Skip to Content

Mastering the Art of Paint Pouring Techniques: A Beginner’s Guide

Interested in expanding your repertoire of painting techniques? Or perhaps you’re new to the art world and are keen to dive in and get messy?

Whatever your artistic goals, paint pouring is definitely something you ought to try!

From beginner paint pouring techniques to more advanced methodologies, this article covers everything you need to master the art of paint pouring!

Person demonstrating  one of many paint pouring techniques

What Is Acrylic Paint Pouring?

Paint pouring is a painting method rising in popularity and taking the world by storm!

Simply put, paint pouring is when acrylic-based paints are poured, instead of brushed, onto a canvas. They are then moved around the canvas by means of tilting, pulling, and other methods.

This artistic technique results in stunning and abstract works of art that are perfect for decorating your home!

Materials You’ll Need

Before you embark on your paint pouring project, there are a few things you’re going to want to stock up on to make sure you’re prepared! For a great paint pouring session, have the following on hand:

Prepping Your Paint Pouring Workspace

Paint pouring can get messy quickly if you’re unprepared!

To get your workspace ready for paint, cover the floor–and any other surfaces you want to protect–with a plastic tarp. Use rubber or latex gloves to keep the paint off your hands while pouring, and be sure to wear clothes that you’re willing to get a little messy.

Keep paper towels and cleaning products nearby in case of any unexpected spills, and be sure to choose a well-ventilated room for your artmaking.

Prepping Your Paints

The best paints for paint pouring projects are acrylic-based.

Mixing blue, orange, and purple paints with medium for paint pouring

You can make your own pouring paint with any acrylic paint you already have in your house! Simply mix your regular acrylic paint with a pouring medium–like the U.S. Art Supply Professional Gloss Pouring Effects Medium–until you achieve a honey-like consistency. Then your paints are ready to pour!

Or, buy a premixed set like the Nicpro 14 Colors 8.45oz Acrylic Pour Paint Supplies Kit. In the premixed sets, paints come ready to pour, so no mixing is required!

Prepping Your Canvas for Paint Pouring

Any flat surface will work for your paint pouring project, but most artists definitely prefer canvases! Prep your canvas by elevating it above your workspace so the paint can cover the sides too. Be sure that the canvas is completely flat so the paint doesn’t tilt to one side.

Some artists like to add Gesso–a canvas primer–to their canvases to help the paint move more freely after a pour. This is entirely up to you and your pouring preferences!

Paint Pouring Techniques

Now that you have all your materials and your canvas is prepped, it is time to pour!

The Clean Paint Pouring Technique

The clean paint pouring technique is one of the most basic paint pouring techniques, yet it yields magnificent, retro-style results!

The clean paint pouring technique consists of pouring one color at a time onto the canvas. You can pour the paint in different places on the canvas, or on top of one another.

Demonstrating clean pour paint pouring technique with blue and purple paints

Once the paint is poured (or in between pours) many artists opt to spread the paint by tilting the canvas or dragging the paint with a toothpick.

The Dirty Paint Pouring Technique

If the clean paint pouring technique is pouring colors separately, you can certainly guess what the dirty pour is: pouring colors together!

Take time to pick out the colors you want to include on your canvas. Layer these colors together in an empty cup. For an effective mix when pouring colors into the cup, add the colors from the side of the cup, so they slide down the side.

Use the cup of mixed colors to pour the paint onto your canvas! Pour in one spot or many, pour in blobs or lines; it’s entirely up to you and the desired effect you’re trying to achieve.

The Swiping Technique

Pour your colors onto your canvas using either the clean or dirty paint pouring techniques.

Then, to execute the swiping technique, you use something–oftentimes, people like to use a spatula or a squeegee–to swipe the paint across the canvas in clean strokes.

Be sure to swipe very lightly without applying too much pressure! Too much pressure will blend the colors together.

The Flip Cup Paint Pouring Technique

The flip cup technique is a fan favorite! It’s fun, fast, and the results are always a surprise!

Fill a cup using the dirty paint pouring technique (e.g., with multiple colors) and then place the cup upside down onto your canvas.

