Oil vs. Acrylic – Differences Between Acrylic and Oil Paint
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Which medium should you go with, oil or acrylic paints? This is one of the first questions you will have to address when you wish to begin painting. While you can always change your mind, this decision is important during the initial stages of your painting journey. You can try both out, but we suggest that you select one, experiment with it, master it, and only then move onto the other one. To assist you in deciding which medium is best for your painting requirements, we will provide you with all the information you require to make an informed decision.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is Acrylic Paint?
- 2 What Is Oil Paint?
- 3 The Differences Between Acrylic and Oil Paint
- 4 Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Acrylic Paint?
Before you can decide between acrylic and oil paint, you will need to know more about each paint type. Firstly, we will look at acrylic paint. Acrylic paints are synthetic paints with a water base that have been designed to mix and blend in the same way as oil paints.
Acrylic paints dry very quickly, so you only need to pour out or decant enough paint to use for a single section at a time, as this will decrease the chance of the paint drying on your palette and potentially going to waste. You will also need to be confident in what you are painting because when it has dried, you cannot change it. Acrylic paint is quite unforgiving in this respect and does not leave much room for error.
A tip that can slow the overall drying time of your acrylic paint is to use water and lightly spray the paint. As acrylic paint is water-based, the spraying of water assists you in slowing down the drying time. The fast drying time can also be seen as a positive if you are working with a deadline.
Another suggestion to help you decrease the volume of wastage is to only choose a few colors to use per session. This way, you will not end up pouring out paint unnecessarily and ultimately wasting it. We suggest doing a little planning in terms of which colors you will need on your palette for each session.
What Is Acrylic Paint Used For?
This paint is not ideal for use on projects that may need amendments or adjustments (such as portraits) due to it being quick-drying. It is most suitable for painting art that needs multiple layers of paint, as the fast-drying element of the paint will then work in your favor, making the process less time-consuming. If you are a beginner at painting, we highly recommend using acrylic paints, as they are simpler to use, affordable, and do not require as many additional materials to begin.
The best way to address the question of “What is acrylic paint used for?” is to take into consideration the basics of the paint, being that it dries quickly and is water-based. Thus, it is perfect to use on anything that just needs a quick coat of paint.
What Is Oil Paint?
As the name states, oil paint is made up of pigment (the color) and of course, oil. Most oil paints contain poisonous and toxic ingredients, which means that you need to be careful when using these paints and ensure that they are stored in a safe place out of reach of children and animals. It is also imperative that you work in a space that is well ventilated so that the fumes do not build up. You will need to have a workspace that is large enough for you to set out all the materials you require to paint.
Oil paint has a thick consistency, so to thin it out, you can add in an oil painting medium to make it more fluid easier to work with. You can also choose to use paint thinners as another option to thin out the paint and to assist the paint in drying faster. Thinning paint out is not as simple as it sounds, however, as you need to achieve the correct ratio when combining the two substances.
You ideally want to purchase an odorless paint thinner, as the normal smell and fumes of thinners can cause serious health risks.
What Is Oil Paint Used For?
The majority of the world’s most well-known paintings are created using oil paints. This is thanks to the paints being versatile and durable, as well as the fact that acrylic paints were not available back then. As a result of this, most people consider oil paints to be more professional than acrylic paints. However, recent developments in the world of paint have seen acrylic paint advance to the level where it is just as good as oil paint, meaning that the decision of which to use rests purely on personal preference.
The Differences Between Acrylic and Oil Paint
Now that we know more about each type of paint, we can begin to look deeper into the debate of oil vs. acrylic paint. We will begin by looking at the difference in the time it takes for each of the paint types to dry, followed by a number of other differing factors.
Oil vs. Acrylic Paint Drying Time
We have already noted that acrylic paints dry very fast, but how does this compare to the drying time of oil paints? On average, it can take up to twelve months for an oil painting to dry completely. As a result, you will have greater flexibility and room for any changes or amendments you feel are necessary. On the other hand, acrylic paints need fast action, particularly if you have to amend a mistake.
The volume of paint applied will impact the drying time, so it is best to apply thinner layers in order to shorten the length of time each coat takes to dry.
In turn, this means that thicker paint takes longer to dry. Try your best not to make the layers of paint too thick, as it can result in the paint potentially cracking as it starts to dry. If you have to apply several layers of oil paint, begin with a thin layer and then build it up slowly.
