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

This entry was posted on December 25, 2021 by Shilpi Roy.

acrylicpaint and oil paint

“The colors are language that tells the story of an art be it a wall or an art masterpiece”

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 important and the first decision he or she will make is what type of paints should be used.

The Oil Vs. Acrylic Story:

The Oil Vs. Acrylic Story

Oil Paints are existing for more than hundreds of years, so they are famous for their perdurable property. Oil Paints have plenty of pigment in them so that makes the art look more vivid and richer. Oil Paints take a longer time to dry than acrylic paints, hence a painting created with oil may take several months to generate a dry exterior. You can easily combine two paints.

Acrylic Paints:

Acrylic Paints

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



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

Painting Materials:

Painting Materials

Painting includes paints, surface/support, and brushes you paint on. So what should you expect when working with the two different materials? Let’s see.

Oil Based Paints VS Water Based Paints

Oil Based Paints VS Water Based Paints

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. You should not attempt, or you can’t make the paint thin by adding water. However, to reduce the consistency you have to add thinner to the paint. There are various types of thinner available for the purpose.

Surface for Acrylics :

Surface for Acrylics

Acrylic paint can be used on anything and on any surface. But just be cautious that acrylic paint needs to mechanically attach to the structure it is painted on. It means extreme smooth surfaces like plastics and glass make the bond between the dried paint and surface weak. So, the paint can be easily flaked off or chipped out. You can mix some adequate and fine sandpaper to rough the paint a bit to make it perfect for smooth surfaces and test it before starting.

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

Surface for Oil Paints :

Surface for Oil Paints

Oils are obtained from vegetable oil like poppy, walnut, safflower or cottonseed. Flexible surfaces, typically, raw canvas and thin paper become awfully fragile and start decaying when they absorb the oils of oil paint. Nonetheless, this issue won’t appear instantly, it will take decades. But, as an artist whose arts will be celebrated over centuries, it is recommended to create a barrier between the surface and the paint. The barrier can be created by using primer or sizing. This will prevent the surface from getting fragile.

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


familarity for painting

Budding artists need to be patient as they may get slow results or different from what they expect. They need more time to blend and mix the paint and positively more time to brush. Because Acrylics dry real fast it can frustrate the novices. Hence, a budding artist can have a comparatively easy experience with oils. .

Acrylic paint are 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 wants to try more of the abstract style of art and painting.


Color Effects in Oils

Color Effects in Oils

Since oils are made from vegetable oil, every tube contains little amount of yellow-brown shade supplementary to it. Notice the pure shades of white that acrylics deliver, whereas the whites in oil is slightly yellowish. But this yellowness is rarely noticed by the audiences. This ignorance is due to the perception about the colors and what surrounds them.

Color Effects in Acrylics:

Color Effects in Acrylics

Acrylic paint is an emulsion i.e.; acrylic polymer emulsion is having persistent whiteness when it is wet. It can’t be observed while using lighter or stronger shades. The whiteness of acrylic paint becomes extremely noticeable when you are using transparent color particularly glowing ones. This shift in acrylics can be pretty thorny to get used to.

Cleaning Brushes:

Cleaning Brushes

The work is not over after the art piece is ready. You need to deal with the mess too. The major part of the cleaning process is cleaning the tools of the artist, the brushes. Brushes used to paint acrylic paints are easy to clean as the paint is water-soluble. But it’s with the oil paint brushes you need to work out with. As the oil paint repels water, a thinner solution like turpentine and diluent are used to clean the brushes.

Storage of Oil Paints:

Storage of Oil Paints

A quality oil paint can last for 10 to 20 years or more if they are stored well and properly. The heat and humidity levels in the atmosphere can cause oil paints to age quicker if they are not kept properly. As the oil paints are expensive, the artist needs to take precautions while storing the paints for a longer period of time. Before storing the oil paints, it is advised to unscrew the caps and clean off and wipe the residual paint around and from the cap with a piece of cloth. After cleaning bolt the cap and store them in airtight plastic containers.

Storage of Acrylic Paints:

Storage of Acrylic Paints

Acrylic paints do not last longer like oil paints, but still they can last or be useful for around 5 years or more if properly stored. A professional quality acrylic paints can last for around 10 years also. Before storing check or any leakages or pinholes to avoid a mess or causing the paint to dry 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 plastics containers that are waterproof and airproof.

