How to Do Acrylic Pour Art

Acrylic pour art pieces

Mollie Johanson

Overview
  • Working Time: 60 mins
  • Total Time: 24 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $25

Pour painting or acrylic pour art is an easy and popular way to create swirling works of art that can resemble marbling. As you pour your paint mixture onto a canvas or other surface, you never know what you might get, which means no two art pieces are the same!

You can buy paint that's designed and pre-mixed for this type of art project, but it's easy to make your own. Combining the paint yourself also lets you alter the mix for different results. 

There are several reasons why you need to mix the paint (or use ready-mixed pouring paint). The first is that acrylic paint is too thick to smoothly pour and freely cover a canvas or other item you want to decorate. Another reason is that the extra medium added to the paint helps separate the colors and achieve different effects like swirls, cells, and more.

With experience, one can learn how to manipulate the paint for more specific outcomes, but it's still a fairly experimental art project. That's a plus when you're a beginner! In fact, even kids can have success with this when they have a bit of assistance.

The biggest thing to remember when getting started with pour painting is that the colors will mix some. Think back to your kindergarten days and how some hues turn muddy when you mix them...you probably don't want that! Start with colors that are close to each other on the color wheel, then try experimenting more from there.

Supplies for pour painting
Mollie Johanson

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Cups
  • Paint stirrers (such as craft sticks)
  • Metal tray
  • Drop cloth or table covering

Materials

  • 3 to 5 colors acrylic paint
  • Floetrol paint additive
  • Water
  • Spray silicone (optional)
  • Stretched canvas
  • Picture frame

Instructions

How to Do Basic Mixed Pour Painting

  1. Prep Your Paint

    Cup of paint mixed to make it pourable
    Mollie Johanson

    Mix each paint color. 

    This is a rough recipe, and you can alter the proportions a little. No need to precisely measure everything!

    In a small cup, mix one part paint, one part water (distilled, if possible), and two parts Floetrol latex paint additive. 

    The mixture should be runny, but not watery. If it's too thick, it won't flow and can create areas that crack when the paint dries, but if it's watery, you won't get the beautiful swirled effects.

    To create the "cells" or little dots of color in the paint, add a few drops or a small spray of silicone lubricant, such as Liquid Wrench, to one or two colors. 

  2. Mix in Separate Cups Then Combine

    Cups of mixed paint ready to fill a pouring cup
    Mollie Johanson

    Mix all the colors you want to use in separate cups. 

    For this sample, the colors are orange, metallic bronze, red, purple, and hot pink. We added a tiny bit of silicone into the hot pink only.

    A cup of paint filled with multiple colors of pouring paint
    Mollie Johanson

    Next, carefully pour each of the colors into one larger cup. Adding these gently reduces color mixing. Some colors will sink, while others will stay near the top.

  3. Place Your Medium in a Tray

    Blank canvas in a metal tray
    Mollie Johanson

    To keep this from getting too messy, place your stretched canvas or another surface in a disposable metal pan or tray. You can use it again and again, but you won't risk ruining another tray or pan. Keeping the item elevated from the bottom of the tray gives the paint a place to go, but it's not required.

    Covering your work surface is also a good idea.

    Pouring orange and bronze paint on a canvas
    Mollie Johanson

    Begin pouring the paint onto the canvas. You can pour it in one big puddle, drizzle it around the surface, or slowly pour it in a line down the middle.

  4. Move Your Object Around

    Pour painted canvas with swirls of orange, pink, bronze, and purple
    Mollie Johanson

    Next, tilt the pan around so that the paint runs to the edges and covers the entire surface.

    Close up of pour painting swirls
    Mollie Johanson

    Leave your painting to dry. Depending on the thickness of the paint, it can take 24 hours or more.

How to Flip Paint Pour

  1. Add Paint to The Cup

    Blank canvas on a cup of paint, ready to flip for paint pouring
    Mollie Johanson

    Another way to do an acrylic pour is to flip the cup instead of pouring it. Start by adding paint to the cup just like in the first method. If the canvas is small enough, you can place it face down on top of the cup as you see here. If you're brave and not afraid of the potential mess, you can also quickly flip the cup onto a face-up canvas.

  2. Flip Your Cup Onto the Canvas

    Cup of paint on a canvas sitting in a metal tray
    Mollie Johanson

    Hold the canvas and cup and flip them so the cup of paint is now upside down on the canvas.

    Orange, yellow, and lime green puddle of paint poured on a canvase
    Mollie Johanson

    Lift the cup straight up (you may need to hold the canvas down until you break the suction). The paint will start to flow out in a circular shape.

    For this sample, the cup included orange, yellow, light lime green (with a bit of silicone), and a bit more orange.

  3. Tilt and Move Your Painting

    Swirling the pour painting to the edges
    Mollie Johanson

    Tilt your painting around to cover the canvas. You can also move it around to change the direction of the swirls.

  4. Add More Paint If Needed

    Adding more paint to the blank spaces on the canvas
    Mollie Johanson

    If you need to, you can add a little more paint and continue tilting it around or touch up the edges later.

Other Methods of Paint Pouring

  1. Prepare Your Frame

    Plain wooden picture frame in a metal tray
    Mollie Johanson

    To paint other items, like this simple wood frame, follow the same basic steps. Set your item in the metal tray.

    A hand holding a cup of aqua, blue, gray, and purple paint for pouring
    Mollie Johanson

    Mix your paint and add the colors to a cup. This one uses aqua, blue, gray, and purple. None of the colors have silicone, so it will only have swirls and none of the dots or cells.

  2. Coat Your Picture Frame

    Pouring paint on a wooden photo frame
    Mollie Johanson

    Pour the paint on the areas you want to cover. If you go back over an area with more paint, it will add to the marbling.

  3. Fill in Blank Areas

    Using a paint stirrer to move the paint and cover blank areas
    Mollie Johanson

    To fill in small areas, you can use your paint stirrer to coax the paint into those blank spots.

The Final Product

How to Do Pour Painting
Mollie Johanson

After your paintings dry completely, you can add a coat of sealer to preserve them. 

Remember, every time you do an acrylic pour, the results will be different. And because there are so many combinations and even ways to pour the paint, the possibilities are endless!