Using the right pouring medium can make or break your final results- I’ll share the best tips!
Pouring medium is an additive that you manually add to a mix of acrylic paint to make it runny enough to pour out of a cup. It is NOT enough to just add a ton of water to get a flow going. Adding too much water without a medium will prevent the acrylic paint from curing into a tight bond with the canvas or board you are creating on. Paint will flake off, not adhere in most places or what’s worse, will not bond well to additional layers of paint that you apply over it.
If you are short of time, here are my recommendations for pouring medium:
- Golden Artist Medium High Gloss – My Number One Recommendation
- Liquitex Pouring Medium
- Golden GAC 800
- Vivid PolyPour Medium
- Floetrol Additive – Best Budget Choice, Best Cell Formation
- DecoArt Flow Medium
- FolkArt Flow Medium
- Mont Martre Premium Flow Medium
- Elmer’s GlueAll
- U.S. Art Supply Pouring Medium
- Sargent Pouring Medium
Acrylic pouring requires a great medium for the durability of the final artwork AND for the ability to get the pour going in the first place.
There are several kinds of pouring mediums available at a variety of price points. Here’s the breakdown!
Pouring medium is composed of acrylic polymer with high resin solids which cause the paint to flow without pigment dilution or a degradation of the chemical agents that cure to a tight resilient bond. It acts as a binder and a dilutant but is completely transparent when dry without making the paint itself transparent. That’s really important, as most dilutants, like water, for example, will decrease the opacity of the paint itself.
The best pouring medium will be non-yellowing with age (sadly, something resins are known for). So, some pouring mediums with poor quality resins will age and darken your finished work over a period of months or years or dry too matte, which dulls paint colors down.
Poor quality pouring mediums will sometimes ‘craze’ as they dry – which creates cracks and crevices in the top layer of paint. Crazing occurs when the top layer of paint dries on top of a still wet under layer of paint, which is drying more slowly. A great pouring medium allows for even drying through all the layers.
Professional artists use artist grade paints and mediums to ensure that their artworks endure for as long as possible. Crafters may have little interest in the archival quality of their finished pieces and may prefer to use a pouring medium that is much more budget-friendly. For example, in this tutorial, I used plain water to dilute my acrylic paints enough to get a very fluid mix of the paint….not liquid enough to be called a pour, but definitely enough for the paint to travel on the surface as I tilted the tray around. In that craft project, I wasn’t concerned with opacity reduction OR longevity. It was purely just for fun and temporary use.
I let it dry for week, then varnished it with an acrylic polymer varnish and it is holding up to daily use just fine!
In order to select your ideal pouring medium, you FIRST need to decide which of the following characteristics are important to you. Once you have picked two or three priorities, read my review of each medium, and voila! There will be your match.
Qualities of Great Pouring Mediums:
- Does not reduce the opacity of your paint colors
- No bubble production
- No cracking as it dries
- Even flow
- High gloss appearance when dry or matte
- Creates even puddles – great self-leveling
- Allows serendipitous cell to form
- Showcases metallic and glitter additives when dry
- Does not create crazing when dried (cracks and crevices)
Which Pouring Medium To Use?
My number one recommendation is the excellent pouring medium by Golden Artist Paint.
When I first started experimenting with acrylic pouring, the budget was my primary concern. I just wanted to try it out to see if I liked it or not. If this fits a description of you, then the most economical medium to use in pouring is Elmer’s GlueAll. It’s fiddly though, to get just the right flow consistency, you must add water to your mix and the paint won’t ever flow as seamlessly as the more expensive options. If you have kids at home and you need lots of low-cost craft glue for a multitude of uses, then this is also a great option, as you’ll use that giant tub of glue for years. It is acidic though, and definitely not archival, so don’t plan on selling your artwork with this medium.
Another budget medium is FLOETROL. I do use it for experimenting with new technics, but it does finish a bit cloudy when dry, so I only use FLOETROL on auditioning first-time methods or if I want an inexpensive craft.
Nowadays, maybe because I’ve been burned too many times by skimping on budget, but FINISHED QUALITY is now my number one priority. I’ll spend a little more to invest in professional mediums and paints in order to get a canvas that is ‘wall worthy’ or ‘gift-giving worthy’. I have to admit, after watching so many YouTube tutorials on acrylic pouring, I no longer want to mess around with so-so results. I want to go for the Big Bang every time! So, I’m going to spend the moolah to get the best clarity color and seamless leveling and pouring that is available. Personally, I want a high-gloss so that I won’t need a thick resin varnish to make the colors pop.
Artist pouring mediums have additives in the mix that are specifically engineered to solve a myriad of problems with drying acrylics. Issues that are resolved with pro mixes are: defoaming agents to keep bubble formation down, levelers to create an even layer of paint and surfactants that ensure good drying overall.
Pouring Medium Ranked
RANK FIRST Golden Artists Pouring Medium High Gloss
Formulated by the chemists at Golden Artists Paints, this pouring medium is very high performing, reliable, and durable. I use Golden paints and mediums and varnishes in all my fine art acrylic paints. The customer service is fantastic. If you have a question, they respond quickly and with the best information from their chemists and huge knowledge base. When you are ready for a beautiful, high performing medium, this is a great choice.
Reasonable price if you buy it higher quantities
Mixes super well with paints
Very clear when dry
Great thickness when dry
Flexible when dry, so great on canvas
Dries fairly fast and evenly
Levels flat well
Ranking at a virtual tie is the Liquitex Professional Artist Pouring Medium. I ranked it lower because I only use Golden Acrylic Liquid Paints when I pour and it is ALWAYS a good idea to stay with the same brand when adding mediums and varnishes into the mix. The manufacturers design their products to work optimally with each other. That’s not to say Liquitex won’t work well with other brands, or even with cheap brands of paint, because Liquitex will! It is strictly personal preference on my part to stick with the Golden brand. Made with superior resins, Liquitex will dry hard and you should wear gloves when using this product or it will be difficult to wash off your hands.