Acrylic vs. Oil Paint Colors
You will need to take into consideration the end color of your painting. When using oil paints, they dry to almost the exact color as when wet. Acrylic paints, on the other hand, often darken when they dry. We suggest that you experiment with the different acrylic paint colors on a blank piece of canvas to determine what the color will look like when it has dried. Also keep in mind that certain oil paints can yellow over time.
If you wish to do blending in your painting, we suggest using oil paints. This is ideal if you are planning to paint a landscape or a sunset, as you will be able to blend the colors with ease to create the desired distant effect. Blending is difficult to do with acrylic paints as they dry too quickly. So rather stick with oil paints if you want to blend your paints and colors.
Which Is Easier to Clean Up, Oil or Acrylic Paint?
Oil paints tend to be a lot messier than acrylic paints mainly as a result of their slow drying time, whereas it is easy to clean up and manage acrylic paints because they dry so quickly. Oil paints are harder to clean up due to their oil base, which requires specific cleaning chemicals like solvents or mineral spirits. You will also need to clean your brushes correctly, as the solvents and oils can deteriorate and damage your brushes.
In terms of cleaning up acrylic paint, on the other hand, you will only require warm, soapy water thanks to the water-based nature of the paint. Acrylic paint is your go-to if you are looking for hassle-free and easy-to-clean paints.
Which Paint Is More Cost-Effective?
Acrylic paint is the more affordable option. This is because you will require additional materials when painting with oil paints, including palette knives, cleaning materials, solvents, and oils. The paintbrushes and paints used in oil painting are also quite pricey and are more expensive than acrylic paint. To decrease recurring costs when working with oil paints, sufficient maintenance and care of your painting gear will assist you in extending your work-life significantly.
Painting Oil Over Acrylic Paints
Painting boils down to taking different mediums and experimenting. You may wonder if you can use oil paints to paint over acrylic paint surfaces. While it is okay to paint with oil paints over acrylic paint, you cannot paint with acrylics over an oil paint base. This is because the oil can adhere to the dry acrylic surface, but oil-based paints make it almost impossible for the acrylic paint to adhere to the oil and potentially wet surface. So, in short, you can paint over acrylic paint with oil paint. but just ensure that the paint has completely dried before you do so.
At the end of the day, the paint you choose to use is all up to you. We suggest you begin your painting hobby or career with a set-up of acrylic paint, as they are well priced and simple to clean up. If, however, you require a set-up that is more customizable and will not dry as fast, you should use oil-based paints. The largest difference between the two types of paint is how they are applied, so select the option you are most comfortable with.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Acrylic Paint Water-Based or Oil-Based?
Acrylic paint is water-based, which makes it easy to clean up and simple to use. Being water-based, it also dries a lot faster than oil paints. If you are looking to simplify the painting process, we suggest you use water-based paints.
What Is Required to Start Working With Oil Paints?
To begin working with oil paints, you will need to start with purchasing high-quality oil paints, paintbrushes, and a suitable painting medium. You will also require something to paint on as well as an area to work on your art piece. You will also need the right cleaning materials, as these are vital to cleaning up once you have finished working each day.
Do I Need to Wash My Brushes When Finished Painting With Oil-Based Paints?
This all depends on how you are planning to schedule your painting. If you plan on painting again the following day, then all you need to do is wipe the excess off, dip your brushes in oil and allow them to rest. The oil ensures that the brushes remain moist and soft while keeping them from drying out until your following session. When you are ready to paint again, you just need to give the brushes a quick wipe down to remove any excess oil. Otherwise, if you will not be painting again for a while, you need to wash your brushes properly with a suitable solvent.
What Surfaces Can I Use Oil Paints On?
There are three basic materials you can use, which are wooden panels, stretched canvas, and cotton canvas. The most cost-effective and easiest to use is the stretched canvas, while wooden panels need a significant amount of preparation work before you can begin painting. Cotton canvas is the most expensive option.
What Colors Should I Have in My Oil Painting Kit?
To keep an eye on your budget while allowing for a chance to experiment, we suggest you start with white and the three primary colors (red, blue, and yellow). You will then be able to mix the colors if you require a specific color, or you can just work with the selection of colors you have – it is all up to you.