Do you love big colorful cells? Then this tutorial is for you! You will learn how to get big cells in acrylic pour paintings.
Let's get started.
Why Do Cells Form?
Before you learn the secret to creating big cells in acrylic pouring, you need to learn why cells form in the first place.
Cells form when there is a difference in density between the paint colors that you are using in your pour paintings. The colors with a higher density will sink while those with a lower density will float. As this happens, the paints that want to float start to show through the surface as cells.
There are three different ways of achieving cells:
- Adding silicone
- Using a torch
- Adding alcohol
- Using paints with different densities
- Switching out your pouring medium
#1. Creating Big Cells With Silicone
Using silicone is the easiest way to create cells in your pour paintings, however, a lot of pouring artists prefer not to use it.
Some say that silicone can have an impact on the durability of the painting and that your artwork could degrade overtime. But since acrylic pouring has not been around long enough to study the effects of adding silicone to the paint mix, no one knows for sure.
But one thing is certain! Creating acrylic pouring cells is much easier when using silicone in your paint mix. So you will have to decide if you want to use it or not.
Personally, I prefer to use silicone that is 100% pure. That way, I limit the potential of any other additional chemicals to interfere with the durability of my paint.
Why does silicone produce cells?
Well, we all know that oil and water do not mix. Acrylic paints are water based and denser than silicone oil. So when mixed, the silicone oil will want to float to the top since it is less dense than the water based acrylic paints.
As the silicone rises to the top, it will bring with it some of the acrylic paint colors to the surface and create those beautiful cells.
What type of silicone should I use?
Many people use WD-40, Rain-x, 100% silicone, hair products like the Coconut Milk Hair Serum, personal lubricants, and more!
However, like I mentioned previously... I prefer to use 100% Silicone to prevent any additional chemicals from being introduced into my paint mixture and reduce any possible adverse reactions.
Silicone Substitute for Acrylic Pouring
One great substitute for silicone is 100% Dimethicone.
Dimethicone is a cosmetic grade type of silicone (an organic polymer) meant to be used as a moisturizing and lubricating agent in beauty products.
So if you want a more skin friendly product, try 100% Dimethicone instead of Silicone.
Some personal lubricants like the KY True Feel is made with 100% Dimethicone but it is kind of expensive. So I would personally just purchase this Cosmetic Grade Dimethicone.
How much silicone should I use?
Different artists use different amounts of silicone. In my experience, you don't need a lot! Just 1 drop/1 oz of paint is all you need.
Also, don't add silicone to all of your paint mixtures. Try adding it to only a few colors while other are left without any silicone. This will create even more acrylic pouring cells.
Take a look at this video from Olga Soby to see how she interlays the colors with silicone to create big beautiful cells.
Acrylic Pouring Cells Recipe with Silicone Oil
There are a lot of different silicone recipes out there for making acrylic pouring cells. You can find one of my favorite recipes for getting big cells in acrylic pour paintings right here.
Even if you don't use the recipe mentioned previously, you'll still be able to create acrylic pouring cells with almost any pouring medium recipe as long as you follow these important steps:
- Don't use too much silicone in your paint mix. Just add 1 drop/1 oz of paint mix in the colors where you want your cells to appear.
- Don't overmix your silicone into your paint mix. Overmixing will break the oil into tiny particles which will create tiny cells rather than big cells.
- Be patient. Pour your paint, torch, let the cells develop, and then tilt so that your cells can stretch and look even bigger.
#2. Creating Cells With a Torch
You can also use a torch to help you create cells. You will see great results when using a torch in combination with adding silicone oil in your paint mix, however, it will also work without silicone.
The heat from the torch helps the less dense paints that have been trapped below denser layers to rise faster to the top.
All you have to do is run a torch across the surface of your painting, approximately 5 to 6 inches above your painting after you have dumped your paints onto your canvas.
Do NOT keep your torch in one area for too long, as this can cause your paint to cook and get damaged.
So when pouring your acrylic paint onto your canvas, you can either let the paint sit for a little bit and wait for the less dense paints to rise on their own or use the torch to encourage them to rise even faster.
#3. Using Alcohol to Create Cells
Using alcohol is another way of creating acrylic pouring cells, however, you have to be careful about how much alcohol you add to your paint as it can cause some paint crazing.
You can use anywhere from just a few drops to 5% to 10% of the total paint mixture.
One thing to keep in mind is that alcohol will usually create smaller cells than silicone.
#4.How to Create Cells Without Silicone Using Paint Density
This is the optimal way of creating cells because no oils are being introduced into your paint mixture. However, it is the hardest!