When to Use Oil Paints ?

When to Use Oil Paints

Oil paints are best suited for the following inclinations:

If the artist wants to paint layers

If the artist wants to paint layers

Since oil paints can be influenced easily and played with to get desires results than acrylic paints, it is opined for painting in layer and different styles used by old artists and master to paint layers of tints. When developed and designed in multiple layers, the technique can result in vibrant and striking masterpieces. On the other hand its quite difficult to achieve this of attraction of the layering technique with acrylic paints, as they dry fast and the layers above each other will only reflect the brush marks and strokes below.

If you want the same effect of wet colors after drying

If you want the same effect of wet colors after drying

Since, Acrylic paints becomes trivially darker after drying than when they are wet, it falls flat on the motive. This might create a dissension or a conflict with the arty process. So, you accomplish the wet look of your masterpiece, using oil paints will be helpful and beneficial, as they look pretty much the same after drying as they look while painting.

If you painting a scene that requires more than one session.

If you painting a scene that requires more than one session

When an artist is painting a scene that is too long to be finished in one session or may take more than one session oil paints are a better choice than acrylic paints. The logic or lucidity behind the preference is the drying time. Oil paints take less time to dry and be easy re- dampened with a solution, so it is better for long term or highly implicated painting projects.

When to Use Acrylic Paints ? When you are a Greenhorn

When to Use Acrylic Paints

Acrylic paints are believed to be easy for trainees and beginners to start paintings. All a budding acrylic artist needs is water, paintbrushes and a sheet or canvas. Acrylic paints require negligible investments and allow to get the paintings started quickly.

When you have less space and less time

When you have less space and less time

The setup for acrylic paints requires minimal time and investment like Brushes, palettes, water and surface. As the paint dries quickly, you don’t have to 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

When you create a mixed modes painting

Acrylic paints are water-soluble and non-eroding and these properties make the task of painting a mixed-media art piece or portrait much easier. It doesn’t degrade or spoil other features of the art.

When you are painting crafts items


Sometimes an artist in order to explore the art horizon, transforms its surface of a painting. From canvas to any crafted object or on a peculiar surface like a pair of shoes, a yoga mat, or clothes, acrylic paints are the best type of paint. The use of acrylic paints are advised as its fast drying property and pliability keeps the work clean, effective and very easy.


One can’t choose or decide to use one type of color for all the art projects. Although one can use acrylic paints and oil paints in transposable order or for any portrait or painting techniques. The artistic practice will be easy and better if one chooses the paint keeping in mind the painting technique, the subject of the art and the form of the art.

If you want to take time and paint authentically then oil paints are recommended to be the best choice. But if you wish to paint more conceptually and faster, then acrylic paints are best recommended.


Before committing to a major art always test out new material. Otherwise, you will be left thinking about all the money spent as a waste.

Always Test:

An artist can always test the bond of the color on a questionable surface. Scratch the exterior of the dried paint using a hard – surfaced edge like a coin or a key. It shouldn’t result in chipping or flaking of the paint.

Is it possible to paint acrylic paint over oil paint?

Is it possible to paint acrylic paint over oil paint

If you want the art piece to last a bit longer then don’t try this out.

It is a bad practice to use acrylic on top of oil paint. Art experts advise against this practice as the oils under the acrylic start to dry. This drying impacts the painting and causes the shift of the surface right below acrylic, which dries much faster. The acrylic’s surface layer is comparatively more adjusting than the oil layer which becomes harder ultimately.

Art experts agree that the two effects could result in an uneven bond between the acrylic and oil surface.
• Oil over Acrylics = Good
• Acrylics over Oil = Very Bad

Is it possible to paint oils paint over Acrylic paint?

Is it possible to paint oils paint over Acrylic paint

Since acrylics dry up real fast so the shifting and drying process is long completed before the oils touch the surfaces. So yes, you can put Oil paints over Acrylics. Apparently, if using oil paint onto acrylics is an issue then about 99% of the oil paintings created nowadays are in serious danger! So which one would you prefer - acrylic or oil painting? Let me know in comments below.

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