Nancy’s Painting Blog

Tips on Pouring Acrylic

I get a lot of requests for tips to pouring acrylic. To get a very smooth glossy finish, pouring acrylic mediums is a great way to accomplish that “surfboard finish”. Pours are also cool ways to get smooth evenly applied glazes or transparently colored overlays.

My favorite pouring mediums are (these are all Golden products) Clear Tar Gel, Self-Leveling Gel, and GAC800. The Clear Tar Gel and Self-Leveling Gel both need about 20-40% water added if you are pouring in a dry warm climate – like out here in New Mexico. You don’t need to add water in wet cool climates.

Adding water will enable a thinner layer to be applied. If you apply it too thickly, the top part of the layer will dry first, then the rest of the acrylic will dry slower and shrink down in volume, creating crevises or cracking on the top. Its better to pour a few thin layers, one on top of the other after they dry, then one thick layer that may crack.

GAC800 does not need any water added, as it is made especially for pouring, and can be poured very thickly without crevising or cracking. The GAC800 is the easiest to pour, but has a slight yellow or cloudy look to it, that is more noticeable the thicker the pour. I like to use this in thick layers to simulate a wax or encaustic look.

When I pour, I pour very gently, from a low height and a soft angle. If you pour from a high height, or vigorously, the medium may jolt out of the container creating bubbles. A light spray of alcohol on the surface before pouring, or even after pouring while the medium is still wet will eliminate bubbles too.

More pouring articles:

How to Make Acrylic Paint Look Like Enamel
Acrylic Pouring
Pouring Resin-like Finishes

My book, Acrylic Illuminations, has an extensive section on pouring techniques with step-by-step demonstration photographs – some add color to tint, while some are just used plain to create a smooth surface. Here is a link to purchase the book.

13 thoughts on “Tips on Pouring Acrylic

  1. Very helpful info Nancy. Still digging into your book, always find something new each time I look at it.

    Just like raccoons, I love shiny things!

    A shiny finish on a painting can really make the color glow. (in my opinion)

  2. Thanks for the great post (and great book!). I did a pour with self leveling gel, and I got the cracking… argh. Is it worth trying to save it with thin pours (self leveling with water) as you state in this post- or is it ruined? thanks for the help!

  3. Hi Emily,
    Pours are tricky as you have discovered. The best pouring medium is Golden’s GAC800, made especially for pouring without having any crevicing. To fix the crevicing with more pouring will just increase the problem. The only solution, now, to fix the crevices, is to push a thick gel into the cracks, let it dry, repeat until the surface is smooth, then pour over the entire surface with the GAC800. If you want to still use the Self Leveling Gel for pouring, then add about 30% water to it, pour, and spread so it is a very thin layer. You can build up layers after each layer dries, but pouring one thick layer will just add more crevicing.
    Hope this helps.

  4. Thank you so much Nancy- that does help! It’s funny, I have always stuck to my good old matt medium, but it is fun playing all the gels:: I guess I am learning through experimentation! I am working on filling with some heavy gel I have, and then I will try another pour later. Off to get some GAC800! xo

  5. Hey there Nancy!

    I have a question about pouring with clear tar gel. In your book (pg 94) layers of fluid acrylics are poured onto a red canvas to mix together and create a beautiful swirling pattern in the center of the lines. How would I achieve this affect using clear tar gel and watered-down heavy body acrylics (I'm on a limited budget and I can't afford to buy both fluid and heavy-body)? Is clear tar gel too heavy to create such an effect?

  6. Dear Jessie,
    I think you mean Technique 94, which is on page 109. You can use Heavy Body paints instead of Fluids to add to the Clear Tar Gel. You are only adding about 10% color paint to 90% gel, so it won't matter which type of paint you add. If you use Clear Tar Gel for a pour, I recommend adding 20% water to it, which helps keep the pour thin. It's better to add several thin layers (one of top of the other when dry) then one thick layer which may crevice.

  7. Hi Nancy,
    I’m having a rough time getting the surface of my pours smooth. Often times they turn out with a “mottled” finish-no cracking. What am I doing wrong? Also, I recently moved to a cold climate with low humidity. The indoor temps are kept at about 68 degrees. Would these conditions affect my pours? If so, what should I do to correct that?

    1. Hi Jennifer, Getting smooth pours can take a bit of fussing until you figure out what works best with your environment – as temperature and humidity will affect results. I suggest trying some experiments, work on small surfaces as tests. First make sure the surfaces are sturdy and won’t warp with heavy applications of wet products such as pours will give. Next make sure the surface is level, by using a leveler. If the surface is even slightly not level, the pour layer will keep moving just slightly enough to cause ripples and this may be the mottled surface you are seeing. Test also to see if raising the temperature to above 70 degrees will help. If you have no control over the temperature, then add a small space heater not too close to the work, but enough to keep the room warmer. Have a fan or air moving in the room while it is drying. Another thing to pay attention to is the thickness of the pour, and the quality of the product you are using to pour. For pours I recommend using products made especially for this. I also recommend pouring thinly first to get an even pour. Once you attain an even surface pour then you can try going thicker if you want. Its easiest to pour thinly, then build other thin pours on top until you reach the thickness you want. Start with one of the changes I mentioned above, test just that, then keep going until one of my suggestions resolves your issue. Your mottled description makes me theorize it is a combinatino of three things: to cool a temperature, not level and too thick a pour. Let me know if this helps resolve it!

  8. Hi Nancy, I am a newbie to acrylic pouring & have achieved a few good pours & lots of Fails but still enjoying the process, BUT on a negative space pour have found that after leaving overnight it has spread considerably & not retained its shape 😂 I am using pva glue for the medium HELP as they are great when done but disappointed later. Thanks for your time 😃

    1. I have not used PVA glue for pouring, but think this may be the culprit for your issue. I think a pouring medium that holds its shape while drying would work better for you. Have you tried Golden’s Clear Tar Gel? I use this with about 30% filtered water added to it the night before. I stir it then wait overnight so the bubbles dissipate. When poured it will spread a small amount right away, and you can use a spatula to create the shape you want, and then it should stay that way while drying. Let me know if this works for you.

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