When I first started experimenting with acrylic pouring, I wasn't really sure what acrylic pouring mediums were and why I needed one in the first place.
That was a big mistake! I ended up with a blob of paint in the middle of my canvas... something resembling a 3 year old's painting.
After learning from that mistake, I started testing out a few pouring mediums and found that my favorite one to use as a stand alone pouring medium is Floetrol. It is easy to use and not that expensive compared to other pouring mediums.
However, I do prefer to make my own pouring medium mixture which is a combination of a few of the pouring mediums shown below. Doing your own pouring medium mixture allows you to borrow the strengths of each of the pouring mediums you use to make an even more powerful formula.
So if you are also new to acrylic pouring, keep reading because I will tell you everything you need to know about pouring mediums... what a pouring medium is, why you need one, which pouring mediums I love the most and how to choose the best one for you.
Pouring mediums I like the most
Easy to use, reasonable price, can be bought in bigger quantities, a good all-purpose option for the average beginner or advanced artist.
Great for beginners on a tight budget, good option to start experimenting, non-acidic (unlike elmer's glue) for archival quality paintings.
Great quality all-purpose pouring medium, great for professional artists looking for minimal cracking or crazing in their paintings.
Specially formulated to be used in very high ratios compared to paint, great for professional artists looking for minimal cracking or crazing.
What is pouring medium?
So let's start with the basics, shall we?
A pouring medium is a fluid additive that is added to acrylic paint in order to make its consistency a little more runny and therefore enable it to flow easily across a painting surface like canvas, wood, ceramic tiles, and other surfaces. It essentially thins out the paint and increases its flow while maintaining its texture, color, and opacity.
Why is a pouring medium needed for acrylic flow painting?
The main reason (as mentioned above) is that adding a little bit of pouring medium will improve the flow of your acrylic paints and allow them to easily spread and cover your canvas.
The second reason is that an acrylic paint that is too thin or too thick will crack or create crazing on a painting. Therefore, a pouring medium is needed to get your acrylic paints to its ideal consistency.
Why do I need to use a pouring medium instead of just water?
Unlike water, a pouring medium won't dilute your paint colors, break down the binders that hold your paint's pigments together, or affect it's adhesion properties.
Many of the problems that newbies encounter when doing acrylic pouring comes from adding too much water to their paint mixture. They often ask themselves why the vibrancy of their paintings was lost, why their paintings cracked, why they were left with bare spots on their canvas, why their paints are flaking or lifting of their canvas, etc. All of this because too much water tampered with the integrity of their acrylic paints.
Therefore, stick to using pouring mediums to thin out your acrylic paints. If you need to make your paints a little bit more runny and your pouring medium just not cutting it, then add just a few drops of water.
What is the difference between all the acrylic pouring mediums?
Many newbie painters don't know which pouring medium to choose since they don't know what the difference is between different brands of flow mediums. Even though the main purpose of a pouring medium is to improve the fluidity of your acrylic paints, they also serve other purposes.
For example, if you want your painting to have a more glossy look when dry, then you might want to choose a glossy pouring medium. However, you can also achieve a glossy look by sticking to a standard medium and then adding a coat of glossy sealer after your painting is dry.
Some pouring mediums, like Lineco 901, are really not even considered a pouring medium even though they are still used as such and are great for preserving your pouring medium art piece for a long time.
Other flow mediums like Elmer's glue-all, PVA glue, and Floetrol, are also not considered pouring mediums but still work great for the beginner or average artist and are more affordable than true pouring mediums.
Then we also have the Sargent Art Acrylic Gloss that can be used as a pouring medium or a varnish. You can add this pouring medium to your acrylic paints to add some extra sheen to your art piece.
So as you can see, each pouring medium has its own strengths or weaknesses. And this brings me to my next point...
Which pouring medium should you use for your acrylic flow painting?
Well, the answer really depends on what you are planning on doing with your painting. If you are planning on selling it or keeping it for a very long time, you need to make sure you use a quality pouring medium that will preserve your piece of art for a long time.
If you are just starting to learn how to acrylic pour and are planning on painting just for gaining experience, then it is perfectly fine to stick to Elmer's glue or a mixture of Elmer's glue with another pouring medium.
But as you try different pouring mediums and keep perfecting your acrylic pouring techniques, you will get a feel for what you like to work with the most. Personally, I love floetrol and elmer's glue.
My recommendation is that you pick one pouring medium (or make your own pouring medium formula) and stick with it for a while. You want to be able to know how to get the right paint consistency every single time you use that particular pouring medium, no matter what brand of paint you choose to use.
You also want to make sure that you understand what issues on your paintings are caused by your current pouring medium before moving on to the next one. Otherwise, if you just keep jumping from one pouring medium to the next, you will never get to root of the problem.
For example, you might be getting cracked paintings and you could be blaming your pouring medium, when in reality, the issue could just be that your paint consistency is not right. Many times, as long as you have the right consistency, it doesn’t really matter which type of pouring medium you use!
