Best Artist Tips For Pouring Acrylic Paint

by | Jan 31, 2012 | Blog | 15 comments

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. Here’s some ideas about pouring to help you understand it, and get the results you want.

A painter’s “toolkit” consists of 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. Search online for “acrylic pouring” and you will find thousands of blog articles and videos from artists sharing their process and results. It creates a variety of effects and is especially popular with abstract painters.

Due to the nature of pouring, plan on unexpected results. While the idea of uncontrollability can sometimes make painting super fun, pouring can sometimes take many tries to achieve the look you want.

I  sometimes use pouring techniques in my work, but not all the time. After all, it’s ONLY a technique, and not necessarily meant to create a finished painting by itself. One single poured layer may accidentally produce an exciting abstract image that lcan be left alone as is, as a successfully finished painting. Most of the time however, after just one pouring, the image will require additional layers of new pours, and/or more painting skills, for the painting to achieve an exciting viewing experience – beyond technique.

Why pour?

Pouring offers new and unusual special effects for painters. With pouring its easy to think of the famous Abstract Expressionist painter 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.

pouring paint over silver leaf
This picture shows pouring mixtures from a cup, made with acrylic paint and pouring medium, onto a silver leafed panel. It’s final appearance, which looks a lot like stained glass, is at the top of this page.
Pouring a surfboard finish

Pouring is commonly used to get a “surfboard finish” – a super glossy, brushless and smooth rich layer of color or clear coating on a painting. This can be obtained by using toxic resins. However, there are ways to get the same result by pouring non-toxic acrylic instead of resins.

Try the steps below to create a flawless “surfboard finish”. These ideas are included in my book Acrylic Illuminations, along with other pouring ideas.

Step 1: Use a rigid surface to keep it from buckling (like canvas would) while drying.

Step 2: Prepare the surface prior to pouring by applying a stain sealer using any acrylic gloss medium. Then once that is dry, prime the surface with acrylic Gesso. These two steps (stain sealing and priming) will keep any surface impurities (these happen naturally in all surfaces) from creating a stain that will move from the surface into the poured medium.

Step 3: Use a medium that is made specifically for pouring, like Golden’s GAC 800. If using other fluid mediums for pouring, such as Clear Tar Gel or Self-Leveling Gel, dilute them up to 25% with water and spread the pour thinly to avoid crevicing.

Step 4: Level your surface before pouring so it won’t shift while it dries.

Step 5: Once your medium is poured, while it is still very wet, immediately spray this poured wet surface lightly with isopropyl alcohol to eliminate bubbles.

Step 6: For deep pours that are deeper than 1/4″ thick, apply duct tape around the edges like a wall, seal the seam with a gel, then pour as deep as you want using GAC 800. 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 toxic fumes for up to a week while drying).

Additional Resources

5 Best Acrylic Pour Painting Techniques

How to Make Acrylic Paint Look Like Enamel or Resin

Acrylic Illuminations, Book on special acrylic painting techniques, including pouring and other luminous effects.

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Complete Painting Instruction

Learn everything you need from your first brushstroke to the finished painting. Acquire techniques and ground breaking concepts to shape your artistic vision.

Special Offer

Complete Painting Instruction

Learn everything you need from your first brushstroke to the finished painting. Acquire techniques and ground breaking concepts to shape your artistic vision.


  1. Sue MacKay


    I am looking for a cheaper alternative to Colour Arte Vivid Enamel high gloss paint base. It is so expensive in Canada. I’m new to acrylic blooms and want them to turn out nice! I want them to look like Kathleen Miller’s! Thank you! Sue

    • Nancy Reyner

      Hi Sue,
      I think Kathleen Miller does pouring? If you want to pour then the best recommendation is to use a pouring medium. I think Liquitex pouring medium is a good one. Not sure about pricing, but you can look that up online to compare prices. Hope this helps!

  2. employee evaluations

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

  3. 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.

  4. Lori

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

  5. Pamela

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

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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

  9. 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!

  10. shane

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

  11. 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

    New Jersey Video marketing | New Jersey Web marketing

  12. 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!!

  13. 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.

  14. 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

Professional fine artist Nancy Reyner’s blog about art, painting and creativity. Her career spans over 30 years. She lives in Santa Fe in the US. Subscribe below for free tips on art and painting.

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