I marvel at the patterns and colors created from a stunning acrylic pour! Many people are in love with the cells that are possible with silicone additives (or using other methods). Silicone for acrylic pouring is just one way to get these intricate cells.
The correct application of this technique is based on using the right materials. You will have to use the right mix of paints, mediums, and additives — especially silicone — to create the space for cells to form.
In this article, I’ll explain in detail why silicone is popular in acrylic pouring and how you can use it effectively to create great artwork.
How Are Cells Created In Acrylic Paints
You can create cells in acrylic pouring by changing the density between the various paint colors. While there are hundreds of ways to create cells in an acrylic pour, the number and size of cells that appear are more or less determined by the difference in the densities of the colors.
This works because some paint pigments are denser than others. Painters can use this to create the cellular effect on their acrylic pour painting.
You can use three main ways to create cells in your acrylic painting. You can do this by,
- Varying the density of the paint
- Adding silicone to the mix
- Using the torch method
Each method has its pros and cons.
Varying Density of the Paint
This is considered the most efficient way to create cells in your acrylic pour.
Every color in the paint has a specific gravity value. Some are denser and others are lighter.
If you pour the least dense paint on the bottom and the densest paint on top, the denser paint pushes down due to gravity. The paint with lesser density rises to the top and causes the cells to appear.
You can change the consistency and density of the paint before pouring them on.
Some brands such as Golden Acrylic Paints put labels on each paint color with their specific gravity noted on the cover. You can also check the density by weighing each of the colors in your pouring mix on a scale, before layering them on your sheets.
For in-depth information on pouring mediums, read my article Choosing The Right Pouring Medium.
Adding Silicone For Acrylic Pouring to Create Cells
Silicone has long been used as an additive in acrylic pouring. However, it is not without its downsides.
Many artists argue its effectiveness and do not use it as the silicone can lower the archival quality of the artwork. One of the reported effects is that it can have a yellowing effect on the paint. In addition, silicone may degrade the quality of your artwork over time.
On the other hand, many artists swear by its usefulness. Acrylic paints are water-based. When you mix them with oils or something such as silicon, the two layers of media become separate from each other. This separation creates the cellular effect.
I will cover this in more detail in the next section.
Use the Torching Method
The torch method is a good alternative if you don’t want to use silicone for acrylic pouring. There are several reasons why you would want to go with the torching method in your acrylic pouring painting.
- Torching offers a good way to remove bubbles that appear on the surface of your acrylic pour. It can help you smooth out defects and prevent holes from forming on the artwork as it dries.
- Torching also gives you more control over where the smaller cells appear in your fluid artwork. Other heat sources such as a heat gun or blow dryer can move the paint more than you intend.
- Torching allows you to keep the colors in control.
- Works may be more archival and less prone to yellowing with time.
The torch method is more suitable when you want to create a lot of smaller cells. It gives you better control over where these cells appear in your painting instead of relying on chance.
However, the method is not effective if you want to create fewer cells that are large in size. Torching tends to break the paint into smaller cells so it is better to try other methods above when you want fewer and bigger cells.
Reasons to Use Silicone For Acrylic Pouring
If you want to create the cellular effect, you need the paints to flow smoothly and easily. A good pouring medium similar to water, such as Liquitex and Floetrol, can help you achieve this. If you are crafting or creating pieces not intended for displaying over a lifetime, then these are fine.
If you are concerned about color changing or yellowing of the paints over time, then stick to the expensive artist-quality mediums like Liquitex or Golden pouring mediums.
The better your paints flow as you pour, the better effects you will get in the end. Pouring mediums also extend the drying times for your painting, which gives you more freedom to work with the cells once they’ve formed.
To make sure that you form the cells as you pour the acrylic paint, you need to mix it with something that helps create a sort of cell membrane between the paint.
Acrylic paints are made with water and oil doesn’t mix well with water. That is where silicone comes in. It has similar properties to oil and helps the layers separate and slide against each other. That is perfect for creating cells! You will most likely be able to create at least some cells just by adding silicone to your paint without even needing to torch it.
Many artists consider silicone to be the best type of lubricant for acrylic pouring as it is quite predictable, neutral, and durable. It’s easy to manipulate and shape the colors.
Silicone also does not turn rancid or changes color quickly as many natural oils do. It is inert in chemical properties, as long as you use pure silicone.
Types of Silicone for Acrylic Pouring
Silicone comes in various shapes and forms. Some variants are great for acrylic pouring but some may not be as good. It is best to understand the properties of different types of silicone to get good results.
Here are some of the most common types of silicons you can use for acrylic painting.
Spray Lubricants Silicon
This type of silicone is commonly available in craft stores and home improvement retailers. It comes in different brands such as Blaster, Liquid Wrench, and CRC Heavy Duty. It is sold in cans that are easy to spray on artwork or mix with your paint. A popular brand that you can easily find online is the WD–40 Specialist Silicone Lubricant.
This silicone spray is quite inexpensive. You can spray this type of silicone directly onto the paint or use a dropper.
It’s more accurate and less likely to make a mess of your painting. The can is a little toxic so we advise using it outside to avoid the fumes! You can also spray it into a small dish and then mix some into your next pour to try out the effect.
Most new artists start out with spray cans and branch out to higher quality silicone as they get better. We advise switching to a pure liquid silicone oil when you can afford it.
There are some downsides to using the spray lubricant silicone. It contains a number of chemicals and toxins that can leave you feeling dizzy. It will also have a slightly yellow coloring, which will be visible in your pieces. Some high-end selling artists do not use silicone for this reason.
