I've been painting with acrylics since childhood and enjoy sharing tips about working in this versatile medium.
Have you ever wondered how to do a pour painting? Acrylic pouring is a fun and easy way to create one-of-a-kind works of art. Even if you’ve never painted before and don’t consider yourself an artist, this technique is something anyone can do. All it takes is the right supplies and a little know-how, which you’ll learn here.
The supplies, recipe, and process shown here is one I’ve used to create pour paintings with bright colors and a glossy shine.
Here’s what you’ll learn in this tutorial:
- What is acrylic pouring
- What kind of paint is best for acrylic pour painting
- What is a pouring medium
- Supplies you’ll need for this project
- How to prepare a canvas for acrylic pouring
- Step-by-step instructions of how to do an acrylic pour painting
- A pour painting recipe
- Some variations of the recipe to try
What is Acrylic Pouring?
Acrylic pouring is a painting technique where acrylic paint is mixed with some type of pouring medium and then poured onto a surface in a variety of ways. Sometimes colors are poured directly from individual cups, and other times multiple colors are combined into one cup and poured together.
After that, the surface is tilted in each direction to let the paint flow, and the colors interact in unpredictable, yet always interesting ways.
No matter which of the many pour painting methods or techniques you try, you can create your very own abstract fluid art at home.
1. Gather Your Supplies
Before you can start, you'll need to get your supplies ready. Below is a list of the supplies used for the painting in this tutorial. You might have many of these items around your home.
The art supplies (canvas, acrylic paint, pouring medium, gesso, and paint brush) can be found at most art supply stores and on Amazon.
The other various supplies are available at discount, dollar or hardware stores and can also usually be found online.
Supplies You'll Need
|Pouring Medium & Paint||Other Supplies||Optional Supplies|
Golden GAC 800 (Pouring Medium)
Liquitex Soft Body Acrylics:
Flat Paint Brush or 2-3" Polyfoam Sponge Brush
Bright Aqua Green
An 8x8" or 8x10" Stretched Canvas
Light Blue Permanent
Small Plastic Beverage Cups
Aluminum Baking Pan (Approximately 9.5" x 13.5")
Iridescent Bright Silver
Wood Craft Sticks (Regular & Large)
Phthalocyanine Blue (Green Shade)
4 Metal Soup Size Cans
Art Smock or Apron
Small Paint Brush for Edge Touch-Ups
Medium Size Rubber Bands
Painting Tarp or Plastic Sheeting
Fine Grain Sand Paper
Acrylic Paint and Pouring Medium
Liquid or soft body acrylics work best for the pouring technique. They're in a fluid formula that doesn't need to be thinned with water before using.
Paints suited for acrylic pouring are called:
- Liquid or Fluid Acrylics
- Soft Body Acrylics
- High-Flow Acrylics
For this painting, I used Liquitex Professional Soft Body Acrylics because they're an artist quality paint available at most art supply stores. They're very pigmented, so a small amount of paint goes a long way.
This type of painting can also be done using craft acrylic paint (found at arts & craft supply stores) with a slight change in the recipe. I explain how to do this in the "Variations to the Pour Painting Recipe" section later in this article.
What Is a Pouring Medium?
In acrylic pouring, a pouring medium is mixed with the paints to help them flow. It helps keeps the colors separate, so they don't combine into one muddy color when mixed. It also extends the volume of the paint and helps prevent cracking.
There are different types and brands of pouring medium and each one can add a different look to your work.
I used Golden GAC 800 as the pouring medium for this painting because it has a nice balance of color separation and blending, which is the look I wanted to achieve.
Other Supplies for Acrylic Pouring
If you enjoy the acrylic pouring technique and want to have an assortment of supplies on hand so you can get creative and try different types of pours, see my article Pour Painting Supplies for Beginners for an expanded supply list.
2. Prep the Canvas
To get your canvas ready, apply a coat of gesso (an acrylic primer) to help the paint adhere better. It takes about a day for each coat of gesso to dry, so plan to do this in advance.
