Hobbyist challenge – acrylic paint pouring 101

A finished acrylic paint pour canvas. Acrylic and metallic paint colours were combined in layers.

Heads up on acrylic paint pouring

Look, I’m not going to pretend that I’d heard of acrylic paint pouring as a hobby or career before Praths raised the subject over coffee at Newport Deli.

The technique segued into the conversation when my daughter Vicci and Praths were deep in a self-congratulatory exchange over the fact that they both had metal-encased miniature bird skulls hanging from their necklaces.

I’m going to leave that subject right there since I have no idea why anyone would want to decorate themselves with a bird skull.

Acrylic Workshop

It turns out that Praths is a practising acrylic pouring artist and provider of workshops about the artform. Her most recent workshop was held in Hermanus, a growing coastal town well known for seasonal whale-watching and, for the more adventurous, viewing sharks from an underwater cage. The workshop was held at the Wonderland Lifestyle nursery where Vibey Creatives artwork is on display with price tags. 

Acrylic paint pouring workshops are held in various parts of the country, including Cape Town, Hermanus, Durban
and Johannesburg.

Acrylic painting defined

I asked Praths to define this art form. Her gaze wandered off for a few seconds as she drew breath: ‘Acrylic Paint Pouring is a fluid painting technique used to create art by pouring acrylic paint onto a canvas.

‘It’s special because the technique can be used by anyone willing to try their hand at this art form. That’s because the paint works with the pourer. Together they create beautiful pieces of art. Many pouring artists describe the art form as “addictive, healing, meditative and enchanting”.

‘Anyone can easily master the few rules that apply to acrylic painting. All it needs is a bit of practice. What’s more, you and your mind are the only limits to the breadth of innovation when using the various techniques available with acrylic painting.’

Praths points out that all the materials needed to undertake acrylic pouring are readily available.

Wendy and I attended a flash workshop run for our sole benefit by Praths a few days ago. Wendy was the student and I the observer standing at a respectful distance. My reluctance to stand close was predicated by the fact that the technique can be messy, especially for initiates, but the rewards are excellent.

Praths and Wendy with an acrylic pour canvas completed by Wendy in her lesson.

Praths advises that one of the keys to successful acrylic pouring lies in using quality water-based acrylic paints and a pouring medium – i.e., an adhesive that thins out the paint and allows it to flow more smoothly. Locally, many artists use school glue but in reality that is a compromise.

The acrylic paint comes in various container sizes and is available in a wide range of colours from art and craft shops. In South Africa, one can call on outlets such as Bastion Paints, Dala Paints, Harlequin Paints and Builders Warehouse.

After covering an outdoor table with plastic sheeting, Praths set up five plastic cups for the paint colours Wendy had selected. The technique being taught was a basic technique called a flip cup pour. Each cup would hold 36 ml of different coloured paint adding up to 180ml for a 24 x24cm canvas.

The consistency of the paint in each cup must be the same. If not, then a drop or two of water can be added using a dropper. Consistency can be verified by checking the speed of paint dripping off a wooden stirrer.  The consistency for this technique is often described as ‘warm pouring honey’.

Silicon oil

Thereafter, add two or three drops of silicon oil to each cup of paint, making sure to space the drips around the container. Stir the paint and silicone oil in each cup with a wooden stirrer.

Pour the mix from each cup in layers into a formal, reusable pouring cup, normally starting with the heaviest paint. As you pour paint from the various plastic cups, you can vary the pattern of your movement over the pouring cup – from side to side, zig-zag and criss-cross. 

Flip the cup

Place the pouring cup containing the paint upside down onto the canvas board. This is usually done by holding the cup upright in your hand, placing the board over the cup, then flipping the board and cup over before returning the board to the table surface with the cup held in place.

Acrylic paints blend and form abstract patterns

Lift the pouring cup off the surface of the board and watch how the paints blend and flow together forming cells and abstract patterns. Then begin tilting the canvas board from side to side so that the paint runs off the edges and covers the whole canvas including the sides. Note that the board is usually rested on a raised surface on the tabletop to allow excess paint to drip off the sides.

The flip-up technique: as the cup is lifted, the colours combine with the silicone to form cells.

The completed canvas should be left to dry for up to 36 hours or longer.

Assorted surfaces for acrylic painting

Most artists paint on canvas but Praths has experimented on various surfaces from rocks, to glass to tiles to plastic and wood. Praths has used the Sheleeart bloom technique to make kitchen splashback tiles using transition and colour-shift paints and an Australian pouring medium from Flood Floetrol.  Here is a link to the tile painting:

An art supplies outlet in Britain put together this beginner’s guide to acrylic pouring using the puddle technique: https://bit.ly/3lwnFYL.

For information about local workshops and creative acrylic pouring works of art, see https://vibeycreatives.com/.

To get an insight into acrylic pouring on Christmas baubles and ornaments, check out this dip technique by Vibey Creatives: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8E1KOAPsoPM.

Acrylic pour as backdrops

Several artists with fine art skills have begun using acrylic pour canvases as backdrops for more detailed artwork like silhouettes.  This piece was painted by artist Ria Rademeyer over an acrylic pour dip technique painting.

The silhouette painted on top of the acrylic pour background by fine artist Ria Rademeyer.

Here’s a video with the title Painting with Liquitex Pouring Medium: https://youtu.be/vvUan_flJYY.

An apt summary of fluid art/acrylic pouring can be summed up by a quote from Wassily Kandinsky, a Russian painter and art theorist: ‘There  is no must in art because art is free’.

South Africa’s registered freelancers have a wide range of skillsets. See https://safreachronicle.co.za.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Safrea or its members.


4 Responses

  1. Great article, Blake. I enjoy dabbling in art when I can. I haven’t tried this paint-pouring technique yet but I’m inspired to attend a local workshop one day soon.

    1. Hi Delilah, what also amazed me about this type of art form is that you can go as big as you like. Praths can give you a better idea of when a workshop will be held in whatever centre. When you’re ready, drop me an email and I’ll forward you her contact details. Or visit her website.

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