Experimenting with Acrylic Flow and Mod Podge: Part 1

Untitled design

Recently I received a goodie box from Plaid Crafts filled with a variety of acrylic paints, 2 types of Mod Podge, paintable glitter, and much more!  As I gazed at the contents I realized that I could use many of the contents to create an acrylic flow painting…or at least I thought I could.

Acrylic Flow painting has captured my mixed media attention.  I created a few pieces with friends, then ventured down that long hole called “YouTube”.  There are more versions and ideas for how to do it, how to create cells, & what to use as a flow medium than any one person has time to watch!  But armed with the knowledge that I wanted to use Mod Podge for my base I was able to fine-tune my search for information.

The first “formula” that I found said to use equal parts of Mod Podge to paint plus enough water to make it “flow”.  I pulled out a measuring cup and marked a series of cups with lines marking every 1/8c.


I had a bottle of Mod Podge in my crafting supplies (love the stuff!).  I decided to use it up before opening the new one.  I poured some into each cup (up to the first line).  Then I chose a variety of acrylic colors to add to the cups.  Given the 50/50 mix that I was aiming for the paint went up to the second line.


Since I used a clear plastic cup it was pretty easy to see as I mixed to 2 components together if they were thoroughly blended.  Stir, stir, stir…it was quickly evident that I needed to add water to the mix if it was going to flow easily.  How much water was a juggling act!  I added about 1 tsp at a time, mixing after each addition until I had what I thought to be beautifully fluid paints.  I repeated the process with a variety of colors (6 cups total).  The Mega Glitter Mod Podge was also calling to me, so I created a separate cup using the Mega Glitter and some silver acrylic paint.  Once all the paints were ready I went outdoors to experiment with the rest of the process.   (NOTE: I covered my table with plastic sheets to contain the mess.  A plastic tablecloth could also be used)


In a separate cup I began layering the paints.  White played a prominent part in most of the pours that I saw online, so I went to the white first.  Then added some blue, and then some purple (I know my friends are “so” amazed that I used purple…haha).  Silicone plays a big part in helping the paint create “cells”, so a few drops of that went in next (purchased at Lowe’s in the tool section).


Then the layering continued…a few more colors of paint, then silicone, then paint, then the final drip drops of silicone.  I used a plastic knife to cut into the layers…not stirring or blending, just “cutting” through the layers.


Now it was time to put the paint to the canvas!  (NOTE: I read to place pushpins on the bottom of the canvas at all 4 corners.  This will keep the bottom of the canvas raised above the paint that is sure to be flowing off the sides).  I placed the canvas on top of the cup and then flipped it over (obviously holding onto both pieces).

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Let the cup sit for a minute or 2 so the paint layers flow down to the bottom.  I kept the cup against the canvas and carefully moved it from corner to corner to “prepaint” the canvas.  It isn’t absolutely necessary, but it is something that I saw on one of the many videos I watched so I thought “Why not?”.  If you do this, be sure not to get too close to the corners or your “flow” will go down the sides instead of happening in the middle of the canvas (I speak from experience)!  Now center the cup and LIFT…let the flow begin!

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This is the part of the project where you really need a pair of plastic gloves if you have beautiful nails and a roll of paper towels! I have the hands of an art teacher, so I never even thought about gloves.  To make the paint flow over the face of the canvas you need to pick it up and slowly tilt back and forth, up and down, side to side.  Let the paint flow over the edges.  If you see a part of the painting that you really love then try to keep it intact rather than letting it flow over the side.  If there are areas that have been missed by paint, use a finger or plastic knife to scoop up some of the drippings and dab them onto the canvas.  As I tilted mine back and forth I noticed chunky bits…hmmmm, didn’t see that anywhere in any of the videos (it was my first sign that perhaps I didn’t thin the paints enough!)   Once complete, set it aside.


I saw to use a butane torch (like for Creme Brulee’) to bring “cells” to the surface.  I am a bit freaky about flames, so I used my heat gun instead to go over the surface.  I have since discovered (from some knowledgeable friends) that using a heat gun will either bake the surface of the paint instead of allowing it to flow OR burn the paint causing cracking…so don’t try that!  It was suggested that blowing on the surface with a straw will also bring the cells to the surface.  I plan to try that on my next go round, BUT before I became knowledgeable I repeated the process 3 more times.


Lessons learned from this first experiment:

  1. Make sure your paints are actually thin enough for the flow.  If you look closely at the photos of my finished pieces you can see that they look chunky, almost terrain-like.  I have been told that this is because the paints were too thick before starting.  I also wonder if using my old Mod Podge container before opening the fresh, new one may have added to the thickness.
  2. Don’t use the heat gun!  Sadly I didn’t learn this until after my 2nd go round of experimenting (which you will see in my next post).
  3. Do not pick up your phone to take pictures during the process because no amount of wiping of the hands will keep your phone unpainted!  (haha)

While this first experiment doesn’t in any way resemble the gorgeous acrylic flow paintings that I have seen, it does look kind of cool and I plan to use them in a mixed media design with some Creative PaperClay and perhaps some metal.  But that will be for a future post.  I will definitely experiment again with the lessons learned from this one.

I would like to thank Plaid Crafts for some wonderful products to work with!  Come back again for my next round of experiments with acrylic flow painting.   See you then!