- Stretched Canvas
- Flat Paint Brush or 2-3" Polyfoam Sponge Brush
- Small Plastic Dish
- Small Dish of Water
- Paper Towels
- Fine Grain Sand Paper and Dust Mask (Optional)
How to Prepare a Canvas for Acrylic Pouring
If you’re new to using gesso to prime a canvas, here are the basic steps:
- Pour a small amount of gesso into a plastic dish.
- Dampen your brush or foam sponge brush with water.
- Make sure your canvas is free of dust and dirt, then use the brush or sponge to apply a thin, even layer of gesso over the entire canvas surface and sides. Go in one direction with the brush strokes (either across or up and down). Keeping the brush slightly damp will make it glide better.
- If you'd like, let the canvas dry for a day, then repeat these steps for a second coat. This time, brush in the opposite direction you went before.
If you happen to see any brush strokes once this coat is dry, you can go over the surface lightly with some fine grain sand paper to smooth them out. It's a good idea to wear a dust mask while sanding.
Gesso is water soluble, so just wash your brush afterwards with brush soap (or dish soap for a sponge brush) and rinse well.
How to Protect the Back of a Canvas While Pour Painting
Once the gesso is dry, you can cover the back of your canvas so it doesn't get coated with paint during the pouring process.
This is optional, but if you'd like to do this, here's how:
- Cover the wood bars of the canvas with painter's tape. Leave the edges of the canvas (sides) uncovered so the paint can drip down and cover these.
- Put a piece of aluminum foil flat against the canvas and use tape to secure it.
Painter's tape won't damage the canvas and can be peeled off once the painting is dry.
3. Find a Workspace
Pour painting gets quite messy and the paint will take a few days to dry, so here are some things that make an ideal place to work on this project:
- A clean, dust-free space so dust or pet hair doesn't end up in the wet paint.
- A completely level, stable surface so the painting can dry with a smooth finish.
- A room with a door that can be closed if you have pets or young children so they won't accidentally touch or tip your painting.
4. Mix the Paints
I mix cups of paint and pouring medium the night before when I use Golden GAC 800 because I've found it works best when it has about twelve hours for the air bubbles to dissipate on their own.
Pour Painting Recipe
Here’s the paint and pouring medium recipe for this painting:
- Golden GAC 800 (The 8-ounce bottle is more than enough)
- Liquitex Soft Body Acrylic Paints (2-ounce bottles)
- 9 Small Plastic Beverage Cups (3-ounce cups work well)
- Measuring Spoons
- Regular Wood Craft Sticks (popsicle stick size)
- Plastic Wrap
- Medium Size Rubber Bands
- Aluminum Foil
Paint Mixing Instructions:
- Cover an area of your countertop or table with a sheet of aluminum foil to protect it from paint splashes or spills.
- Add 2.5 level teaspoons of Golden GAC 800 to each plastic beverage cup.
- Add one level 1/4 teaspoon of Liquitex Soft Body paint in the colors and color combinations listed below to each cup.
- Slowly stir each cup with a wood craft stick until the paint and pouring medium mixture is completely blended.
- Cover each cup tightly with some plastic wrap and secure it well with a rubber band. Set the cups aside until you're ready to paint.
Colors (In no particular order)
- Cup 1 - Titanium White
- Cup 2 - Light Blue Permanent
- Cup 3 - Iridescent Bright Silver
- Cup 4 - Phthalocyanine Blue (Green Shade)
- Cup 5 - Bright Aqua Green
- Cup 6 - Bright Aqua Green
- Cup 7 - Half Bright Aqua Green, Half Emerald Green
- Cup 8 - Half Bright Aqua Green, Half Phthalocyanine Blue (Green Shade)
- Cup 9 - One of the six colors of your choice.
- A wood craft stick can be used to scrape the paint from the measuring spoon into the plastic cup.
- Rinse and dry the measuring spoon between each color.
- Small, air-tight plastic or glass containers can be used instead of plastic wrap and rubber bands, if you have them.
