Reading Time: 35 minutes
- Investigate this alternate painting technique.
- Discover some of the approaches used.
- Learn how to make cells in your acrylic pouring paintings.
- Consider how to protect your artwork and get a professional finish.
Fluid Art Techniques: The Ultimate Guide
The Ultimate Guide to Fluid Art Techniques aims to be a living resource to help you discover the endless possibilities of fluid art. My goal is to make this comprehensive guide into a veritable encyclopaedia of fluid art, so that I can constantly add new techniques and elaborate on existing ones.
There can be some confusion in terms and often, the same technique can be called by different names. In the following article, I’ll explain the differences between all of these different methods.
It is important for you to remember that there is no right or wrong way of doing things. Do what works for you, and what makes you feel comfortable. Focusing on learning and expressing oneself is the best way to enjoy art.
I believe that if you are new to art, or coming back after some time off, you should have as much fun as possible by exploring this method of painting.
With a little care, this technique may be something you might love doing while reaping the benefits of art with your children or other family members.
Not only that, but it will result in some great art and special memories that can be shared with others.
In the guide, I provide links to works I’ve produced using some of the creative techniques discussed. I hope this will provide a fantastic visual resource for you.
Until the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s, when paint was mass-produced commercially, the skill required for mixing paint demanded a high level of technical knowledge.
In the past, artists ground small grains of pigment to be suspended in oil to create their paint. On top of this, the paint would harden, and would need to be made fresh every day.
The downside of oils is that they are hard to paint with, and it takes a considerable amount of time for oil paint to fully set and harden. Additionally, oil requires harsher additives and cleaning solutions.
As a result, many artists risked their health unknowingly, as these additives can be absorbed by the skin or by breathing in fumes.For example, lead exposure was a contributing factor to the health problems of early British potters, such as the Wedgwood family. To the Radium Girls, who were instructed to point their brushes on their lips, in order to give them a fine tip, when painting luminous details on watch faces.
As art become more popular and accessible to the masses, there still remained the difficulty of acquiring and using oil-based paints.
Where Did Fluid Art Methods Come From?
What exactly are fluid art painting techniques? Is this a new trend, and how did it begin? Who does it, and where did it originate?
Like many trends in the art world, acrylic pouring came from someone trying to emulate a previous practice. The more accepted way of pouring paint on a surface is to use the squeeze bottle which enables control and some precision when applying the paint.
Acrylic fluid art techniques were pioneered by the social realist Mexican painter David Alfaro Siqueiros in the 1930s. Siquieros has been credited with teaching drip and pour techniques to Jackson Pollock. Pollock later became renowned for his famous all-over paintings, and a major figure in the abstract expressionist art movement.
Types of Paint used in Fluid Art
There are many types of acrylic paint available on the market today, each with its own unique features. These features can make it easier to choose a medium that is perfect for individual needs, preferences, and even particular occasions. What are the different types of acrylic paint that can be used for fluid art?
Soft Body Acrylic Paints and Acrylic Inks
Acrylic Inks and Soft Body, High Flow or Fluid Acrylic Paints are the perfect consistency for acrylic pour painting. Their consistency usually falls between milk (ink and high flow) and heavy cream (soft body and fluid).
This low viscosity makes it much easier to blend your colour with pouring medium and requires less medium to get it to a pouring consistency.
Heavy Body Acrylic Paints
Heavy Body acrylics have a much thicker consistency. Although they can be used with a pouring technique you will find that you need more medium to get them to the honey-like viscosity required for pouring.
Some artists choose to thin the colour first with a fluid medium before adding pouring medium. You can get away with adding small percentage of water, no more 30% to get a thinner consistency before adding pouring medium. Just be aware that adding 60% or more of water can increase the chances of your pour failing.
In acrylic paint, water will dissolve the binder, which together with the pigments forms a dry film on the surface. Binders are essential ingredients for acrylic paint to work as designed and intended.
If acrylic paint is thinned too much, it will look like a watercolour wash and sink into the surface, leaving a matte finish. If you are looking for this style, you might find that acrylic inks will suit you better.
Student Grade Acrylic Paints
Student grade acrylic paints are typically not available in different consistencies. Their textures generally fall between soft/more fluid or heavy/thicker. They can be successfully used for all the techniques, but require more medium to get them to a pouring consistency.
Ink is a gel, sol, or solution containing at least one colouring agent, such as a dye or pigment, used to colour a surface in order to produce an image, text, or design. Pens, brushes, reed pens, and quills can be used to draw or write with ink. In letterpress and lithographic printing, thicker inks are frequently used in a paste form.
There are many materials that make up ink, including solvents, pigments, dyes, resins, oils, solubilizers, surfactants, particulate matter, fluorescents, and others. Components of ink play multiple roles: the carrier, pigments, and other additives influence the flow, thickness, and appearance of the ink when dry.
Alcohol Inks are a type of paint typically made of distilled petroleum and ethyl alcohol. When mixed together, they form a fluid that is both water and alcohol-soluble. The paint can be applied onto wet canvas or paper with a roller or paintbrush to create stunning art reminiscent of stained glass windows.
Acrylic Inks can be made from a variety of different materials. The acrylic ink is a water-based pigment suspension, so it will not dissolve or alter the paper or other surface on which it is applied. The acrylic ink will flow and spread if the surface is wet, but may not do so on dry surfaces. It is often applied as a decorative design to a painted piece.
