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The Basic Differences Between Using Oil Paint and Acrylic Paint

When I first started using oil and acrylic paints, I knew very little about the characteristics of each. Come, explore the differences.

Differences Between Using Oil Paint and Acrylic Paint

Which type of painter are you? Do you like to work at a fast pace or would you rather take your time and work more slowly on your painting? Does it really make a difference?

The answer, in short, is yes it does make a difference. Today we are going to explore the difference between the two paints: Oil and Acrylic. As with everything, each has their own pros and cons.

(We are discussing in this example the differences in only standard oil paint and standard acrylic paint).

Oil Paint

Having a prepared canvas or board is key when using oil paints. Linseed oil is generally used in oil paint, therefore to achieve the best result, your canvas or board needs to be primed using Gesso. Although not difficult to do it does require a bit more time.

Primed canvas and board is available to purchase so this step can be eliminated altogether.

Oils will stay wet and take longer to dry than acrylics. They will remain wet on your canvas for blending and shading, as well as on your paint palette if using a wet palette, therefore giving you the opportunity to come back the next day and continue on. You need not worry about getting interrupted when using oils.

Due to slow dry time, oil paint becomes quite smooth in allowing for shading, blending and making the most subtle changes in colors.

Oil paints don't really have an immediate color change, what you see in the tube is what is going to be on your canvas. However, the color upon drying may appear to be different when the oil from the paint absorbs into the canvas it can give the appearance of shiny (oil) or dull (no oil) spots. When the surface of paint becomes dull it generally is an indication that the oil from the paint has soaked into the canvas.

Acrylic Paint

Acrylics can be used on just about anything, whether it indoor or outdoor, on paper, wood, ceramics, glass, terra-cotta garden pots, rock, and even material. They will set up and dry very quickly. Acrylics will also hold their color and will not fade, even in sunlight.

They do dry extremely quick. If you are painting something and are interrupted, just a minute or two, whatever you are painting, will most likely be dry upon your return and the paint on your palette will also have begun to dry as well. This also becomes a problem if you are painting a picture and want to shade or blend your colors.

To help combat the issue of fast drying time there are mediums and other products available to purchase that will help retard the drying, as well blending mediums to help with blending.

Acrylic paint will dry to a slightly different shade (normally darker) than what you began with. A little practice in mixing and testing will help you get the result that you desire.

Acrylic paint with its ability to dry so quick is also great for making sharp lines or shapes on top of what you have already painted without having to stop and wait for your project to dry, unlike oils where you have to allow for the time needed for underlying colors already painted to set and dry before painting sharp lines or shapes on top.

Building layers with acrylic using a palette knife can be done by using thick coats, again due to the quick dry time in between layers you can progress at a faster pace and keep building. Oil paint on the other hand, by using thick coverage, will dry on the top layer while the underlying layers will remain wet and require more time, thus allowing for extra dry time is imperative.

Each paint has their own tendencies and will act differently depending on the circumstance and environment in which they are being used. Having the knowledge as far as how the paints will act different in their perspective uses may help to give you the information to decide on your project and which paint is best for you to achieve your desired result.

It ultimately is up to the creator behind the brush, applying their own creativity, that results in the work becoming a piece of art. Understanding the why is just a base, from there, through practice and patience, creativity and imagination, trial and error, there evolves a perfected work of art.



Kimberly Fiedler (author) from Kansas on September 16, 2020:

I hope this article will help those people that are looking for general information on the differences between using oil and acrylic paints.

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