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Why I Don’t Use Silicone in My Acrylic Pour Paintings – Part 3

acrylic pour 3

But first…

Before I get to today’s topic I have an exciting announcement. I have created a YouTube channel for instructional, time-lapse and exhibition videos of my artwork. Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments here or on YouTube. Subscribers welcome!

Archival vs. Non-archival

So how are my acrylic pour artworks different? How am I improving upon what I’ve already learned? What am I adding to the conversation? The answer is in the quality of the materials, the archival quality of the end result. When artists say “archival,” usually they mean “durable to the standards of permanent art.” I could not, in good conscience, sell my artwork without being completely sure that it would not yellow, crack, or peel over time. Some of the products being used for acrylic pour painting might cause these artworks to do just that.

The problem with silicone…

I have to give credit to Rick Cheadle and Danny Clarke for exposing this issue — especially Danny Clarke because he had the solution. I’ll get to the solution. I promise!

Silicone is a greasy, non-drying oil-like substance. Artists add a drop or so to each ounce of color as they are mixing and preparing their paints. Once the paints are combined and poured onto the substrate, the silicone rises to the surface creating circular holes and revealing the layers underneath. The results are dramatic and beautiful. However, The silicone never dries, and it leaves a greasy film.

According to Michael Townsend, a representative of Golden Acrylics:

“At this point in time we do not endorse the use of silicone oil in painting mixtures that are expected to last. There are many reasons for this stance. Most silicone oils do not evaporate out of the paint, therefore they stay within the matrix of the paint and could potentially cause film formation issues. At the very least, the silicone oil will impede the intercoat adhesion between the surface of the pour and subsequent product layers, such as mediums and varnish. As an artist, you are free to do what you want to to make your artwork, but until we gather enough evidence that there isn’t any long term issues, we won’t suggest artists add silicone into paint.”

You can read his full article here.

So, what is an artist to do? How do you achieve those lovely, hypnotizing cellular formations without the silicone? Density! Silicone rises to the surface not because it is oily and greasy and will never dry, but because it is less dense than the paint. SO, if you know the density of the different pigments, then you can plan your application so that they switch places based on their density. In other words, you put the least dense paint on bottom and the most dense paint on top. Then denser paint pushes down and the lesser dense paint rises to the top. This causes the same cellular holes to form, though admittedly, they are not as dramatic. Golden Acrylics is the only company I know of that provides the specific gravity of each of its pigments. This is one of several reasons why I have switched to using Golden Acrylics exclusively. They are a longstanding, reputable company that provides generous resources on their website, as well as cornering the market on gels, mediums, and varnishes. Therefore, you don’t need to compromise the integrity of your paintings by adding silicone when you can achieve the same effect by applying your paint in a more knowledgeable way.

The problem with water as pouring medium

Why not just thin acrylic paint with water? It is water soluble after all. The answer is simple. Acrylic paint is a perfect mixture of pigments and binders. When you dilute the paint with water, you not only thin the pigment — thus the color — but you also thin the binder. In other words, you are decreasing the paint’s ability to stick to the substrate. This is not a problem if you want to use it like watercolor, painting onto a porous-surface-like paper. But if you want it to hold onto a canvas or wooden panel, it needs to have some adhesive abilities.

The problem with PVA glue as pouring medium

PolyVinyl Acetate or PVA is the general name for products like Elmer’s Glue and Mod Podge. Some find this to be an affordable pouring medium as it does extend the paint while retaining its binder. It is glue after all! It dries clear so it won’t alter your end result. The problem is, Elmer’s will yellow your artwork over time. Mod Podge claims to be more archival, but it is as pricey as most legit pouring mediums like Liquitex Pouring Medium, so you might as well use the appropriate product for the purpose.

The problem with Liquitex pouring medium

Deliberately Creative did a video where she made a great side-by-side comparison of three products. In this video, she compares Liquitex Pouring Medium, Floetrol, and GAC 800. She divides her canvas into three parts. She mixes equal amounts of paint with each of the three mediums and applies them each in the same way. She allows the three sections to dry and shares her observations on sheen, cell formation, color, flow, texture and cost. Based on her video, I ruled out Liquitex pouring medium. It just didn’t allow for enough cell formation in my opinion. I decided to invest in Flood Floetrol and GAC 800. I did my own experiments and concluded that the best results come from using a specific combination of the two products.

What is Floetrol? What is GAC 800? I’ll tell you more about these products and what ratio I’ve settled on in my next post.

