The “Dirty Pour” Technique – A Step By Step Guide


Do you love fluid painting? Still trying it out? Now we are going to do is a tutorial using the “Dirty Pour” technique. I think you will love it! What is the “dirty pour” you ask? I don’t know how it got this name exactly, but it is a very popular approach to painting pours that involves mixing all of the colors individually,  then pouring them all into the same cup in layers, before doing the pour.

Due to the addition of oil, the different color layers will sit on top of each other.It can create stunning effects – and no two pieces will ever be alike. Without further ado, let’s get to it!

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dirty pour method

Materials Needed

Be sure you have all of your materials before getting started. You will need about 4-5 different colors of your choosing, plus white too, a painting medium (like Floetrol), disposable cups for mixing (I am using the same reusable storage containers from my last pour – good eco-friendly idea Id like to pass on if you’ve got them.)

You can refer to my list here for a complete guide to all the supplies. Also be sure you have one single transparent cup that will hold all of the colors. I’m actually using the same cup that one of my Betta fish came in, of course I washed it clean before using, it is just the right size for this project.

Related: Acrylic Painting Pour Kits

Mixing and Layering the Colors

Now that you’ve chosen your color palette, we’re going to start mixing our colors. Since I am creating this work specifically to hang in the master bedroom which has lots of cool tones (the walls are a light purple/blue color) I have chosen “cool” colors: aqua blue, mauve, and purple. I also thought I would add a little metallic gold for good measure. Yes you can add metallic or gold paint too, it will add a nice classy look.

Be sure your work space is well protected with newspapers and something plastic to catch the drips.  Mix each of the colors with the painting medium, water and oil following a 1:1:1 ratio. Stir each of them well.

colors mixed for dirty pour

You can see where I have got my notes ready…..

Now we’re going to pour all of the colors (except for the white – you’ll see where this is going in a moment) into one cup but to do this we’ll tilt the cup at a angle and pour the colors at such an angle that it will run down the sides and the colors should form a layer without mixing into each other (you defineteley do not want that)

dirty pour technique

Getting Your Canvas Ready

Prepare your canvas with thumbtacks pushed into each bottom corner to prop it up and allow the paint to go over the edges, or you can just set it on top of a few cups.

Now apply a base coat of the white paint you mixed earlier, onto the canvas so the pour will go smoothly and flow like it should. Notice how I had you mix all of the colors first and then do the application of the base coat ? There’s a good reason for that, it is a little time consuming to mix paints, medium and oils individually, and the base coat MUST be fresh and still wet prior to pouring paint on.

The “Inverted Cup” Approach

This is a popular approach to transferring all that beautiful paint. Set your canvas (while still upside down) on top of the cup. Now being careful to hold the cup and the canvas simultaneously (hold both tightly) and flip them over at the same time.

flip the cup

Remove the cup slowly from the canvas….and you should have a puddle of color in the middle. The colors will disperse naturally on their own. This is where the magic happens.

Houston we have liftoff….

Let it continue to flow now, but tilt the canvas in different directions to get the effect you like.

After a few minutes of tilting to the side and around….here’s what I’m getting…And if you look carefully, you can see “cells” forming. Voila!  That did not happen with my first painting. I also want to point out that I used a product called “3 in 1 oil” not true silicone oil as many articles will purport.

fluid painting purple

Can you see the formation of cells?

Use the Paint Runoff

You’re also most likely going to have some runoff paint, I took my second canvas and pushed it into the paint that ran off the sides of the other and that way I produced a second work. I also added a little more from the cups and did a little mini-pour too. Here are both pictures:

completed art with dirty pour

You can see that second one looks a little more vivid, but that’s OK they’re not supposed to be identical. It’s showing cell formation too! Find a safe place to let it dry. It may take about 2 days or longer. At the time of writing (the next day), the first one looks “glossy” on one side indicating that is is still drying.

Now you have performed the “dirty pour” technique. Did you enjoy it? That turned out better than I thought! Only thing I will need to do later may be to touch up the edges, as there was one corner that was left bare.

Let us know if you’ve attempted this by posting in the comments. I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts. Have fun!

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