A couple of months ago I accidentally stumbled upon the art technique while searching for something totally unrelated. I love how a little random finding can plant a seed that grows into something beautiful. Well, going back to YouTube; I was hooked. After watching hundreds and hundreds of videos of different techniques, different mediums, doing it on a budget… you get the idea… I had to give it a try! So off I set, staff discount card in one hand, purse in the other and went shopping. I was quite disappointed I couldn’t get everything I needed, as I wanted desperately to try it that day, but with good old Amazon Prime the remainder was here the following day.
This is so simple that I promise you anyone can do it. If you’re going to let your child have a go please ensure you add the oil. The only other thing I can warn you about is the mess. You may want to wear gloves and protect your work area but above everything if you and your children are going to spend an arty day together I would recommend a plastic dustsheet. This tutorial is for those on a budget, for those who want to try with their children, or who want to try it before splashing out on the more professional products.
Please note, for the sake of this post white is my main colour. Wherever I state white , simply replace with the colour you have chosen to be your main. So far I have in my paintings either used white or black.
Acrylic paints (B&M, £5.99 for 18pack or £1.49 each for large individual tubes) of varying colours and white (main colour)
Canvas (B&M, £3.99 for 4pack 20×20)
PVA Glue (B&M, £2.49 for 1L) – this is the pouring medium
Disposable cups (B&M, £1.99 for 20cups)
Silicone/Dimethicone – I use WD40 Silicone (not your regular WD40) but you can also use treadmill oil or Coconut Milk Anti Breakage Serum. Yes, what you use on your hair!
Stirrers – I use lollipop sticks
Heat gun or chef’s torch (optional)
Disposable gloves (optional)
Polythene dustsheet (B&M, £2.99 for 3pack)
Plenty of drying space
- Cover your workspace with plastic sheeting. You could also, for minimum mess, use an old baking tray or an underbed storage box.
- On the underside of the canvas, put a push pin in each of the corners. This is just to elevate the canvas slightly while it is drying.
- Prepare your paints. You will need one cup for every colour you want, plus one extra. The ratio is one part paint to one part PVA. Add about a tablespoon dollop of paint and then add the same amount of PVA glue. Combine well. Now you want this to have the consistency of runny honey (that continuous trickle as you pour it off the spoon) so add a few drops of water and stir well. Keep adding the water until it is the correct consistency and has no lumps. For the white paint you will want to double the quantity, still retaining the 1:1 mix ratio. Then mix a drop of the serum or treadmill oil, or a short sharp spray of the WD40 into each cup except the white and gently stir to incorporate it. The purpose of the silicone is to create cells. This is when the top paint layer separates to allow the colours underneath to show through.
- In an empty cup pour a substantial amount of the white paint. And now the rest is up to you. Pour a little of each colour into the cup you just added the white to. You can put them in any order, use a little for one layer and more for the next. Maybe just add more white. You can pour from up high or pour from cup to cup. Just play around. Keep layering until you’re happy with the amount. Depending on the size of the canvas you are using you may not need to fill the cup. On a 20cmx20cm canvas I have found that just over half a cup is sufficient. End the cup with white. You could leave it like this or you could give it a quick, gentle swirl.
- This is probably the hardest step … flipping the cup. It would be so easy to flip it upside down quickly on to the canvas. I haven’t risked that. Knowing me it would end up horizontal, or splashed up my wall. So think turning out a cake. That’s how I flip the cup. Place the canvas, right side down, on top of the cup. While holding the cup flush with the canvas quickly invert it. The cup should now be upside down on the canvas. There may be a little leakage but that’s nothing to be worried about. Place on the workspace and leave it for about thirty seconds. You could give it a tap but I prefer gravity to do its thing.
- Remove the cup. Be prepared for the paint puddle and inevitable mess that will follow.
- Gently tip the canvas so that the canvas, or the majority of it, is covered. Do not tip quickly or at a great angle as you may run the risk of losing any cells that have formed. Be aware that paint will run over the sides.
- If there are any blank corners you could tip any remaining paint on to them. Feel free to give a gentle tip to incorporate. If you want the edges completely covered (it is more aesthetically pleasing) dab any of the runoff paint into the gaps using your fingers, a brush or a palette knife.
- OPTIONAL: this is the time where you would use a heat gun or chef’s torch should you wish to. This serves two purposes i) to pop air bubbles and ii) to encourage cell formation. Once you have heated the painting there is no going back. Quickly flash the heat across the canvas in side to side motion. Do not keep the heat source still. Any cells will appear instantly, and you will have little to no control over them.
- Put the canvas down where you can safely leave it for at least 24 hours and walk away. As a heads up the canvas you put down may not look anything like that the following day.
I am very new to this myself and as yet have not produced any large cells. I have tried various pouring mediums and so far I am preferring the results I get with Floetrol. As you scroll over each of the images the caption will show which pouring medium I used.
I hope you try your hand at acrylic pouring and my step by step tutorial was easy to follow.