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44 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Use Silicone in My Acrylic Pour Paintings – Part 3

  1. This has been a great discussion – thank you Courtney
    I have a question regarding PVA Bookbinder Glue, with neutral Ph and acid free properties. Wouldn’t this be a better ingredient to a pouring recipe than Elmer’s Glue-All? Unfortunately, I am not a chemist, so I don’t know how this would change the problem of weakening the paint’s strength – especially if exposed to extreme temperatures. However, it should tackle the “yellowing” issue and the potential problems with acidity in the mix. I am very new to the acrylic pouring genre, so I haven’t conducted any tests that would show the cell production qualities, vs. Elmer’s Glue-All, but the PVA properties are very similar. Please let me know your thoughts on this.

  2. This web site truly has all of the information and
    facts I needed concerning this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

  3. Amazing website! Thanks for sharing this information!
    I just have a question, apologies if the answer is already available on your blog, but I’m confused as to how exactly you get the cells. When you say density is key, does this mean that I should use different ratios of the medium to thin my paints to different consistencies? I can’t afford to pay for Gold branded paints, but am willing to pay for the mediums for now. As such, my acrylics will all have the same density.
    Thanks for your advice! Much appreciated 🙂

  4. Need help with color combinations and how to get paint to move together rather than flow in separate small channels I want one large channel of all mix pour

  5. Hi, first time on here. I have been watching acrylic pouring.
    I do allot of research before I start something new..Thank you everyone for the great information that you shared..

    1. You are welcome!

      1. Hi this is the first time I’ve ever written on a blog so please bare with me.
        I haven’t started any art yet as I’m still doing research into all the different techniques and to be honest I’m slightly blown away by them.
        Can anyone offer any advice to me on how or where I’m best to start ie paint types, techniques etc.
        I cant wait to start
        Thanks Chris

  6. hello
    I’ve read all 4 of your Acrylic Pour Painting Series.
    I also am using your acrylic pour recipe:
    1 part GOLDEN fluid acrylic paint
    2 parts Floetrol (strained)
    3 parts GAC 800
    BUT I am NOT getting ANY cells.
    however, I am not the using the same paint. do you think that this is the problem?
    I look forward to your response.
    thank you

    1. You say you’re using 1 part GOLDEN fluid acrylic paint, but then you say you are NOT using the same paint. Are you NOT using GODLEN fluid acrylic psint then?

  7. Hi. I have only done three 8 x 10 pours and love it. I am blown away about how informative this Part 3 is. I just ran across it and look forward to finding parts 1 and 2. 😊
    Anyway, after reading about silicone not drying ever and how some mediums (Elmer’s) yellow, wouldn’t sealing the finished painting with resin and hardener solve those problems.? I look forward to your reply.vThank you.

    1. You are welcome. Glad you’re finding the material informative! Yellowing is due to acidity in the product, not exposure to sun or UV light. So, unfortunately, sealing your work will not prevent it.

    1. AWESOME! Thanks for the update, Peggy!

  8. If you’re not interested in getting cells, can you just work with a paint & Floetrol
    Will working with latex house paint instead of acrylic paint achieve the Sam beautiful pours?
    I’m a beginner in Hawaii & we don’t have Dollar stores. The 2oz acrylics are $3-$4 each. I feel I could get more for my money buying house paint & sealing with resin to get the beautiful glossy look.
    Your talent is enviable and your sharing info with us is admirable. Sell sell sell😉

    1. Yes, Floetrol will give cells but doesn’t finish with a smooth surface.
      I have not worked with latex house paint for this purpose.
      Thanks for the well wishes, Laura. Good luck with your art. I hope you can find affordable paint. I don’t use the cheap stuff. I love my Golden brand acrylics.

  9. I’ve just heard about acrylic pouring & am so glad to hear about the many issues to know about. I’ve painted with acrylic, watercolor, & oil paints. I’m really excited about a new artistic method. Thank you so much for your welcome help.

    1. Thanks for saying so!

  10. I have just started using some silicone. Sure am glad I didn’t pay a lot for it. I’ll go back to not using it.

    1. I mean, whatever works for you. I have luck without it and it seems like a lot of extra work, to scrub it after and then most have to do a varnish also.

  11. Hi! This is a good article for collating a fair bit of information in a small space. Sad to hear about Lliquitex. Been researching for a while to find archival ways to do pours with cells. Not looking easy. Liquitex does seem harder, but let me just say that Deliberately Creative used a 4:1 ratio whereas Liquitex itself recommends 19:1! ( )

    They do recommend their soft body paints, but cheaper paints would probably still be smaller than 4:1. This could be why she didn’t get the cells, and she poured off her darker colours meaning that might be why she didn’t get depth. It does look like Liquitex dried flatter, whereas GAC looked flatter when wet then dried with more depth in its colours.

