Fluid Painting

Updated: Aug 30, 2019

Students explored painting without a brush! Fluid Painting is a type of abstract art that uses acrylic paints mixed with different pouring mediums to create a fluid, flowing consistency. The acrylic paints react with each other when combined to create extraordinary patterns and designs.

Students learned pouring techniques such as puddle, dirty pour, and swiping.

For anyone unfamiliar with fluid painting or paint pouring, it is a technique used with acrylic paints and flowing mediums that creates unique, and one might say psychedelic blended effects. Depending on the colors you pick and the mediums you use, (for example, you can add silicon to get amazing cells that pop up in the paint or fun colors and metallic paints) you can get a wide variety of gorgeous effects. You end up with a incredible piece of abstract art that will seriously wow your friends, plus it is a really, really fun thing to do!

The effects can be stunning. Google "paint pouring" if you want to see more examples!

It's a bit messy so students wear gloves and smocks. All paintings are poured in aluminum trays that catch the drips so the mess can be contained.

I do a demo at the start of class that teaches how to mix the paint along with three techniques; puddles, dirty pours and swiping and then students pour their own masterpieces.


economical acrylic paint (I use Nicole's acrylic paint from AC Moore. Its the most economical acrylic paint I can find...and half the time it's on sale too)

Floetrol for Latex Paint


Silicon (Spot on 100% Silicone Treadmill Belt Lube is my favorite!)

plastic condiment containers

aluminum tray (that canvases fit inside. Available at dollar stores)

rubber gloves


popsicle sticks

small plastic cups 3oz (for dirty pour technique)

thumb tacks

black permanent markers

paper towels

canvas (or whatever else you want to pour on)

Acrylic Crystal Clear by Krylon

Measurement Ratio for Recipe

Floetrol, 2 parts

Paint, 1 part

Water, 1 part (if paint is thick)

Silicon (5 to 10 drops depending on the effect you want)

Colors are premixed in plastic condiment containers. For each color mix the paint and floetrol first. This is important in preventing the paint structure from changing. I fill 1/3 of the bottle with paint and another 1/3 with Floetrol. Once the paint is mixed add water. Because I use a very economical brand of acrylic paint I usually don't add much water, only a small amount, if any. The water is to get your mix the right consistency. The mix should pour like syrup. If your using acrylic from a tube you will have to add more water to thin the mixture and more mixing is required. To get the effect of cells add about ten drops of 100% Silicon to the plastic condiment container. For larger cells add your silicone but do not stir the paint. For smaller cells you can stir the paint mixture with the oil. The oil in water based paint causes a reaction because oil and water don't mix. The cells that you see are the reaction from the oil and water. If you don't have silicon oil try coconut oil it works too... and adds a nice scent to your paintings!

High school students pour for the first time!

Getting ready to pour

Before you start pouring you need to set up your work area. Turn over your canvas and put a thumb tack in each corner of the stretcher bars. This allows the canvas to sit above the aluminum try so that when you are pouring the paint the runs off your canvas does not get underneath your canvas. When that paint drys your canvas will stick to the aluminum try. The tacks avoid a sticky situation! We also write our names in permanent marker on the back side of the canvas before the pour. Don't worry you won't see the marker at all once you start pouring!

Flip your canvas over, put on your gloves, and smock because now you grew ready to pour!

Three Techniques

Dirty Pour

This technique uses small cups. You select the colors that you put in your cup. Maybe 3 or 4 to start with. Think of colors that will look good together. Squirt one color at a time in your cup. squirt color right on top of color. continue until your cup is full OR you have enough paint to cover your canvas. With a popsicle stick (Don't Mix!) just about two turns slowly in your cup to activate the oil. The more you mix the smaller you're cells. The less you mix the larger your cells. Now pour your cup of paint onto your canvas. Pick up your canvas to move the paint around and watch the composition change. Your paint can drip of the edges or keep all the paint on the canvas, you decide.

This is a dirty pour!


Squirt small amounts of paint directly onto your canvas. pour colors on top of colors on top of colors. Now tilt your canvas and watch the puddles grow. You control the effect by how much you tilt your canvas.

This is the puddle technique


Apply the paint in by puddles or pours and then you can try the swipe technique! You need a paper towel or a piece of card stock to swipe across the top of the paint. Do not push hard into the paint just stay right on the surface and don't apply very much pressure. You are pushing the paint across the canvas and colors from underneath start to surface and more cells will get activated and start to open.

This is the swipe technique

Experiment and decide on your favorite technique or combine techniques. New techniques are being invented everyday. I have seen cool effects with balloons spinning on the surface of the paint. Heat guns are sometimes used to help open up the cells.

The goal is to encourage the creative art experience, have fun!

Please note that most fluid paintings take at least 48 hours to dry. Once the paint is dry the thumb tacks on the bottom of the canvas are removed and reused for another pour.I spray the dry painting has lost a lot of it's shine but you can get the shine back. I spray the canvas with two coats of Crystal Clear Coat Acrylic Gloss by Krylon.

I love the look of lots of small pours (6x6 canvas) all together as one piece. Look at all that incredible Unity and Variety working together as one unique harmonious piece.

Acrylic Skins

The paint left on the aluminum tray after a pour is called "Acrylic skin"

Acrylic skins are great to reuse. You can make jewelry with them or use them as collage material.


After The Pour

High school students embellished or altered a few of their acrylic pours.

Figurative or abstract the assignment was very open ended

A series of Picasso inspired abstracts created on the background of acrylic pours.

Working with stencils is a great way to alter your pour.

A fluid painting of cool blues becomes a pond for koi.

small acrylic pour puddles become balloons.

Looking at a pour is sometimes like looking at a cloud in the sky. If you look long enough you might just turn one of those cloud shapes into something familiar. Do you see the fire breathing dragon in this pour?

Two fish, two birds.

Or the perfect background to draw soap bubbles on.


Faculty Fluid Painting Party

The faculty meeting was art themed so I taught Fluid Painting! Which turned into an school exciting bulletin board.

Here is a video from our faculty fluid painting event.

Fluid painting is a really, really fun thing to do plus you end up with incredible pieces of abstract art that will seriously wow your friends. Fluid painting was the perfect art lesson for our faculty art themed meeting because artistic skill level was not a factor everyone felt success in this playful creative environment. A few faculty members went on to explore the genre further, have invested in the fluid painting supplies, and pour regularly.

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