House paints are great for fluid art. While they are not as bright as artist acrylics, they are very opaque and can create some wonderful pieces. Tester pots are a cheap alternative to acrylics. They are also an excellent way to paint large canvases.
Acrylic Pouring Medium
There are a variety of acrylic pouring mediums available on the market that provide diverse results when used with liquid painting.
The use of a dedicated acrylic pouring medium, rather than an alternative that is less expensive, reduces the amount of blemishes that will appear as your pour dries. Pouring Mediums are self-levelling, so almost any paint film will be smooth and even.
You will also notice that bubbles will be expelled more readily, meaning there will be fewer small air pockets in the finished painting. However, carefully stirring the paint or letting the paint stand will reduce air bubbles.
Additionally, the careful use of a heat/gas torch will pop any air bubbles after pouring. Just don’t hold it too long in one spot as you either can burn the paint, or if you have added isopropyl alcohol it can create a surface flame, as it s flammable.
Pouring mediums are slightly tacky and have the consistency of honey or syrup. This is easier to pour because it adheres better to the surface, ensuring that your paint film spreads evenly without rapidly running off the edge of your chosen substrate.
DIY Acrylic Pouring Medium
Have you ever thought about making your own acrylic alternative pouring medium? Most of the ingredients can be found in any good hardware or art store.
To give their paints a fluid consistency, some artists use Polyvinyl Acetate (PVA) adhesive (with water for thicker paints). I strongly recommend de-Ionised water, as tap water contains many impurities that can react with different mediums.
Nevertheless, this adds another layer of uncertainty to the pouring process. The result is fluid acrylics that can be too thin or too thick, making it difficult to control the pour. When using PVA as a pouring medium, it does not provide the same syrupy consistency as a proper pouring medium.
Additionally, it fails to take into account shrinkage when acrylic paint dries. This may lead to the formation of unsightly cracks and tears on your painting, alternatively it may provide an incredible layer of textures.
Although PVA is great for getting started, as you gain experience you may prefer to use a dedicated pouring medium for a more controlled result. While PVA does not typically provide archival quality, pouring media are usually of a higher standard.
However, in my opinion, specifically designed pouring mediums are very expensive, but they do provide consistent results and some dry with a very pleasing aesthetic glossy sheen.
Canvas, Boards or Painting Panels
Virtually any flat surface that has been properly primed for acrylic painting will be suitable for acrylic pour painting. Some artists prefer to work on traditional stretched canvases, whereas others may prefer canvas boards or painting panels that are easier to store. The choice is up to you as each have their own benefits.
I strongly recommend that you use good quality Gesso on any unprimed surfaces as a base coat, to improve the longevity of your work. Gesso is a white paint mixture consisting of a binder mixed with chalk, which makes surfaces slightly textured and ready to accept acrylic paint. Particularly on unprimed blank canvas, without gesso the paint would soak into the weave of the material.
Another way to tighten a canvas is to spray the back with water. Make sure it’s completely covered with water and use a wide brush to spread it around. Once dry it should be nice and taut, when you tap on the canvas it should sound like a drum.
Acrylic Pouring Accessories
There are a number of fluid art tools and accessories you may find it useful to have to hand when you are pouring. Disposable paper cups are handy for creating your acrylic paint and pouring mixes.
They are easy to hold and perfect for controlling the amount of paint poured onto your canvas. Wooden craft spatulas or palette knives are great for mixing to ensure your colour/medium mixes are completely uniform.
You should also make sure to protect your workspace with a protective surface, as this technique can get messy quickly. Old sheets, newspapers, plastic sheeting and bin bags are perfect for this purpose.
Having your canvas or board elevated above your workspace can be useful. The excess paint that flows off the sides of the canvas will pool underneath. Elevating your artwork above your workspace will prevent any excess paint from sticking to the bottom of your painting. If your canvas or board comes into contact with this paint, it can be very hard to remove without disturbing the paint film, especially once it has dried.
You can use jars, tins, pushpins, or even old paint tubs to support your work, just be sure that they are all the same height. Lay one under each corner of your canvas, then place your canvas or board on top whilst you are pouring.
As you try more advanced acrylic pouring techniques you might find yourself adding to your essential supplies to assist you, such as balloons, colanders or funnels.
- Apron/Overalls/Old Clothes
- Pouring Box (optional)
- Plastic Sheeting
- Wooden Sticks
- Colour Wheel
- Recycled Plastic Containers (cups, drinks bottles)
- Chef/Kitchen Blow Torch
- Cake Decorating Icing Scrapers
- Box to Cover
- Fire blanket/extinguisher (optional)
How To Create Cells In Your Acrylic Pouring Painting
Acrylic pouring paintings are a popular type of artwork to create and many people like the unique and organic effect that they produce. This section will explain how to create cells in your acrylic pouring painting and what you need to achieve it.
Some artists like to use Dimethicone, which is a skin-safe form of silicone oil, as an additional ingredient in their fluid paintings. Using silicone oil can promote the creation of cells. Cells are small droplets of colour that rise above the rest of your paint and sit on the surface. They give your paintings a more defined marbled appearance.
This ‘cell’ structure works on the premise that oil and water do not mix. The added silicone oil acts as a resist which prevents each of your colours from mixing with one another.
