Understanding Fluid Art: Terms and Definitions in Acrylic Pouring

When I first started learning about acrylic pouring, I was a little intimidated by the terms used. Mostly confused I would say.

In this addictive world of acrylic pouring, we use some funny words like dirty pour or cells, which often confuse many. Therefore, in order to avoid confusion, it is essential to you learn the terms and definitions on this acrylic pouring for beginners guide.

At first, when I heard these terms, they sounded so weird and unattractive. Dirty pour. What was so dirty about the pour? Wait... what is a pour in the first place?

And cells... aren't those in biology books not in art books? Well, let's learn about all these crazy, funny words in this beginners guide to acrylic pouring and you'll soon see that there is nothing weird about them.

Here are some of the most common terms and definitions of acrylic pouring for beginners.

Terms, Definitions and Acrylic Pour Basics

Abstract - Means the art is not representational but explores color and form. Abstract art does not attempt to represent external reality, but instead uses uses a visual language of shapes, forms, colors, lines, and textures to reproduce an illusion of visible reality.

Acetate or Acetate Film/Sheets - It’s a clear plastic-like material that you can write and paint on, however, in this acrylic pouring basics guide, we refer to acetate sheets as a tool to swipe one color over another to create cells in the paint. Click here to see an example of acetate film/sheets.

Acrylic Fluid Art - Another term used when referring to acrylic pouring art.

Acrylic Paints - Acrylic paints are water-based paints. The consistency and opacity of a color can simply be changed by adding a little bit of water or using a pouring medium.

Acrylic Pouring - A type of art where diluted acrylic paints are usually poured onto a canvas and altered by inclining the surface on a gradient.

Paints, binders, oils, mediums and other additives are used to create different looks. Various mixing, pouring, and swiping techniques are used to create cell structures and patterns.

Archival Quality - Refers to the specific characteristics of materials that meet certain criteria which allows them to be resistant to deterioration or loss of quality, allowing for a long life expectancy when kept in controlled conditions.

Paintings desired to be of archival quality should be made of materials that are strong, durable, and chemically stable... i.e. pH neutral, alkaline-buffered, stable in light, lignin-free, etc.

Artist Quality - Paints or materials of the best quality (and usually highest priced). These professional quality paints or materials usually contain high pigment concentrations, no fillers, strong bonding properties, etc.

ASTM - Stands for "The American Society for Testing and Materials". An international standards organization that develops and publishes voluntary consensus technical standards for a wide range of materials including paints.

Binder - The substance that is used to bind dry pigment together to form acrylic paints, for example, Acrylic Polymer.

Bleeding - When one color runs into another.

Canvas - A strong, coarse unbleached cloth made from hemp, flax, cotton, or a similar yarn, used over a stretcher frame to make a surface for oil or acrylic painting. Term also used when referring to the complete unit of the canvas fabric and the wooden frame. Sold individually or in super value packs like the one you can find here or even in different colors like white which you can find by clicking here or black if you click here.

Canvas Panel Boards - An economical alternative to stretched canvas made by pasting canvas or paper textured in a cloth pattern on a plywood board or cardboard. Canvas panel boards are okay to use when you are barely trying out the basics of acrylic pours in order to save yourself some cash, however, they tend to warp so I don't usually recommend them if you want to end up displaying or selling your art.

Canvas Weight - Refers to how thick the canvas is. They are available in a variety of weights: light-weight is about 4 oz (110 g) or 5 oz (140 g); medium-weight is about 7 oz (200 g) or 8 oz (230 g); heavy-weight is about 10 oz (280 g) or 12 oz (340 g).

Cells - A cellular pattern visual effect encouraged by additives that help the top layer of paint separate and allow colors underneath to show through, usually in a round shape. Additives used are those that are made of silicone such as 100% Silicone Treadmill Belt Lubricant, Organix Nourishing Coconut Milk Anti-breakage Serum, or KY True Feel Premium Silicone Personal Lubricant.

Color Wheel - A color wheel or color circle which shows the relationships between primary colors, secondary colors, tertiary colors etc. Often used to find the perfect color scheme. Paletton is an online application located on the internet at Paletton.com. It provides a powerful tool to create color combinations and palettes of colors that work well together.

Complementary Color - Colors directly opposite each other in the color spectrum, such as red and green or blue and orange, that when combined in the right proportions, produce white light. Complementary colors make each other seem more saturated and bright if placed side by side.

Consistency - The physical nature of a substance, especially a thick liquid, for example by being thick or thin, smooth or lumpy, etc. When used in acrylic pouring, it usually refers to the thickness or thinness of the paint.

Density - Color density refers to how closely compacted together are the paint components. The density is different for each acrylic color. Dense colors tend to sink and less dense colors tend to rise to the surface.