5. Protect Your Work Area and Clothing
Before getting started, cover your workspace with a plastic paint tarp, plastic sheeting or lawn size trash bags to keep your surface clean and make clean-up easier.
To help contain the paint that will be dripping off the canvas, consider using an aluminum baking pan. If it's lined with wax paper or aluminum foil, it should stay clean enough to re-use.
It’s a good idea to wear an old apron or art smock to keep paint off your clothes. Even though acrylics are water soluble, they can be difficult to get out of clothing.
6. Start Pouring
Here are a few things to do before you start:
- Gather your cups of paint, disposable gloves, paper towels, palette knife (or a few large wood craft sticks) in your workspace. You can either put on your gloves now or before the next step.
- Place your canvas on a raised surface. I like using empty metal soup size cans because they raise the canvas and are stable enough that they won't tip.
- If you have a level, you can use it to check your canvas.
- Uncover all your paint cups. The paint and pouring medium mixtures should now be air bubble-free.
- If any of the paint and pouring medium has separated, use a craft stick to blend it together. Do this slowly to avoid creating new air bubbles.
Start Pouring Paint from Cups
I poured directly from each cup in random swirls over the entire canvas as shown in the images below.
The corners are sometimes hard to get coated with paint during the next step, so try to add a little paint to each one.
Iridescent Bright Silver looks pale gray when it's wet, but once it's dry, it'll have a beautiful metallic shine.
Titanium White is a heavy color that tends to pool if you add too much in one area. To avoid this, try pouring it evenly around the entire canvas.
The little dots of color you see are from shaking out the last few drops of paint from some of the cups.
Leave some paint in a few of your cups in case you need extra to cover any bare spots during Step 7. You’re better off having extra left over than not having enough to completely cover your canvas.
Using a Palette Knife With Acrylic Pouring
A palette knife can be used to blend some of the colors on your canvas. This is optional and depends on what type of look you'd like.
In this work, I only used the palette knife to push some paint over a few small areas of the canvas that were bare. The swirls and color blending happened on their own during the next step.
7. Tilt the Canvas
Now we're at the step most pour painters love the most. You're ready to make the paint flow. You never quite know how all the colors will come together until you get to this point.
This step can take some practice to master, but with each painting you try, you'll discover what works best and how to improve with the next one.
Here are the basic steps:
- Pick up your canvas and slowly tilt it in one direction at a time until the flowing paint approaches the edge. It's fine if some paint goes over the edges but try not to let too much flow off until the canvas surface is fully covered.
- You will want to pour off enough paint so there's not a thick puddle on the surface without pouring off the best parts of your design.
- Continue tilting in different directions until the entire canvas surface and sides are covered and you're happy with the overall composition and look of your painting.
- Place the canvas squarely in the center of your cans. The paint will start to thicken within a few minutes or so. Avoid further work on the surface once this has happened.
8. Finish the Edges
The colorful paint drips on the side of the canvas can enhance the overall look of your painting. If you use a canvas with staple-free edges, it can be displayed without a frame.
Below are a few tips for finishing the edges of your pour painting. Start this step right after your painting is on the cups or cans, while it's still wet.
- Check all four edges for any areas that aren't covered in paint.
- Use a palette knife or wood craft stick to smooth some paint onto those sections. The paint beneath your canvas is ideal for this. You can also use any leftover paint from your cups.
- Don't worry about getting the edges perfect because you can do touch-ups once the painting is fully dry, as shown in the photos below.
How Long Does a Pour Painting Take to Dry?
Paintings created with the acrylic pouring technique take about two to three days to dry. If you pour an especially thick layer of paint, it could take longer. When in doubt, don't touch the surface because if it's not quite dry, you'll leave a fingerprint in the finish.
As long as you cover your workspace well and wear disposable gloves while painting, clean up doesn't take much time. It's helpful to have a large trash bin nearby rather than carrying paint covered items across the room.
