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