Well, maybe I shouldn't say that it is hard but instead that it requires more knowledge and practice. It requires knowing the densities of the paints you are using and layering them in the correct order so that the less dense paints can rise through the more dense paints and create the cells that you want.
This interaction of materials with different densities (the sinking and rising) is called the Rayleigh-Taylor instability.
You can use this physical property of paints to manipulate the formation of cells. By knowing the density of your paints, you will be able to know how to stack your paints to either create or prevent cells.
The hard thing about this is that a lot of brands do not provide a list of the densities of their acrylic paints. Luckily, some more expensive brands (like Golden) do!
You can find a PDF of their paint densities HERE.
This sort of helps to get a general idea of what to expect from other brands. Unfortunately, sometimes the paint density of some paints is not the same across brands so you will have to experiment!
Here is a video that shows a paint demo using paint density to create acrylic pouring cells along with an explanation as to which paints are denser and how to create less dense paints.
>>Here is another GREAT ARTICLE that has 3 short videos that show the paint densities in action. I highly recommend that you watch them!
Now, even though not all brands of paints have a list of paint density, the following paint pointers can help you determine if you have a high or low density paint.
- Satin Enamel Paints – Adding a tiny bit of satin enamels usually creates cells, however, if you use too much, it can make your painting crack. So don't add too much. Satin enamels is what is generally used to create white puffy clouds or cells in the so call "Cloud Pours".
- White, Black and Yellow- Some paints like titanium white, cadmium yellow, and mars black will sink through less dense paints (and create cells) because of their higher density.
- Metallic paints – These types of paints are generally heavier than other paints and therefore tend to sink and sometimes even disappear completely as they get covered by other less dense paints. So the clue here is to make sure that the more dense paints (metallics in this case) end up as the top layer so that when they start to sink and other paints start to rise to the surface, they can create some cells.
- Flat paints – Some flat paints like house paints or paints that do not have a lot of shine combined with more shiny paints tends to create cells.
The clue here is that mixing different types of paints in one acrylic pour painting can help create cells or lacing without the need of adding silicone. So it you use a flat paint, a metallic paint, an iridescent paint, and some white paint, you might get some cells without even trying.
How to Measure Density of Paint
You can also do the following test to figure out the density of your paint mixtures:
- Place a drop of paint of a certain color on a surface.
- Then put another drop of paint of a different color right on top of the first drop.
- If the paint layers stay put, then it means that the heaviest (more dense) paint is on the bottom and the lightest (less dense) paint is on the top. If the drop of paint on the top layer starts sinking then you know that that paint is heavier than the paint color on the bottom layer.
You can watch the following video to see a demo of an easy way to test the density of paints for acrylic pouring.
#5. Switching Out Your Pouring Medium for Cell Creation
Often times, all you need to do to create some awesome cells is to switch to a different pouring medium. Some pouring mediums (such as Floetrol) are known for creating acrylic pouring cells. The Australian Floetrol is known for creating even more cells than the US Floetrol.
Other pouring mediums (such as Liquitex or a pouring medium made of pure glue and water) don't make so many cells.
And even just the addition of water to your paints can make them less dense. So take a look at the pouring medium you are using!
The SECRET to Get Big Cells
Now, all the tips above will help you get cells, however, you did not come to read this blog post just to learn how to get cells... you wanted to learn How to get BIG CELLS in acrylic pour paintings.
I think the biggest SECRET that almost no one will tell you is...
Yes, that is right. When you pour your paint on your canvas, you have to let it sit for a little bit so that the paint density or silicone can do it's job.
Let the more dense paints sink and the less dense paints rise! Then torch it!
After you torch and see some cells form on the surface, you need to tilt your painting SLOWLY! Tilt it slowly so that your small cells stretch and grow but don't get distorted.
*WARNING- If you don't have enough paint on your canvas, your cells will get stretched out and will no longer look like cells. So make sure you add enough paint to start with.
Also, if your paint is too thin and runny, your cells will get distorted. So make sure that your paint mix is not too runny so that the acrylic pouring cells stay put after you stretch them out.
So What Method Should You Use?
Well, this depends on your preference. Using silicone is the easiest way to create cells but you will have to clean your paintings after they dry to remove the silicone residue before you varnish your painting.
Using the paint densities to create cells is going to require the most practice, however, you won't have to worry about cleaning the oily residue off of your painting.
Let me know down below in the comments section what method you prefer to create acrylic pouring cells. If you know of a different way to create cells, please feel free to share!