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Essential Acrylic Pour-Painting Supplies for Beginners

I've been painting with acrylics since childhood and enjoy sharing tips about working in this versatile medium.

Learn about all the supplies you'll need to get started in the dizzyingly fun field of pour painting.

Learn about all the supplies you'll need to get started in the dizzyingly fun field of pour painting.

How to Choose the Right Fluid Art Supplies

Acrylic pour painting is a fun and interesting art technique that creates beautiful, unique, one-of-a-kind paintings. Before you get started on your first painting, you'll need some specific pour-painting supplies.

In this article, you'll learn what essential supplies you'll need, what optional supplies you might want, where these supplies can be purchased, and some basic information about how each item will be used in the painting process.

In This Article

  • Essential Supplies
  • Optional Supplies
  • Where to Buy Each Item
  • Printable Supply Checklist
Pictured here is a collection of supplies for pour painting.

Pictured here is a collection of supplies for pour painting.

Essential Supplies

In this section, we'll go over the 16 items that are absolute must-haves to begin pour painting. We'll learn what each item is and what purpose it serves in the painting process. Let's dive in!

Wooden panels like these are ideal surfaces for first-time pour painters.

Wooden panels like these are ideal surfaces for first-time pour painters.

1. Pour-Painting Surface

What is the best surface for an acrylic pour painting? It's possible to do pour paintings on many different types of surfaces. Sealed and primed wood panels are ideal surfaces because they can withstand heavy paint without sagging. Here are a few types of surfaces you can use for pour paintings:

  • Wood Panels: Any size or type of wood panel can be used for pour painting. If it's not already sealed and primed, you'll need to do this before painting.
  • Ampersand Gessobord Panels: These artist-quality wood panels are already primed and ready for paint. They're made with durable, archival-quality materials and are available in a wide range of sizes.
  • Stretched Canvases: Stretched canvases of every shape, size, and price range can be found in art supply stores. Canvases with staple-free edges are best for pour painting because they can be displayed without a frame.
  • Unconventional Items: If you want to get creative, you can use ceramic tiles or even old records as surfaces for your paintings.

If you use panels that are not pre-primed, you'll need to brush on a coat of gesso (an acrylic primer) and let it dry for a day before starting your painting. If you go with a canvas, sagging shouldn't be an issue as long as your canvas is tightly stretched. Multi-packs of small to medium size canvases, wood panels, and Ampersand Gessobords are available in art supply stores and online. If you plan to do a lot of pour paintings, these can save you money.

2. Gesso and Paint Brush

If you're using a canvas or unprimed wood panel for your pour painting, you'll need a bottle of gesso. This acrylic primer helps paint adhere to surfaces. Liquitex Basics, Liquitex Professional, and Golden Gesso are all good choices. You'll also need a flat paintbrush or a polyfoam sponge brush to apply the gesso. Remember to let the gesso coat dry for a full day before beginning your painting.

3. Liquid or Soft-Body Acrylic Paints

Liquid or soft body acrylic paints are ideal for this type of painting because they have a fluid consistency for pouring. These vary greatly in cost and quality. Your two options for liquid acrylics are artist-quality acrylics and craft acrylics.

Artist-quality liquid acrylics can get expensive when you buy a selection of colors, so craft acrylics are a good choice when you’re just starting and learning the pouring technique. Here are a few details about both types of liquid acrylic paints:

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Craft Liquid Acrylic Paint

Bottles of craft liquid acrylic paint can be found online and at most arts-and-crafts stores. They can be purchased individually or in sets. Craft acrylics start at about $2 for a 2-ounce (59 mL) bottle.

Some popular brands of craft acrylics are Americana, DecoArt, FolkArt, Apple Barrel, and Artist’s Loft.

Artist-Quality Liquid Acrylic Paint

Artist-quality liquid acrylics have high pigment concentrations, intense colors, and less color shift when the paint dries compared to craft acrylics. They’re also less likely to crack, have better lightfastness, and offer longer-term durability. If you want to create pour paintings that will last, this is the type of paint to use.

A 2-ounce bottle starts at about $5 to $10. Since you use a small amount of paint compared to pouring medium for a pour painting, a 2-ounce bottle of artist-quality acrylic goes farther than you might think.

Some popular brands of artist-quality liquid acrylics are Chroma Atelier Free Flow Artists’ Acrylics, Chromacryl Fluid Acrylics, DaVinci Fluid Acrylics, Golden Fluid Acrylics, Golden High Flow Acrylics, Holbein Fluid Acrylics, Lascaux Studio Acrylics, Liquitex Professional Soft Body Acrylics, Utrecht Artists’ Fluid Acrylics, and Vallejo Acrylic Artist Fluid Colors.

The two brands I’ve been using are Liquitex Soft Body Acrylics and Golden Fluid Acrylics. They both have rich, vivid colors, and a little paint goes a long way.

Colors

You’ll need at least two or three paint colors for a pour painting. If you’d like to experiment with a variety of color combinations in your paintings, buy six to ten colors or a liquid acrylic paint set. If you’d prefer to keep things simple, choose three colors in the same color family. For example: pale blue, medium blue, and dark blue.

