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How to Make Your Own Fluid Acrylics

A step-by-step explanation of how to make fluid acrylics from 'normal' acrylics.

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Fluid acrylics are acrylic paints with a runny or thin consistency, designed to flow and spread easily without scarifying color intensity. Fluid acrylics are ideal for pouring or dribbling paint, rather than applying it with a brush.

Various paint manufacturers sell fluid acrylics, but if it's only something you're going to want occasionally, you can make your own version from your usual, more buttery acrylics. (It works best if the tube of paint you're using is artist's quality.) Here's how to do it:

Step 1: Find a Suitable Container

How to make your own fluid acrylics
Image ©2007 Marion Boddy-Evans
Ideally you want a container that is squeezable, has a nozzle for creating a fine line, but also has an opening that's big enough to put a brush into should you wish to. I bought these are a store that stocks a lot of craft supplies, for less than a dollar each.

If you know someone who does a lot of fabric painting or decorative painting, they'll likely have paint in a similar bottle so ask them to save you an empty one.

Step 2: Add Medium/Water

How to make your own fluid acrylics
Image ©2007 Marion Boddy-Evans
You can just use water to dilute acrylics, but remember you don't really want to use more than 50% water (to the volume of paint) otherwise you run the risk of the paint losing its adhesive properties. So I used a 50:50 mixture of water and a glazing medium.

A dispersing medium would also work, but check the label to see how much is 'safe' to use. With some, if you use a lot, the paint may become water-soluble which could be a nuisance when applying further layers of paint.

See Also:
Intro to Acrylic Mediums
How Much Water Can You Add to Acrylic Paint?

Step 3: Add 'Normal' Acrylic Paint

How to make your own fluid acrylics
Image ©2007 Marion Boddy-Evans
Once you've got your fluids in your container, it's time to add some paint. How much is something you'll have to figure out through trial and error. To much and the paint won't be fluid enough, too little and your fluid acrylic won't have much strength in its color. I'd say stick to opaque, colors rather than transparent, for a stronger result. Here I'm using titanium white.

Another option worth considering is to use an acrylic ink rather than paint, as these have a very fluid consistency and intense colors.

Step 4: Consider Making a Funnel

How to make your own fluid acrylics
Image ©2007 Marion Boddy-Evans
If you're having trouble pouring medium into your container, make a funnel using a piece of aluminum foil. Fold it into a triangle, then around your finger or pencil to keep a hole open, and crimp the edges together. Don't stress over it; it's meant to be functional and disposable, not a work of art!

Step 5: Mix It All Together Thoroughly

How to make your own fluid acrylics
Image ©2007 Marion Boddy-Evans
Mixing it all together is the boring part as you have to ensure it's done thoroughly. Otherwise you'll get medium on its own and little lumps of paint. So be patient and shake, shake, shake. If you can get hold of one, add a small ball bearing in the bottle to help with mixing.

Step 6: Using Your Fluid Acrylic

How to make your own fluid acrylics
Image: ©2007 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc
Spend a bit of time practicing the kinds of marks you can make with your fluid acrylic. It will be influenced, for instance, by how narrow the nozzle is on your bottle, how fast you move across the canvas, and how hard you squeeze.

Step 7: Clean the Nozzle When You're Done

How to make your own fluid acrylics
Image ©2007 Marion Boddy-Evans
Take the time to clean the nozzle of the container thoroughly when you've finished painting. Yes, it's tedious to do, but if you don't the paint will dry in it and clog it. I found a meat skewer useful for getting into the tip of the nozzle; a large sewing needle would also work.

Step 8: Ensuring an Air-Tight Seal

How to make your own fluid acrylics
Image ©2007 Marion Boddy-Evans
As acrylics dry when the water evaporates, you need to check that the container you're using for your fluid acrylics is air-tight or well sealed. To ensure the paint is sealed in air-tight and thus won't dry out too quickly, I unscrew the nozzle, place a small piece of plastic wrap over the bottle, then screw the nozzle back on again.

Step 9: Experimenting with Fluid Acrylics

Seascape painting by Marion Boddy-Evans using fluid acrylics.
Image ©2007 Marion Boddy-Evans
The seascape painting shown here is one I struggled with for ages without getting anywhere satisfactory (read details), so it was ideal for experimenting on with some fluid acrylic paint. If it all went horribly wrong it really didn't matter. But in fact I'm quite pleased with the result, which isn't perfect but is something to be built on in subsequent paintings.

Basically I squeezed paint directly from the bottle of white fluid acrylic I'd made, across the canvas. Some lines I then flattened out (a color shaper is a good tool for doing this). I didn't have a master plan of what I was going to do before I started, I simply worked quickly and intuitively. (I did have a damp cloth at hand to completely wipe off paint if it was a disaster.)

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