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Go with the Flow: 4 Fluid Acrylic Painting Techniques to Try

I love painting with acrylic, but sometimes I want my acrylic paint to have a lighter, more watery effect. Although it is possible to dilute regular acrylic paint in water, it is not recommended for dilutions higher than 50%. Anything higher than this and we end up with uneven coverage and lack of adherence to the substrate. Not great when you’re trying to paint fine art. Cue our knight in shining armor: fluid acrylic.


Fluid acrylic was developed for artists who wanted to use acrylic in a more fluid way, whether painting water or simply aiming for a more watery effect. Just like regular-bodied acrylic, fluid acrylics can be applied to a variety of support, the most common being paper and canvas. From dripping to pouring to making swirls, fluid acrylic broadens the effects you can create with an already awesome medium.


Fluid acrylic can emulate the look of watercolor paint with the added advantage of being permanent. This makes techniques like layering much easier. That permanency will prevent the dried paint from scrubbing off as easily as watercolors, regardless of if you choose to paint on paper or canvas. This is particularly convenient if you are painting on yupo paper. Layering watercolors on yupo is very tricky but becomes much easier with fluid acrylics.

You can also choose to add a flow-increasing medium to the paint, making the paint more fluid and absorbable. As the paint increasingly soaks into porous surfaces, it behaves even more like a watercolor.

So, with the exception of lifting-off techniques, liquid acrylic can basically be used the same way as watercolor. You can paint washes, paint wet on dry, wet on wet or layer colors.

Note: In the above painting, the tree trunks have been painted by layering many successive layers of fluid acrylic, the same method as watercolor on paper. Designs with markers were added after the trees trunks were painted.


Fluid acrylic can be poured directly on the substrate without the use of any brush. One interesting technique is to pour on the medium to make swirls!

Here’s a few tips to note when pouring fluid acrylic:

  • If poured directly, remember that fluid acrylics should not be diluted more than 50% in water as the paint might not adhere properly.
  • Try moving the angle of the paper or the canvas to make the paint go in a particular direction.
  • Fluid acrylic can also be mixed with medium without losing adherence. Use medium to give it just the right consistency to be poured on canvas. This will make the paint move slower than in its liquid state, which makes it easier to control.
  • Pour some medium onto the canvas (gel medium, pouring gel or self leveling gel), add drips of fluid acrylic and then make some swirls on the paint using a skewer or a painting knife. The medium will become transparent as it dries.


Glazing consists of painting semi-transparent layers of color. Fluid acrylics are very well suited for this technique, as they can be easily mixed with gel medium to produce a homogeneous, semi-translucent mix.

Because of its consistency, fluid acrylics make it easy to obtain an even wash, without any brushstroke or thickness showing on the surface of the canvas or paper. For this reason, fluid acrylics could be used as the bottom layer of color in a painting where you don’t want visible brushstrokes.


If you like drips, fluid acrylic is the medium of choice because it’s already liquid! Adding flow medium to the paint will produce even thinner drips. Try using a liquid dropper to apply the paint as was done in the close-up of this abstract painting.

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