You have a sense of the color scheme, an idea for your acrylic paint pour project, and the funds to invest in art supplies. But, have you thought about the pouring medium? Choosing the correct pouring medium that fits your pour paint technique can make all the difference in the quality of your final product. The right pour medium will help your paint weave magically on your chosen surface, but you must know your products and get the ratio of paint to medium right to create a great piece of work. Consider this your ultimate guide to choosing the correct paint-pouring medium.
What is a pouring medium?
A pouring medium is a liquid additive that reduces the viscosity and increases the fluidity of acrylic paint. It makes the paint flow easily and increases the dry time, which is important for most paint-pouring techniques.
That’s not all! A pouring medium also helps the paint adhere effectively to the surface, preventing peeling or cracking after drying. The addition of a pour medium may also help preserve your color. Some pigments may shift in color as they dry. A good pouring medium can counteract this effect and help maintain the original color of the paint.
Lastly, pouring mediums can create glossy or matte effects, and promote the formation of cells, the trademarks of acrylic pour paintings used to add texture and variation to surfaces. Let’s look at the things to consider when choosing acrylic pouring mediums, followed by the types of pouring mediums, and popular products.
What to Keep in Mind When Choosing a Pour Medium
There’s no one-size-fits-all product that’s perfect for every pouring art technique. Every artist will need to try different options to understand what works best for you. To help you get started with your experiments, here are some factors to consider when deciding on an acrylic pour painting medium.
Consistency and flow: A good pouring medium is self-leveling with accurate consistency mimicking warmed-up honey. It is neither too thick nor too runny. Much of achieving the correct consistency depends on the ratios of medium to paint. Experiment with different ratios of pouring medium to paint until you find the right consistency.
Drying time: Some pouring mediums dry overnight, while others can take days. Check drying times to determine if the particular product is suitable for your timeline. You can use a heat gun to speed up the drying process a bit, but it’s best to let it dry naturally.
Gloss vs matte: Some pouring mediums help achieve a glossy finish while others dry with a matte finish. Choose the product that’s better for the effect you’re trying to achieve. Gloss finishes help you achieve more depth and are easier to clean.
Brand: Artists tend to stick to the brand of pouring medium that has worked well for their projects. It’s about trial and error, and with practice, you’ll find the pouring mediums and paint-medium ratios that give you the desired results for different pouring techniques.
Budget: Your budget, of course, will also play a part in your choice of pouring medium. Floetrol, for example, is slightly less expansive than artist mediums like GAC 800. It will do for beginners and hobbyists. But if you’re looking to create archival quality pour painting artwork, you’ll need to visit the art store and spend a little more.
Types of Pouring Mediums
There are four types of pouring mediums:
- Art store mediums like Liquitex and Golden (GAC 800)
- Hardware store mediums like Floetrol
- PVA Glue
Art Store Mediums
Pouring mediums for professional-grade, archival-quality artwork are quite expensive. They’re versatile, suiting all acrylic pour painting techniques, from the traditional dirty pour, to puddle pour or Dutch pour techniques. Liquitex and GAC 800 fall in this category.
Art store mediums have a good pouring consistency and offer the glossiest finish. They dry without bubbles, don’t crack when dry, and leave the paint opaque. They’re also great for creating acrylic cells with ease.
As art store pouring mediums are not cheap, you want to start small and work your way up the right ratio. You can always add more medium, you can’t take it away. The type of acrylic paint you use will also affect results. For example, if using highly pigmented acrylics, one tablespoon of paint to one cup of medium in a cup would suffice. But, if using acrylic paint suited primarily to craft projects, a 1:1 ratio will work better.
Liquitex, a favorite of artists, has an excellent reputation for quality and consistency. It has a slow surface drying time and offers a crack-free finish. Liquitex is easy to find and comes in several different finishes.
From the Golden brand, GAC 800 is the go-to when looking for a flexible finished product. It dries with a good gloss but with moderate clarity. The pouring medium also offers good flexibility after the paint has dried. If you want to shape your canvas into an object, it is less likely that the paint will crack.
Tri-Art Liquid Glass acrylic medium and Tri-Art Liquid Glass Cell Flow are other examples of art store pouring mediums for fluid artists. When using this product, acrylic paint can be manipulated to look like other mediums, including glass. Tri-Art Liquid Glass Pouring Medium is specifically made to achieve a glassy effect. It offers excellent leveling, making it great for non-canvas surfaces like wooden panels. But you’ll need to add a higher quantity, a 1:20 ratio of acrylic paint to medium for free-flowing mixtures and vibrant colors.
Tri-Art Liquid Glass Cell Flow is a silicone oil that creates amazing cell formations. It diffuses the paint effectively to produce eye-catching abstract effects. Add 1-2 drops of the oil to every 3 ml of color already mixed with the pouring medium. After pouring the colors onto the medium, use a palette knife to scrape away the paint, making the silicone oil rise to the top of the color and form cells. You can also use the knife to score lines in different directions or add shapes or marks in the paint.
Hardware Alternative: Floetrol
Floetrol pouring is the darling of beginner and intermediate artists and hobby crafters. Floetrol is a cost-effective alternative to Liquitex and GAC 800 and is easy to buy in bulk. This pouring medium leaves paint opaque, offers a slightly glossy finish, creates acrylic cells, and has a good pouring consistency.
Floetrol is suitable for all pour painting techniques. But, the amount of medium will depend on the technique. For example, you may need more Floetrol for dirty pouring or flip cups as they require a thicker consistency than other pour paint techniques. You can also add silicone oil to the mix to create cells.
