I've been painting with acrylics since childhood and enjoy sharing tips about working in this versatile medium.
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.
- 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.
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
Here are the steps for flip cup painting:
- Mix the acrylic paint and pouring medium
- Pour each color into a larger cup
- Place the canvas upside down on top of the cup
- Flip the canvas and cup
- Lift the cup
- Tilt the canvas
- Let the painting dry
You'll find photos and instructions for each step below.
Step 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. Gently 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.
Step 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.
Step 3: Place the Canvas Upside Down on Top of the Cup
Try to center the canvas, but it doesn't have to be exact.
Step 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.
Step 5: Lift the Cup
Slowly lift the cup and let the paint flow out in a puddle on the canvas.
Step 6: Tilt the Canvas
Pick up the canvas and tilt it in different directions until the paint has covered the entire surface.
Step 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.
Acrylic Pour Painting on a Budget (Has a pouring recipe with Elmer's Glue-All)
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.
© 2019 Carrie Kelley
Mark on July 10, 2020:
Hi, Carrie. I am planning on doing my flip painting in my garage.
Do you recommend a temperature range for doing flip painting? Also, once the flipped acrylic paint dries can you paint over it with acrylic paint? Oil paint using an oil paint knife?
Kathleen on June 06, 2020:
I have been collecting all of my supplies and watching videos so I will be ready to start.
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on May 15, 2020:
Thanks so much, Linda. I'm glad you enjoyed the article. Good luck with your paintings and thanks for visiting :)
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on May 15, 2020:
Juliana - Good luck! I'd love to hear how it turns out.
Linda Connolly on May 15, 2020:
Great job explaining and teaching. Can't wait to try and then take another lesson! You are helping me keep my sanity during this time!
juliana on May 15, 2020:
Trying this now!!
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on April 11, 2020:
Hi Stella - Yes, it can be done on wood if it's sealed and primed beforehand to prevent warping.
Stella on April 11, 2020:
I have a wooden lazy Susan. Can this be done on wood?
H.P on March 27, 2020:
what color paints did you use for this? It's beautiful!
Brooklynn on January 30, 2020:
I used this for a class project.
laura Campbell on September 15, 2019:
You are very helpful. I have trouble getting cells. I do not know why. I used silicone. Maybe I need to be more precise in mixing and measuring. I teach art to middle school students. I am a beginner myself, did it once, fell in love and allowed my students to try. They fell in love and called it satisfying! Especially the boys. Some, like to plan, I said not to , to just let it happen, except not to use contrasting colors except that if they want brown. It is so much fun.
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on June 06, 2019:
You're welcome, Sandra. Thanks for your comments!
Sandra Winn on June 03, 2019:
Thank you so much for such great information. So helpful.
sanea on April 26, 2019:
I want to learn it