Learn the secrets behind creating beautiful cells in your acrylic pour paintings!
What causes cells in acrylic pouring?
Cells in acrylic pouring tend to form when there is a difference in density between the paint colors. There are different methods of achieving cells in an acrylic pour, but the number of cells that appear and the size of the cells are largely determined by the difference in the densities of the colors. Some paint pigments are denser than others.
The main methods of achieving cells in your fluid painting include:
- Varying density of the paint
- Silicone additive
- Using the torch method
1. Varying density of the paint
The optimal method of creating cells in your acrylic pour is by varying the consistency and density of the paint. Every color of paint has a specific gravity and when you layer the least dense paint on the bottom and the most dense paint on top, what happens is that the denser paint pushes down and the paint with less density rises to the top which is what causes the cells to occur.
Related Reading: The Science Behind Acrylic Pouring
Golden Acrylic Paints are known for labelling each paint color with the specific gravity on its labels. This makes them a very popular choice for acrylic paint brands.
However you can also check the density by weighing each of the colors in your pouring mix on a scale before layering them in your cup.
2. Creating cells with silicone:
Using silicone as an additive in acrylic pouring is much debated within the acrylic pouring community. Many artists prefer not to use silicone as an additive to create cells in their fluid acrylic painting as it can in some cases reduce the archival quality of the finished artwork. One of the reported downsides tends to be that it can sometimes have a yellowing effect on paint and this media can significantly degrade your artwork over time. Additionally it’s probably not a great option if you have a high sensitivity to chemical smells.
However this can largely depend on the specific type of brand and silicone product that you’re adding to the mix. Keep reading to find out if this is the right approach for you!
How does silicone help to form cells in an acrylic pour?
Oil and water do not mix. Acrylic paints are water based, and when mixed with oil such as silicone the two layers of media will separate from each other. This reaction leads to the cells in an acrylic pouring painting.
There are different kinds of oils that you can potentially use for acrylic pouring, but silicone is the most popular type of oil for making cells.
Why do I need to use silicone to create cells in my acrylic pour?
It’s not always necessary to add silicone in your acrylic pour to create beautiful cells. Sometimes you can achieve a similar effect with no silicone by using Floetrol or other pouring mediums. However, the best pouring mediums are designed to maintain a perfect consistency and do not always create the separate layers that produce cells. In this case, a few drops of silicone can help with that process.
What type of silicone should I use?
Silicone can be purchased in several different forms. One of the most popular types of silicone used in acrylic pouring is the WD-40 spray lubricant which has a significant amount of silicone. WD-40 can be purchased relatively cheaply and easily.
The WD-40 spray lubricant is a great entry level option for those who are just starting out to experiment with cells. However, as mentioned at the start, this method of achieving cells is largely debated particularly if you intend to keep your artwork for a long time or sell it later.
Tip: Check the label on the WD-40 and be sure to purchase the ones that contain silicone, as not all of them do.
How much silicone do I need to add to create cells?
Usually you will only need to add 2-3 drops to each color to start creating some cells.
However, the right recipe for adding silicone into your acrylic pouring mix will largely come down to experimentation.
How to mix silicone in acrylic pouring mix
Finding the perfect recipe will take some time and experimentation, but here is a good starting point:
- 1 part acrylic paint
- 1.5 parts of your chosen pouring medium
- 2-3 drops of silicone in the colors where you want the cells to appear
Experiment with side by side tests to see the final result you want to achieve.
Tip: If you want larger cells in your acrylic pour painting, don’t stir over the paint once you’ve added the silicone as this will split into smaller cells.
3. Creating cells using the torching method:
If you don’t want to use silicone to create cells, the torch method is an alternative option. You can use a chef’s torch or a burner.
There are two main reasons for using the torching method in your acrylic pouring painting:
- Torching is one way of removing bubbles that appear in the surface of your acrylic pour. This can prevent holes and defects from appearing in the finished dried artwork.
- To have a more controlled application of where the smaller cells appear in your fluid artwork. Whereas alternative heat sources such as a heat gun or blow dryer tend to move the paint too much.
The torch method may be a good option if you’re looking to create lots of smaller cells. You also have much more control over where the smaller cells appear in the painting. If you’re aiming to create fewer, but larger cells then the torch method is not the best approach and you may want to try methods 1 and 2 above.
TIP: Always exercise caution when using the butane torch. Do not leave a flame unattended and keep it away from flammable substances. When using the butane torch, always work in a well ventilated area to avoid inhaling fumes.
How to use a torch to create cells in your acrylic pour painting:
Once you’ve applied your acrylic pour onto the canvas or surface, lightly wave the flame over the painting approximately 5 or 6 inches above the painting in the areas where you want the cells to appear.
Avoid holding the torch over one concentrated area for too long, or you may end up with over-torching which can lead to yellowing, dimples or even damage your artwork.
What type of torch should I use to create cells in my fluid painting?
You will need a gas powered torch (butane or propane) that you can direct the flame onto your canvas. A small butane kitchen torch such as the ones used for making creme brulee are perfect.
Tip: Keep a spare gas refill handy to avoid running out mid-way through a pour.
So which method should I use for creating cells in my acrylic pouring painting?
Often, no one answer is right for everyone. Give these individual methods a quick test and see if you get the results you’re looking for.
Happy acrylic pouring! 🙂