For example, white is a very dense color and black is a paint with less density. If these two colors were poured over each other, the dense color (white) would sink and the less dense color (black) would come to the surface.

Knowing the density of the colors you plan on using is one of the most important acrylic pour basics that you need to know if you want to achieve the results you are looking for.

Dimethicone - A silicon-based polymer safe for personal use and often added to acrylic pour paintings to help with the formation of cells.

Dip/Dipping - A type of acrylic pour painting where the surface of a canvas or other substrate is dipped into the mixed paint to create designs. This type of pour painting is used to avoid the waste of spilled paint from another painting.

Direct Color to Acetate - A swipe technique (see the definition of swipe/swipping below) where you place the paint directly on the acetate sheet and then swipe over your canvas.

Dirty Pour - A technique where you layer up various colors of fluid paint in a cup (most dense paint usually goes on the bottom, and less dense on top) and then pour them on your canvas to create an acrylic pouring effect.

Drying Retarder - Additive used to slow down the drying time of acrylic paint. A drying retarder is often used when an artist wishes that colors remain editable until the completion of the work.

The drying retarder is neutral in color and can therefore be used for all colors and has no influence on the color properties. However, the addition of a drying retarder should not exceed 25% of the total mixture.

Easel - A wooden or metal stand used to hold a canvas, a panel, or a drawing board for display.

Flip and Drag - A technique where you combine the flip cup technique (see the definition below) with dragging. First, the cup with layers of colors is flipped onto the canvas or surface and then the cup is lifted slightly while it is dragged across the surface to spread out a layer of paint.

Flip Cup - A form of dirty pour where all colors are added to a cup or container in layers, next the canvas or surface is placed painting side down onto the cup, and then the cup and surface are both turned upside down at the same time without the paint escaping the cup. After that, the cup is lifted allowing the paint to flow across the canvas or surface.

Fluid Art - An abstract art form utilizing liquid mediums, such as acrylic paints, inks, or resin, where the artist pours, drips, or manipulates the fluid on a surface to create dynamic and visually engaging compositions characterized by unique patterns and effects. It's important to note that while acrylic pouring is a form of fluid art, fluid art encompasses a broader range of techniques and mediums beyond acrylic pouring.

Free Pour - A technique where you slowly pour the paints right onto your canvas or surface while making a pattern. Then the canvas or surface is tilted in different directions to make sure the whole canvas is coated with paint.

Funnel Pour - A technique where paint colors are added to a funnel while keeping the end blocked. Once the paints have been layered, the end of the funnel is released and the paints are allowed to flow onto the canvas as the funnel is moved to create the design.

Gel Medium - Gel mediums are ideal for extending colors, altering sheen, changing body, increasing translucency, thickening, and increasing film integrity of acrylic paints. The Golden brand offers good quality mediums like the Golden Regular Matte Gel, Golden Regular Semi-Gloss Gel, and Golden Regular Gloss Gel.

Gesso - A substance very similar to white acrylic paint, only thinner. It dries hard, making the surface more stiff. Gesso prepares or primes the surface for painting, making the surface slightly textured and ready to accept acrylic paint. Without gesso, the paint would soak into the weave of the canvas and might not adhere properly to the surface. I really like the Liquitex BASICS Acrylic Gesso.

Ground or Primer - A ground or primer is the background surface on which you paint. It is usually a coating such as a gesso primer, which physically separates your painting from the support. It is the foundation of a painting, applied onto the raw canvas, paper, or other support.

Interference Paint -  Interference Paints are colorless, transparent paints made from titanium coated mica flakes rather than traditional pigments. They are also known as "Opalescent Colors". They change their color (exhibiting a metallic look and color shift) depending upon the viewing angle.

They're intended to have an effect on other colors or to add a pearly sheen or luminosity instead of being used by themselves. A small amount of black paint can be added to interference paints to produce deeper, richer, opalescent effects.

Lightfast - Not prone to discolor or fade when exposed to light.

Matte - Dull and flat, without a shine.

Medium - Is the material that artists use to create their art; oil-painting, tempera, ink, marble, wood, clay, metal, etc.

Opaque - The amount of light that is reflected by the paint. Paints that allows less light to pass through them will be less transparent and therefore more opaque.

Palette - A palette is a range of colors. It is also the board that artists use to hold and mix paint.

Permanence - The paint's resistance to change when exposed to light and the atmosphere. It's ability to retain it's original colors through time.

Pigment - A natural or synthetic powdered substance that is mixed with a liquid binder into a paste to make paint. The higher the pigment concentration in a color, the higher the color intensity and luminosity - but also - the more expensive the color will be.

Pour Painting - Another term used when referring to acrylic pouring art.

Pouring Medium - An additive that can be added to acrylic paint to change its consistency and promote better flow. Adds flexibility and adhesion to the paint film to prevent paint cracking or crazing.