If you use a plastic palette knife, it can be cleaned by wiping off the excess paint before cleaning it with warm water and dish detergent. Any residual stains can be removed with some isopropyl alcohol on a cotton pad.
If you happen to get paint or pouring medium on your clothing, carpet or a good towel, rinse it out right away with plenty of water. A spray-on laundry stain remover can be used too. Once the stain has dried, it will be much more difficult to remove.
10. Touch-Up the Edges
Once the painting is dry, you can mix a small amount of pouring medium with a little paint and use a small paint brush to do some minor touch-ups on the edges.
Acrylics applied with a brush can have a different texture than when they're poured, so try to be conservative with touch-ups so they aren't obvious.
Variations to This Pour Painting Recipe
If you'd like to try different versions of the pour painting recipe, here are a few ideas:
Craft Acrylic Paint
- To use craft acrylics instead of the paint brand shown, add 3/4 teaspoon of paint to each plastic cup of pouring medium rather than 1/4 teaspoon. I tried this recipe and process with $1 bottles of satin finish acrylic craft paints in similar shades of blues, aqua, green, white, and silver, and the painting turned out nicely. Craft acrylics aren't archival quality but are an option for practicing this technique or as a lower-cost alternative to artist brands. The color and consistency of craft acrylics can vary a lot by brand, so you might need to adjust the amount used.
- Try different colors and color combinations.
- Experiment with other brands of artist quality fluid or high-flow acrylics.
I hope you’ve found this tutorial informative and are inspired to try acrylic pouring. It's easy to learn and has unlimited possibilities to add your own creativity and personal style.
The steps and recipe shown here are just one of many ways to do a pour painting. There are no exact rules for this technique because of how many ways it can be done. After you try a few paintings, you'll find what works best for you.
For tips on acrylic pouring and mistakes to avoid to help make your works more successful, see my article Acrylic Pour Painting Tips: A List for Beginners.
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.
© 2018 Carrie Kelley
Joan Huggins on September 05, 2020:
I have premixed paints 2 oz bottles do I add my cell maker straight into the bottles or do I pour in cups? This will be my first I am using a 8x10 stretched canvas how much paint should I pour to be able to cover the whole canvas? Gonna use 5 colors. I would like to do a dirty flip cup pour. Thank you Joan.
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on July 06, 2020:
Hi Audrey, You're welcome! I'm glad you've enjoyed it. Thanks about the painting. :)
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on July 06, 2020:
Hi Mary, Yes, it's a fun project. I hope you enjoy trying it. Thanks for your comments :)
Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on July 04, 2020:
I absolutely love pour painting! I enjoyed this tutorial and the finished painting is just beautiful.
Thanks, and happy pouring!
Cristiane on June 19, 2020:
I love your instructions and the final result. I have a canvas that is already painted. Can I reuse this one? Thanks!
Mary Gaines from Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island, Washington on June 17, 2020:
This looks like so much fun! I shall have to try it soon. Thanks for sharing! Cheers
qiqiart on June 02, 2020:
Linda Connolly on May 15, 2020:
I LOVED the results I got. But as a non-artist, I would love more color combinations - PLEASE! I AM LEARNING TO MUCH! Thank you!
Linda Connolly on May 14, 2020:
Great teaching! I am NOT an artist, but I absolutely love doing this! Please keep up the wonderful teaching.
Also looking for color combinations since I have NO artist eye. Thanks again!
Julie on May 12, 2020:
Do you have to ADD paint medium.
Aiya on April 24, 2020:
Wow! Thank you! I have watched video after video, but knew I needed more. Your information was just The answer. I can’t wait to try it.
Sarika on April 07, 2020:
Dotn2406@charter.net on March 27, 2020:
Loved this technique
Regina on February 01, 2020:
I did a dirty pour on a piece of glass. I'm happy with the results.
Leslie on January 14, 2020:
I think I missed something - at the end you have a list of types of pouring techniques, but I was wondering what this one is called?