Very highly rated by crafters and professional artists. Superior performance and quality.
Very glossy when dry
Very transparent, giving vibrant color when dry
Very little bubbles when dry
Strong when dried with very little flexibility
Another medium that Golden created for professional artists is GAC800. Not created as a pouring medium, but rather a thinner and strengthener to be added to acrylic paints, it nevertheless can be used as a pouring medium. Of all the mediums, GAC 800 mixes with paint the easiest.
Mixes the very best of all pouring mediums
Great color vibrancy when dry
Does not do the best with silicone for making cells
Slight give when dry
Ranked very high by users, Vivid PolyPour is specifically designed to work with their Primary Elements Powdered Pigments. So, you need to mix up a batch of color powders each time you want a color, it has to be mixed by scratch. So, not exactly time-conserving. However, the pigments are very iridescent and are glistening when dry!
5. Floetrol Additive – best for first-timers
Sold as an extender for house paint, this economical product performs nearly as well as Liquitex Artist Pouring Medium. It does have a few drawbacks though. For example, it dries matte and some acrylic paints and colors will be glossier than others, so your finished product with Floetrol can be spotty as far as uniform glossy vs. matte appearance goes. It also has a not-so-ideal shelf life, and will start to clump eventually. Of course, if you drip it through a sieve before using, then that fixes that issue nicely.
Mixes well with all acrylic paints, even housepaint
Dries very matte – dulls colors
Works great with silicone to create cells
May dry unevenly depending on the relative glossiness of your paints
Not a lot of flexibility when dry
Users report that they needed to use a larger amount of paint in their recipe mix for best color coverage
Nearly clear drying
Wear gloves as its difficult to get off your hands
Does not mix well with some paints
Slightly yellow in color
May produce a few bubbles
Best for pours with lots of white, as the whites are brighter than the darks
Doesn’t make cells well with silicone
Not tested for archival quality
If using glossy acrylic paint, the result will be glossy, if using matte paint, the result will be matte.
Great for kids crafts
Good price point
Economical. That’s the biggest selling point for using Elmer’s glue! It is a must to add water to get a flow going, and even at that it still will not produce a super smooth flow. It may be necessary to blow through a straw to help move paint along.
Not acid-free, so will discolor and not last long
Does not finish flat.
Great for kids craft experimenting though!
Great for first-time users
Need to add quite a bit of water to make it flow (about 70% glue and 30% water)
Mixes with all acrylic paints well
Dries brittle, and not best on canvas – best on a rigid surface
Dries thin and matte – needs a glossy varnish if you want colors to pop
Reacts with silicone super well to make great cells
This medium has a good price point, but there are two features that make it a no-go for me. First, it gives an off-gas odor like fingernail enamel. Secondly, it takes a long time to dry. You’ll have to have a flat storage place where you can leave your artwork undisturbed for up to a couple of days! Living in a household of small kids, THAT’S not going to happen at my house. And thirdly, colors do not easily mix with this medium. Eventually they do, but you will have a longer stir-time to get a smooth result.
Glossy when dry
Good clear when finished
Just a little bubbles
Not tacky to touch when dry
Difficult to mix evenly – takes a long time to mix
Coming in last is the Sargent Pouring Medium. This product has the longest cure time ( up to four weeks or more!) and users report that in some cases it dries very tacky and sticky. On top of that, the off-white color of the medium changes the color of your paint until it dries, making it super difficult to judge relative colors next to each other. You just gotta pour the color out and come back in four weeks to see the final outcome of color. I guess that could be fun!
Four weeks cure time
Lots of bubbles
Very poorly rated, sometimes available at dollar stores
Stays tacky for a long time- at least four weeks=store carefully so no dust and no fibers adhere
Off-white medium color changes the color of your paint until it dries! Difficult to gauge paint colors with it
Recipes for medium mixing are general guidelines. Depending on the thickness of your paint, your manufacturer of medium, the humidity where you are working and room temperature, you may need to add more medium, add some floetrol, or add water to your mix. The very best recipe will come down to a visual inspection on your part to see how relatively ‘flowing’ your paint is at that moment and adjust your mix with more medium or a bit of water, in some cases. I know that isn’t very helpful! But, some teachers like a thicker paint viscosity and some much prefer a very runny mix!
This video demonstrates levels of viscosity and shows how the mix should look when dribbled off a stir stick into a cup. Skip the promo blurb and start the video at 1. 57 minutes!
It’s going to come down to experimentation! Here’s a good jumping off recipe:
1 Part pouring medium to 1 part acrylic paint
Assemble a few small cheap canvases for your medium recipe sampling. Label each one on the back A, B, C, etc. As this is going to be experimental, get a notebook and keep track of your recipe experiments using which paint and which medium and mixed in what proportions. Label a paper cup with your color mix and note that in your recipe book (for example, recipe A, B, C etc.). After trying out each recipe pour, and the paint has dried, you can determine which recipe mix and what paints produced your favorite result.
Once you find your ideal recipe, prepare ALL the paint colors you are going to use for your artwork using a separate paper cup, labeled with your recipe letter in advance of your pour.
Create a pour tub by buying a flat plastic bin like you’d use for under the bed storage. Place your canvas on some soup cans inside the box and after the pour, let the acrylic drips dry. They can then be peeled off and thrown into your garbage can. NEVER pour out acrylic paint leftovers down your house plumbing…it WILL clog your pipes no matter how diluted you make it with water.