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Acrylic Painting vs. Oil Painting: Which is Better?

Artists are a diverse and engaged community of people. It’s not difficult to find personal experiences about art online. But few artists are objective in their assessment of specific aspects of painting. This is much the case in comparing oil and acrylic painting. It’s like the argument for digital or analog music (LP’s or CD’s): there is no right answer, only personal likes and dislikes combined with a few odd factors to consider.

Ultimately you will have to weigh your options, try everything, and make the determination for yourself.

There are many reasons to consider in choosing either using acrylic paints or oil paints, including:

  • Color
  • Workability
  • Cleanup
  • Odor.
  • Familiarity with the medium
  • Consistency
  • Preferred techniques (brushing/knifing)
  • Desire to paint wet-on-wet
  • Concerns about allergies working with oils around children
  • Ability to keep paints wet

Consider what type of painting you will do, and then choose the paint that best suits your situation.

To get you started, we have put together a list of pros and cons for each type of paint.

Acrylic Pros

  • Acrylics can be cleaned with soap & water
  • Acrylic paints dry fast
  • Acrylic paints can be saved in jars for future use
  • Water can be added to thin acrylic paints
  • Acrylics are not as strong in odor as oil
  • Acrylics can be made to mimic oil, gouache and watercolor
  • Certain mediums can be added to slow drying speed
  • Acrylics can be thinned or thickened easily from water to cream cheese consistency

Acrylic Cons:

  • Not as versatile
  • Fast drying/hard to mix
  • Hard on brushes; may be better to use inexpensive brushes for acrylics
  • You must keep brushes and knives wet while painting to avoid ruining
  • In many cases, a special acrylic palette may be needed to stop paint from drying out
  • You cannot paint over oil or oily surfaces with acrylics
  • In some instances, acrylics perform much like an adhesive, making handling difficult

Oil Pros:

  • Oil paint is known for its vibrant and diverse color spectrum
  • Oil is time tested
  • Oils offer a slow drying time so you don’t have to rush
  • Oils have a very strong smell that some artists like (possibly for inspiration)
  • Oils are easily cleaned with turpentine or mineral spirits
  • Oils may be cleaned with vegetable or certain nut oils
  • Oils are easy on brushes
  • Oils cut down on the need for mediums (good for plein air painters especially)

Oil Cons:

  • Messy/tough to clean up
  • Strong chemical odor
  • More expensive generally than acrylic
  • Hard to work in layers as the drying time is so long
  • Also hard to work wet-in-wet or “Alla Prima” if working in more than one session

Whatever you decide, find products that best support your painting needs. You will spend more time painting, and less time hassling with materials.

Articles

Acrylic vs Oil Painting
Traveling with Acrylics
Getting Started with Acrylics
Getting Started with Oil Paints
What are Acrylic Paints
What are Oil Paints
Acrylic Painting for Beginners
Acrylic Painting Technique
Acrylic Painting Tips
Acrylic Flower Painting
Famous Oil Paintings
Still Life Oil Painting

Renaissance Oil Painting
Modern Oil Painting

 


 


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Finding Inspiration in Nature
Sketching First: How importaing is it in your Painting
History of Oil Paints
History of Acrylic Paints
What are Water Colors
Painting With Acrylic
Abstract Acrylic Painting
Acrylic Paint Canvas
Wholesale Acrylic Paint
Impressionist Oil Painting
Contemporary Oil Painting
Modern Art Oil Painting