Troubleshooting 12 Acrylic Pour Problems

As artists, we want our art work to be appreciated. We know that in each of them there are traces of our soul and we want those who admire them to also perceive them, but that does not mean that each piece of work is perfect.


Sometimes your art will have smaller mistakes that you will just have to accept. But other times, you will encounter acrylic pour problems that will ruin your art beyond saving. 

And it sucks!!!

But hey... that is life! These kind of mistakes help us become better artists. For my part, I have learned valuable lessons and have found practical and easy-to-apply solutions; so knowing them will save you a lot of headaches.

Even the most seasoned artists can encounter a few bumps along the way.

From cracking and crazing to the dreaded air bubbles, these common challenges can be disheartening. I’m here to guide you through troubleshooting these issues.

So join me to discover what are these 9 acrylic pour problems and their practical solutions.

#1. Cracking and Crazing 

Perhaps the most common acrylic pour problem is that the final artwork cracks. And although it is abstract art, the truth is that no one really likes cracks!

acrylic pour cracks

So why does this happen? Well, one of the issues has to do with paint consistency.

Wrong Paint Consistency

Pour painting cracking can be caused by the paint being too thick. If this is the issue, then the surface layer of the paint may dry faster than the bottom layers of paint. The bottom layers remain wet and ultimately causes the surface to crack. 

To solve it, it is essential to have the correct ratios of paint and pouring medium. Ideally, you should use Floetrol or a good Pouring Medium. Testing out different ratios of floetrol and paint while keeping good notes about the results you are getting, will eventually allow you to get the ideal acrylic pour paint consistency you need to avoid cracks.

It is best if floetrol is gradually added to the paint while mixing well after each addition to make sure you don't add too much.

And since each color has different amounts of pigmentation and different consistencies, then you need to keep in mind that each color will require different amounts of pouring medium to reach the ideal pouring consistency. Ideally, each paint mixture should be as thick and runny as whipping cream. 

Since this description of paint consistency is somewhat hard to replicate, I created this paint consistency indicator tool that will help you test your paint mix consistency more accurately.

Once you reach the consistency desired, write down the amounts of paint and pouring medium you've used in each of your mixtures.

Next, test out your paint mixtures and if any cracking occurs, note that down. Next time, try out adding more or less pouring medium and test your mixtures again. If nothing goes wrong, then you know you've got the right ratios.

Cracking When Varnishing

However, even if you have the correct ratios, if you don't allow your paint to completely dry before using a varnish, your paint will crack. So make sure you wait long enough before putting a coat of varnish on the paint… maybe 3-4 weeks.

Or you can use a spray varnish instead of a liquid varnish that you apply with a brush. This helps greatly with avoiding cracks. I love the Mod Podge Spray Acrylic Sealer! It gives your paintings a very high glossy look without the paint cracks.


Even though this phenomenon is not really paint cracking, it might look like paint cracks to some beginner artists. So that is why I am including this in this section. 

You see, if you add too much water to your paint to thin it down, the binders will likely break down and prevent the pigment particles from holding together, creating gaps between the color. This is called floculation. 

To prevent this, you need to use high quality paints if you plan on diluting your paints with a lot of water. If you are using lower quality paints, it's better to dilute your paints with an acrylic pouring medium rather than pure water as the pouring medium has binders that will help the pigment particles stick together. 

Room Temperature

Cracking can also occur when the room temperature is too hot or breezy. This type of weather will cause the top layer to dry faster than the bottom layer, causing the surface to crack or craze.

To prevent this, ensure your work area doesn't have any air drafts or is not too hot. You can also experiment with adding a paint retarder to your paint mix to slow down the drying time.

The Paint Brand Matters

And lastly, there are some types of paints (like the Apple Barrel white paint) that cracks no matter what. So write down the brands of paints you are using, the ratios of paint and pouring medium, and the results of your pours so that you can more easily figure out what the issue is behind your pour painting cracking.

Dropping or Bend The Canvas

Cracking can also happen if you drop or bend the surface of the canvas once your painting has dried. So be careful how you handled your finished artwork.

#2. Paint Drip Patterns

Paint drips like you see in the video above are created when someone uses several paint mixes that have different paint consistencies in one pour. The thinner paints will move faster than the thicker paints and therefore you will get these drip patterns. 

So make sure all the paints that you will be using in one pour painting have very similar consistencies. 

#3. Too Much or Too Little Paint

If you use the wrong amount of paint, you will either end up having to overstretch your paint to try to cover the whole surface or your design will end up shifting if you leave too much paint on the canvas. 