Generally a drop or so is added to each colour/medium mix before it is poured onto the canvas. Similar kinds of effects can be achieved with isopropyl alcohol, as this evaporates quicker than water or alcohol ink mediums.
As a beginner you may wish to experiment with these additives, but be aware that silicone oils available at hardware stores can be toxic, and do not have the same archival qualities as professional artists products.
Using additives like silicone also adds another layer of unpredictability to your painting process. For some techniques it may cause your painting to crack or dry incorrectly.
Additionally, I find that removing any oil residue very time consuming. You have to gently rub the oil off the surface with an absorbent cloth or kitchen paper towel, and only once you are certain the paint has cured properly. Sprinkling the painting with cornflour in small sections helps to absorb oil, but it ends up going everywhere.
Personally, I have found that unless the painting is completely free and cleaned of any greasy residue, it makes the application of varnish or resin very unpredictable. It is best to experiment first and see what works best for you – proceed with caution!
Some artists use the pigment density of each colour to create cells without the use of additives, other than water. This is where experimentation and experience come into play!
There are many factors affecting the behaviour of acrylic paints within colour pours, one of which is pigment density. While I don’t have qualifications in fluid dynamics, the theoretical principals are referred to as Rayleigh–Taylor instability.
Basically, this means that heavier pigments sink, and lighter pigments rise to the surface. Gravity pulls the high density mixture downward while the lower density mixture rises and spreads on the surface. For example, Titanium Dioxide and Zinc White both contain a high density of pigment, whereas some Yellows or Phthalo Green are lower.
Using this technique and dynamic approach, cell patterns can be generated without additives in your paint. Information about the density of pigments can be difficult to find. If this is something you wish to explore further, your next step will be to investigate paint manufacturers that make this information available.
Space, Time & Patience
Patience is the key to fluid art techniques. It might seem counterintuitive, but it’s necessary to slow down and really focus on the process and the materials. This builds a sense of awareness and patience that will serve you well in other parts of your life.
Once your pour painting is completed it is important to leave it to dry for at least twenty four  hours. If your paint film is particularly thick, or there are high levels of humidity, you may need to wait as long as seventy two  hours. However, I strongly recommend letting the paint fully cure for a couple of weeks.
In this time your pour will move and shift – your painting may look considerably different from when you left it! Because of this it is important to leave your work completely undisturbed, covered and a do not touch sign. Any bumps or movement can cause your carefully crafted patterns to move or even run off the canvas.
Ultimately, pouring is an organic and spontaneous painting process – you can do your best to control the results you create, but be prepared for differences between the wet and dry painting.
Cover Your Painting
You should also make sure that your painting is covered while it is drying. If your art is small enough you may be able to cover it with a box. Just make sure it is free of dust before you use it! If you are working on a larger scale you can use plastic sheeting to create a tent over your work.
In fact some paint manufacturers encourage this method as it protects your painting from any potentially damaging air flows and raises the humidity slightly to reduce the stress on the paint film.
Keep your Workspace Level
Level drying is the key to the success of pour painting. Uneven paint film caused by an irregular work surface can cause weakness in your paint film. If you find that your paint is pooling in particular areas you can bolster your canvas supports with wedges of folded card or paper. You might find a spirt level useful here, but just make sure your painting is stable!
If you are doing multiple pours on a single canvas make sure you allow sufficient drying time before completing each successive layer. If the first layers are not fully dry before a new fluid layer it applied it can cause cracking and crazing on the surface of your work.
Acrylic Pouring Paint Consistency and Recipe
I don’t have the holy grail of the perfect pouring recipe, but I can provide you with a good staring point, and then it’s up to you to explore what works best.
I have experimented with a variety of pouring medium concoctions all with equally good, but different results. At the moment I use a mixture of the following ingredients for my pouring medium:
A water-based paint conditioner that helps improve paint flow and work-ability of paint. Paint conditioner is able to make acrylic paints work more like oil-based paints, not only that but, it also allows paint to adjust to more difficult conditions such as hot, cold and windy environments.
High Quality PVA Glue
This may strike you as being contradictory based on my previous advice, however, I don’t use PVA glue on its own. Only if mixed correctly and not in a large ratio to the other items on this list.
To some it may be overkill, but I find it makes a difference compared to tap water as there are no impurities in it. Its relatively cheap and can be found in most auto shops. I also use it when mixing colours for airbrushing.
This fast-drying, but flammable liquid is used for cleaning and degreasing in many industrial processes and pharmaceutical applications. It is also the major component of rubbing rubbing alcohol, which I don’t use.
As this quickly evaporates it can be added into paint, or dropped onto the paint after your pour. It works by dispersing the water in the paint and can help create interesting effects.
I prefer applying it using a pipet as this offers more control. Isopropyl Alcohol can help to create cells without leaving any greasy oil residue.
Do Not Drink! this stuff has an alcohol content ranging from 70% (Rubbing) to 99.9% (Isopropyl). It is a flammable chemical compound with a strong odour, requires ventilation and care when using a Chef/Kitchen Blow Torch.
A retarder is a substance, usually added to water, used to slow the drying time of acrylic paints, giving more time for blending or layering highlights. Less is more with retarder.
- Mix two  parts Paint Conditioner to one  part paint.
- Mix 60% PVA Glue to 40% Water. Then use two parts pouring medium to one part paint.