Chris Bartkowski on January 13, 2020:
Great to watch and follow, very helpful, can't wait to try it. Thank You
Tammie. Gibson on January 10, 2020:
Found very helpful an fun to watch.more fun to try ,i bet
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on January 02, 2020:
Hi Linda, You're welcome! Yes, just make sure it's sealed properly first so it doesn't warp from the wet paint. Thanks for your question.
Linda on January 01, 2020:
Thank you for the tutorial, I’m just wondering can I do this on wood please.
email@example.com on January 01, 2020:
I have found this tutorial very helpful clear and no nonsense approach thank you will look forward to others
Cidinha Moss on December 12, 2019:
Great article. As an oil painter, I was keen to try different artistic styles and I am passionate about this technique. thank you for your clear and objective teaching style.
Karen Walden on December 05, 2019:
Ok I want to know if there is anything else you can put in the paint to make it move. I am going to make ceramic tiles. What do I need to put over my painting to seal it so you can use the coasters and not mess up the painting. Could I spray something on them.
Jo on November 08, 2019:
I'm trying this on a round piece of wood, to make a clock. Do i prime the same way and what would you seal this with?
Dana on November 02, 2019:
Hi. I have watched your tutorial. My only question is after you prep canvas, do you pour a white paint on the entire canvas prior to your pour to help paint slide when you tilt. If so what kind of paint and do you mix floetrol with it.
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on October 25, 2019:
Jacque - Thanks! They can be done either way. Some people leave them as they are, others paint a picture on top. It's all up to you. Thanks for your question.
Jacque B on October 23, 2019:
These canvases are so beautiful !! Do you add anything on top of the pour (i.e. a picture), or do you leave it as is?
M. Faith Canova on September 25, 2019:
Love your work!
Muralpainter867 on September 08, 2019:
Marijill Zembry-Williams on August 25, 2019:
Can i do this on just wood panels and how would iprep them
Jeff Passlow on August 23, 2019:
A good friend has started doing this with her students. It does not seem beyond my limited capabilities so I will give it a go as well. Yes, you explain how to go about it really well. She also is producing "cells" in her paintings. Interesting but I am not sure if that's how I would go. I would like to use some warmer colours. Jeff, NSW
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on August 19, 2019:
Hi Sylvia - I'm glad it's helpful to you. I hope you enjoy your painting :) Thanks for sharing your comments!
Sylvia McHeyzer (Down Under) on August 17, 2019:
Ishi says it all. I too had the same problem with other tutorials. They seem to omit crucial facts you need to know. Thank you so such for an informative and precise guide. You have given me the confidence to actually start my first art piece.
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on August 14, 2019:
You're welcome, Pat. Enjoy your painting! Thanks for your comments.
Pat Woolston on August 13, 2019:
So much information. I am fairly new at pour painting. Love it! I just keep on learning. Thanks!
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on July 03, 2019:
Ishi - I'm glad to hear it's been helpful to you. I'm sure you'll enjoy this type of painting. Good luck & thanks for your comments.
Ishi on July 01, 2019:
Very useful, I watched so many YouTube videos but got confused every time. This write up of yours is excellent and has inspired me to give it a go. Thank you.
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on May 23, 2019:
Thanks, Abigail. That's an interesting idea. Yes, it could probably work with a waterproof sealant. Thanks for visiting and for your comments.
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on May 23, 2019:
Hello Mary, If you like cells, my article about Flip Cup Painting might be helpful to you. There's a link to it in my profile.
Abigail Hreha from Oregon on May 22, 2019:
That is so cool looking! Something like this would be cool in the bottom of a serving tray if it could be sealed somehow.
Mary Teran on May 17, 2019:
I can not get cells which are so beautiful what’s the best recipe to get cells?
Jill on April 29, 2019:
Or how much Glue All could I buy and get around the problem on a previous email about how much paint and medium do I need for 2 - 8x10 canvases for 8 girls?
Jill on April 29, 2019:
I am giving a party for my granddaughter. There will be 8 guests. 2 - 8x10 canvases each.
