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Make art you’ll be proud to display with this easy craft

Let your inner artist flow out by creating pour paintings.

paint being poured on a canvas Credit: GettyImages / dinachi

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I’ve never been much of an artist. When I was a kid, my stick figures were barely recognizable as people. But I picked up a lot of new hobbies during the past year and a half (thanks, COVID), and one of them has been painting. Even with my non-existent artistry skills, I'm able to make incredible works of art using this amazingly easy method: pour painting. This method of painting involves drizzling paint onto the canvas, then using your hands to toss and turn it any which way, moving the paint around to create a beautiful masterpiece. With a few simple items and easy steps, you’ll be creating art that deserves to be hung in a museum—or at least that you’ll display with pride in your home, whispering to your guests, I made that!

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What you need:

Step 1: Mix up your paint colors

A blank canvas next to paint in cups
Credit: Reviewed / Melissa Rorech

When you add Floetrol to the paint, it lightens the color slightly because it is white.

In order to make it so that the paint is liquid-y enough to pour, you need to add a special mixing agent called Floetrol, which changes the viscosity of the paint, lightening it slightly because Floetrol is white. Squirt some paint into a plastic cup then add the Floetrol, in a 1:1 ratio to start—it will depend how much of the color you plan to use and the size of your canvas, but I usually mix ⅓ cup of each. Then add in a splash of water—about a tablespoon for the amount I make—to even out the consistency.

Stir it up for about a minute with your wooden stir stick, and then draw the stick out. Does the paint flow down it like liquid honey? If not and it’s still too thick, add some more Floetrol and/or water until you get that nice, runny consistency. Repeat this process in separate cups with as many colors as you’d like in your painting. I usually stick to three or four colors per painting so the finished artwork doesn’t look too busy.

Step 2: Place your thumbtacks around the canvas

Thumbtack in the back of a canvas
Credit: Reviewed / Melissa Rorech

Take your thumbtacks and push them into the back corners of your canvas to keep it elevated off the ground.

When you get to twisting and turning your canvas to move the paint around, it can get quite messy, especially if you want the colors to flow from edge to edge. It's helpful to hold onto something else besides the canvas's frame itself—and that’s where the thumbtacks come in. Grab four long thumbtacks, flip the canvas over, and stick one into each corner so that, when flipped back over, the canvas is elevated off the table and you’ve created little handles to hold in your fingers.

Step 3: Decide what type of paint pour you want to do

There’s a few ways you can go about pour painting, with the main ones being the “traditional” pour and the “dirty” pour. The traditional pour will have more defined lines between the colors, while the dirty pour will have everything blending together more.

For the traditional pour, there’s nothing extra to be done with the paints, as you’ll be pouring directly from your paint-plus-Floetrol cups. The traditional pour creates a separated effect, as the different colors don't readily mix with this technique. Instead, they can flow up and abut each other but still remain distinct.

For the dirty pour, you take a new empty cup and layer the paints in there before you pour. Paintings made with dirty pours have blended appearance, mixing the colors together in swirls. Sometimes the colors will blend in such a way that a new color will form, like blue and yellow will make some green in the painting, which a traditional pour wouldn’t have.

Step 4: Pour away!

Two canvases with paint on them
Credit: Reviewed / Melissa Rorech

On the left is a traditional pour that keeps the colors more separate, while the right is the more blended dirty pour.

Once you know what method you’re going to do, put on some gloves to keep your hands clean and get to pouring. Just make sure you’re doing this over a surface that you don’t mind getting messy because paint will go everywhere. I usually put down some newspaper on the table, but you can also use an old table cloth or paint drop cloth.

For the traditional pour, you just pour each color onto the canvas one at a time. You can layer them on top of one another on the canvas or pour the paint in stripes or other shapes.

To execute the dirty pour, invert the canvas on top of the cup, carefully flip the whole thing so the canvas is right-side up and the cup is facing down, and lift the cup so all the paint pours out at once in one big gush.

Once you’ve poured your paints, pick up the canvas by the thumbtacks underneath and rotate and tilt it so the paint moves and spreads. Twist and turn the canvas until you have a design that covers the whole surface area and looks good to you. Need to add more paint? No worries, just do the same thing as before in the areas that need more color. Don’t be afraid of paint dripping down the sides of the canvas, either—that’s preferable so that your painting doesn’t end with edges that are boring white.

Step 5: Put your canvas down carefully—and wait

After painting with pour painting
Credit: Reviewed / Melissa Rorech

After twisting and turning the paint all over, this is the result. On the left is the traditional pour, on the right is the dirty pour.

The hardest part of pour painting is the waiting. Once you have a design you’re happy with, you have to put the canvas somewhere where it won’t be disturbed for 12 to 24 hours while the paint cures. I usually work on mine on my outdoor table because it’s so messy, but I carefully carry my canvas inside, because I don’t want to risk bugs landing on the wet paint or wind flipping the painting over. Just find a nice spot indoors that won’t be disturbed for a day, and keep some paper towels or newspaper underneath your art just in case it drips more before it sets.

Step 6: Enjoy your art and share it with others!

Finished Paintings
Credit: Reviewed / Melissa Rorech

These are the paintings after 24 hours of drying. On the left you have the traditional pour, on the right you have the dirty pour.

After about a day of waiting, you’ve got yourself a beautiful work of art you made yourself. It’s really hard to make a pour painting that looks bad, so you’ll be proud to display and share your talents with others (at least, I am). Hang up your pour paintings in your home, give them as gifts, or even sell them on Etsy. Soon enough, you’ll get addicted to the process and be making these left and right—just like me.

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