It may be necessary to add more water to thick paints, such as heavy body acrylics. It may not take more than one drop of water to make craft paints and soft body acrylics the right consistency.
Which Fluid Art Technique?
In the process of creating fluid art, artists can choose from various acrylic fluid art techniques which will all create unique pieces.
Common Steps & Core Elements
There are a number of common steps that apply, regardless of the method you choose:
- You will achieve a much professional finish if you apply masking tape to the base of your canvas.
- Insert push pins to lift your canvas or make a pouring box.
- Consider the colours you wish to use, and avoid using more than 4 or 5 colours at first. The addition of one metallic, such as, gold, copper or silver can work really well.
- Preparing your paint by filling suitable containers with your chosen colours and pouring medium. Stir gently to avoid creating excessive air bubbles.
- Apply a basecoat colour of your choice, coat the edges and don’t skimp on the corners. I recommend using white or black if you are starting out as it will provide a base with the greatest contrast.
- Take your layering cup and start layering your colours into it by tilting it slightly to one side and pouring your mixed paints down the side of it. By gently pouring paint down the inside of the cup wall, it will gently settle onto other paints and is less likely to sink through the other colours.
Fluid Art Techniques: Pours
When poured onto the canvas or surface, the imbalance of different paint densities creates interesting and visually stunning reactions.
There are a variety of fluid painting techniques that are outlined in the following list. Please excuse if there is any instances of naming overlap with the different methods:
Paint colours are added to a bottle or funnel with the end blocked. Once all paints are added, the end of the funnel is released and the paints flow onto the canvas as the funnel is moved to create the design.
The Bottle or Funnel Pour makes use of any spare bottles you may have lying around. Remember not to throw away your next soft drinks bottle away, use it for this technique instead. As an alternative to a soft drink bottle, you can use a funnel. While this technique is similar to dirty pouring, you can also create spiral patterns using the funnel.
Put your canvas in the centre of your workspace and position your funnel roughly where you’d like your spiral pattern to emerge.
Make sure you cover the funnel bottom with your fingers or your hand, to stop the paint from escaping.
Fill the funnel slowly with your pre-mixed paints, taking care not to allow any paint to escape. In the same way as the Dirty Pour, you should think about how your colours layer, as it will affect the way they appear in your final pour.
When you’re happy with the colours in your funnel, place it where you would like your spiral to begin. When you’ve found the right position remove your hand or finger and allow the paint to begin pouring out.
Rather than moving in a straight line, spiral it around the initial paint puddle as the paint is poured out. Your starting position should then be surrounded by spirals of colour radiating outwards.
Continue adding to the spiral until you run out of paint or are satisfied with the outcome. Remove the funnel carefully from the canvas once you have finished adding paint, being careful not to create any stray drips.
To fill every corner of your canvas, gently tilt your canvas. To get the paint to cover the edges of your canvas, you may need to move it with your fingers.
Bottle Bottom Pour
This is a cool technique to try and it never fails to produce interesting results by simply pouring paint over a cut off heel end of a plastic drinks bottle.
As usual the entire canvas should be painted with a thin base coat of paint.
Start by placing your bottle bottom down on your canvas where you want to place the centre of your design.
Pour your coloured paints into the well at the centre of the bottom of the bottle. Continually pour layers of paint over your canvas until you’re satisfied with the size and you have enough paint for it. For best results pour alternative contrasting colours.
If you would like to enlarge the design or move it, you can stretch the painting by tilting the canvas in a circular motion slowly to retain its shape.
If you wish, you can use a skewer or a popsicle stick to alternatingly draw lines outwards and inwards from the centre.
Clean Pour/Straight Pour
Clean pours are done by pouring a single colour onto a surface at a time. Artists sometimes use all the colours at once, but they may also use one at a time and use a toothpick to swirl them together in intricate patterns.
Pour painting, at its core, is essentially creating fluid colours using pouring medium and pouring them onto a canvas or board. Among all pouring techniques, the traditional pour is the simplest and most straightforward for beginners. It is a great starting point if you have never attempted acrylic pouring before! The following steps will tell you how to create your first piece of poured art.
The first step is to choose the colours you want to use. Try to stick with a few colours to begin with as this will prevent your pours from becoming muddy.
Give each colour a cup and mix a paint/pouring medium mix in each. It’s not uncommon for artists to use a wet base coat – so if you want, you can prepare your canvas with a layer of fluid colour.
Pour each colour into the desired place in your composition.
When you are finished applying your paints and have a feel for how your composition looks, you can tilt your canvas back and forth to encourage your paints to cover the entire canvas.
Hopefully, you will notice some interesting patterns and puddles on your canvas. Most likely, the composition will end up looking completely different from the colours you laid down at the beginning.
After you’re satisfied with how it looks, you can leave it under a box until it dries.
When using this technique, you are able to direct where your colour will go and have some control over how the final result will look. Continue to practice pouring paint on a series of small boards or canvases to get a better sense of how it behaves.
A cloud pour is a pour where you get fluffy cells (usually of white) that look like clouds! This is achieved by adding in a satin enamel (DecoArt Americana Satin Enamel is a popular choice). I have experimented and found that this technique also works with interior house paint as well, which many of us have hidden in a shed or garage.
The end results of this innovative technique are astounding, but I am yet to perfect it. The colander pour can be applied to any dimensional surface.
