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Creating Fluid Paintings with Acrylic Pouring

The acrylic flow technique has been experiencing a seemingly unstoppable hype in the US for some months now, and in the USA to the technology is spreading like wildfire. No wonder, because the so-called Acrylic Pouring inspires the artists with its unpredictable creations, colorful color schemes and varied design options.

This guide has everything you need to know about Acrylic Pouring to get you started quickly: ingredients, prescriptions and recommendations for use, as well as basic and advanced techniques.

Before you start with the actual instructions, you should be familiar with the conceptual basis.

  • First of all, Fluid Art means nothing more than “fluid art”. Characteristics of Fluid Art and Fluid Paintings is the use of acrylic paints with, particularly high flowability. The fluidity is essential so that the paint can flow smoothly over the ground using various methods.
  • Acrylic Pouring describes probably the most popular way to create fluid art. In Acrylic Pouring, acrylic paints are cast on a stretched stretcher and are influenced by inclinations of the surface in their color gradient. In addition to a suitable formulation of paint, binder and water, oils and other additives can be added to create a cell structure in the picture.

“Acrylic Pouring” and “Acrylic Flow Technique” are similar and used interchangeably throughout this description.

Preparation of the environment

The acrylic flow technique drips paint from all sides: Stretcher, cups and hands are a single colored mess. Therefore, it is even more important to take the necessary preparatory measures before each session.

You should line up your work surface with foil that is easy to attach and remove. You will also need disposable gloves, which you can easily remove and dispose of after each unit. Cheap plastic cups that you simply throw away after use are the most straightforward way to prepare the color blends.

To lay down and dry the colors, it is advisable to use 4 cups of the same height as a pedestal. This allows the excess paint to drip from the stretcher onto the tarpaulin without sticking to the edge of the image.

The color abundance that accumulates below the image, you can read a lot of parts and use for an upcoming painting lesson, if you seal the paint airtight. 

Preparation of the colors: viscosity

In order for the acrylic paint to be poured and to flow smoothly over the painting surface, it must be thinned. In order to achieve the desired high flowability, the Pouring medium is added to the paint. The medium binds the individual pigments together and improves the flow properties without destroying the color structure.

After all, this is also the problem when diluting the paint with water: the amount of water needed to dilute the paint only with water sufficiently attacks the structure of the acrylic paint. The ratio between the solvent and the binder is unbalanced, the pigments spread unevenly and the paint film breaks.

This does not mean that you can not use water to get the necessary viscosity of the paint. Most commonly, the paint is first bound with the casting medium and mixed before water is added to the mix to adjust the consistency.

There are no clear guidelines regarding the perfect consistency. The color mixture should be easy to pour and flow smoothly over the image to affect the movement of the color by tilting the surface or working with an auxiliary tool. However, most recipes use no more than 30% water.

Casting Media for Fluid Painting

Many media are good for fluid painting. The following three are options that have been of great service to many artists.

  • The most popular is the Liquitex casting medium, as it offers reliable high quality and first-class results. Liquitex retains the radiance of the paint and dries evenly without cracks or bumps. Since Liquitex is now also known in the USA as the best casting medium, the price often fluctuates between different providers.
  • One knows Floetrol rather than the hardware store since it was actually designed for large-scale painting work. It improves the flow properties of the paint and shortens the drying time so that it is used by some fluid painters as a casting medium. Many artists use Floetrol as the only medium or in a mixture with other casting media.
  • The cheapest alternative is PVA-based adhesive. The PVA binds the pigments and can be diluted sufficiently with water to produce the needed consistent. A disadvantage of many pictures, whose color is mixed with PVA glue and water, is the acid content in the PVA. As a result, the color may appear somewhat dull or dull after drying. A better option is to mix the glue with another casting medium or use PH neutral glue.

The best medium for the flow technique

The best medium as a unitary solution does not exist. It’s more about trying different options, mixing them together, and modifying the mixes for the best results. While Liquitex as a premium product consistently delivers the highest quality, a mixture of several casting media can be significantly cheaper and bring equally good results.

Recipe ideas

Color recipes vary extremely, as they depend on many factors. As a result, there is no such thing as a perfect recipe. After all, even the unknown makes up the fascination of flow technology.

As a starting point for your first attempts, you can follow the following recipe:

  • 50% high-quality color
  • 30-40% medium
  • 10-20% Water
  • (If necessary, a few drops of silicone oil for cell formation)

The individual shades are prepared separately from each other and meet only as a ready mix on the stretcher (see Puddle-Pour) or in a common paint container (see Dirty-Pour or Flip Cup) on each other.

The different techniques

Different techniques lead to different results. The names come from the USA and are widely used in the USA.

You should familiarize yourself with these techniques: 

Puddle-Pour

The Puddle Pour is a popular and very easy to implement casting technique. Here, the individual colors are poured successively similar to a puddle on the image. The first color forms the base into which further colors are poured. You determine the color selection and the number of different colors.