So before jumping on to the next pouring medium, first make sure you adjust the paint to pouring medium ratio. Then play around with tinkering your pouring medium formula (if you have made your own pouring medium). Once you master that pouring medium, you can go ahead and try a different one to see which one you like best.
This will require patience, but it will pay off in the end!
How much acrylic pouring medium do you need to mix into your paints?
This is a tricky question since the paint consistency between brands and even between colors of the same brand vary a lot. But let me give you some general guidelines you could start playing around with. The following are ratios of paint to pouring medium depending on the type of paint you have on hand.
Fluid acrylic paint: 2:1
Craft acrylics: 1:1
Medium body acrylics: 1:3
Heavy body acrylics: 1:6
Now let's take a look at some of the most popular or best pouring mediums on the market according to my experience.
Most popular paint pouring mediums
Let's start this list with the best paint pouring mediums for beginners all the way to advanced.
Even though Elmer's glue-all is technically not a pouring medium, it is widely used and works very well for beginners when mixed with a little bit of water or when mixed with other pouring mediums. Also, it is pretty inexpensive and relatively easy to find. However, keep in mind that glue is acidic so your paintings might not necessarily be archival quality.
It is a great choice for beginners. Just make sure you mix it with a little bit of water to make it flow better before you mix it with your paint.
Books by Hand PVA
Even though PVA (polyvinyl adhesive) is also technically not a pouring medium, it is also used in place of a pouring medium. I have tried several brands of PVAs and the ones I like the most are this Books by Hand PVA and the Lineco PVA.
The reason painters use PVA glue instead of Elmer's glue is because it has a neutral PH which makes it a great option when you don't want your pouring medium to interfere with the integrity and longevity of your painting.
It is a great option for painters who love using glue as a pouring medium but want a pouring medium that will help with the preservation of their paintings.
The only downside of this brand of PVA is that you can only purchase it in containers of up to 8 oz. So if you want to purchase a larger quantity to use for large paintings, you are better off purchasing the Lineco Adhesive mentioned below which I really like.
Lineco Adhesive is another great PVA option just like the Books by Hand PVA option mentioned previously.
This adhesive is acid-free and specially formulated for preservation materials. It will not become brittle with age. So if you try Elmer's glue and love it, then you will love this Lineco adhesive even more.
I love this Lineco adhesive because you can purchase it in large quantities (up to 1 gallon) for a more affordable price.
Floetrol is also not considered a pouring medium. It is a paint extender designed to reduce brush marks in interior and exterior painting. However, it works beautifully by itself or when mixed with other pouring mediums. It is an alternative to pouring mediums like Liquitex or GAC800.
I love it because it is less expensive than real acrylic pouring mediums for artists and it works almost just as well. Also, floetrol can give your paintings nice large cells without the need of an additive oil.
It is perfect for beginners who don't want to make their own homemade pouring medium but still want to use something that works well.
The only downside is that floetrol gives your finished paint pouring art a matte finish. But this can easily be resolved by giving your painting a coat of varnish to bring your colors back to life.
Liquitex is probably one of the best-known brands. Its pouring medium is specifically made for artists so it is more expensive than the previous options. However, this quality paint pouring medium can help prevent issues like paint cracking or crazing.
Another reason I love Liquitex Professional is because the painting dries with a glossy look similar to resin. Colors will look retain their brightness and you won't even have to varnish your painting.
Great option for more professional painters or for using in paintings that will be sold.
The downside to using Liquitex (as mentioned previously) is the cost and that it is somewhat hard to clean once it is dry. So make sure you protect any surfaces you are working on and use gloves and an apron.
The Golden GAC800 is the equivalent of the Liquitex Pouring Medium. It is also specifically formulated for acrylic pouring so it reduces cracking and crazing in acrylic paint. And it gives your finished product a nice glossy shine.
It is also more expensive than glue or floetrol. But if you want to use GAC800 for a special project or just prefer to use it because of its ability to reduce cracking and crazing, then you can also purchase larger amounts (in containers of 128 oz) at a cheaper price.
DecoArt Pouring Medium
The DecoArt Pouring Medium is also another additive specially formulated to enable paint to flow easily across a surface. It can be used to thin paint to the ideal consistency, to create cell effects, and reduce cracking and crazing.
It will not slow down the drying time, yellow overtime, alter the color, or lessen the adhesion of paint.
I have found that when using this medium, I am able to get more cells without adding silicone or heat. It is also great for tree ring pours.
The downside is that it is also a little more expensive than floetrol.
As you can see, there are many pouring mediums available and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. The best one for you might not be the best one for me since we are all at different points in this acrylic pouring journey. What works best for beginners might not work best for advanced or professional artists.
So pick one or two pouring mediums to start with, test them out with a few pour paintings, tinker with the paint and pouring medium ratios, test them again, and then decide if you like it or would like to try a different brand.
Wishing you the best in your acrylic pouring journey!