Acrylic V/S Oil Painting A Beginner’s guide Differences, Pros & Cons

This entry was posted on February 2, 2020 by Shilpi Roy.

acrylic painting

“Every color tells a story.”

Is the color too bright? Is it too dull? The quality, density, the texture, the health effects all these questions arise in the minds of an artist while deciding what you choose Acrylic Paints or Oil Paints or to mix them — choosing what kind of color acrylic or oil paint to depict your story is the question of the hour. Whenever a person decides to take a painting or become an artist, the most important and the first decision he or she will make is what type of paints acrylic or oil paint should be used.

how to paint with acrylics

The Oil Vs. Acrylic Background:

how to use acrylic paint

Oil Paints, having existed for hundreds of years, are famous for their perdurable property. They comprise of pigments that make the art look vivid and rich. Oil Paints take a longer time to dry than acrylic paints. A painting created with oils may take several months to generate a dry exterior.

Acrylic Paints:

oil vs acrylic

Acrylic Paints have not existed as long as Oil paints have. Acrylic paints dry exceptionally fast and can practically be painted on everything, so you can get grab your acrylic paints and start your art.

The Considerations

painting acrylic

Ideally an artist should try both acrylics and oils and then choose which paint suits him/her the best.

Painting Materials:

famous acrylic paintings

While painting you would require paints, surface/support, and brushes.

Oil Based Paints VS Water Based Paints

one of the advantages of acrylic paint is that it can be cleaned up using this liquid.

Is acrylic paint water-based ? Yes, Acrylics are water-soluble paint, which means you can add water to reduce the consistency of the color. As it becomes thin, it becomes less viscous and more liquid-like. Paints sold in tubes are more reliable. Oils are not water-soluble. To reduce the consistency you have to add thinner to the paint. There are various types of thinners available for the purpose.

Surface for Acrylics :

acrylic paint define

Acrylic paint can be used on any surface though acrylic paint needs to attach to the structure that it is painted on. It means that extremely smooth surfaces such as plastics and glass make the bond between the dried paint and surface weak. So, the color can be easily flaked off or chipped out.

Acrylic paint can be used on the following surfaces:
Canvas, cardboard, paper, few plastics, metals, wood.

Surface for Oil Paints :

acrylic versus oil

Oils are obtained from vegetable oil like poppy, walnut, safflower, or cottonseed. Soft surfaces, typically, raw canvas and thin paper, become fragile and start decaying when they absorb the oils of oil paint. Nonetheless, this issue won’t appear instantly; it will take decades. However, experts recommend an artist create a barrier between the surface and the paint. The barrier can be created by using a primer. This will prevent the surface from getting fragile.

Oils can be used on the following surfaces:
Canvas, carboard, paper, few plastics, metals, wood.


acryllic paints ------------------------------------------------------

Acrylic paint is generally considered safer as you need not handle harmful solvents, nevertheless, they are not the best choice for budding artists. Budding artists need a lot of patience at the start. They need more time to blend and mix the paint and positively more time to brush. Novice artists may get frustrated because Acrylic paints dry very fast. Hence, a budding artist can have a comparatively easy experience with oils.

Acrylic paint is recommended only in the following conditions:
• The artist is too young to handle solvents securely.
• The painting is really small with less ventilation.
• The acrylic artist wishes to try the abstract style of painting.


Color Effects in Oils

painting with acrylic

As they contain vegetable oils, every oil paint tube comprises of a little amount of yellow-brown color. The white of acrylic paint is pure white in color, whereas the white of oil paint is slightly yellowish.

Color Effects in Acrylics:

acrylic artists

Acrylic paint, a polymer emulsion, has a persistent whiteness when wet. Though it can’t be observed while using lighter or stronger shades, the whiteness gets extremely noticeable when used with transparent color, particularly glowing colors. This shift in acrylics can be pretty thorny to get used to.

Cleaning Brushes:

acrylic painters

The major part of the cleaning process comprises of cleaning of tools and brushes. Brushes used to paint acrylic paints are easy to clean as the paint is water-soluble. On the other hand, those used to paint with oil need a thinner solution such as turpentine.

Storage of Oil Paints:

acrylics artists

Quality oil paints can last for 20 years or more if stored well. Heat and humidity in the atmosphere can cause oil paints to age quicker if not stored properly. As oil paints are expensive, the artist needs to pay special attention while storing the paints for a longer period of time. Before storing oil paints, it is advisable to unscrew the cap and clean off and wipe the residual paint around the cap with a piece of cloth. After cleaning one should bolt the cap and store them in airtight plastic containers.

Storage of Acrylic Paints:

acrylics painting

Though acrylic paints do not last as long as oil paints do, nevertheless, they can last for 5 years or more if stored well. Professional quality acrylic paints can last for around 10 years. Before storing check for any leakages or pinholes to avoid a mess as well as to prevent the paint from drying out. In case of a leak or a hole, simply cover the hole with a duct tape to prevent aeration or drying of the paint. Similarly, like oil paints, clean off the excess paint from the caps and then store the paints in waterproof containers.

When to Use Oil Paints ?

painting with acrylic paint

Oil paints are best suited..

If the artist wants to paint layers

acrylic paint sticks

Since oil paints are easier to adjust and play with when compared with acrylic paints, they are preferred by old artists and masters to paint layers. The technique of applying layers of oil paints can result in vibrant and striking masterpieces. On the other hand its quite difficult to achieve layers with acrylic paints.

If the artist wants the same effect of wet colors after drying

is acrylic oil based

As they quickly dry out, acrylic paints might create a dissension or a conflict with the arty process.

If the artist paints a scene that requires more than one session.

paint with acrylics

Oil paints are a better choice than acrylic paints when painting scenes that take a long time or need more than one session.

When should you use Acrylic Paints? When you are a Greenhorn.

acrylic oil painting

Painting with acrylic paints is easier for trainees and beginners. All a budding acrylic artist would need is water, paintbrushes, and paper. Acrylic paints require negligible investments and allow to get paintings started quickly.

When you have less space and less time

acrylic paint versus oil paint

The setup for acrylic paints requires minimal time and investment such as brushes, palettes, water and a surface. As the paint dries quickly, one need not leave the painting or wait for it to dry. Whereas, oil paints need a more intricate setup, proper aeration and sound corner for the art to slowly dry.

When you create a mixed media painting

acrylic versus oil painting

As they are water-soluble and non-eroding, acrylic paints make the task of painting a mixed-media art piece much easier. It doesn’t degrade or spoil other features of the art.

When painting crafts items

are acrylic paints water based

Acrylic paints are most preferred for painting on non-canvas surfaces such as yoga mats, shoes, clothes etc.


The choice between acrylic and oil depends upon the subject of the art and the form of the art. If you wish to make an authentic and traditional piece of art and have time at your disposal, then oil paint is the medium to choose. However, if you wish to paint more conceptually and fast, then acrylic paint is the medium to opt for.

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