paint thinners and how to thin them and of course how much to use.
JoEllen Stoddard on October 22, 2019:
What do you do to cover the sides. Just leave them or cover them with the paint.
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on September 28, 2019:
Hi Jenifer, You're very welcome! I'd love to hear how it turns out with a large group. Thanks so much for commenting, and good luck with your trip.
Jenifer Cronch on September 27, 2019:
I am taking a group of 3rd thru 6th grade girls to Lake Huron in Oct and we will be using your Pour Painting...can not wait to share our results . I thank you for your detailed and informative page
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on September 18, 2019:
Laura, Glue-All is a great choice for kids to try pouring. I'm sure they'll enjoy it. Thank so much for your comments!
laura Campbell on September 15, 2019:
Wow. Now, I know how to save money using Elmer's Glue as the pouring medium as well as the formula on how much of everything I need to use. I am allowing my 40 per class students try this technique. I have my tables set up in stations with different activities so all are not pouring at once. I thank you for your suggestions. You are fantastic!
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on February 26, 2019:
You're welcome, Peggy. Yes, it's always interesting to see how unique each one turns out. Thanks so much for pinning the article and for your comments!
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 26, 2019:
Your instructions are detailed and easy to understand. Each painting done in this manner would turn out to be a bit of a surprise depending upon how the paints flow together. This looks like a fun project! Thanks for writing this. I'll pin this to my crafts board.