Experimental Oil Paint Pouring

I started experimenting with these techniques about a month ago. I wanted to get more organic edges, and textures using oil paint than I could using a brush. The though initial came to me while I was in the shower. The water wasn’t draining fast enough so the water had pooled up in the tub a bit, and foam from soap or shampoo was floating on the surface of the water, swirling around. I thought, I wish I could paint this. I thought, if this is what happens when soap is poured over water, what would happen if paint was poured over water.

The technique is basically mixing a small amount of oil paint, paint thinner, and oil painting medium in a cup, and then pouring it on the canvas. I also wanted to add water into the mixture, knowing that the oil and water would repel each other, and just see what would happen on the canvas.

My first attempt at putting these ideas into action was rather haphazard. But lets look at that first.

I started on a small blank canvas. In this photo the paint is still wet. I used linseed oil as my medium, but this wound up taking days to try. After this dried, I poured more layers over it in the same way.

After a couple weeks, I had this. I tried a lot of different things. Mixing water into the paint mixture, spraying water onto the canvas after pouring the paint on, sprinkling salt on the wet canvas, even putting a drop of dish soap over the wet paint. both the salt and dish soap made the paint repel to such an extent that I decided not to try using them again. This was great but now I wanted to do some more controlled experiments where I could keep track of what all these different approaches did. I also changed my medium to copal painting medium, which increases drying time.


Detail from the finished painting

Now I will show some of these controlled experiments, first photographed while still wet, right after pouring the paint. The result is much different from when it is first poured to when it is dry, and I want to show that. Under each photo will explain how it was made.


First the entire canvas was covered with water. I just put it in the sink for a second and wiped the excess water off. The paint mixture included paint, paint thinner, oil medium, and water. The mixture was lightly stirred.


This was made exactly the same as the above, except no water was added into the cup before pouring it on the canvas.


First the entire canvas was covered with oil medium. The paint mixture included paint, paint thinner, oil medium, and water. The mixture was lightly stirred.


This was made exactly the same as the above, except no water was added into the cup before pouring it on the canvas.

This is what the painting poured on the canvas coated with water looks like after it dried.

This is what the painting poured on the canvas coated with oil looks like after it dried.

Notice that the mixtures that did not include water didn’t change very much, but the mixtures that did look pretty different. The water and oil slowly spread apart on the canvas and expand the shape of the pour. The oil seems to be pushed to the contour of of the pour, and you can see some yellowing around the edge of the dried shapes from the oil. Unfortunately some of the effects aren’t as nice after the water has evaporated, but I think they can still be used to add some interesting textures to a painting.

This is a new painting I started today. I started by blocking out the painting using thin transparent paint, almost like a water color. Next I laid it flat and poured paint over it. The mixtures all included paint thinner, oil medium, and water. The painting is still wet in this photograph, it will probably not dry for at least a day. Although it looks very abstract right now, my intent is still to use these techniques to create representational paintings. However, by starting a painting like this, I think I can get a lot of very organic effects that lend themselves to landscape painting, and create a very interesting finished surface.

In my next post I will show how I used these techniques in a painting I previously posted about and then painted back on top of it to finish it.

I hope you enjoyed seeing these experiments. There are a lot more things I want to try out once I get a few more materials.

5 thoughts on “Experimental Oil Paint Pouring

  1. I know you are just beginning this painting, but I really like it as it is right now. I am really looking forward to its progression. I am enjoying learning about the process of painting.

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    1. Thank you. I’ve found that the trick with this is using the right medium. Linseed oil dries too slow and 1 pour can take over a week to dry. The best I’ve found is copal medium by grumbacher which is both fast drying and a good consistency

      Liked by 1 person

      1. fast drying is great, I get rather impatient! sometimes I stick the oil painting in the Perth summer heat to speed things along LOL though the alkyds have been useful too for fast drying. cheers! debi

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