Complementary colors also look nice in a pour painting. These are colors on opposite sides of the color wheel, such as blue and orange or light green and purple. If you're new to mixing paint colors or just want to know which colors go well together, try using a color wheel. I like the Cox Color Wheel from The Color Wheel Company because it's easy to use and shows color relationships on the front and back.

To add some sparkle and shine to your pour paintings, try using iridescent, pearlescent, metallic, or interference paint colors. These are available from both craft and artist-quality brands.

4. Pouring Medium

Pouring medium is what you’ll mix with your liquid acrylic paints to create a unique "marbled" effect when the paint is poured onto a surface. Pouring medium helps keep each color separate and prevents them from blending into a single hue like they would if you mixed paints without it. It's important to use a high-quality pouring medium to prevent cracks or "crazing" as the paint dries.

Two of the more popular mediums for pouring are Liquitex Pouring Medium and Golden GAC 800. I use both of these mediums and love the results. They can be used with both artist-quality and craft acrylics. An 8-ounce bottle of either of these mediums usually costs between $12 and $16.

You'll find that you use quite a bit of pouring medium even with small paintings. I suggest buying one or two 8-ounce (237 mL) bottles to get started, then buying in larger quantities if you take a liking to the craft.

If you're thinking of doing larger paintings, you’ll need a bigger bottle. Both Liquitex and Golden GAC 800 are available in larger sizes, which are more cost-effective if you do a lot of pouring.

5. 100% Silicone Oil

Adding a couple of drops of pure silicone oil to your paint mixtures will help create "cells" throughout your pour painting. I used Demco Acrylic Silicone Oil for some of the paintings shown in this article. Spot On 100% Silicone Treadmill Belt Lubricant or any other brand of 100% silicone oil can work just as well.

6. Plastic Beverage Cups

You'll need plastic beverage cups for mixing and pouring your paint. It's helpful to have small, medium, and large cups. For smaller paintings, you'll usually only need small or medium cups. For larger works, you may need all three sizes. The three sizes of cups to buy are as follows:

  • 3-ounce (88.7 mL)
  • 9-ounce (266 mL)
  • 16-ounce (473 mL)
Craft sticks are useful for mixing paints and can also be used to create designs in your acrylic pours.

Craft sticks are useful for mixing paints and can also be used to create designs in your acrylic pours.

7. Wooden Craft Sticks

Wooden craft sticks are used to mix paint with pouring medium. Get both regular (popsicle-stick size) and large 5.75" (tongue-depressor size) sticks. The regular-size sticks work well for mixing paint in small plastic cups, and the large sticks are helpful when working with medium and larger-size cups.

Plastic squeeze bottles can be filled with your paint and medium mixture and used to create additional designs in your piece.

Plastic squeeze bottles can be filled with your paint and medium mixture and used to create additional designs in your piece.

8. Small Plastic Squeeze Bottles

Small plastic squeeze bottles can be filled with your paint and pouring medium mixture to create interesting designs on your canvas or board. These can be found in arts and crafts stores. Many dollar stores sell squeeze bottles in larger sizes, which work well for bigger pour paintings.

These two plastic palette knives from a Grumbacher palette and painting knife set are about 10" long and made from a durable plastic that's easy to clean.

These two plastic palette knives from a Grumbacher palette and painting knife set are about 10" long and made from a durable plastic that's easy to clean.

9. Palette Knives

A palette knife can be used to smooth the poured paint onto the edges of your canvas or wood panel. It can also be used to swipe across the wet paint to create cells or used in other more advanced pouring techniques. Both plastic and metal palette knives work well for this.

Use old metal cans to elevate your painting surface.

Use old metal cans to elevate your painting surface.

10. Empty Metal Cans

You'll need something to keep your board or canvas raised as you pour paint. I've found that empty metal cans (soup size) work best because they're stable and unlikely to tip. It takes one to four cans depending on the size of your surface.

Baking pans can be used to catch paint runoff.

Baking pans can be used to catch paint runoff.

11. Aluminum Baking Pans

Aluminum baking pans work well to contain the paint that drips off the edges of the painting and make cleanup easier. They won't work for canvases or boards, but they're perfect for small to medium-sized surfaces.

12. Wax Paper

If you'd like to re-use your aluminum baking pans, line them with wax paper. Use masking tape to tape down the edges so they don't curl up and touch the painting.

13. Plastic Drop Cloth or Painting Tarp

Pour painting can get very messy, so you'll need a large plastic drop cloth, a plastic sheet, or a painting tarp to protect your workspace and the floor surrounding it.

14. Disposable Gloves

Acrylic paints are water-soluble, so they will wash off your hands with soap and water, but it takes some effort once the paint has dried. Disposable latex, vinyl, or nitrile gloves are great for keeping your hands clean throughout your pour-painting session.