Once you’re satisfied with your puddle of paint, it’s time to let it slide over the image until you recognize a shape that you like.

In most cases, a puddle pour uses several different puddles to make the process of your fluid painting more exciting.

Dirty-Pour

The Dirty-Pour is used more often than the Puddle-Pour, as the result is much more unpredictable and the color gradients merge better. With an Acrylic Dirty-Pour, the individual colors are not poured into the container one after the other in separate containers but prepared in a common container before casting.

The container filled with the colors is stirred only lightly to get some movement in the composition but without mixing the colors sustainably.

The silicone oil is also used in Dirty-Pours to create a fascinating cell structure.

Make sure you add the oil when mixing the colors and do not mix it into the collection box of all colors. Only in this way is it possible to create an even cell structure.

Subsequently, the entire contents of the container are poured onto a painting surface and moved by a back and Herneigen the surface.

Flip cup

The so-called Flip Cup, the color is similar to the Dirty-Pours collected in a common paint container. Then the finished cup with all the colors and their additives is placed with its opening on the image and raised.

By tilting the stretcher you can influence the composition or you use the same amount of color that the whole picture is wrapped in color after lifting the cup. Both variants achieve interesting results.

In order to lay down a successful flip cup with cell structure, you should know a little about the tightness of the colors and the possible additions. If you take these things into account, you will get the best cells with the Flip Cup technique.

If one cup is not enough for you, you can work with several cups at the same time. Excellent for this are several competing color families that leave a visible edge.

Swipe

The swipe or the wiping technique can be performed alone or in conjunction with other techniques. The aim of the swipe is usually to better crystallize the cells or to incorporate fluid movement into the image.

To wipe the color, you need the right tool first. Painting knife, spatula or thick plastic foil all work perfectly.

In addition to a fresh cast of paint, the color is poured for the swipe. Since white serves as the topmost layer to create the desired mesh structure, white is often used in wiping technology. With which technique you pour the other colors, you can freely choose according to your taste. A puddle pour is just as good for the wiping technique as a dirty-pour or a cast that follows no concept.

It is more important to add silicone oil to the individual colors before they are poured.

Once you’ve applied the extra topcoat, it’s time to wipe them over the actual cast. Using the tool you can dose the top color so thin that it covers only the rest of the color. You’ll soon see that the underlying silicone oil presses to the surface and reveals the underlying colors.

Despite the penetrating silicone oil, the top color is very dominant at this time. Therefore, you can also swipe in places in the opposite direction, to slightly diffuse the dominance and make the picture versatile.

Swirl

The Swirl is an acrylic flow technique that requires a quiet touch and skill when pouring.

First, the individual color mixtures are successively tipped into a common container. Then the painting ground is primed with a strong color that contrasts with the other colors of the mug. White offers itself.

The primed surface is now doused with the colors of the container. Here you have to be careful to make light circular movements by hand to gradually get individual color rings.

If the container is empty or you have poured enough paint, you will have to tilt the surface back and forth to expand the color surface and make the individual color rings more visible.

You can perform the Swirl with or without the addition of silicone oil. One idea is to fill silicone oil at the very beginning into the paint container so that it is only poured out at the end and only produces cells in the center of the circles.

String

This is not a casting technique in the strict sense, but the string or thread technique can still be used to create fluid art. First, you prepare the color mixtures in small doses before they are mixed together in the style of a Dirty-Pour in a common cup.

You can use a commercially available cord as a thread, which you hold during the preparation of the color mixture in the cup so that they can absorb as much of your recipe.

Alternatively, you can also prepare the colors in individual cups and apply them separately with a paint spatula to the cord. This makes it easier to determine which colors should appear on the image later, but it also makes it harder to create large color gradients.

The stretcher is primed with a high contrast acrylic paint. Then the color-saturated cords are placed on the picture so that they meander back and forth. Now you can pull the cords out over the surface one after the other. Their turns often create sheet-like patterns that you can manipulate by carefully sliding the individual threads across the surface of the painting.

The secret for cells in your picture

While one picture is littered with cells, no other pours are created. Do you have problems with the flow technique to create cells reliably? The next paragraph is for you.

There are three ways to create cells in the acrylic flow technique. The first option is based solely on the physical laws of color pigments, the second uses silicon to bring the lower colors to the surface and the third involves open fire as a last resort.

1st method: A puddle pour with different dense colors

Most artists start to experiment with silicone to work out cells. The most primitive form of cell color formation is not based on such tools, but on the Rayleigh-Taylor instability, a concept of fluid dynamics.

Thus, a higher density liquid is unstable when accelerated against an underlying low-density liquid. In the case of two differently dense acrylic paints, the gravitational force of the earth is enough to make the overlying dense liquid unstable.