    1. Great info, Ski! Thanks for passing it along.

  12. After two years of acrylic pouring, and often using silicone, this comes at a time when I am getting away from using it and still liking my results. However, I have begun giving classes and everyone wants cells, and I haven’t asked the question, do you want your art to be archival? They just want something they like. And I must admit they have all been happy with their paintings. Perhaps I should offer a comparison class, two canvases one with, one without? I always take one or two of my paintings to show results of different pouring techniques. All this aside, I have learned a lot from your article and that is what it’s all about, right? Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Now I must look up your art!

    1. So, I would use the cheaper, non-archival recipe for teaching classes as well. Your class fee or supply budget would be too expensive to buy “the good stuff” for that many people. I would just make them aware, if they planned to go on and make more to sell, that they consider altering their recipe.

  13. Hi there would you mind stating which blog platform you’re using?
    I’m planning tto start my own blog soon but I’m having a
    difficult time choosing between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.
    The reason I ask is because your ddesign and style seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for sopmething
    completely unique. P.S Sorry for getting
    off-topic but I hadd to ask!

    1. No problem. I use wordpress.

  14. Acrylic paint already contains water, so how would it be a problem to add a little more?

    1. Good question. It’s not that water and paint don’t mix. Acrylic IS a water soluble paint. The problem is in the amount of water added. Too much water can interfere with the binder and dilute it, preventing your painting from adhering to the substrate. Some people add glue and such to counter this effect.

  15. Hello to all, it’s really a good for me to go to see this website, it contains useful Information.

  16. Is the Floetrol safe for permanence? It seems to have a short shelf life (one year).
    And those bumps are a drag. I am wondering if putting it through a screen strainer before mixing with paint would get rid of them?
    Would love your thoughts on this.

    1. I started straining my floetrol about six months ago to rid the lumps and I would definitely recommend it. Floetrol is my only questionable ingredient. The labels say that it is to be used with latex AND acrylic. So far so good. They are not claiming archival quality but it is marketed to be used in situations of more permanence than one year.

    2. I’m brand new to this, however, I did see one veteran artist that suggested putting nylon stocking over the opening of your bottle of Floetrol, secured with a rubber band. Apparently, that strains out the lumps.

  17. I like the article

  18. Great article, thanks! Am just starting out with this with my kids. I have also seen the deliberately creative video about Liquitex however have read about the dangers of floetrol (hydrocarbons and VOCs) and was also warned about this at my local art shop? But it isn’t really clear. Do yo, or anyone else, have any concerns about this or take any particular precautions (other than gloves)? Thank you for sharing

    1. I do smell a bit of a fume when using the floetrol but am unaware of any major dangers. I might not use it with the kids indoors, and of course gloves.

  19. Hi there! Such a great article, thanks!

    1. Thanks!

  20. Have you ever tried a mixture of floetrol and minwax clear polycrylic as a medium? I’ve successfully used this formula as a base for glaze before I finish a cabinet. I’m just starting out with acrylic pouring and this seems to work just fine for my initial projects.

    1. I have not tried that recipe. I am not very familiar with the product you speak of. I would love to know how it turns out for you. Please come back and share!

      1. supposedly, the Minwax polycrylic is the missing ingredient in our Floetrol, as compared to the Australian Floetrol. As you know, the Australian version of Floetrol seems to produce better cells than our product.

    2. Just to let you know that polycrylic is polyurethane and it yellows over time.

      1. I know my comment is late for this blog post, but I’m just getting into acrylic pouring and since I just read it I thought it would be helpful for anyone else who reads it . Attached is a link I found that addresses several questions for artists who use including the archival question of yellowing. The link will take you to “Owatrol” which is the same as “Floetrol”. I hope this helps! 🙂

  21. Thank you for your input. Water interferes concerning ‘binders’ when in its liquid state. After evaporation, it is not an issue. Its not much chemistry, more like weaving long chain polymers. Once acrylic is truly dry, the surface can be cleaned of remaining silicone with mild solution of Dawn and water. Silicone within the paint is encapsulated by plastic–acrylic chambers.
    Thanks again!
    Art, Beauty, Faith!
    P.S. Your art is beautiful, TYVM

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and comment here. I am so glad you like my art. I will go check yours out as well. I agree with you partially, but have a problem with the details of your statement. Regarding, “after evaporation, it is not an issue.” Because, like you say, “water interferes with binders”. It dilutes the binders, so whether or not it eventually evaporates, it is a problem. Also, silicone encapsulated within the paint IS a BIG problem. It compromises the strength of the dried paint body and could possibly yellow the paint over time.

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