Now, getting the cup upside-down on the canvas without spilling paint is a challenge in and of itself. To minimize spillage, we’d recommend putting your canvas on top of the cup while it is right-side-up and then flipping both over simultaneously. If you’re feeling lucky, though, you can definitely go for the fast flip-over!

Once your cup is upside down on the canvas, the paint will trickle out from under the cup. Gently and gracefully pull the cup off the canvas. The paint will quickly sprawl across the canvas in interesting and unexpected patterns!

As usual, manipulate the canvas as you’d like by tilting, rotating, or pulling the paint.

The Puddle Paint Pouring Technique

The puddle paint pouring technique uses the dirty pour to create one or more big puddles on the canvas. Very similar to the dirty pour itself, this technique is different because you may be doing multiple pours on top of one another.

Using a hairdryer to manipulate purple and pink paints that have been poured on a canvas

Once the paint is on the canvas, manipulate it as you’d like!

The Tree Ring Paint Pouring Technique

Like many of the other paint pouring techniques, you’re setting up the tree ring technique by filling a plastic cup the same way you would for a dirty pour.

How you pour the paint creates the coveted tree-ring effect.

Find the center of your canvas and start pouring your paint. Rotate your pouring hand in a very small circular motion as you pour. Rings should appear on the canvas as the paint falls.

After pouring all of your paint on the canvas, you can rotate the canvas in a circular motion to further warp the rings.

The Marble Paint Pouring Technique

Create a shimmering and realistic marble effect with the marble paint pouring technique!

To achieve this marbled effect, you will have to master the dirty paint pouring technique to start. Once you have that paint pouring technique mastered, you’re ready to give this a go!

Achieving a marble-like result means you have to be quite selective in your color choices. Choose three colors to start. Marble is typically just different shades of black and white, with an accent metallic.

Once you have your colors, grab yourself a plastic cup and layer two of the colors into the cup, just like you would using the dirty pour technique. Pour your paint onto the canvas.

Pour the third color separately–this is the accent color that will be the marble’s veins. Drizzle lines in the desired positioning across the canvas. Try to align these lines with the organic lines formed from the other two colors to give the veins a natural look.

Manipulate the canvas by tilting and rotating to achieve the desired marble effect.

The Feather Pull Technique

Paint a gorgeous feather with this incredibly unique paint pouring technique!

To start, choose the colors you want to appear in your feather. Pour your paint colors in horizontal straight lines on a flat surface.

Take a string and lay it down on the paint, perpendicular to the horizontal color lines. Push the string down into the paint and let it absorb the color.

Lay the paint-covered string on the canvas in a straight line. Pull the far end of the string towards you at a slight angle. This will give you one side of the feather! To get the other side, lay the string down on the same straight line, and pull the far end of the string towards yourself again, this time slightly angled in the other direction!

The Flower Pull Technique

A string is coming in handy again for the flower paint pouring technique!

Cover your canvas in a color of your choosing. Then select another color for the petals of your flower–a contrasting color to the canvas is a great idea to get you started.

Dip the string in the color until the paint coats the string completely. Near one corner of the canvas, lay the paint-coated string down in an arch, but keep the ends in your hands. Pull the arch towards the center of the canvas. This will give you a beautiful petal! Repeat this step in each of the other corners to make a beautiful four-petaled flower!

Drying Your Artwork

Keep your canvas entirely level as your paintings air dry. Because so much paint is used, drying can take anywhere from 24 hours to over a week. And even once your painting is dry to the touch, handle it with extreme care. Acrylic paints can take weeks to months to cure.

Once your paintings are dry, consider adding a protective finish if it is something you’d like to preserve long-term!

Black, gold, and grey paint poured canvas drying

Create Stunning and Colorful Artwork with these Paint Pouring Techniques

What are you waiting for?

You’ve got the supplies, you’ve got the paint-pouring techniques, and you’re prepared to dry your work… so it’s time to get to it and splash (well, pour) some paint onto a canvas and make your next masterpiece!

Looking for more information on paint pouring? Check out our handy step-by-step guide for beginners!