Choosing the right colors in acrylic pouring is one of the most essential steps which will determine whether a painting is satisfying and beautiful to look at, or dark and messy.
Acrylic pouring is a popular art style, but can be very frustrating for beginner artists. Artists can feel deflated after their creations turn “muddy” or don’t have the vibrant mix of colors they were aiming for.
Sometimes, beginner acrylic pour artists want to give up and they will try time and time again and be left wondering –
Why don’t my art creations look like the ones I see on social media?
There are some very simple reasons why, and easy ways that you can improve your pours immediately which we will teach you in this article.
With a lot of practice and trial and error, we have figured out the reasons why this happens, and the absolute BEST color combinations for acrylic pouring.
Let’s get into it!
It’s important to note that, not all colors work together in fact some react negatively with others which we will explain to you shortly.
Choice of colors is a crucial step in acrylic pouring successfully. However, playing around with color is an important part of the learning process.
The colors you choose to pour with, will not only affect how the paint interacts but also determine your amount of cells and the overall outcome of the art piece.
In this article we will discuss:
- What is a “muddy” mix
- How to avoid a “muddy” mix
- Color theory in acrylic pouring
- Color schemes which look great together
- Detecting colors from inspiration
- Popular color combos
- The best pouring medium to use
What is a “muddy” mix?
A “muddy” mix is when the paint colors which were selected for an acrylic pour combine together and create an unpleasant overall color either in the cup, or in the resulting artwork.
The result of pouring a “muddy” mix of paint is often an artwork which is dominated with brown colors or lacks vibrance.
If your artwork doesn’t look the way you intended and has overwhelming amounts of brown and the colors you selected aren’t showing as you expected them to, then they may have combined and reacted in the cup together.
This is a common problem which acrylic pour painters encounter and there are some very simple ways to avoid it.
How to avoid a muddy mix in acrylic pouring
The reason why a “muddy” mix happens in acrylic pouring, is because the choice of colors, were not a good match. Some other reasons include, mixing the contents of the cup together too much and not using any neutral colors to help keep bright colors separate. The resulting problem is art which lacks vibrance and definition.
For example, if you were to get a cup, and pour primary colors like red, blue and yellow together then the resulting color would be a dull brown color.
Why? Because colors opposite one another on the color wheel, cancel each other out if they are mixed together.
The big secret is this, allow these colors to be NEXT to one another in a painting because they look great paired next to each other. But DO NOT mix them together. The secret way to achieve this is with layering the right colors in the cup.
You can avoid colors from mixing together by layering neutral colors the mix. For example pour in the red, then some white, or even gold, then the blue, then pour a light blue color or another neutral color to separate them and so on.
Pouring a cup with colors layered correctly will create striking, satisfying results.
Here is an example below:
The main reason why a muddy mix occurs is simply because colors opposite one another on the color wheel have been mixed together in a cup creating a brown, dull mix.
Unpleasant mixes of paint can also be created because no neutral colors were added to keep them separate.
The best way to avoid this is by making a plan of your colors before every pour and by choosing your colors wisely.
Another good way to avoid unpleasant color mixes is by understanding the basics of color theory, this will help not only in fluid art, but in all areas of visual art design in your life.
Color theory in acrylic pouring: some must-know principles
The color wheel
The most basic element of color theory is the color wheel. You may remember from school that there are three primary colors: red, blue, and yellow. The primary colors can be combined to create other colors, known as secondary colors.
Here is the color wheel again for your reference.
The secondary colors are:
- Red + blue = purple
- Blue + yellow = green
- Red + yellow = orange
It’s important to note that these combinations are in groups of two. If you were to mix red, yellow, and blue together, it would simply create brown.
This is where the muddy part of the muddy mix comes in. The three primary colors can be used together in the same piece, but you don’t want to use all three of them in the same place.
If you combine the secondary colors with primary colors, you’ll reach the third level, known as tertiary colors. The idea is pretty simple: if colors are next to one another on the color wheel, you can combine them to create a new color.
If they’re on opposite sides, they won’t mix well.
Again, they may work well together in the same piece, but not touching or mixing with each other.
You can continue on to create all manner of different colors using a few simple paints, simply by combining them.
Warm vs. cool colors
Another important principle is warm and cool colors:
- Warm colors are orange, red, and yellow, those that feel “warm” and jump out at you.
- Cool colors are blue, green, and violet, more soothing colors.
Using varying amounts of warm and cool colors in contrast will add a sense of movement and focus to your work.
There are also neutrals, such as white, black, beige, and gray. These work with any color on the wheel.
You can also use white and black to create different tints and shades.
Adding white paint to violet paint will change the hue, creating a different tint depending on how much you add. You can experiment with combining colors or adding white or black to reach the hue you’re after, but it’s important to use colors in your art that go well together.
If you’re adding your paints to the surface separately, you can prevent bleeding by adding a border of white paint to separate the colors.
This won’t work as well in methods such as a dirty pour or Dutch pour, which involve mixing colors together before you add them, so for those methods, you need to think about paint density and choosing colors that won’t all bleed together.
Types of color schemes
There are a few basic color schemes you should understand before getting started:
- Complementary: This involves colors on opposite sides of the color wheel. When put side by side, they really stand out. Complementary colors are good for areas of your work where you want to draw the viewer’s attention.
- Analogous: These are colors close to one another on the color wheel. They appear harmonious, but can also look bland if there’s not enough contrast. Combining complementary and analogous colors is a key part of advanced art.
- Triadic: This method involves picking three evenly-spaced colors from around the wheel, forming a triangle. If successful, they will perfectly balance one another out. This notion can be expanded to include different types of triangles, or even squares of four colors.
- Monochromatic: Building around a single base color and employing different shades and hues is known as a monochromatic style. It’s important to make the tints different enough so they stand out from one another.
Popular color combos
- Simple: blues, white, yellow (or gold), black
- Dynamic: white, gold, black, grey
- Sea: turquoise, dark blue, light blue, white, cream for the sand
- Rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet
- Flower: red, pink, light green, dark green, white, yellow
- Earth and sky: brown, sandy color, dark green, light green, white, dark blue, light blue
- Desert: red, orange, tan, dark brown, peachy pink
- Pale colors: peachy pink, gold, grey, white, dark blue, light blue
Sources for inspiration – detecting colors from a picture
When you want to move beyond basic colors and experiment with unique hues, it can sometimes be difficult to figure out what goes together.
A great method for learning is to find a piece of art you like from Google or social media, whether it be a painting, photograph, or another piece of acrylic art. You can visually attempt similar colors or use Canva’s color palette generator to learn what colors were used. This will help you in purchasing or mixing the right colors!
What is the best pouring medium for acrylic paint?
Your choice of colors doesn’t just affect the visual balance of your piece: different colors have different densities, and the consistency of your mixture will affect how the colors interact with one another.
It’s important to choose a good pouring medium that will flow and dry in a way you like.
Some popular brands include:
You can experiment with different pouring mediums and find the one that works best for you.
Many beginner artists get tripped up by trying to mix colors that become muddy. Understanding basic color theory can help, and it’s a good idea to start simple and work your way up to more complex combinations.
You’ll find that as you try more complex mixes, you’ll develop a better eye for what works and what doesn’t. The best way to learn is by doing, so go ahead and get started!