However, it does lend itself better to a circular surface that can be spun on an artists’ turntable or lazy Susan.
In the layering cup, keep the colours somewhat unmixed since they will mix quite a bit in the colander.
Density Pour / Dump Swirl
Prepare your workplace (see “Workplace / Preparation”)
Mix each colour well in a single cup with pouring medium using a wooden stick.
If necessary, add a few drops of silicone oil and – depending on the desired cell formation (large or small cells) – mix in the silicone with the wooden stick .
If it is desired that only colours in the centre of the circle should receive cells, the bottom of a large glass / cup can first be wetted with silicone oil, so that the silicone meets only at the end of the last cast colours.
In a large glass or cup the individual colours successively and alternately, slowly empty but do not stir.
Prime the entire surface of the canvas with a single hue that is in contrast to the colour selection.
On the primed canvas, pour the different colours from the large glass in a slightly circular pattern to obtain individual colour rings.
Now control the direction of flow of the dumped paint by tilting the canvas in different directions to make the colour rings more visible.
In some ways, Dip Pours may seem more like printmaking techniques than they are pouring methods. The reason for this is you compose your composition on your work surface and then print or dip it on a blank canvas.
Make sure your work surface is covered with a clear plastic sheet since you will be painting directly onto it. Be sure to clean the sheet first and ensure it is free of grease or dust before you begin painting! To keep it from moving, apply a bit of tape to each corner.
Placing the canvas on the sheet of plastic and marking the canvas’ edge is the next step. Be sure to keep your measurements as accurate as possible, it’s better to have more paint than not enough to cover the canvas.
Using a paint/pouring medium mixture, fill in the paint outline of your canvas, it can be any hue you like. Use a palette knife to ensure a smooth surface.
You are now ready to paint over the area you have just filled in with acrylic paint. The pattern can be whatever you want. You can add colour in segments like a traditional pour, or you could create a dirty pour and add colour all at once.
Keep adding paint until your composition feels right.
Your canvas should then be covered with the same mixture of base paint and pouring medium as the plastic sheet. With a palette knife or your fingers, smooth this down to cover your canvas.
Pick up the canvas and place it on top of the painted plastic sheet with the prepared side facing down. Make sure that all of the paint comes in contact with the canvas by gently pressing down on the back.
The tape should be carefully removed from the edges of the plastic sheeting and the canvas/plastic should be flipped over so the paint layer will face you. You will need to prick the plastic film with a needle to release the air layer.
Make sure that the plastic sheet remains attached to the canvas’s surface, then flip it back over so that it is in contact with your work surface. The plastic sheet can then be taped back in place, which will keep it from shifting during the removal of the canvas.
Pull your canvas slowly away from the plastic sheet by holding the back of your canvas with your hand or a paintbrush. You’ve completed your first dip pour painting.
This is a technique in which all the colours are added to a cup or container together and then poured together to produce an acrylic pouring paint effect. Flip cups are also a type of dirty pour.
There isn’t much difference between the Dirty Pour and the Traditional Pour. Instead of preparing your colours in individual cups, you will put all of your colours into a single cup before pouring. In comparison with a traditional pour, its results are a bit unpredictable, but it’s quite easy to master.
Prepare your paints the same way you would for a traditional pour. The first step is to mix them up in individual cups.
Take a clean cup and slowly pour in your pre-mixed colours in successive layers. It is important to keep in mind that the way you pour the paint will affect how it appears on the canvas.
Paint with a high density sinks to the bottom, while lighter colours rise to the top. Colours dripped down the inside of the cup won’t be as dominant as those poured in a thick layer directly in the centre. Pouring quickly will force the colour to the bottom, while pouring slowly will put it closer to the top.
As soon as you’re satisfied with the colour combination in your cup, pour it out over your canvas. It doesn’t matter what sort of pattern you create – just make sure the paint film remains even and covers a significant portion of your canvas.
As soon as you’ve added all the colours, pick up the canvas and tilt it to help cover them. When the design stretches out, you should see patterns and puddles appearing in the paint.
You may need a few attempts to master this technique. It’s a skill to fill your cup with paint without allowing the paint to mix. If you mix the paint too much, it can create muddiness. In addition, it is more difficult to control how the paint will combine. Play around with it a few times and add colours in different ways. You’ll be rewarded with a more interesting painting with complex patterns.
One of my very favourite techniques of acrylic pour painting is the Dutch pour painting. Originally coined and created by the fantastic Dutch Artist Rinske Douna, the Dutch pour is a technique that produces delicate ribbons of colour and beautiful lacing details.
Start by painting a basecoat on your canvas to aid paint flow. You can layer the paint however you want in the dustpan. The order in which you layer your colour scheme can really aid the contrast and the final composition.
Start tilting the dustpan slowly to transfer the paint from the dustpan to the canvas. You can create some really amazing line effects by moving the dustpan from side to side.
This is a technique that really refers can be done during or after a pour.
Drawing, pen, markers, Crushed Glass, Gems, and Glitter Sand, Rocks, Shells and stencils can all be used in your painting projects.
This technique can really create a unique painting style. Apply a thin coat of paint in the colour of your choice as a base coat. If this is your first try, I suggest sticking with either white or black.
You need to prepare two different layered cups, for example, one cup of warm colours and one cup of cool colours.
Pour the colours in layers as if prepping for a tree ring pour, gently pouring colours down the sides of the cup, so the layers remain distinct.
