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.
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 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).
Acrylic Illuminations, Nancy’s book about pouring and other luminous techniques.