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Mastering the Art of Pour Painting

Published on Feb 9th 2022
pour painting

Maybe you’ve seen artists creating pour painting canvases online and wondered, “Could I ever create something like that?” The answer, of course, is a resounding yes! Pour painting is one of the most impressive painting processes, producing stunning works of abstract impressionistic art. It’s also one of the easiest painting techniques to learn — no brushwork, no shading. Just vibrant liquid color creating fascinating patterns right before your eyes.  

If you’ve thought about learning to paint but hesitate jumping in, there’s more than just beautiful works waiting for you when you try pour painting. Expert studies at The Society of Behavioral Medicine have proven that having a hobby like pour painting can increase your sense of happiness and overall well-being. And with a technique as exciting and straightforward as this one, the real question you should be asking yourself is what are you waiting for?

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How to Make Paint Pouring Art

No Experience? No Problem!

The best part of experimenting with paint pouring art is that there are no real rules! Sure, there are paint pouring techniques that help direct how your painting will look and color options that will give your finished painting structure and rhythm. But the fun and excitement of pour painting is the possibility of what happens as the paints spread across the canvas. It’s a dynamic process that unfolds as you watch — a little like performance art!

Because it’s a bit different from the painting techniques you may be familiar with, having a teacher is always a good idea. Check into East Coast opportunities to learn the process in painting classes in NYC, or try painting classes in the Bay Area and painting classes in Los Angeles if you’re on the West Coast.

These courses are led by qualified instructors who’ve perfected the pour painting and will get you on the right track. If you’re elsewhere in the country, there are painting classes near you, too. There are even online painting classes that let you learn pour painting art from home.

If a social setting is more your thing, try paint and sip in Chicago, paint and sip in Sacramento, paint and sip in Orange County and paint and sip near you that feature pour painting classes on their schedules.

pour painting class
via Canva

Paint Pouring Supplies 

Acrylic Paint and Pouring Medium

One question to ask is: Do you need a pouring medium for pour painting? When creating pour painting art, acrylic paint is the go-to medium. It’s a plastic-based paint that dries relatively quickly, comes in various viscosities and produces brilliant, colorful results. Though some acrylic paint is bottled in fluid form, most are available as a thicker paste-like form that comes in tubes.

In order to achieve the right thinness for pour painting, the best approach when rounding up your paint pouring supplies is to use pouring medium. This additive allows you to thin your chosen paints to the syrupy consistency needed to achieve the desired effects. There are also metallics, glitters and other add-ins available that can add drama, effects and flair to your designs.   

Pouring Vessels and Palette Knifes

The easiest vessels to pour your paint from are plastic drinking cups. These are inexpensive and come in multipacks that let you create several works in a single session. Depending on how complex your technique becomes, you may need split cups that allow you to separate your paints in several compartments before you pour.

If you plan on keeping your paints liquid and workable over time, lidded pouring cups are your best bet. These are available at most art supply stores and come in multipacks as well, allowing you to store unused paint until your next session.

To aid in the mixing of your pour painting materials, you’ll need a supply of wooden dowels or popsicle sticks. Palette knives are helpful for conducting the paint over the surface of your paint to create dragging or sweeping effects once it’s been poured.

hand pouring cup of paint on canvas
via Canva

Gloves, Smocks and Drop Cloths

These may be your most important paint pouring supplies! As with all art projects that involve liquid medium, it’s a good idea to use latex or plastic gloves to keep your hands clean while you work. This not only makes clean-up a breeze, but it also prevents you from getting stray spots of color in places you don’t want it to appear while handling your projects.

To keep your clothes free of acrylic paint, which can be tricky to wash out of fabric once dried, it’s best to wear a smock or apron while working. It’s also necessary to cover the surface beneath your painting with butcher paper or a drop cloth to protect tabletops and floors.

Canvases, Canvas Boards and Wood Panels

The most popular surfaces used for pour painting are stretched canvases. They’re sturdily constructed and ready for use right out of the wrapper, though their centers may sag from the weight of the paint. Remedy this by bracing the surface with a stronger board tucked under the back, between the stretchers. You can also use canvas boards or prepared wood panels coated with a substance called gesso that seals the wood and makes it smooth.

Once you’ve mastered the process, you can apply your favorite pour painting methods to other surfaces, such as glass vessels, tiles, boxes and plaques. This gives you a wide variety of art objects and ornaments to create for yourself or to plan as gifts for special occasions. No matter what surface you choose, you’ll need to place it on a platform that raises it from the table or floor and allows the paint to pour down freely over the sides. 

pouring purple paint on wooden board
via Canva

Paint Pouring Techniques

Cup Flip Pour Painting

The cup flip method has become a viral sensation in the last few years, for its dramatic presentation as much as the dazzling effects it creates! Fill a cup with layers of fluid paint, then lay your canvas or board over the mouth of the cup. Hold the canvas firmly as you turn the cup over. Gently lift the cup away and watch the colors spill out in mesmerizing rings that slide across your canvas!

Be sure to tip the canvas in each direction to move the paint over all edges for a finished look to your painting. 

Simple Pour Painting

The easiest of all techniques, this is a straightforward method of pouring your fluid paints onto a prepared canvas. Pour colors one at a time, starting with a darker tone and adding lighter tones on top. Then, either tilt the canvas to slide the poured paint in different directions or drag a palette knife through the hues to create patterns and blend colors.

Try a simple zig-zag in both vertical and horizontal directions to achieve a marbleized texture or drag in a spiral to create something more tie-dyed. 

simple pour painting technique
via Canva

Puddle Pour Painting

Similar to the simple pour, the puddle pour technique lets you spill puddles of paint in different quadrants of your canvas then blend them by tilting the piece.

Let the color slide over the edges of the canvas to complete the look and avoid leaving a raised ridge around the canvas. As with the simple pour, you can make more complicated designs by running a palette knife through the surface once your puddle pouring stage is complete.

Feel free to drop other fluid paints on top to mix in even more incredible color. 

Add-Ins for Pour Painting

The endless variety of color combinations and stunning designs made in pouring art can be taken even further with various add-ins. These range from metallic powders and liquids that can be dripped onto the surface of your work using a squeeze bottle or eyedropper and allowed to spread on their own or moved about with a palette knife or a wooden dowel. They can also be blown around with a drinking straw to create enticing ripples and ridges.  

These are just a few of the easiest pour painting techniques to get you started. There are many other methods that produce striking results, each with their own level of sophistication, but all entirely learnable once you know the basics. You might even come up with your own techniques that work for you. The possibilities are practically endless!

pink and purple paint pouring canvas
via Canva

If you’re looking for a fun hobby to lift your mood and get you started on a colorful journey of creativity, think about giving pour painting a go. It’s a great introduction to the world of art that anyone can conquer.

For even more creative ideas and inspiration, check out other experiences happening on Classpop!