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How to Pour Paint: Acrylic Pour Painting Techniques

Acrylic pour painting techniques tutorial. I especially like the details on how to make this amazing art project work with a bunch of kids! Try these decorated terra cotta pots as another fun art project!

Acrylic pour painting techniques tutorial. I especially like the details on how to make this amazing art project work with a bunch of kids! #kidsasctivities #paint #paintpour #artisawesome #art #artforkids

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I’m supposed to be  packing for our five-week trip this week. So, naturally, I invited all the neighborhood kids over to make pour paintings and then spent hours editing and writing up this tutorial.

The truth is, I promised my kids that we would make pour paintings AGES ago. Then I bought the supplies and spent ages not doing it. Because I was worried about all the mess. I’m super pro crafting, but I don’t love messes. And my husband really hates messes. I also really wanted to make the paintings in our living room, where there’s good light for photographing the process. So I needed a low-mess way to make some very messy art.

Low Mess Acrylic Pour Painting Techniques

Note: even low mess acrylic pour painting techniques are pretty messy! The low mess portion is the fact that I was able to completely contain the mess. You’ll notice that none of my kids are wearing smocks or anything else. We made all of the paintings in this post without anyone ending up with paint stains – including the dining room floor.

Setting Up a Low Mess Paint Pouring Station for Kids

How to make pour paintings with kids

I invited seven kids aged 5-12 years old to a pour painting session. Here’s how we made it work:

1) One Kid at a Time

I feel like acrylic pour painting is one of those activities where you really need one adult watching each child. So the kids had to patiently wait for one another to finish. Thankfully, pour painting is a really fun process to watch, and they were also kind of busy decided which colors they were going to use.

2) Set Up Materials in Advance

I had everything ready to go (see materials list below) before the kids arrived.

3) Set Clear Limits

We made some rules before starting this project. I limited each child to four paint colors, because it pretty much guarantees their painting will turn out. Other children’t couldn’t touch the child who was painting OR the table while they were painting. I also made sure the kids understood before we started painting that they wouldn’t be able to take their paintings home right away, because they need a couple of days for the paint to dry.

3) Plan for Clean Up

The most important piece of making our set up work was the fact that each child had their very own plastic tray for this project – and that tray was encased in a garbage bag. They poured the painting over the tray, then set it on the tray to dry. Once everything was dry, I threw away the paint-covered bags and got my clean trays back.

Acrylic Pour Painting Techniques: How to Make Pour Paintings at Home

Learn how to make acrylic pour paintings

Pour Painting Materials

To make a pour painting, you’ll need:

  • Canvases to paint. We used 8×10 canvases, because they seemed to be cheaper when bought in bulk than other sizes and are also easy for kids to manipulate. It might be easier to spread the paint evenly across a perfectly square surface, but the kids didn’t seem to find the rectangular shape too problematic.
  • Acrylic paint. As you can see from the image above, we used a range of different types of acrylic paint. If you are mixing brands like ours, just be sure to pay attention to different thicknesses. You may need to thin out some paints more than others.
  • Craft sticks to stir the paint.
  • Acrylic Pour Medium. We used just over one quart of Floetrol to make eight canvases. While researching this activity I read (on a site that has since disappeared) that you can use Elmer’s school glue as a pour medium>; we didn’t try it but I did notice that the Flood smelled similar.
  • Silicone oil. We used treadmill belt lubricant. You need only a few drops of this, so don’t buy a large container unless you plan to make a TON of paintings.
  • Clear plastic cups. Clear is actually not technically necessary, but nice since it means you can see how much paint you have. Plus, it’s pretty when you layer in the colors.
  • Paper towels so your hands don’t drip paint all over the place.
  • Gloves if you don’t want acrylic paint all over your hands. Honestly, mine were the only ones that were very messy at the end, probably because each kid ran and washed their hands as they finished. I had to help each child and then washed them at the end.

Step By Step Pour Painting Tutorial

Here’s my step by step acrylic pour painting tutorial. Notice that the kids are doing everything on their own (my five-year-old went first and did ask for some help pouring the paint, but another five-year-old chose to do it completely on her own).

DIY pour painting tutorial. Acrylic pour painting techniques tutorial. I especially like the details on how to make this amazing art project work with a bunch of kids! #kidsasctivities #paint #paintpour #artis awesome #art #artforkids

Prep Your Paint

Pour some pour paint medium in each cup for however many colors you plan to use in your painting. Our many different brands of paints came in different colors, and our paint to paint pour ratio ranged from 1:1 to 1:2 – with the higher number representing the pour paint medium. This was a tip we got from a friend who introduced to pour painting, and different from the recommendations I found online.

Add your paint. Stir well using a craft stick. Make sure you use a different cup for each color!

Add 3-4 drops of silicone oil to each cup. It’s temping to add more than that, but we discovered that the paintings with less oil tend to look more interesting.

Gently stir the oil – 3, maybe 4 stirs total rather than completely mixing it in. The silicone oil makes the little “cells” that you see in the painting, and it works better if it isn’t thoroughly mixed in.

Design Your Canvas

Layer your different colors of paint into a cup. Set your mixing cups upside down in the middle of the tray once you empty them. They will hold up your canvas as it dries.

Make Your Pour Painting Masterpiece

Place your canvas on top of the paint cup, then flip. This was the one step that I did for every single child.

Wait – at least one minute. This is another tip we got from our friend that I didn’t see in online research. I agree with her that the paintings look better if you let the paint settle in the upside down cup as it sits on the canvas for at least sixty seconds.

Lift the cup! This is the magical part!

The paint will flow across the canvas quite quickly. Tilt it to get the paint across the entire canvas. You may need to pick some paint up from the tray with your fingers to cover the very corners of the painting. If you pick it up and manipulate it as little as possible it will still look poured. You can also gently push bits of paint into open edges along the canvas.

Set the painting to dry on top of the empty cups that you mixed your paint in. Paint may collect along the lower rim of the canvas; you can gently scrape it off using the craft sticks you mixed paint with.

Wait at least 48 hours, or until the paint is dry.

Want to see the painting in action? Check out our video!

I was amazed at the range of beautiful paintings the kids produced using this technique! There were enough canvases available that I gave it a go as well, and I thoroughly recommend it as an art technique for adults as well!

I found the basics for this post thanks to this tutorial from Flood. The friend who introduced us to the technique says she learned about it from this post at Momdot.

Do you have any acrylic pour painting techniques to share?

DIY Summer Camp

I’ve teamed up with some fellow bloggers to bring you even more awesome content all month. Click HERE for more Art Themed Summer Camp Activities and HERE for more DIY Summer Camp Activities!

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MaryAnne lives in Silicon Valley with her Stanford professor husband Mike and their four children. She writes about parenting through education, creativity, and play. Mama Smiles - Joyful Parenting is a space to share crafts, hands on learning activities, and family outings that enrich lives and bring families together.

8 thoughts on “How to Pour Paint: Acrylic Pour Painting Techniques”

    1. Pretty! It’s neat to see the different results you got with the various mediums you worked with. I feel like Flood worked better when I used more of it in relation to the paint than I saw recommended online (including on their website).

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