First Attempt at Open Cup Acrylic Pouring (Orion Nebula?)

After some instructions and experiments I managed to make an awesome acrylic pour painting using the open cup technique. If you follow me along in this video, I will show you how I did it and give you some helpful tips on stuff including amount of paint and oil for the best cells. It’s very satisfying to watch the paint move around and a lot of fun to do!

Video transcript:

Hello ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Tony Needs Hobbies. My name is Tony and in this house we still have some empty undecorated walls. So I invited my cousin and his girlfriend over to try to teach me how to make open cup acrylic pour paintings. It’s going to be a lot of fun, so let’s do this!

In this video we will not attempt to make a fine art painting that actually resembles something. The technique that we are going to use to make nice decorative paintings is the acrylic pouring technique, to be specific: open cup acrylic pouring. That’s a mouthful but what it boils down to is that we will cover a canvas with a thick layer of thinned down acrylic paint. Then we will pour different colors of paint in an open cup, pull away the cup and move the paint over the canvas using nothing but gravity to create nice abstract paintings like the one that you see me creating during this little introduction. My wife and I are both going to make a big one of 60*80 cm or 24*32 inches guided by my cousin’s instructions.

The idea is that the paint from the cup can move around freely over the canvas. To make this work you will need a large amount of diluted acrylic paint. Both the paintings that we are going to make will have a black background, so we start by mixing the black acrylic with medium in about a 1:1 ratio. We used around 750 mL of the diluted mixture per painting, which turned out to be a little on the short side. I guess a liter per canvas would have been the perfect amount.

Anyway, after mixing the base color for the background, it is time to mix up all the colors that will be in the foreground of the painting. We both opted for some bright colors. These need to be diluted in the same 1:1 ratio with the medium like we did for the background color. You’ll need a lot less of these colors but they need to be mixed really thoroughly with the medium leaving no lumps of undiluted paint in the cups. We made the mixing and stirring a fun group activity.

Then a really important addition is needed to make the paintings a bit more interesting. I am going to add a few drops of silicone oil and stir a bit after adding. Maybe this doesn’t make a lot of sense yet, but later on in this video I will explain what purpose this serves. The oil will only be added to the foreground paint and we will just briefly stir.

If you manage to do so, now is the perfect time to put on gloves. This whole process is not difficult and this is the easiest part (if you have enough paint). Start off with a good quality canvas. Our canvases were of the cheaper kind which resulted in a bit of warping in the end because of the huge amount of paint that will be applied. This warping can easily be prevented by obtaining some higher quality canvases stretched over wide stretcher bars. Then you just pour the background color over the canvas and try to spread it evenly. You can do this with any tool you like, just make sure that the entire canvas is covered in a thick coating of background colored acrylic. I preferred doing it with my hands.

Then comes the fun part. This technique is called open cup acrylic pouring, so we need a cup and we need to open it up. Then we place it on the canvas and fill it with more paint. My wife decided to use three cups placed along a diagonal line. She filled one with shades of blue, the next one with shades of yellow and the last one with shades of purple. To all three cups a little bit of black was added as well. I myself decided to go for all of those colors in one cup and try to make it move in such a fashion that the end result will look a bit like images of the Orion Nebula in space. The cells that will be formed later will resemble stars. What I really enjoyed at this point in the process is what happens when a certain critical amount of paint is added to the cup and it starts floating around. It leaves such a beautiful trace of colors, I can look at it for hours.

But, we don’t have hours, so it is time to move on, remove the cups, and move that canvas around to create some wonderful paintings. Again, this is not difficult but it is good to have somewhat of a plan in your head to define how the moving needs to be done. You can’t really go wrong here, but if you do, the whole process of mixing the paint, pouring it and moving it around over the canvas just takes an hour or so, so you can always redo it. Paint will go all over the place, so it will be a huge mess in the end and you should definitely cover your work surface and don’t wear those thousand dollar suits. For the rest, you are free to do whatever you want to. My wife opted for three blobs of paint which worked out well for her. I was going for an interesting spacescape, didn’t know what I was doing, but this is starting to look awesome for sure! I could have chosen a better camera angle though…

What are those cells, you might ask yourself? Well, those cells are the reason I previously added silicone oil to the contrasting paints. The silicone oil doesn’t mix with the paints. Actually you can use any kind of oil, since none of them tend to mix well with acrylic based paints. So adding an oil can help the layers separate and slide against each other. This results in the most beautiful features in these kinds of paintings: cells. You can enhance them even more by applying some form of heat. We are using the hottest setting on a blow dryer to more or less “paint” cells on the surface. It is just amazing how these little cells pop open and have multiple colors inside of them. And that all happened just by using a few droplets of oil. Now it’s just a matter of letting the paint dry for a couple of days and finding a nice place on the wall to hang them. And… cleaning the mess we made of course…

The paintings are finished, we just have to wait for a couple of days for them to dry. I would like to thank my cousin Martin for showing us the process. We definitely had a blast making these paintings today and I hope you had some fun watching this video as well. If you did, please hit the like button and don’t forget to subscribe to this channel. For now I would like to thank you for watching.

Bye, bye!

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