You should pour the two cups of paint simultaneously so that their puddles touch as you pour them. While pouring the paint, use a slight wiggling motion as you move it along the canvas.
You can tilt your canvas until you are satisfied with the painting.
Hammer/Mallet/Balloon Smash Pour
In the hammer pour, you can let out all your frustrations and release some creative destruction. Since the hammer pour will be struck with a hammer or another blunt object, a hard paint surface is recommended. Although a canvas can be used if carefully handled, a soft surface won’t work well.
You can apply paint to the canvas in any way you want, I recommend you start with the puddle method.
A thin layer of paint should be applied to a hard surface before beginning to paint. Next, pour some small puddles with different colours of paint or with a dirty pour cup. Ideally, these puddles should be between 1 and 2 inches wide and spread over the entire surface.
A hammer or mallet is then used to lightly tap the centre of each paint puddle. A balloon will also work well for this technique and can create beautiful shapes. Start out slowly because the harder you tap, the more paint will splash and splatter. Continue to hammer until you are satisfied with your work and add paint as necessary, but be aware of the mess!
Negative Space Pour
In art, negative space refers to the spaces around and between the image’s subject. In negative space, the space surrounding a subject is what forms an intriguing or artistically significant shape, not the subject itself.
Sometimes this space is used as the actual subject of an image for artistic effect. Often this is exploited to great effect in typography as it provides breathing room for all the objects on the screen or page.
You can use any colour you like to cover your canvas when creating a negative space. White or black is a good starting choice to use for the base colour. You then pour a small amount of paint on your canvas so that it does not cover the entire surface.
If you prefer, you can pour the paint onto the canvas and then use the negative space colour to coat the rest of the canvas. The two colours will only interact at the edges rather than where the pour is being poured on top of the negative space colour.
Although you can tilt your canvas to spread paint around, keep as much of the negative space colour intact as possible for the best effect.
Puddle Pour is, in essence, an offshoot of Traditional Pour. Rather than pouring colours in puddles, drips and dribbles across your canvas, you create a series of puddles containing two drops of each of your colours.
There are many ways to arrange the puddles on your canvas, from a linear pattern to a more random, dots effect, its totally up to you.
As always, start by mixing your paints and pouring mediums together and assign cups to each individual colour. In addition, you can prepare a canvas with either a white or coloured fluid base coat.
The key to a puddle pour is layering the colours. It is important to choose a colour that stands out against the base colour since it will remain at the bottom of the puddle.
Choosing the darkest colour in your chosen palette is a good starting point. After you’re satisfied with your decision, begin adding puddles to your canvas in patterns of your choice.
Your second colour should be poured as close to the centre of the initial puddles as possible. Ensure that you do not rush. The quicker you pour, the more likely it is that you will end up with drips, splashes, and bubbles. If this happens don’t panic too much, just go with the flow, and remember the gas touch will get rid of any bubbles later on.
Then, repeat the process for each of the remaining colours, or alternate the colours within your puddles.
With this technique, it is important to remember that the more paint you pour, the heavier the paint on your canvas will be, causing paint to pool in the centre. Before painting, you can tighten the surface with canvas keys or add a support brace behind the canvas. Whenever I paint large canvases, I usually place a sheet of thick carboard behind them as extra support, because it helps the paint film dry out even and flat.
When you are satisfied with the puddles you have created, you can tilt the canvas to make the paint flow around its surface. In order for your painting to dry uniformly, you should make sure that the paint film is fairly even.
Changing the colours and the place where you pour the paint will yield some great abstract results when you use this method. Both this pouring method and traditional pouring produce relatively solid results in terms of colour.
You can use both methods as a learning tool, and observe the behaviours of the poured paint. Practice will eventually teach you how to blend colours and layer them according to your preferences.
Ring pours are all about stacking your paint colours in your cup so as to avoid mixing them.
An excellent ring pour cup looks like layers of cake from the side. It is easier in this case to pour thicker paint into your cup because it will prevent colors from sinking into one another.
Using this technique, you will want to avoid thinning the paint with water. Additionally, you can make your paint mixes thicker by only using heavy-bodied acrylic paint. Furthermore, adding naturally thicker pigments to any pigment, such as white and black, will further thicken it.
You could try experimenting with square, angled cups to make pouring easier and more interesting. It’s easier to control the flow of liquid when you pour from a corner rather than a round cup. Also, it gives you greater control over the thickness of the lines and the speed of the pour.
Although I haven’t tried one yet, you can buy plastic acrylic pouring cups with dividers/channels moulded into them to separate paint colours. As a result, you get the benefits of two pour cups in one, resulting in unique tree ring patterns.
Regardless of how you pour the paint, let it sit for a little while to let it settle before tilting the canvas.
The act of overextending when tilting is never a good idea, but it is particularly detrimental in the case of ring pouring. It’s inevitable that if you tilt too far, the colors will blend together and become muddy and hazy.
By using extra paint in your cup, you can keep your lines defined and crisp so you will have to tilt less to cover your canvas.
Pendulum art is a captivating fusion of creativity, science, and physics. It is an artistic expression that harnesses the power of gravity to create mesmerising patterns and designs. With each swing of the pendulum, a beautiful dance unfolds on the canvas.