Liquid Silicone Oils
The majority of artists use liquid silicone oils for creating beautiful cells in their artwork. Some popular brands include Painter’s Pro Acrylic Latex sealant and Gorilla Clear 100 Percent Silicon.
The best liquid silicone oils are made with 100 percent silicone with nothing else added. If you pour them out, you will find that they do not smell bad like the sprays. They usually come in a convenient dropper bottle. Therefore, this makes them easier to use with a high degree of precision.
Silicone oils are used in a wide variety of home applications from keeping your locks working to sewing machines. You can certainly find them in hardware stores. Just make sure to choose 100 percent silicon.
Ideally, you do not need to get silicone oils with any additives or mystery ingredients. These chemicals can mess up your pours by discoloring them or reacting with the paints.
One hundred percent silicone will be perfectly clear without any coloration, clouding, or inconsistency.
Skin Friendly Dimethicone Silicon
If you are really concerned about contact with your skin, then you can go with a skin-friendly silicone for acrylic pouring. Take Dimethicone for instance. It is a form of silicone oil that is commonly found in hair care products. It doesn’t have any smell and categorized as a skin-friendly product.
You can buy a hair product rich in dimethicone to use for painting. You may be able to order it from specialty stores as well As with silicone oil, you need to stay away from any products that have mystery ingredients or compounds that might mess up your paint colors.
If you have particularly sensitive skin or worried about other types of silicone harming your hands while working, then this type of silicone would be more suitable for you. It is expensive though, so keep that in mind.
How Much Silicone Do I Need to Create Cells?
You don’t need a lot of silicone to create cells in your painting. At most, you need no more than two to three drops in each color to start creating some cells.
However, the amount may differ depending on the final painting effect you need and the colors you are using. It largely comes down to experimentation, so practice to get the right results.
How to Mix Silicone For Acrylic Pouring
Finding the right combination for mixing silicone with acrylic paint will take some time and experimentation, but here is a good starting point for beginners.
Mix 1 part of acrylic paint with 1.5 units of pouring medium. Pour it out and add 2 – 3 drops of liquid silicone where you want the cells to appear.
2 or 3 drops of silicone added to pouring medium…not a lot!
Experiment with different side-by-side tests to see the final result you want to achieve. Make a note of your experiment recipes where possible.
Creating Cells in the Art of Pouring
Silicone oil is great for creating and strengthening cell formation in your acrylic pour painting. Since oil and water do not mix, the silicone oil helps separate the paint into distinct, cell-shaped patterns. This basic yet common chemical reaction leads to more, and potentially bigger, cells in your acrylic artwork.
You should remember that different silicone oils or sprays have different chemical compositions and properties. All of them do not work with the same efficiency for acrylic painting.
Some varieties of silicone oils are likely to produce many small cells that look washed out. Other silicone oils create larger and more clearly defined cells. In the worst case scenario, some oils do not create any cell-like effect at all.
If your goal – as an acrylic artist – is to create as many clearly differentiated, contrasting, and interesting cell patterns as you can. The question is how do you identify silicone oils that create the most cells, or the biggest cells, or the most sharply delineated cells?
High Viscosity Silicone Oil
High viscosity silicone permeates through the acrylic pouring slowly. It creates a lot more cells but each of them is smaller in size.
As this type of silicone oil takes time to reach with the paint, the cells are more clearly delineated and easy to tell apart. Furthermore, the color separation between different cells is also clearer and the colors do not mix with each other a lot.
Low Viscosity Silicone Oil
If you want to create larger cells, then low viscosity silicone oil will do the trick. The cells are less in number, but bigger and the borders are much thinner.
The low viscosity of the oil allows colors to mix and flow more readily and you will see stronger gradients between different colored cells.
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Pouring
Beginners and new painters make some mistakes when working with silicone and pouring acrylic paint. Here are some of them that you should avoid.
- Do Not Be Impatient: Don’t hurry when applying the silicone for acrylic paint pouring. Remember that your first few paintings are not meant to be the greatest masterpieces you will create. They are for practice, so take your time and experiment.
- Keep Costs Down: For the first few projects, try to use smaller canvases. Smaller canvases are cheaper and you will also save on paint and material while you learn the art.
- Avoid Combining Colors Wildly: One of the mistakes that new people make is that they start mixing and pouring different colors without reading the basics of the color theory. This can give you a lot of bad painting habits that are difficult to get rid of later. It is important to have good knowledge of basic color theory before you start. For example, opposites on the color wheel are vibrant and set each other off, but too much mixing together will create the dreaded ‘mud’ grey.
- Don’t Be Too Hesitant: This is the opposite of the first point. Just as rushing in is bad, being too hesitant to start painting could mean that you never dip your feet in the water. After you have completed your research, go ahead and start pouring some art.
- Find The Right Consistency: Many new painters will start by mixing too much fluid or too little. This is common and happens with everyone, so do not worry. With practice, trial and error, you will get closer to making the perfect mixture that flows right and forms correctly.
- Getting Too Many Air Bubbles: This happens when you pour the mixture too soon. Allow the mixture to stand for at least a few hours before you start pouring. This will allow the air bubbles to escape and you won’t have them in your artwork later when it becomes too difficult, or impossible, to get them out.
Silicone oil is not very expensive and can be used to create a variety of cells for your art. The art is not difficult but it does take time to get good at. The important thing is to explore, experiment, and enjoy the process. Acrylic pouring and cell creation are about getting things started and watching with delight what happens on its own.
In this article, I shared a detailed guide on how to use silicone oil in your acrylic pouring. I hope it can be useful to you in your artistic pursuits. Follow our website for more tips and guides in the future.