It’s little wonder that pour painting has taken off in popularity over the past couple of years. This creative art form – which, as the name suggests, centres on pouring acrylic paint onto a canvas to create a memorable work of art – is meditative, calming and also great for those wanting to tap into their inner creativity.

Intuitive artist and art teacher Leah Robinson of Creative Resonance has focused on this mesmerising technique for the past three years and understands why it’s so appealing. “We are experiencing a creative renaissance at a time when people have had the opportunity to reassess their work-life balance and they are discovering art as mindfulness practice for health and wellness,” she says. “Acrylic pour painting is a new, fresh, colourful and exciting art form.” And the added side benefits? “You go into a timeless zone, being in the moment, meditatively mixing colours to begin the magical process of creation. It’s abstract, fun and vibrant.”

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The mesmerising art form of pour painting is becoming well-known for its meditative and mindfulness benefits.

And, it’s also perfect for beginner artists. “No prior skill is required,” adds Leah, who shares her step-by-step guide to three easy-to-do techniques for pour painting, below. “It’s forgiving as long as a few basic guidelines are observed. The kind of skill required is mindfulness, letting go of trying to control and going with the flow to allow your inner artist to emerge. A sense of colour helps”.

Let’s Get Started With Pour Painting 

You could use a pre-mixed kit or choose to custom mix paints to create these unstructured abstract pour painting masterpieces. Leah recommends pre-packed mixes for beginners as they are easy to use and reduce the margin for error. (Once you become a pro, you’ll be able to select and mix your own paint colours to take over the creative process from beginning to end!) 

She also recommends beginning with a smaller canvas size such as 12” x 12” or 11” x 14” before attempting larger sized-canvases and suggests that the dirty pour technique (see below), using a pre-mixed kit would be the first stop for first-timers. 

Before pouring paint and creating your whorls and swirls by tilting the canvas and stretching the colours, you need to prepare your canvas first. Ensure it is primed with 1-2 coats of gesso (though check, as some bought canvases come primed already). This creates a slightly textured surface, which accepts acrylic paint without it soaking into the canvas weave. 

Pour painting is a messy process, so make sure you protect the back and sides of your canvas using masking tape.

Things can get messy with pour painting, so protect the back of your canvas by sealing with masking tape, taping 2-3mm in from the edge of the canvas. Elevate the canvas, using a pushpin in each corner at the back to hold it up, and make sure the canvas is evenly balanced on your painting table. Then you are set to try out Leah’s top three paint pouring techniques – the flip-cup dirty pour, the ring pour and the dutch pour.

Hot Tip: Use a plastic tablecloth on your painting surface and have all your materials nearby including paints, pouring mediums, mixing sticks, plastic and paper cups, plastic palette knife or spatula, paper towels and hair dryer. And remember to wear plastic gloves and protective gear!  

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Pour Painting Technique: Flip-Cup Dirty Pour

This paint pouring technique is great for beginners and is a simple way to create a dramatic work of art.

The flip-cup dirty pour paint pouring technique is the perfect entry-level technique for paint pouring beginners.

Step 1: Shake your paint bottles well and select one colour to use as the base colour and add to a cup, around 100ml in capacity. (Some pre-mix pour painting kits come with a cup included).

Step 2: Fill your “dirty cup” by adding the other three other colours one at a time, into the cup. To create the layers, add the additional colours by pouring them down the side of the cup, so that each new layer gently rolls over the last without mixing. (Layers can be 1-2 cm thick.) 

Step 3: Now for the fun bit. Flip your cup and canvas together by simply putting the canvas face down on top of the cup, then hold the cup and the canvas and flip both over. Place on your prepared painting surface. 

Step 4: Lift the cup to release the layers of paint in one mass. Alternatively, lightly slide the cup across the surface of the canvas while lifting slightly to progressively release the paint. Avoid pressing down on the cup as this can scrape off or dig into the paint and prevent paint from being released. Also avoid crossing the paint path as overmixing can result in muddy colours.

Step 5: Apply the base colour to the other areas of the canvas. Use a palette knife or spatula to spread the paint across the canvas surface close to the middle paint area but not touching it, and also spread it down the sides of the canvas. Dab paint with fingers or palette knife to fill gaps where necessary. (Dab rather than rub which can scrape or remove paint.)

Step 6: Tilt the canvas and stretch the paint to create your composition. Make sure you tilt slowly in one direction, such as to the corner, then return the paint mass to centre before tilting in another direction. Too fast and too much tilting can result in a muddy pour. Avoid over-tilting, which can result in distortion of shapes and thinned-out areas of coverage.

Step 7: Allow your painting to reveal itself as it comes to life. Make sure you put it down to observe and take your time to consider the emerging composition. Tweak to create your desired design. 

Hot Tip: Know when to stop. Your painting will tell you when it's finished, so listen. There are no rules. Be creative, experiment, and have fun! 

What You’ll Need 

The flip-cup dirty pour paint pouring technique will result in a beautifully dramatic work of art.

Pour Painting Technique: Ring Pour

The ring pour technique requires patience and a steady hand for best results!

