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How to avoid muddy pours

I believe it happens to everyone who pours ... muddy pour. Sometimes you might think you have the perfect balance of colors, perfect ratio of ingredients and you still end up with a painting that looks like it's dragged straight out of the mud. Why does that happen and how to avoid it?

Please note below are my own findings through extensive experimentation so if something else works for you better please let me know, I'm always eager to learn how others wield the power of pour painting!

Why is my painting so muddy!?!

First of all, think of the colors you've used. What has always worked well for me is having a cup of white or black paint as a base and around three other strong colors.

I use white or black as every third - fourth layer of paint in my cup, just a bit but it already creates a nice break between colors. Other colors should be strong and contrasty (is there a word like that?). My ultimate combo is pink, teal, gold. You just can't go wrong with those three.

Try to use triadic colors (three colors evenly spaced on the color wheel). You can find a great interactive, free color wheel on Canva LINK

Make sure colors you use are bright and contrast between them is high.

It doesn't mean you should never use colors outside of the triadic color wheel, I just found those combinations always create something beautiful. Do not use dark and dull colors only, like the ones in the left example. One dull color for your painting is ok, all three will probably turn into grey/brown mass. And we don't want that, do we? 🙈

What else could help?

It's important not to mix too many colors together. I tend to do a maximum of four colors per painting unless I'm going for a crazy rainbow pour. Don't forget often having two colors in pour can actually create a third color (or more). Like Blue and yellow will give you green or red and blue will give you purple.

In general, if you add too many colors they will most likely end up muddy. If you want to keep it safe stick to 3-4 colors per pour (plus your base black or white)

Do not mix paint already poured into one cup. At least not too much. I always draw a cross in each cup of poured paint with a stick to mix it a tiny bit. if you go south-north and then west-east you'll get the perfect amount of mixing needed. Not mixing is good as well, I just find my pours end up more interesting if I do the whole north-south drawing thingy.

Very different paint fluidity can cause problems too. Let's say you have three cups of paint: one is very runny, one is thick, one something in-beween. Thick paint will be very lazy on your canvas, not wanting to move, the thin one will escape immediately and medium one will be lost in the middle not knowing what to do with itself. You don't want that. You love your paints and you want them to be happy 💚 Always make sure paints have very similar fluidity when pouring.

Not using enough paint can cause it to become muddy too. Let's say you have a big canvas and you have poured your cup. Cup only covered 1/10 of the canvas and to make up for it you're trying to spread it by moving canvas around. Paint gets spread thin and mixed on your canvas, muddiness happen. If you do not have enough paint, instead of trying to spread it thin use white or black to cover empty canvas spots and create extra 'white space'. Or pour another cup next to it. It can add a nice character to your creation and you'll avoid muddiness.

So what to do when your painting turns out muddy although you did everything right?

Don't stress and pour again over it.

You can also wait until painting is dry and then sketch/doodle on it with white, black or gold marker/paint. It can still a cool background for your doodles :)

Most importantly, don't give up. It just happens. Rethink your colors and try again.


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