Acrylic Pouring – the Hot New Painting Craze

by | Jan 31, 2012 | Blog | 13 comments

A painter’s “toolkit” consists of many materials and tools as well as techniques. Pouring acrylic directly onto a painting surface is one technique that has recently taken off into stardom as the newest hottest painting trick for abstraction. A search online for “acrylic pouring” will deliver thousands of blog articles and videos from artists sharing their process and results.

I  use pouring techniques for my work, while keeping in mind it’s ONLY a technique, not necessarily a finished painting. Pouring gives unexpected results. While this makes it super fun, it frequently creates a “high failure” rate because it can take many tries to achieve the look you want.

More infrequently than not, a single pouring process on any one layer, may produce an exciting abstract image that left as is may be considered a successful and finished piece. Yet most of the time after an initial pour the image requires additional layers of new pours along with more painting skills, to get the piece to a place where it creates an exciting viewing experience beyond technique.

To the left shows pouring on a silver leaf panel. It’s final appearance, which looks like stained glass, is at the top of this page.

What is Pouring?
Pouring is actually a simple concept. It’s a way of applying paint without using brushes, knives or other application tools. Just grab a large container of acrylic medium and pour it out onto a surface. Simple? Yes. Messy? Yes. Easy? Often, no.


How to get a surfboard finish with pouring!

Pouring is most commonly used to get a “surfboard finish”; a super glossy, brushless and smooth rich layer of color or clear coating on a painting. This is often obtained by using toxic resins. However, there are ways to get the same results with non-toxic acrylic.

In addition to the surfboard finish, pouring can offer some new and unusual special effects to your work. With pouring its easy to think of Jackson Pollock. It can be a great way to add some fun into your painting process, smooth out unwanted texture on your surface, get marbleized effects, and rich colored glazes.

Try the following ideas to create a flawless “surfboard finish”, taken from my book Acrylic Illuminations, which also includes an entire chapter on pouring techniques.

(1) Use a rigid surface to keep from buckling while drying.

(2) Properly prepare the surface before pouring by applying a stain sealer. Then prime the surface with Gesso. These steps will keep stains from coming through the surface into the poured medium.

(3) Use a medium that is made specifically for pouring, like Golden’s GAC800. If using other fluid mediums, such as Clear Tar Gel or Self-Leveling Gel, dilute up to 40% with water and spread thinly to avoid crevicing.

(4) Level your surface before pouring so while it dries it won’t shift.

(5) Once your medium is poured, immediately spray lightly with alcohol to eliminate bubbles.

(6) For deep pours apply duct tape around the edges like a wall, seal the seam with a gel, then pour as deep as you want using GAC800. This is the only non-toxic medium that I know of that can be poured deeper than ¼” without crevicing. (Toxic resins can be used in deep pours without crevicing, but will outgas for up to a week while drying).

More pouring articles:

5 Acrylic Pour Painting Techniques for 2020

Tips on Pouring Acrylic

How to Make Acrylic Paint Look Like Enamel

Pouring Resin-like Finishes

For more information on pouring, check out Nancy Reyner’s book Acrylic Illuminations.


  1. employee evaluations

    Awesome website and better still content! I am going to be back soon.

  2. Nancy Reyner

    Just use regular isopropyl rubbing alcohol (the kind you get at drug stores) to spray over a newly poured layer to eliminate bubbles.

  3. Lori

    Spray it with what sort of "alcohol" to prevent bubbles ? Thanks –

  4. Pamela

    Thanks so much, Nancy! I will be one of the first owners of your new book, for sure.

  5. Nancy Reyner

    Hi Pamela,
    One of the techniques in my new book, Acrylic Illuminations, is exactly that – using this pouring technique over silver leaf made from aluminum. It looks just like a stained glass window – quite beautiful! The aluminum will not tarnish, however, I still recommend sealing the leaf with a solvent-based acrylic spray before applying acrylic to help adhesion between the poured acrylic and the metal leaf.

  6. Pamela

    Thanks, Nancy! Would that work with faux silver leaf (aluminum) as well or would it tarnish over time? Excited to read your new book!

  7. Nancy Reyner

    Hi Pamela,
    Good questions! Real gold leaf will not tarnish. Imitation gold leaf, however, is made of copper and zinc. The copper will tarnish when exposed to air (which may take months to a year to show visible darkening) or when exposed to ammonia. Ammonia is in acrylic paints, so that is what can tarnish imitation leaf, not the water. The problem with applying acrylic on top of metal leaf is that if there is any added water to the paint it will bead up. For even applications of acrylic paint, I like to apply a solvent based clear gloss acrylic over the leaf first, let dry, then apply a thin layer of a glossy acrylic medium, and let that dry. Now I can more easily apply acrylic paint, whether I add water to make it thinner or washer, or not. I hope this helps answer your question. My new book, Acrylic Illuminations, has an entire section dedicated to working on metal leaf with acrylic paint. It is due for release November 2013 and is available for pre-purchase now on

  8. Pamela

    Hi Nancy, love your work! I paint oils on faux silver and gold leaf and have been experimenting with pouring medium, but have not combined the two so far. I was told by several artists that any water based product on top of imitation leaf will eventually tarnish the metal. Have you found this to be true and if not, what do you use to prevent it? Also, how do you get acrylics to adhere well to the leaf since the leaf is a non-porous surface? Thanks so much for any insight!

  9. shane

    Thanks for sharing some of the best hidden points on pouring really helpful for beginner as well as for experienced ones

  10. Alexandra

    I am intrigued by the Pouring method. I have studied art history but have not done much with creating the art itself. Well I am a photographer and videographer- not to discount the 2! With Pouring I love the play on colors and the sublime lines. I am a big fan of Mark Rothko and his push-pull effect on his works. This reminds me of Rothko. Love your blog! – Alexandra

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  11. Annie

    I am so delighted that I can learn from your DVD's whilst I live half the world…or nearly half the worled away in the UK. I set myself time to watch and then I 'play' and it feels so good having a "mentor" there to refer to. May we 'clone' you in the UK??!!!!!
    I do get frustrated but I am happy, learning and re learning skills that seemed to be defunct!
    Also I have to say that I am a "Golden" paint fanactic! I just love their website and how they answer emails in person, which is a wonderful link. My first painting hangs in our kitchen/ dining room so that I can critique it as I go back and is from my imagination of the Maine coast. Also I invite friends and neighbours who visit to comment as well. Lots of positive comments as well as negative. But I can live with that!
    I am waiting for my crackle pastes to asrrive and then the fun will commence!!! Thank you so much Nancy!!

  12. Jess

    Pouring is a new art form for many people. Some don't even consider this as artistic or difficult to do. This blog hopefully will enlighten those who are ignorant of pouring. I hope people like you can sell art like this more often.

  13. Jess

    Thanks for this insightful post Nancy. I have never imagined Pouring technique can be so complicated. It's not as easy at it looks. I have more respect now for Pouring.


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About Nancy

Nancy Reyner paints exotic versions of heaven, using gold leaf and other unusual materials. A contemporary abstract painter, she feels art is a rewarding pursuit that adds quality of life. Nancy shares this passion with her students & offers classes, articles, books & videos, encouraging the courageous use of materials and artistic expression.

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