PVA Glue is inexpensive and easily available. It’s basically good old Elmer’s school glue. It’s much thicker than other pouring mediums, so getting the right pouring consistency can take time and effort, but it’s easily diluted with water. Once you achieve the right consistency, it pours well too. Note that fewer cells form naturally when using PVA Glue. If you’re looking for archival quality, avoid PVA Glue as it contains acid and can break down over time. We suggest choosing a Neutral pH PVA for your pour painting project.
Water: Not recommended
Avoid using just water as a pouring medium, as it will dilute the colors and affect the vibrancy of your paint. Water also interacts with the binding agent, preventing paint from sticking to the surface. It is okay to add a drop or two of water in conjunction with another paint medium, but not as your primary dilution medium.
Keep water handy only to loosen pouring mediums. Even then, avoid adding too much water to the mix. This is because water does not bind correctly with acrylic paint, resulting in an uneven consistency on your canvas and also causing the paint pigment to separate. When it dries, the paint flakes, and the layers don’t stick together.
There’s a debate about using distilled water to thin acrylic paint versus tap water. Some have found that tap water can change how paint floats, while distilled water does not pose this issue. I use tap water and haven’t had any problems. Give both a try to check for any differences and take a call.
Pouring mediums for glossy and matte finishes
There are several options in pouring mediums that offer a glossy finish: Most of these can be found at your local art store or on Amazon.
- Golden GAC 800
- DecoArt Pouring Medium
- Pebeo Pouring Medium
- DecoArt American Triple Thick Gloss Glaze
If you want a matte finish in your acrylic pour paint, here are your options:
- Liquitex Matte
- Golden Matte
- DecoArt Americana Triple Thick Matte Glaze
- Sargent Art Acrylic Gloss and Matte Mediums
- GAC 800
- DecoArt (Matt Version)
Remember to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for pour paint techniques and application ratios. Also, test a small sample before applying any medium to your artwork to confirm it behaves as expected. Remember, the paint and colors also affect the final finish. Some pigments have a naturally high gloss, while others are more matte. With practice and experimentation, you will find the combination that gives you the matte or glossy finish you need.
DIY Pouring Mediums
If you’re really on a budget or a time crunch, you can make your own pouring medium. While you won’t get gallery-worthy results, for basic acrylic pouring projects, the DIY version will do in a jiffy. This school glue medium will work for most acrylic pouring techniques, but you may need to adjust the ratio depending on the quality of your paint, your pour technique, or your surface.
School Glue Option
- 1.5 parts Elmer’s Glue-All (150 grams)
- 1 part water (100 grams)
Mix the pouring medium into your acrylic paint until you get that warm honey consistency.
General Guidelines for Paint-Medium Ratios
For a good pouring consistency, the general rule of thumb is to use 1 part paint to 3 parts pouring medium. If using heavy-body acrylic paint, use a higher pouring medium ratio such as 1:4. Do the opposite for the cheaper bottles of fluid acrylic paint. A medium ratio of 1:1 or 1:2 will usually do. If using DIY mediums, a ratio of 1:2 or 1:2 works well. For a web pour, you may want a thicker consistency, so use a higher paint ratio of 1:3 or 1:4.
Steps to Create A Basic Acrylic Paint Pouring Project
- Gather your basic supplies including stir sticks, a drop cloth, your primed surface of choice, water, and mixing cups.
- Choose a pouring medium.
- Pick your colors. This can be the hardest part of a project for some. For some tips and tricks to choosing the perfect color scheme every time, check out our ultimate guide to “Choosing Paint Colors for Acrylic Pouring.”
- Blend your colors with the pouring medium until you have the desired consistency. Remember, start small! Decide the ratio of the paint to the pouring medium based on the type of paint, painting surface, and effect you’re trying to achieve. When using more expensive, thicker paints with more pigment, you won’t need as much paint. When using cheaper acrylics, you may need at least a 1:1 ratio to ensure that your colors stay rich and opaque.
- Start pouring prepared paint colors on your surface. The pour paint technique you use is an art in itself, and there are dozens are fun options to try, each producing a slightly different paint pattern…and level of mess. For beginners, a dirty pour technique or flip cup paint pour is probably the easiest. If you’re looking to branch out to a more advanced fluid painting technique, take a look at our string pull pour article!
- Once the paint is on the surface, you may need to give it some motion. Tilt the surface slightly and slowly so the paint flows around and covers the entire area. Be gentle to avoid any runs, drips, or air bubbles.
- Once you’ve achieved your desired look, allow the paint to dry completely. This can take overnight or several days, depending on the type of paint, medium, and how thickly you applied the paint.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
Here are some common mistakes to avoid to ensure you create beautiful art every time:
- Blending too much too fast. Remember to start small and be patient, adding paint and medium, little by little, until you reach the perfect consistency.
- Mixing vigorously or overmixing: this can lead to air bubbles, leaving holes and craters when poured onto the surface.
- Not mixing the paints sufficiently can cause streaks. This happens from stirring too quickly or not mixing long enough.
- Not doing a test pour on a practice surface
Go Forth and Pour!
As you peruse articles on fluid painting techniques, you’ll likely find a myriad of opinions on whether to use pouring mediums, how to mix paints, and which pouring medium is the best. The truth is, there are a lot of ways to skin a cat, as the saying goes. Each pouring medium has its pros and cons. The one that works best for you may not work for someone else. Pouring paint is all about experimentation. Start with a medium that fits your budget, timeline, and level of expertise. Experiment with various mediums and don’t be afraid to fail. The only way you achieve your signature look is through trial and error. Don’t be afraid to go forth and pour!
For more pour paint techniques, check out our Canvas Pouring Section. It’s filled with incredible projects and all the tips and tricks you need to achieve that perfect pour!