Flip Cup Painting: An Easy 7-Step Tutorial
The flip cup painting technique is a simple way to quickly create colorful, abstract acrylic pour paintings with unique patterns and unexpected color combinations.
This tutorial covers the basics you need to know to get started and lists the seven easy steps to your first painting.
In this article you’ll learn:
- What is flip cup painting?
- What supplies are needed
- Types of acrylic paints and pouring mediums to use
- Step-by-step directions to make a flip cup painting
- Some tips and ideas to try
What is Flip Cup Painting?
Flip cup painting is an acrylic pouring technique where different colors of paint are mixed with a pouring medium, before being poured into a larger cup. A surface, such as a canvas, is placed face down on the cup, then "flipped" so the cup is upside down on the canvas. The cup is then lifted to let the paint flow out in a puddle. After that, the canvas is tilted until the paint has covered the entire surface.
Flip Cup Painting Supplies
- Acrylic Gesso - To prime the canvas and make the paint adhere better
- 2-3" Polyfoam Sponge Brush - For applying gesso
- Bottles of Acrylic Paint - At least 4 to 6 colors of either craft acrylic paint, or artist quality liquid or soft body acrylics
- Pouring Medium - This gives the paint a “marbled” look as it’s poured. Start with at least an 8-ounce bottle. Some brands include Liquitex Professional Pouring Medium, Golden GAC 800, and DecoArt Pouring Medium. Other products that can be used as a pouring medium include Flood Floetrol Latex Based Paint Additive and Elmer’s Glue-All.
- 100% Silicone Oil (Optional) - This can help create cells in the paint.
- Plastic Beverage Cups - It's helpful to have a pack of two sizes, such as 9-ounces for mixing, and 16-ounces for the flip cup.
- Wood Craft Sticks - For stirring the paint
- Plastic Paint Tarp or Garbage Bag - To protect your work surface
- Measuring Spoons - For measuring paint and pouring medium
- Disposable Gloves, Apron, Paper Towels
Note: Tubes of regular acrylic paint can be used, but they’ll need to be thinned down with pouring medium before using.
Have you tried flip cup painting before?
Preparing the Canvas and Work Area
You'll need to prepare the canvas with gesso, and cover your work area before starting. If you are new to acrylic pouring and aren’t sure how to do these things, please see steps 2, 3, and 5 of my article How to Do a Pour Painting: A Tutorial for Beginners.
You'll also need an elevated surface to place the canvas on. This can be four upside-down plastic cups or two to four empty metal food cans.
How Much Paint and Pouring Medium to Use
Paint vs. Medium Ratio: If you're new to acrylic pouring, start by using the ratio suggested on the bottle of pouring medium you're using. This is easiest when using paint and pouring medium from the same brand.
The websites listed in the “Resources” section at the bottom of this page have more information and tips for using the various pouring mediums mentioned in this article.
Consistency: The mixture in each mixing cup should be slightly thicker than a liquid coffee creamer. It should be easy to pour, but not too runny.
Volume: Approximately six-ounces of paint/pouring medium in the flip cup should cover a standard 8x10” canvas. This can vary depending on the consistency of the paint. It’s always better to have a little extra than not enough.
Flip Cup Painting Directions
1. Mix the Acrylic Paint and Pouring Medium
Mix each paint color with a pouring medium in the smaller of the two sizes of plastic cups. Stir the mixture with wood crafts sticks until it's very smooth.
If you're using silicone oil, add two or three drops to each cup, then stir again.
2. Pour Each Color into the Larger Cup
After all the colors are mixed, slowly pour them into the larger cup. Don't stir this cup.
3. Place the Canvas Upside Down on Top of the Cup
Try to center the canvas, but it doesn't have to be exact.
4. Flip the Canvas and Cup
Holding the canvas and cup tightly together, flip them so the cup is upside down on the canvas.
Carefully place the canvas on an elevated surface and wait a couple minutes for the paint to drip down to the bottom of the cup.
5. Lift the Cup
Slowly lift the cup and let the paint flow out in a puddle on the canvas.
6. Tilt the Canvas
Pick up the canvas and tilt it in different directions until the paint has covered the entire surface.
7. Let the Painting Dry
Place the canvas on an elevated surface to dry. This can take one to three days depending on the type of pouring medium used and how thick the layer of paint is.
Tips for Flip Cup Painting
- Make sure the table or countertop where you’re working is level.
- A mix of light, medium, and dark colors will create the most contrast.
- Experiment with different brands of paint and pouring medium. Each combination produces its own unique look.
- Keep a few small canvases nearby when you're painting. If there's leftover paint, it can be used to make additional paintings.
- Try this technique on a round canvas or a ceramic tile.
- Once you've mastered a single flip cup painting, try a double flip cup.
- Work in a well-ventilated area if you’re using Floetrol.
- Allow the painting a couple weeks to fully dry, then apply a coat of varnish to help protect the finish from handling and sunlight.
© 2019 Carrie Kelley