oil acrylic painting

Oil vs Acrylic: Difference Between Acrylic and Oil Paint

When it comes to the Oil vs Acrylic debate, there are many things you need to learn and many things experienced artists take into consideration when choosing their medium.

The biggest thing to keep in mind is that, as an artist, you are not limited to one medium. Whether it’s watercolor, acrylics, oil, or any other painting medium, you can always learn new tricks and skills.

However, while telling apart watercolor paint vs acrylics, oil paint vs acrylic is a different story. They are most often packed in similar-looking packaging tubes, but have many subtle differences in their usages.

Don’t worry, though. This guide is meant to show you the difference between acrylic and oil paint. Follow along, and we will decide which of the mediums is right for you to start with.

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What is the Difference Between Oil and Acrylic Paint?

What is the Difference Between Oil and Acrylic Paint? 1

So, you may be wondering; what is the difference between oil and acrylic paint?

First, it would be best to ask yourself some simple questions to understand the oil vs acrylic debate and to finally know some of the basic attributes of each.


1. Do you work quickly or slowly?

It’s no secret that acrylics tend to dry much quicker. We warn beginners of this in all of our tutorials. 

However, with every con, there is a pro to acrylic painting. Because although the paint dries fast, it is so convenient for beginners who do not know their preferences and it allows them to paint on almost any surface with little-to-no setup at all. 

So, along with the longer working time, oil paints also require more prep time.


2. Do you like working with thick paint or thin layers?

If you like to work in thick layers, you will much prefer acrylic because of it’s quicker drying time. As oils may look dry on the surface, a thick layer will always have wet paint underneath which may remain wet for hours. 

Dried thick-layered paintings allow techniques to be done as an after-effect more quickly.

In addition, once you learn the medium, thin layers of acrylic can almost emulate watercolor. However, this cannot be done with oil paints.

acrylic vs oil paint 2
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3. Do you like subtle blends or hard lines?

If you are after crisp, smooth edges, acrylic is the perfect medium. It allows you easily to make borders and differentiate one shape from the next. It creates awesome hard lines.

However, to go with it, acrylic paints will never be the best for color blends. To blend with acrylic painting, you must work ultra efficiently and quick.


4. Is acrylic paint oil based?

No, acrylic paint is water-based which is why it can more closely be related to watercolor painting.


5. Can you paint acrylic over oil?

No, it is impossible to paint acrylic over oil pant. This is because the acrylic will not stick to the oil and will eventually flake off.


So, How to Choose Between Acrylic vs Oil Paint?

Beginners are often advised to start with oil paint. However, that’s not always the wisest choice. Even if you prefer oil paints based on how you answered the questions above, you may still consider using acrylic paint first to get used to painting. 

After all, any good painting technique will first require a good sketch artist/ drawer.

Taking into account drying time, we would suggest practicing your mixing techniques if you are going to jump right into acrylics. The benefit of oils is that they can be mixed for a longer period of time. 

However, factoring in the ease of clean-up process, remember that acrylic paint can be cleaned with normal water. To clean oil paint, it requires a special type of mineral spirits that is often just another product you must have on-hand.

Too, you must consider that oil paints tend to gain a yellow-ish tint over time (looking at you, Mona Lisa). Just keep that in mind.


Oil vs Acrylic: The Verdict

As you can see, there really is no one answer to this question. That’s what is beautiful about this art. Painting offers you a variety of mediums to try basically the same things and we love that!

Even on our side, we have many contributors to this website who prefer to paint with oils, but equal amount with acrylic paint.

What do you say – do you prefer oil or acrylic paint? Let us know in the comments below.

Happy painting 🙂

This tutorial was created by artists who have handpicked supplies just for you.
Click below to shop with a 30% discount.

About the Author: Acrylic Techniques

Hello, and welcome to our site. We've been passionate about acrylic painting for years and have learned a lot along the way. We hope our tutorials and tips will help you out on your acrylic journey. Let's make art together!

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