Tip: Prepare for Cleanup

If you happen to get acrylic paint on your hands, try using a bar of pumice soap. This type of soap helps scrub off paint better than regular soap. If you still have paint or pouring-medium residue on your hands or nails after washing them, use a small amount of rubbing alcohol and a cotton pad to remove what's left.

15. Apron

To protect your clothes, you'll need an apron. I also recommend wearing clothing you don't care about because paint and pouring medium can ruin fabrics.

16. Paper Towels

You'll need a roll of paper towels for cleanup during and after your pour-painting sessions.

Optional Pour-Painting Supplies

The above items are pour-painting essentials, but there are also some additional supplies you might consider investing in if you take a liking to the craft. Here are seven useful tools that might come in handy as you become a more adept pour painter:

1. Level

Pour paintings need to be done on a completely level surface to prevent paint from pooling on one side of the canvas or board. A small torpedo level from a discount or hardware store can help your paintings turn out better.

2. Measuring Spoons and Cups

Measuring spoons and cups can be useful for measuring exact amounts of paint and pouring medium.

3. Safety Glasses

Paint and medium may occasionally splash up when you flip open a cap or mix paints, so you may want a pair of safety glasses.

4. Straws

Straws can be used to blow paint and create interesting effects in your painting. Look for these in craft-supply stores, grocery stores, or online.

5. Painter's Tape

If you'd like to cover the backs of your canvases or boards to protect them from stray paint, pick up a roll of painter's tape. It peels off easily without damaging surfaces.

6. UV Varnish

A coat of varnish helps protect pour paintings from sunlight and environment damage like smoke, dust, and fingerprints.

I like to keep my supplies together in a plastic bin for convenience.

I like to keep my supplies together in a plastic bin for convenience.

7. Plastic Storage Bin

A plastic storage bin with handles is a convenient place to gather and store your pour-painting supplies. I found the pink one shown in the photo above at a dollar store. As you get further into this style of art, you'll likely need a larger storage container, but this size works well for beginners.

Where to Buy Pour-Painting Supplies

Note: Some items are listed in more than one column because they are widely available from multiple sources.

Arts and Crafts StoreDollar or Hardware StoreOnline

Wood Panels or Stretched Canvas

Plastic Beverage Cups

Wood Panels or Stretched Canvas

Gesso and Paint Brush

Wooden Craft Sticks

Gesso and Flat Paint Brush

Liquid, Soft Body, or Craft Acrylic Paint

Aluminum Baking Pans

Liquid, Soft Body, or Craft Acrylic Paint

Pouring Medium

Wax Paper

Pouring Medium

100% Silicone Oil

Masking Tape

100% Silicone Oil

Wood Craft Sticks

Plastic Drop Cloth or Painting Tarp

Wood Craft Sticks

Small Plastic Squeeze Bottles

Disposable Gloves

Plastic Beverage Cups

Palette Knife

Paper Towels

Plastic Drop Cloth or Painting Tarp

Apron

Pumice Soap

Small Plastic Squeeze Bottles

Color Wheel

Level

Palette Knife

UV Varnish

Measuring Spoons and Cups

Apron

Safety Glasses

Color Wheel

Straws

UV Varnish

Painter's Tape

Pumice Soap

Plastic Storage Bin

Printable Pour-Painting Supply Checklist

Print out this list and take it with you when you go shopping for supplies so that you don't forget anything.

Print out this list and take it with you when you go shopping for supplies so that you don't forget anything.

More Resources for Pour Painting

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: What ratio do you use to mix the acrylic paint and the pouring medium?

Answer: If you’re using Liquitex Pouring Medium and an artist quality paint (such as Liquitex Soft Body or Golden Liquid Acrylics), the ratio is one cup of pouring medium and one tablespoon of paint.

This can be adjusted down to smaller amounts such as a half cup of pouring medium and 1.5 teaspoons of paint, etc.

With Golden GAC 800, I use 10 parts pouring medium, 1 part artist quality paint.

If you use craft acrylic paint with either of these pouring mediums, you usually need to increase the amount of paint to get enough color intensity.

There is a lot of difference with the various craft brands, but I usually double the amount of paint (from the amounts listed above) and adjust as necessary from there.

Question: Do you have to use Floetrol, or can you just use pouring medium? Can I add water and pouring medium to Basic brand acrylics to thin it out?

Answer: You don't have to add Floetrol. Just the pouring medium and the paint is fine. I would avoid adding water to this combination because it could increase the chance of cracking.

If you mean the Liquitex Basics brand of paints, then yes, they can be used for acrylic pouring. First, mix it with some pouring medium to thin it down to a more fluid consistency. Stir until it's smooth, then add some additional pouring medium until it's fluid enough to pour. A good consistency for acrylic pouring is something just slightly thicker than liquid coffee creamer.

© 2018 Carrie Kelley

Comments

Val Parnell on August 15, 2020:

What sort of paint is used to cover your board first. ?

Katie on July 29, 2020:

Thank you so much for this insightful article! My boyfriend and I are wanting to try this out so having a supply list is extremely helpful.