I have 2 - 16 2oz acrylic paints (I got it on sale, so 32 oz in all of 2 colors each. and 8 oz GAC 800. I am afraid I may not have bought enough of each. I hope I have enough Gesso.
Based on the information. Do I need more paint and do I need another bottle of GAC800? The party is Fri - do I have time to buy from amazon before then and receive it?
Do I need to get silicone oil or a torch?
I feel out of my depth a little. Lots of thing to buy. I thought it was just going to be this fun little project. I am sorry for all of the questions. HELP??
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on April 18, 2019:
Charlene - You're welcome! Thanks for your comment.
Charlene Still on April 17, 2019:
Thank you for your tutorial.
Kandy Schreffler on March 28, 2019:
Rosalind on March 26, 2019:
Good descrption. I am keen on the cells.
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on March 24, 2019:
Lynne - You're welcome. Thanks for your comments!
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on March 24, 2019:
Julie - You're welcome. I'm glad you've found it helpful. Thanks for your comments!
Lynne on March 23, 2019:
This information was very much appreciated. Thank you so much.
Julie on March 20, 2019:
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on March 13, 2019:
You're welcome, Lorainne. I'm glad you've found it helpful. Thanks so much for your comments.
Lorainne Stanford on March 13, 2019:
Thanks for all that super info. Really appreciated it. Made ne much happier in trying this.
mickey glisson on March 03, 2019:
loved it, i am gona try it.
Jack Havern on February 18, 2019:
is it a better result if you basecoat your canvass
Norma Evans on February 01, 2019:
Love pour painting interested in learning more
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on January 30, 2019:
Thanks, Tina. I'm glad you like it. For canvases like this, I brush on one coat of Liquitex Gloss Medium & Varnish. It's very glossy and gives UV protection. I also like Krylon Kamar Varnish Spray, which is also glossy. Thanks for your question!
Tina on January 29, 2019:
Great article, thank you! Do you finish your painting off with anything? I have heard of a product that gives it a nice sheen, don’t recall what it’s called. Thanks for your suggestions!
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on December 07, 2018:
Hello K.C., You're welcome. I'm glad you like it. I usually soak plastic or glass items in warm water and a dish detergent for a while. If the paint is still dried on, I use a cotton pad or paper towel with 91% isopropyl alcohol and that usually works to break up the paint enough that it rubs off or can be scrubbed with soap and water. If the paint is thick, sometimes you have do this a few times. I hope this helps. Thanks for your question!
K.C. Roberts on December 07, 2018:
Thank you! Great article. What recommendations can you offer for cleaning measuring cups and other plastic or glass items with dried paint on them?
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on December 06, 2018:
Hello Aleta, You're welcome. I'm glad you've found it helpful. These types of paintings are always interesting because you never know the colors will end up. Thanks for your comments.
aleta gudelski on December 06, 2018:
Thank you. This was good and basic. I am a fine artist painting in oil..landscapes usually. I am drawn to these pour paintings as they create awesome color effects. I have been having trouble with the poirs ingling way to much and I lose the composition.
Your tutorial was helpful. Thanks so much.
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on November 24, 2018:
Hello Jeanne, Good luck with your painting and thanks for your comments :)
Jeanne on November 20, 2018:
Fear of failure,
Total. Investment..maybe $40
Must conquer hurdles and just go for it
Wish me luck!
rahat anjum on September 29, 2018:
I have tried it on a plain hard art paper. The paints either move so quickly or dont move at all!!!Is this mandatory to apply geso?
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on September 05, 2018:
Thanks, RTalloni! I think you'll like pouring with either size canvas. It's a different experience with each, but it's a fun project. Thanks so much for your comments :)
RTalloni on September 04, 2018:
Yes, an informative tutorial, and well done. Nice and clear with good detail, including the photos. Thanks!
I am considering a large canvas pour as my first project...will I or won't I. :) Knowing I should start small is holding me back so I've got to make myself do it mentally first!