Cells will get distorted and you'll get funky squiggly lines if you don't add enough paint on your canvas and then try tilting it to cover the bare surfaces on your canvas.

So to avoid this, use my quick and easy acrylic pouring calculator to prepare just the right amount of paint you need.

#4. Inconsistent Results

If you notice that you don't get consistent results, then it is most likely because you are not keeping notes.

Acrylic pour problems arise because you just do random stuff every time you decide to paint instead of following proven steps. So I suggest “keeping a painting diary”. Every time you make a paint mixture, you must write down the proportions between the Pouring Medium and the Paint that you used for each color and then assess your painting results. Once you find a proven formula, then keep using these same proportions for other paintings. 

Ideally, at first you should measure and record everything you do, so that you can discard what does not work and keep what seems to work. For this you will need a Scale and a small Note Book, which I hope you can add to your inventory of acrylic pouring tools.

If you want to have good results, you must have the essentials. And the scale and notebook are things that will help you solve your consistency issues.

Here is my PREFERED SOLUTION for keeping track of my own recipes, techniques, and materials used for my paintings. Check it out!

Need to keep track of your recipes and techniques?

Check out the "Painting Diary" Printables!

#5. No Cells

small cells acrylic pour problems

Now, it may happen that your painting does not have cells, or if it does, they are very small. And when this happens, the painting does not look as attractive.

However, knowing the root of this problem, it is easy to find a solution.

Remember that these cells begin to be seen in the painting, when the silicone emerges to the surface of the painting. Therefore, if you add very little silicone to your paint you will not get any cells. If your paint mix is too thick, the bubbles that form the cells will not be strong enough to rise to the surface and therefore get trapped at the bottom of the layers of paint.

However, you could also see a great amount of tiny cells on the surface of your painting. This happens when the silicone is mixed in too much into the paint. If after adding the silicone to the paint, we mix the paint too vigorously or too much, then the silicone will break down into very small particles resulting in an excessive number of drops of silicone throughout the paint.

To remedy this, just evaluate the amount of silicone you are adding to your paint mixture and make sure to not mix it too much.

In fact, this is another thing you should write down in your painting journal.

#6. Lumps in the Paint

Lumps in the paint can be caused by the floetrol, pouring medium, or paint you are using.

You see, Floetrol, Pouring Mediums, and old paints tend to partially dry out over time in their containers, creating clumps. These clumps of dried material can cause unsightly blemishes in a painting if not removed.

The Floetrol or Pouring Medium should be strained before mixing it with paint. I also recommend straining your paints to remove any dried paint lumps.  Just use a small strainer to filter out the lumps before making your paint mixtures. 

Also, when mixing your paints with water or pouring medium, try to add only a little bit of water or pouring medium at a time to prevent your paint from not fully integrating into it which will leave clumps of paint in your mix.

#7. Dust or Particles on the Painting

Another issue is when dust or particles adhere to your painting.

Apparently imperceptible dust particles may be found on the canvas or other painting surfaces. But when paint is applied to them, they will stand out and will show up as textured irregularities in the art. To avoid this, you have to clean the surface you plan to paint (canvas, wood, etc) with a soft and slightly damp cloth to remove all dust, lint, hair or anything else that may have deposited on it.

You should also cover your painting while it dries. I usually use a box (turned upside down) to cover the painting as it dries.


#8. Muted or Muddy Colors

Even though muted or muddied colors are a real issue, solving it is not as hard as you think. This is an issue that arises because of the incorrect combination of colors.

There was a time when I was really lost on this subject. I noticed that my paintings lacked harmony and the colors seemed to be dead. So I dedicated myself to thoroughly investigate the issue to find a solution.

In school, we are usually taught about primary colors (red, yellow, and blue), but we are rarely taught about how to combine them properly (unless you have had some sort of painting lessons).

The most interesting thing is that when you google solutions to fix dull or muddied colors, most of the information is INCORRECT!!!

You see, the information you find on the internet doesn't take into account that the paints will be mixed. They only tell you which colors look great NEXT to each other or which colors make other colors pop out, but it is a different story when you MIX the colors.

To solve these problems of opacity, dullness, or muddies colors in our paintings, we must understand the use and combination of each of the previously mentioned primary colors and the combination of colors of the chromatic circle.

This is not an easy thing to explain in plain writing, that is why I have a Special Video Section on my Stop Making Mud: The SECRET to Vibrant Colors in Fluid Art course dedicated to help you understand how to properly mix your colors to achieve the results you want.

