Fluid Acrylic Failures

5 fluid acrylic failures

I’m sure that anyone who has tried fluid acrylic paintings at least a few times, whether they be amateur or professional artists, has had their fair share of failures, myself included!

Fluid acrylic failures can include anything from paint ending up in a muddy mess, no cells, paint slipping and moving to lack of definition between the colours and some colours not showing through at all.

Sometimes you can rescue the failures and sometimes you just need to put them down to experience and learn from your mistakes.

Thinking through some of my failures (and I have been using this technique and one similar to it since 2006) I can analyse 5 of the main problems:

5 Fluid Acrylic Failures!


What Happens


Problem 1: Paint is too thin

Colours end up muddy, paint slips off the canvas. Thin paint will mix very well with other paint and cause muddy colours. It can also cause the paint to run off the canvas or else it might puddle in the middle.

Thicken up your paint either by using more paint and less water or you can add Floetrol to your paint as that will thicken it slightly (depending on what paint you are using). You can also add PVA to thicken the paint but this is not archival.

Problem 2: Paint is too thick

This may mean that the paint colours don’t actually mix well with the other colours or move around the canvas.

It is quite a difficult process to get a paint consistency that gives you the results you are looking for – a lot of this is trial and error so do lots of tests with paint at different consistencies.

Problem 3: No cells

Cells are generally produced not only with certain additives (silicon, floetrol etc) but also by using certain colours together depending on their transparency and weight.

If you are not getting cells then one test I would recommend trying is to do a small test swipe with your existing colours and using white (with only water added) for the swipe. See if this produces cells and if not then you need to either adjust your colours (perhaps try different ones and different consistencies) or else add silicone/Floetrol etc.

Problem 4: Paint slipping

This can happen for a couple of reasons; firstly you need to make sure that your painting surface, whatever you may be using, is completely level. I once did a lovely pour, prior to which I had levelled the canvas, only to come back the next day to find it had all slipped off the side because I had not put the canvas back in the spot that I had levelled it on! This can also happen, however well you level the canvas, if you have some paint that is very liquid.

Make sure you use a spirit level to ensure that the canvas (or whatever you are pouring on to) is completely level. And make sure you put the canvas in the place you levelled it!

Problem 5: Muddy colours

As per above, this could be because your paint is too thin. It can also be caused by using too many colours, using colours that are not pure enough (i.e. colours that have already been mixed with other colours), using colours that are not harmonious and mixing the colours too much when they are on the painting surface. It can also be caused by not mixing up enough paint so that you have to move it around so much that it all becomes muddied by mixing.

Make sure your paint is not too thin, choose only a few colours (maximum 5 in my opinion), use colours straight from the pot and not mixed together and check the colour wheel for colours that are either complementary or analogous hues (i.e. similar like blues and greens). Try not to use colours like grey as some can take over. And make sure you make up enough paint.

5 Things You Can Do With Fluid Acrylic Failures

  1. Swipe it – this can sometimes release a lot of cells and uncover some raw colours that might make the painting usable! Try and swipe the whole painting in one go and leave it for a short while to allow the cells to pop. You can add some more paint at one end before swiping.
  2. Add more paint and tilt/blow – I have done this a number of times in the past. If I have a painting that isn’t quite turning out as I want it to, I add more paint and use the hairdryer to blow that paint around and give some great effects. It sometimes ends up using a lot more paint but at least it rescues the painting.
  3. This painting actually has two coats on it. The first version didn’t work for me and so I added another swipe on top and it looked much nicer after that.

    Add another layer – I am usually quite hesitant to do this as sometimes the paint may crack. I have done it successfully on a few occasions though and would only ever do it if I intended to cover the finished painting with resin to seal it from further drying out.

  4. Wipe all the paint off – if you have tried everything and the painting is still not working then you sometimes just have to cut your losses and scrape all of the paint off and leave the canvas to dry so that you can start again from fresh.
    Sometimes you can rescue the used paint if it hasn’t turned all muddy. This is probably the most common scenario in my studio – I make sure I make a decision on the painting the day that I do it so that I can decide whether to scrape the paint off or not.
    I use my icing spreader to scrape it all into a pot so that I can dispose of it or use it again.
  5. Some cards made from an existing painting that didn’t work as a whole.

    Use it for something else. If you have left a painting to dry and there may be parts of it that you like, you could use it for something else like making greeting cards. I have made quite a number of cards out of paintings which I changed my mind about when they were dry and you can pick out some nice parts of the painting to use on the cards.

Whatever happens, just remember that everyone has fluid acrylic failures and a lot of paint pouring is a matter of trial and error. It is sometimes worth using small cheap test canvases to see if a colour combination works and if your paints are of the right consistency.