Some pouring mediums are designed to keep the paint from drying too quickly to increase workability and blending time. When added to acrylic paint, they alter the handling characteristics, appearance, or volume to produce an infinite variety of effects. Available in different viscosities and sheens.

Examples of pouring mediums:

Floetrol, GAC 800, PVA Glue, Liquitex Pouring Medium

This is another very important term of the acrylic pour basics that you will need to learn how to master in order to obtain good substrate coverage and avoid muddy colors.

Primer or Ground - A primer or ground is the background surface on which you paint. It is usually a coating such as a gesso primer, which physically separates your painting from the support. It is the foundation of a painting, applied onto the raw canvas, paper, or other support.

Puddle Pour - A technique where acrylic paints are layered on top of each other in several puddles until they run together in the center of the canvas or the canvas is tilted in various directions to run the puddles together to create unique patterns.

Resin - A type of thick, clear, glossy protective finish sometimes added to acrylic pour paintings and other artwork to give depth and to bring back the vibrant colors of a painting. If you need resin for a small project, I recommend the 8 oz Art Resin or the 32 oz Art Resin.

If you need resin for a bigger project, I highly recommend the resin from Stone Coat Countertops which I ABSOLUTELY love. This 2 gallon Art Coat Resin Kit is perfect for beginners who want to start experimenting with a high quality resin that can stand the test of time but doesn't need to be heat resistant. This ½ gallon Stone Coat Epoxy is perfect for quality art work that needs to stand the test of time and be heat resistant.

Silicone Oil - An oil product added to the acrylic pouring paint to encourage the formation of cells. Some of the silicone oils I recommend when you are trying out some of the techniques of acrylic pour basics are the following:

100% Silicone Treadmill Belt Lubricant, Organix Nourishing Coconut Milk Anti-breakage Serum, or KY True Feel Premium Silicone Personal Lubricant

Stretcher Bar - The wooden frames used to stretch the raw canvas. These are the best.

 String / Thread - A technique where one or more cut threads or cords are immersed in the colors of the cups and later pulled over the pouring. The cords soaked in acrylic paint create interesting color gradients and effects. First start with a dirty pour, puddle pour, or free pour.

Substrate - A surface upon which paint is applied to. For example, canvas, glass, wood, composite panels, canvas board panels, ceramic 3-d sculptures, shells, rocks, degreased leather, etc. Some of these items would need to be primed with gesso before applying a coat of acrylic paint.

Swirl - A technique where different colors are poured in a slightly circular pattern to obtain individual color rings. Then you let the paints flow by tilting the canvas in different directions to cover the whole surface with paint.

Swipe/Swiping - A technique where the acrylic colors are dragged across each other to mix them and encourage the formation of cells. Different tools can be used to do the swipe technique such as a spatula, acetate sheets, the same cup you used to do a flip cup, your fingers, a wet towel, and more.

Torching - Applying heat quickly across the surface of a painting while the paint is still wet to encourage the formation of cells or to pop bubbles in the paint. A chef's torch is the best tool to use for this. I like this one because it is relatively inexpensive but also like this other one because it comes with a recipe book and a heat resistant place mat in case you want to take advantage of this tool for your kitchen uses.

Transparent - The opposite of opaque... when a color is slightly see-through. If transparent colors used over other layers of paint, some of the layers underneath will show through.

Varnish - Generally a more or less transparent film-forming liquid used in acrylic pouring or other artwork to give it a finished, glossy look. It is also used to protect the surface in order to be able to wipe it down when dirty. I like the Minwax Polycrylic Water-Based Protective Finish.

 Yupo Paper - An alternative to traditional art papers. It's a synthetic paper, machine-made in the USA of 100% polypropylene. It is waterproof, stain-resistant, and extremely strong and durable.

Getting Started with Acrylic Pouring

I hope this list of terms and definitions in this acrylic pouring for beginners guide will help minimize the confusion and make the process of learning acrylic pouring easier.

If you are barely getting started with acrylic pouring, you might want to check out my complete list of supplies by clicking here.

Whether you are a beginner or advanced acrylic pouring fan, I am sure there is something in there for you to make your art more sparkly and beautiful, make your pouring process less messy, keep your supplies organized, or find a new and exciting items you want to try on your next acrylic pouring.

Discover the Secrets to Creating Beautiful Paintings Without Wasting Time, Money & Paint

Getting started with acrylic pouring and creating beautiful pours is not that hard if you have someone to guide you every step of the way. I wasted tons of time, money and paint when I first started doing my paintings because I didn't know what I was doing. I was just testing things out but ended up having some costly mistakes.

But you don't have to worry cause I got you covered!!!

That is why I put together my Acrylic Pouring for Beginners Video Course which will take you by the hand from the beginning and all the way to displaying or even selling your art.

Make sure you check it out here>> Acrylic Pouring for Beginners Video Course.

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