Acrylic Pouring – It Gets Messy!
Acrylic pouring is the next big thing in arts and crafts – so what is it all about and what’s the big attraction?
Well it’s difficult to say but simply put, it’s using acrylic paints, thinned down and poured onto a surface, perhaps a canvas or a block of wood, and seeing the interaction of colours.
The beauty of acrylic pouring is that anyone can do it. Yes there’s a lot of trial and error involved but that’s part of the fun of it. So what do you need to start? Well for a beginner, who just wants to experiment, I recommend starting off with cheap supplies –
Acrylic paints can be bought at your local pound shop or bargain stores. Some people use household emulsion paint (known as latex paint in the US) and tester pots can be cheap, so it may be worth a try.
Small canvases can also be sourced at bargain stores. You don’t even have to buy canvases to pour onto, you can use off-cuts of wood or even old vinyl records (remember them?) Some people like to pour onto ceramic tiles and your local DIY store will sell cheap boxes of plain white 10cm tiles. Use your imagination!
The pouring medium is added to the paint to allow it to flow better. You could use plain water but that will just water down the paint. A pouring medium helps keep the paint elastic and vibrant, which is important in acrylic pouring. Commercially available artist grade pouring mediums can be expensive. Many people use Floetrol as their pouring medium. Floetrol is a paint extender primarily used by decorators with emulsion or latex paint. It helps to improve the flow and workability of paint. However, here in the UK, Floetrol is rather expensive. A much cheaper alternative is to use PVA or school glue. My personal preference is for the clear PVA, although the white glue works well and won’t change the colour of your paint.
For many Acrylic Pourers or Fluid Painters, it’s all about the cells. Cells are the holy grail of acrylic pouring! Many people struggle to achieve cells – but I think I’ve learnt the tricks of the trade. Cells are small cell like patterns that appear in the painting, cause by a reaction between the different paints and this can be aided by using a cell generator such as silicone. Pure treadmill silicone seems to work the best but it’s not that easy to get hold of. Silicone sprays are readily available and I spray some into a bottle, leave the cap off for half an hour or so, to allow the propellant from the aerosol to disperse, and then put the cap on the bottle – so the liquid silicone doesn’t evaporate as well. People have also had good results using hair serum/oil containing dimethicone, which is also a type of silicone, or Rain-X, which is used for repelling water from car windscreens, again it contains silicone. Just one or two drops per colour is enough to generate some spectacular cells.
By playing over the flame from a cook’s blow torch, cells can be encouraged to grow. The torches are readily available and you may even have one in your kitchen if you’re partial to creme brulee! If you have an electric heat gun, that can work as well, just be aware that heat guns blow out hot air and that can move your paint around!
You may need rubber gloves (acrylic pouring gets very messy), something to protect your work surface from spilled paint (there will be plenty of it). Small pours can be done in a cheap cat litter tray. Push pins are useful to add into the corners of the back of your canvas to lift it off the surface, so when the paint dried it won’t stick. Alternatively you could use a kitchen cooling rack or an old oven shelf. Paper of plastic cups (to mix your paint in) Lolly sticks or tongue depressors (to mix your paint with), Kitchen roll or baby wipes (I told you it gets messy).
This could be long….
Prepare your canvas by popping push pins into the back. I like to give my canvasses a coat of gesso, white or black, depending on what colours I want to use.
Prepare your paint – There are many recipes for paint, my personal preference is half and half acrylic paint and PVA glue, then thin down with water (a bit at a time) until the paint has the consistency of melted ice cream. Most people say runny honey, but I find the melted ice cream consistency gives better cells.Add one ot two drops of silicone to each colour – it’s important that you do not stir the paint much after you put in the silicone, just twice slowly around the pot is all you need, otherwise your silicone is likely to blend into the paint, we need it to stay separated.
This is simply pouring the paint onto the canvas one colour on top of another. The chances of getting cells using this technique are poor. Once you have poured the paint, gently tilt the canvas to move the paint around.
This means pouring all of your paint colours into one cup – Sounds drastic doesn’t it? Black and white paints are usually heavier than coloured paints and so if you’re using black or white, it’s often a good idea to put these in first. As it’s first in last out it will have a tendency to sink through the other colours giving more cells and a pleasing effect. Once you have poured all your colours into one cup avoid stirring it as you will end up with mud. Carefully pour the paint on your canvas, then tilt the canvas to move it about. This technique gives a better chance of cells forming.
The paint is prepared the same as for a dirty pour, however you flip the cup onto your canvas and let it sit there for a minute of two. It’s a good idea to place the canvas upside down on the cup and then turn both over at the same time, or you could end up with psychedelic walls! Once the pait has settled lift up the cup and let the paint do it’s thing. There’s a good chance of getting cell formation with this technique. Use your torch or heat gun to try and draw out more cells. Gently tilt your canvas to move the paint around. This will stretch any existing cells and make them larger but be careful, too much tilting may destroy your cells altogether.
Tree Ring Pour
Prepare your paint as per a dirty pour. Slowly pour the paint onto your canvas using a small and gently circular motion. This causes the paint to create a tree ring like pattern. Torch and gently tilt your canvas. This technique gives a reasonable chance of creating cells.
A swipe can be done over any type of pour. Once you have poured your paint, pour a single colour along one edge (usually black or white) and gently swipe this paint over the surface of the canvas using a palette knife or a damp piece of kitchen roll – be careful to use a light motion or you risk simply dragging the paint off the canvas. This technique has the best chance of generating cells.
Cracking occurs where you paint is too thick or has dried too quickly. It can also be caused by not using enough pouring medium.
Pits or bare patches
This can happen if your paint is too thin, occasionally bare patches appear where you can see the canvas pattern through the paint
Paint goes dull when dry.
If your paint goes dull, it’s usually down to the paint you have used. More expensive paints tend to keep their vibrancy better than cheap paints. Coating your painting with a gloss varnish can help to being it back.
Finishing your painting
Because of the addition of a pouring medium and the thickness of the layer of paint on the canvass, it’s going to take a long time for your painting to dry. Don’t be tempted to help it along with heat or your paint will crack! many people cover their painting with a storage container to slow down the drying process to help avoid cracking.
Even when your painting is dry it still won’t be fully cured – Acrylic paints can take 28 days to fully cure and it is recommended that you don’t varnish them or apply any finish until you are sure they’re fully cured. Have patience.
If you have used silicone, wash the painting with dish soap and allow to dry. The silicone will spoil any finish you put on.
You can varnish your painting with any clear water based polycrylic varnish. Craft shops sell a huge range of glossy finishes. If you want to go all out you can pour on a coat of art resin but be warned, this is the expensive option!
The most important thing is that you experiment and have fun!
If you want to try it out for yourself, why not book on one of our workshops?