Starting Fluid Painting? Things You Need and How To Start.

Anyone can tell you what you need for starting fluid painting. I am on a very limited budget, and lets be honest, I am cheap. I didn’t want to be spending a small fortune on materials I didn’t know if I would love or not. I tried to find where I could cut corners and get the most out of my money. Here’s what I found. 

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1. Floetrol 

. Floetrol is what you use to sort of thin out your paint and make it spread. You cant skimp and use water because it will just not work. The floetrol will keep a more creamy consistancy and allow your paint to be fluid. You can buy Flotrol at any craft store because fluid painting is so popular right now. However, I suggest checking Lowes or Home Depot because you get a lot more and WAY less expensive. I get the big jug, its more bang for your buck. You can get a smaller option as well. It’s usually in the section with house paints. 

2. Acrylic paint

If you are a beginner, start out with some less expensive acrylic paints. As you develop your skill you can get higher quality acrylics but I have found its not quite necessary for me. 

They are a medium quality but definitely good if you are just starting out. I still use them for my pours. You can usually find them on sale or use a coupon! Always check the website for coupons that might apply and you can get them on your phone or print them out. 

3. Canvas 

Start on small canvases and work you way larger if you love it. I know sometimes we want to “go for the gusto” but take your time when practicing. Personally I would suggest 8×10 or 16×20 canvas for a few reasons. You can get the hang of it, it’s cheaper, and you aren’t wasting materials. Also, the larger the canvas, the heavier the paint. The paint can pool in the middle of the canvas if not properly supported. 

 I started on 16×20 canvas and I think that is a good place to start. You can buy bulk canvas packs if you plan on doing multiple artworks. 

4. Popsicle sticks 

You will use these to mix your mixture for your pours. I like the fatter ones, just easier to use and hold.  Tip: don’t use the same one in different colors. You can reuse the popsicle sticks once they are dry. 

5. WD-40 

Weird right? But you can create beautiful cells with this. I’ll talk more about this later in the post. If you’ve got some in your garage, perfect if not. Find it any hardware store. 

6. Tarp or painter plastic 

I had painters plastic on hand so I started off using that. When it comes to a tarp, I found a cheap $2 tarp at my local Valu Home Center. I bought two of them because they are small and I overlapped them to get the perfect size. You don’t need to be spending $15 on painters plastic or a massive tarp. Do what works for you and the space you have. 

7. Gloves 

You’re going to need to protect your skin. You can use plastic gloves from anywhere.  I found a pair of gardening gloves at the Dollar Store. They work perfect for what I need and reusable! 

8. Plastic cups 

This too I got at the dollar store. You’ll need some type of disposable cup that you can mix in (I always reuse these cups too. When paint dries, most time you can peel it right out. Now as I got better, and started doing it a lot, I bought ketchup and mustard squirt bottles and just filled those puppies up and used as needed. This way I could mix larger batches and not worry about using all of it right away. 

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Mixing Floetrol with your colors. 

Measure out one part Floetrol, ½ part water in my plastic cups. A lot of pages tell you to do one to one ratio but I found that it is too watery and messes with your results. Then I take my acrylic and add about a tablespoon of acrylic. To be completely honest, I eyeball this. When you mix it up with your popsicle stick, you should be able to tell if it has enough color in it.  In a solo cup, I mix it to be about half way full. I mix in smaller batches because I don’t want to be wasteful. If you know you’re going to need more, go ahead add more. It’s all personal preference. 

Have a cohesive color theme to try and practice.  

If you don’t have a color scheme in mind either come up with one or look one up to try. I would not suggest doing more than four colors for your first few pours. Also, don’t feel the need to go out and buy ten million bottles of acrylic. Use basic color theory to mix desired colors (premix these before adding them to the Floetrol mixture just in case). 

You can check my Pinterest if you need some color combination ideas! 

Prep your spaces.  

Sometimes we don’t have space to do messy things. I found that when it was nice out, I would lay a tarp in my driveway. During the winter, I used painter plastic and some tape, and put it on the basement floor. My basement is unfinished so that worked just in case I got some on the floor (which I did, but I am extremely messy when it comes to art making). If you’ve got room, still prep it well by laying down some sort of protection. Never let your paint just free fall on a surface you don’t mind throwing out. 

Flat surfaces.  

This is the most important part because it can make or break your pour. Have your canvas sitting on a surface it will not fuse to. Because I am super cheap, I didn’t want to go and buy something for this. There was a little divider that my dog’s crate had that I never used. I put it on top of a box and this works well if I want to make one or two paintings. Being cheap again, I use large plastic kitty litter tubs. These actually seem to work pretty well, so If you have kitties or know someone who does, this is a good cheap solution. Make sure you take the lid off so the paint can drip down. 

The secret to getting cells in your fluid paintings. 

Cells are the little bubbles of colors that form in your painting. They are just gorgeous and I am obsessed with how they really make your artwork pop. I have tried several techniques and my results have landed on WD-40. If you put a tiny spritz of this in your mixed color, you will create cells. Too much and it can possibly yellow your painting over time, so don’t go crazy. 

Clean pour vs. Dirty pour 

A clean pour is when you pour directly onto the canvas. All results will vary, but the clean pour colors tend to be more separated. . For a clean pour, go ahead and pour lines all over. 

Here’s what a clean pour may look like:


Dirty pour is when you layer different colorsin a cup and pour from that cup. Dirty pours start to mix and blend.If you want to try a dirty pour, layer your colors in a cup, put the canvas on top and flip all of it over. This is tricky the first few times to get the right amount. 

Here’s a little video that will give you a better idea:


Start moving the canvas around slightly and slowly to get the paint moving and blending. The more you move the more the colors will mix together so keep that in mind. 

I notice you get better cells in a dirty pour, so if that’s the look you’re going for, dirty pour is the better option.

Don’t be obsessed with perfect results right away  

The beauty of this if you really don’t like it, you can do another pour on top and cover it up when it is dry. But you’re never going to know if you don’t try. Sometimes our mistakes turn out beautiful. Give it a shot.  

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 What worked for you? What didn’t?  

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