At its core, pendulum art harnesses the power of a swinging pendulum to create intricate patterns and designs. As the pendulum swings back and forth, it gracefully drips paint onto a canvas below, leaving behind a trail that captures both motion and emotion.
The size of the hole through which the paint flows and the consistency of the paint itself play crucial roles in shaping each stroke and adding depth to every composition.
In this art form, artists become choreographers, carefully orchestrating each swing to achieve their desired outcome. They experiment with different lengths of strings, weights, and angles to manipulate how gravity interacts with their chosen medium. With every stroke, they surrender control to both their artistic instincts and scientific understanding.
Pendulum art transcends traditional boundaries by merging creativity with scientific principles. It reminds us that art is not limited to brushstrokes on a canvas but can also be found in the natural world around us. It challenges us to explore new avenues for self-expression while embracing our curiosity about how our universe works.
So step back and let yourself be entranced by pendulum art, an art form that dances between science and imagination. Allow yourself to be inspired by its fluidity, its unpredictability, and its ability to capture both movement and stillness on a single canvas.
Let it remind you that true beauty lies not only in what we create but also in how we embrace our connection with the world around us.
Fluid Art Techniques: Flip Cup
This technique is like the Dirty Pour method except that the cup of paint is flipped over instead of dribbled on the canvas. A cup or container is filled with the chosen colours, and then the canvas or surface is placed painting side down into it, and then the two together are turned upside down.
Painting begins when the cup is lifted and the paint is allowed to flow across the canvas. As a beginner, you may find the method to be tricky and will likely end up with a messy result.
Prepare your Flip Cup pour similarly to the Dirty Pour. As with the Dirty Pour, pay attention to how the paints are layered since that will affect the final result.
When you are satisfied with your paint mixture, place the cup in the middle of your workspace and ensure it is stable. Place the canvas on top of the cup, roughly in the middle, with the painted side facing down.
Using one hand, hold the canvas at the back to keep it stable. Maintain a firm hold on the cup with your other hand. Both the canvas and the cup must be carefully flipped together without allowing the paint to escape. The canvas should now be facing up with the upside-down cup resting on it.
When removing the cup, you may need to use some force since the cup can form quite a tight seal with the wet canvas. Rather than pulling the cup straight up, pull it quickly at an angle to prevent drips from falling on your poured painting.
Encourage the paint to fill every corner of your canvas by slowly tilting it. If you tilt quickly, your pour will appear ‘stretched out’. If there are any blank spots at the edges that don’t take paint, fill them with a brush or your fingers.
Flip Cup & Drag
This technique is like the same as above, but rather than lifting the cup, it is dragged across the face of the canvas or board.
Make sure your canvas is painted with a light, but wet base coat. In your cup, layer your chosen colours, then flip your canvas over and place it on top, as with a flip-cup pour, flip it as a unit.
Make a tiny hole in the top of the cup, or uncover a hole you poked in it previously, or lift the cup very slightly up from the canvas to release the suction. Slide your cup across the canvas in any pattern you want the paint to move in, letting the paint flow as you do.
With the help of a hairdryer or straw, blow out paint from the edges of your painted stripe or pattern. Feel free to tilt or manipulate the paint in any way you like until you are satisfied with the composition and appearance.
Fluid Art Techniques: Swipe
The first thing we need to do when preparing for an acrylic pour swipe is to gather all the materials that we will need. A paint swipe is different compared to many other techniques only in that you need a tool to do your swipe with.
You can use almost any acrylic pour technique to pour the base of your acrylic pour swipe, from the traditional pour to the dirty pour. You must ensure the whole painting surface is covered after you pour the base coat.
Choose the orientation of your swipe and follow it all the way across the surface. Depending on how confident you feel about your abilities, you can swipe from any side, from a line in the middle, or from the centre to create a starburst effect.
Next pour a thin line of our swipe colour along the line that we want to swipe from. There’s no need to apply a lot of paint since we’re only going to apply a very thin layer to the canvas.
Aim to keep your paint line between 1cm – 3cm / (½” – 1”) wide. By doing this, we won’t have too much swipe colour left over after the pour as it will result in a solid line of the swipe colour, which isn’t always what we want.
Another swiping tool we have found is a damp paper towel. To use a paper towel, grab a sheet that will cover the entire length of the painting surface. If your surface is too long on the swipe side, use the long edge of more than one paper towel.
However, you will find the following items will come in handy: a long palette knife, a frosting spatula, a transparency sheet, wax paper, or cling film/plastic wrap/saran wrap.
String / Chain Pull
If you are interested in an advanced technique, you should consider trying String / Chain Pull Pour. Coating a short piece of string, twine or chain with paint and arranging it in a coil on a fluid background is the basis of this technique. When the string is pulled out, it creates a flower-like shape.
Place each pre-mixed colour in its own cup and add a piece of string to each cup. Ensure you leave some overhang so you can grab it easily from the cup. Choose a string length that is appropriate to your canvas size. To figure out the size you will need for your design, cut a few lengths and hold them up to the canvas.
The strings should be thoroughly coated with their respective colours and then left to one side.
Start by applying a base of fluid paint to your canvas. You can choose any colour for this, but remember that it must contrast with the other colors you chose. Apply your base coat and use a palette knife to smooth it out.
On your painting surface, coil around one of your paint-saturated strings. You can attach the string in any way you’d like, but the end that is not painted must be hung over the edge so you can get it free later.
