Paint Pouring Basics

 Last month I got together with the Crafty Ladies to try out paint pouring in our Augusta, GA neighborhood.  It was a blast!  

The paint designs are all unique and you can play with it endlessly.  You honestly don’t feel like you can ever be “done” with your painting.  As soon as you set it down, another pattern emerges.  It is truly mesmerizing to watch. 

If you want to try your hand at Paint-Pouring here are some of the materials I recommend: 

·      Paper Towels

·      Disposable Cups

·      Heat Gun or Blow Dryer

·      Acrylic Paints

·      Pouring Medium

·      Stir Sticks

·      Canvas in the size of choice

·      Water

·      Tray to catch run-off paint

Disposable Cups

Using paper cups works well because you can bend the cup to form a “spout” and pour the paint in a specific spot.  But if you can’t get the paper cups, then use plastic cups.  You will want to make many different combinations of paints and colors and it makes it easy if the cups are disposable. 

Why do I need Pouring Medium? 

Pouring Medium is a paint additive that improves paint movement.  It basically allows the paint to flow and dry without any brush strokes or other marks in the paint.

In paint-pouring it allows the paint to flow and move easier throughout the canvas or surface.  

There are many types of pouring medium.  Most craft suppliers carry their own brand of pouring medium (Decoart, Sergeant Art, etc.) but if you are a beginner, I recommend a brand sold at most hardware stores, Flood Floetrol®.  This medium is bought by painters to make the house paint look and flow better. Because of this, Floetrol is more affordable at around $7 a quart.  

Once you get the hang of it, and especially if you want to sell your artwork, you can venture to use something like Liquitex® Professional Pouring Medium.  This is the most expensive brand out there at around $30 a quart.  

Heat Source?

If you are impatient like me, you want your paint to dry quickly and you may be able to use a heat gun or blow dryer on a low setting to expedite the process.  Take care not to leave the heat on a spot too long and burn your painting! 

You can also use a heat gun or blow dryer to make cool designs.  Use the breeze to push the paint toward the area you want to fill.  Keep in mind it is almost impossible to do exactly what you want with this medium.   But you can have fun trying.

Stir Sticks

You need something to stir the pouring medium and acrylics together.  The solution needs to be thoroughly mixed.  You do not want to pour your paint and see streaks of just pouring medium.  It may ruin the effect you are going for. 

I keep a box of wooden popsicle sticks on hand for craft projects.  They are disposable and cheap.  You can use paint sticks, plastic spoons or coffee straws, whatever you have on hand.

All the Canvases

If you are starting out, you may be tempted to just buy one canvas.  Warning, it is easy to get creative and want to keep exploring with this medium.  My recommendations are to buy at least 4 smaller canvases, instead of one big one.  That way you can experiment to your heart's content.  You can finish one and let it dry while you try another technique.  In the end, you may not like them all the same, but you will have a favorite! 

The Paint Colors

I suggest starting out with just four colors plus your base color. It is easy to get carried away with colors. The more colors you use the more chance to get the colors to look like mud or mix to a nasty brown color. 

When combining colors in a cup, don’t over mix!  Just twirl to get a few ripples in your paint or don’t mix at all, the paint will do its magic on the canvas when you move it. 

When choosing colors, think back to that famous color wheel you had to learn in grade school.  Contrasting colors look work together or complementary colors (those that are opposite each other on the color wheel). 

Water is Optional

Adding water to your acrylic paint will thin it out and improve the flow, just like the pouring medium.  You do not have to use it if you do not like, it is completely optional.  

Catching the Run-off Paint

In order to get the paint to reach the corners of your canvas, you will have to tilt it, and the paint will run-off the sides.  When you paint-pour you will have waste paint.  This part kills me because I hate waste.  There are ways to re-use the paint if use a tray.

Most people buy the disposable aluminum baking pans (think turkey roasting pan) to use for this.  You can use them multiple times.  

If you don’t want to buy a tray, use any large tray you have on hand.  Keep in mind that you will not be able to use it for food afterward.  I have been hoarding food trays from veggie and fruit platters for a long time.  I kept forgetting to use them. So, I put them to work for my paint pouring adventures.  

As a rule of thumb, anything large and flat that is at least an inch bigger on all sides of your canvas works well.  Too small you run the risk of getting paint everywhere!  

Last Advice!

Wear “play clothes” and protect your working area.  It is easy to accidentally let the paint fall on your shirt, the table, and the floor.  If you are extra messy use newspapers to cover the floor or buy a disposable plastic table cover (used for parties). 

Lets Start!

1.     Mix equal parts acrylic paint, pouring medium and water in the disposable cups. Example: 1 tablespoon of each; water, pouring medium and acrylic paint (remember if you use a measuring spoon, try to only use it for painting, not food).   Start with your background color and make more of this solution than the others.  You should have 5 cups total, one fuller than the rest because it is the base coat.  

2.    Pour your base coat onto your canvas.  Tilt your canvas or use a sponge brush or a paper towel to draw the paint to all the corners.  Remember we added the pouring medium to it, so when it dries it will leave no marks, paper towel or brush strokes.  The point here is to cover all the working surface. 

3.    Start pouring on your different color paint solutions.  Feel free to experiment, mixing colors into cups first, or on your canvas.  Tilt your canvas to get the paint to reach all spots.  If you don’t know where to start.  Look into the different paint-pouring techniques.  I will go into all the different paint-pouring techniques in a different post. 

4.    Use your blow dryer to dry your painting or let dry overnight.  


If you want your painting to look shiny poor resin over it after it is completely dry.  Make sure you follow the resin instructions, as they vary extremely.  

If you feel like this is your type of “art” invest in some reusable clear plastic bottles with a tip, like the ones used in restaurants for ketchup and mustard. 

Make sure to visit this post, the Ultimate Guide to Paint Pouring Techniques.

Even though this seems like a lot of information, I hope that it encourages you to try this easy art form.  Just do a little prep work and you are ready to begin. 

Happy Crafting!

If you try this at home, please share a picture with us! 

Did you encounter any problems or have any extra tips?  Please post those below I would love to get that information out to everyone. 


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