Got a steady hand? The ring pour paint pouring technique could be the perfect creative outlet for you.

Step 1: In separate cups, mix each of your chosen colours with the pouring medium in the ratio 1: 2, filling each cup to ¾ full. Use popsicle sticks to mix well. 

Step 2: Check the paints’ consistency. Thick paint consistency, like warm honey, is essential for ring pouring. All paints should be mixed with the pouring medium to the same consistency for best results. This ensures each colour maintains its integrity while being added to the pouring cup, and as the paint is poured, for distinct rings without blending or colour seepage. 

Hot Tip: When mixing, test paint by pouring off the mixing stick so that it mounds for a second or two on the surface before flattening off.

Step 3: Take a large paper cup and place it on the painting surface. Without moving it, fill this ‘pouring’ cup with all three colours, starting with the base colour. Add the other two colours by pouring each colour down opposite sides of the cup, so that the two streams of paint meet in the middle and each new layer gently rolls over the last without mixing. Layers can be 1 cm thick. Continue adding the colours in the same sequence until the cup is full. When the cup is full, create a spout midway between the two paint streams.

Step 4: Pour paint into the middle of the prepared canvas by slowly moving the cup in a circular motion to create rings. Start with small circular movements, getting larger as the paint mass expands outwards from the centre. Make sure you hold the cup at a close distance from the canvas and keep focused with a steady hand until the cup is empty. 

Step 5: Pour the base colour onto the blank part of the canvas and spread using a spatula so that it is near to the edge of the paint rings – but not touching. Also spread off the sides of the canvas. Dab and spread paint with fingers or palette knife to fill gaps where necessary. (Dab paint rather than rubbing as this can scrape or remove paint.)

Step 6: Let the paint settle for a few minutes and then start tilting and stretching it. First tilt toward the corners to ‘square up’ the paint mass. Remember to tilt paint mass back to centre before tilting in the opposite or another direction.

Step 7: Tilt to widen rings and reveal colour layers. When considering the composition, pour less desired areas off the sides of the canvas, and emphasise the more desirable areas. Keep some of the base colour undisturbed as negative space. 

Hot Tip: Consider both positive and negative spaces that combine to create a composition – balance is key.

What You’ll Need 

The ring pour paint pouring technique requires mixing your paint colours with a pouring medium for a better paint consistency for pouring.

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Pour Painting Technique: Dutch Pour

This pour painting technique is one for the more advanced pour paint artist – and requires the assistance of a hairdryer.

The “dutch pour” pour painting technique is ideal for more advanced paint pourers and requires the use of a hairdryer.

Step 1: Squeeze 2 x 60ml tubes of base colour into a large plastic cup. Mix with 120ml of water by first pouring in a splash of water, mixing well, then adding the rest of the water. This prevents lumps forming. Stir gently to mix thoroughly (stirring gently will also decrease the chance of air bubbles.)

Step 2: Use small cups to mix paint and water with a ratio of 1:1 for the other three colours. Note: to create the gradients of colour in the Dutch pour, the consistency needs to be runny so the paint can be blown with a hairdryer and all paints should be mixed to the same consistency for best results. After mixing, test the paints by pouring off the mixing stick and checking that the paint immediately flattens out. 

Hot Tip: To test consistency, drop equal-sized blobs of paint next to each other onto a card and hold up in a vertical position. Check that each colour drips down the card at the same rate. If too thick, add a little water to adjust consistency.

Step 3: Apply the base colour to the canvas, pouring about ½ - ²/₃ of the cup onto the canvas in a square motion. Tilt the canvas to spread the paint across the top surface. Use the hairdryer to spread the paint to all edges and to run down the sides of the canvas. Dab and spread paint with fingers or a palette knife to fill gaps where necessary. 

Step 4: Choose a central or off-centre position, not too close to the edge, and pour a puddle of one colour about 5cm in diameter. Then pour the same amount of each of the other two colours into the first puddle so that it expands.

Step 5: Pour a 2-3 cm pillow of the base colour as a ring around the puddle. Make sure you touch the puddle, not leaving a gap between the puddle and the base colour.

Step 6: Using a hairdryer on a low setting, positioned at a 45-degree angle and low to the canvas, blow the pillow of white over the puddle to cover it. Aim at the pillow, not the puddle, and use a short burst of air. Quickly turn off or pull the hair dryer away to avoid overblowing and use 2-3 short blows one at a time as required to cover the puddle.

Hot Tip: Blowing pillow over puddle is a bit like flipping an egg!

Step 7: Now, blow out the paint with the hairdryer to create your desired design. There should be a mound formed by the paint under the pillow. This allows the paint to flow when blown out. Take each step slowly to consider your design.

Step 8: Mouth blow to tweak your design by holding your head to the side of the canvas and blowing the paint across the canvas. Blowing downwards tends to blow a hole into the paint. Make sure you tie back your hair and avoid clothing touching the canvas as you lean over close to the painting! 

What You’ll Need 

When creating your dutch pour pour painting masterpiece, take each step slowly to consider your design and desired finish.

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