Each acrylic paint has a specific density, which results from its composition of pigment, binder and solvent. Traditionally, white is an extremely dense color that can be poured in a puddle pour on a leaking paint (eg black). As a result, after a few minutes, the heavy liquid sinks down and the light black comes to the surface. The resulting cell pattern that persists as the paint dries is the direct result of Rayleigh-Taylor instability.

Tip: Some acrylic paint manufacturers document the densities of their colors. If necessary, you can ask your manufacturer if such lists exist and if they can provide them to you. Since the white is usually much heavier than any other color, the desired effect usually works most clearly.

2nd method: Fluid Painting with silicone oil

The cells formed by the different color densities are good for a puddle pour, but what if you want to use a different casting technique or create clearer cell structures? When you pour a dirty-pour, the color is too mixed for cell formation. Without the tools, you would not be able to see any clear structures.

For this reason, artists often use pure silicone oil, but other silicone-based products (such as some shampoos) may work as well. The oil is mixed in small additions to the paint and stirred only slightly. Subsequently, the individual color mixtures are successively tipped into a common cup, which you pour out in the form of a dirty-pipe or a flip cup.

The transparent silicone oil displaces the water-based acrylic paint so that the fabric layer under the oil shimmers through.

If you edit the color mixture on the painting surface and let it flow from side to side, you will notice that in most cases only a few cells are formed. If you use the swipe technique, you can more actively influence the design of your fluid painting and expose the silicone oil.

3rd Method: Flambieren Your Picture – The Ultima Ratio

If the silicone oil alone has not had enough effect and you do not want to use the swipe technique in your work, you will find another method that is often used to create distinct cells.

You can pull the silicone oil to the surface by flaming your image with a kitchen burner. Due to the heat of the gas flame, the overlying acrylic paint is evaporated.

Make sure you keep a safe distance from the image with the flame and keep moving. Never should you keep the burner in one place for more than a moment, otherwise you risk damage to the paint or even a fire of the paint.

Less is more here too. If you have edited an area of ​​your image, you should watch how the development is going on. The initially small cells grow in size over a short period of time.

Drying time and storage

Acrylic paint is usually known for its extremely short drying times. The color usually dries in a few minutes or a few hours, if you choose a pastose paint application. This is different from the flow technique.

Fluid painting is created with an extremely high amount of color that has even been liquefied with binder and water. For these reasons, it’s not surprising if your image takes more than 24 hours to completely dry. The conditions of the room (temperature, humidity), the color composition and the substrate determine the drying time, which usually lasts between 24 and 48 hours.

Be sure to let your work dry on a level surface. Even the slightest of inclinations can distort even wet fluid painting over several hours.

The sealing of the surface

When you hold your artwork in your hands after the actual casting and drying process, you only need one step to maintain the quality in the long term: sealing the surface.

Most artists use two options, both of which have proven to give your image a high-gloss finish that even intensifies the flowing, “wet” look.

1st method: acrylic final varnish

An acrylic gloss varnish can be used as a final varnish on acrylics to seal and blast their surface. Again, Liquitex offers an excellent option that can be applied very well to the acrylic flow technique.

The main advantages of the gloss varnish are a simple application directly from the jar and the uniform results without blistering.

The disadvantage is the price/performance ratio of the paints. The high-gloss varnish from Liquitex with a content of 946ml is inexpensive compared to other gloss varnishes, but quite expensive compared to the second method.

Depending on how big your Acrylic Pouring image is, you’ll need between a few tens to several hundreds of grams of paint to seal the entire surface.  

2nd method: Resin – a synthetic resin

Resin is a better option if you want to seal medium and large images, or if you regularly seal small images. The word Resin is English and means in the USA nothing else than “resin”. In terms of fluid painting, however, the word does not refer to all resins, but synthetic resin, more precisely epoxy resin.

The epoxy resin is always used together with a hardener. Only by combining the two substances can the mixture cure after it has been applied. Proven resin hardener bundles are available in different sizes and are down to the gram a real bargain compared to the gloss varnish.

Procedure: You stir the two substances in the correct ratio and in the appropriate amount (about 300 – 400g per m² image area), then pour it slowly over the image and spread it with a spatula to all sides out to the entire surface evenly moisten.

Depending on the quality of the resin, blistering may occur. Either you wait a bit if the air bubbles disappear by themselves or you help carefully with the spatula. The easiest way to do it is with a kitchen burner that you may have already used to highlight the cell structure of your image. Fast movements of the flame paired with a safety margin to the image surface make a perceptible change in seconds.

The advantages of the resin are in an unbeatable price/performance ratio, the large assortment and the high gloss optics.

The disadvantage is that you have to mix the resin mixture yourself.

If you’re pouring big fluid paintings or you can not stop taking new pictures, there’s no way around Resin.

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