You can subscribe to my course and you will learn EVERYTHING you need to know to get vibrant colors in fluid art... every single time!

However, let me attempt to give you a few quick tips that might help you understand primary colors and how the mixing of these colors can impact your end results.

First... when you mix the three primary colors (red, yellow, and blue) together, you will get a dark gray color. So you have to be careful to not include all 3 colors at once in your paint mixtures, otherwise you will get a grayish tint which will make your paintings look muddied. 

But choosing the right colors is not as simple as you might think. The hard thing about this is that the colors that you purchase are not pure red, pure blue or pure yellow. Most colors you will get will be a combination of 2 of these colors.

For example, you might want to use a yellow mustard color in your painting. This color is a combination of yellow with some red in it. So if you combine this mustard yellow with blue, guess what? Now you've combined yellow, red, and blue... so you will get a slightly muddied color. 

So you need to choose colors that are close to each other on the chromatic circle to avoid getting muddy and dull colors.

Does that mean that you can never use red, yellow and blue together in a painting? Absolutely not, there are ways that you can incorporate them without having them mix too much.

So if you are interested in learning more in depth about this very important concept, I invite you to join my Stop Making Mud: The SECRET to Vibrant Colors in Fluid Art course.

If you are a complete beginner to acrylic pouring and also need someone to take you step-by-step through all the basics and techniques of fluid art, then check out my Acrylic Pouring for Beginners course which includes the Stop Making Mud course as a Free BONUS!

Secondly, I can tell you that lighting in art is achieved through the use of "white"; that is, if you notice that your painting came out opaque or dark, by adding a prudent dose of white, you can give a luminous effect on the canvas.

colors muted

#9. Air Bubbles

Has it happened to you that when you are applying paint to the canvas, small holes start to appear in the paint?

Sometimes you might get pin holes when you have too many bubbles in your paint. If you shake your paint too vigorously and don't allow the bubbles to pop before pouring your paint onto your painting surface, then you might see some pinholes. So allow your paint to rest for a few minutes after mixing.

#10. Paint Not Sticking

Normally this happens when the paint is not fully adhering to your canvas or painting surface. And it is really difficult to solve once you have already started painting. So make sure that the canvas you purchased is already primed or has a coat of gesso before you pour your paint. If you are not sure if your canvas is primed or you are painting over another type of surface, then go ahead give your surface a coat of primer or gesso before applying our colors. 

#11. Saggy or Wrinkly Canvas

At times you might have encountered a saggy or wrinkly canvas.

If so, I recommend that you tighten up the canvas so that your paint doesn't puddle in the middle.

There are 3 ways to do this. You can keep reading to learn how to tighten your saggy canvas or you can watch the following video that explains the 3 processes step by step.

My favorite way is to just spray some water onto the canvas and let it dry. Make sure you spray water onto the whole canvas surface as well as the corners.

The second way is to to insert a cardboard inside the back of the frame. Leave the insert while you do your pour painting and then remove it after your painting is dry. You can then reuse this cardboard insert in other canvas of the same size.

The third way is to use additional supports on the frame.

  • In the internal corners of the frame, insert some wooden wedges in the slots. 
  • Make sure that you hammer in the wooden wedges at least half way in.
  • Also make sure that each corner has both vertical and horizontal support wedges to help expand the frame.

#12. Shifted Image

It can be really frustrating if you've done everything right up until this point to only end up realizing that your image has shifted while drying.  This happens when the canvas is not level and paint ends up running off on one side of the canvas.

Even if it is just a few degrees off, your paint will move while it dries. Therefore, a slight inclination can damage everything that you have worked so hard for.

So, before doing any acrylic pouring work, you should make sure to check two fundamental things:

  • The leveling of the surface where you will do the work
  • The leveling of the surface where the work will dry

For this, I suggest you use a flat surface as your painting surface and to use a level to make sure that your painting surface is completely level. I don't like wasting time and much less materials due to negligence before starting a painting.

Time To Create

I know very well that these are not the only drawbacks you may encounter when making acrylic pour paintings, however, they are some of the most common mistakes. I know that these 9 acrylic pour problems are some of the most frustrating to new artists.

When you are starting out, I feel that the best thing is to learn from the experience of those who have already failed, learned and corrected their mistakes. So I will gladly share with you everything I have learned from this fluid painting world and I hope that along the way you will also share your experiences with me.

acrylic pour problems
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