As you add each paint covered string to your canvas, adjust the overall composition until you are satisfied with it.
Strings should be removed from the canvas’ edges. Drag the paint down a central line by pulling the string consistently from one point. To get the best results, keep your hand steady while pulling.
When you are finished, the canvas should be covered with a leafy, flower-like impression of each colour.
For this technique to work properly, the consistency of the paint must be just right. You may need to try several times before you perfect it, but once you do, it’s immensely rewarding.
How to Seal and Protect your Art
Artwork is so important in today’s world, but to get your work taken seriously, you must protect it and give it that professional finish. There are two main ways to protect your art, here are some suggestions to consider further:
Option 1: Sealing with Acrylic Varnish
Finishing varnish is a clear acrylic paint that protects the surface from UV light and makes it waterproof. Depending on how I want my pictures to look, I use matt, satin, or gloss varnish. By applying different varnish finishes to different parts of your artwork, you can create some interesting effects.
The advantage here is the simple and perfect application of the varnish by brush. Or it can be sprayed with an airbrush but will need reducing or some water mixed in.
Liquid varnish can be used straight from the bottle and is very good at spreading and does not blister. Just make sure not to brush over it too much, as you will get better results by painting on several light coats. Following that, the varnish should dry within a few hours.
Option 2: Sealing with Synthetic Epoxy Resin
Epoxy resin is a permanent, waterproof application that seals in whatever is covered with it. Although resin can be used to coat almost anything, I have found that solid surfaces produce the greatest results.
When pouring resin over a stretched canvas, I advise thin layers or to use cardboard cut to size to support and prevent the canvas’ underside from sagging.
Unlike varnish, epoxy resin is thicker, is poured on and spread out like clear honey, while varnish is typically painted or rolled on.
Epoxy resin takes 24 hours to dry to the touch and 72 hours to cure completely, depending on temperature and humidity. On the other hand, acrylic varnish dries much faster. Unlike some varnishes, epoxy resin is resistant to the damaging effects of UV light.
The epoxy resin is a two-part system, consisting of resin and hardener. When cured, it has a high-gloss, and somewhat scratch-resistant appearance.
Make sure the epoxy resin and hardener are mixed according to the directions on the bottle.
Pour slowly onto the image to prevent air bubbles, and spread evenly with a spatula until the entire surface is covered.
In case of blistering, wait to see if the air bubbles disappear on their own. You may need to gently press the bubbles with a spatula if necessary. With the use of a gas torch, air bubbles disappear very easily. You should observe a safe distance and move the burner over the resin constantly to avoid burning it.
To get the best possible results, you must completely cover your artwork to prevent dust and hair from falling on the resin. Plastic storage boxes work well for me, but a good cardboard box will also suffice. Fortunately, resin is extremely forgiving, and defects and faults may be sanded away and refinished with a light layer.
Sealing the surface of your work of art will protect it from water and the environment it is in. If you want to learn more, you can read more about my creative process in this post on how I made one of my pieces from start to finish.
Fluid Art Techniques using Epoxy Resin
In the process of making different resin art, many different skills will come into play. Brushes and other utensils for applying and combing the resin and other artistic techniques such as stamps and stencils to create multi-layered illustrations and form textures.
Learning how to work with these tools and methods can greatly enhance your artistic abilities and provide opportunities for you to create pieces that are uniquely your own.
- I strongly recommend that you wear protect gloves. I am prone to contact dermatitis, an allergic reaction and rash caused by direct contact with some of the materials used in this process.
When working with dangerous chemicals and other materials, it is critical to wear gloves to protect our hands from illness and contamination. The hazards should be considered when choosing protective gloves as follows:
- Nitrile gloves are resistant to the majority of chemicals and pathogenic pathogens;
- Rubber gloves provide protection against mildly corrosive materials;
- Neoprene gloves are resistant to most solvents, oils, and mild corrosives;
- Avoid wearing latex gloves because you might find that you are allergic to them or develop sensitivities.
- Wear a apron or lab coat and cover your workspace well, while working with resin as it can be messy and tricky to clean up.
- Make clean-up easy by using disposable gloves, lining your work surface with vinyl shower curtains, and providing drop sheets on the ground.
- Never pour epoxy resin down the drain! You should clean out all containers and wipe down reusable plastic fluid art tools with paper towels.
- Remove all residue by wiping it down again with either rubbing alcohol or if using acetone open a window. After that, you can wash it with hot, soapy water. Alternatively, any remaining residue can simply be allowed to cure right on plastic tools and peeled off the next day once it has cured.
Conclusion: Fluid Art Techniques for All!
I hope you enjoyed this article about how to create fluid art. I wanted to create a living resource that could be used by anyone to discover the endless possibilities that fluid art has to offer.
I know that fluid art is an incredibly expansive field and it can be difficult to figure out what to do next. That is why I hope you will benefit from my guide and share with anyone you know who might be interested.
I hope this comprehensive guide has provided a fantastic resource for you, if you can think of anything I have missed please let me know and I will update this post accordingly. Happy pouring and have fun!
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Adrian Reynolds, or ‘Ren,’ is a Dublin-based contemporary artist. His works are a reaction to the world around us. A world that continues to evolve quicker than ever. His work investigates colour, form, and texture, putting them at the intersection of abstraction and representation. His art has been shown in Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.