Acrylic or Oil: Pick Your Perfect Paint

If you are looking to start painting, you might find yourself stuck in the art supply store scratching your head. With so many types of brushes, canvases, and paints to choose from, it can be a little tricky figuring out exactly what you are seeking. Don’t worry! It’s actually not all that difficult to wrap your mind around.

When it comes to paint, you are going to have to determine whether acrylic or oil paints suit your needs. Though many say acrylics are better for beginners, they both have their pros and cons, and can benefit you differently for different projects. It ultimately comes down to personal preference.

Consider these when picking between acrylic and oil:

COLOR QUALITY

Acrylic paint, when wet, can be diluted and made to be lighter simply by adding in water.

Oil paints are higher in pigment contents, meaning they render a bolder, richer color.

DRYING TIME

Acrylic paint dries very fast. By this, we mean portions of the paint can dry in minutes.

Oil paint, on the other hand, can take days or even weeks to dry completely.

What to consider: Drying time can affect how the colors on the canvas blend. Acrylic paint is more likely to render hard, clear lines. Oil paint, however, will stay wet, allowing you to mix in and blend colors directly on the canvas. Also, consider how large your painting is. If it will take you several days to finish, oil paints will give you the flexibility to come back the next day and still manipulate the colors and lines on the canvas. Acrylic, will not.

COLOR SHIFT

Acrylic paint dries into a darker color than when wet.

Oil paint dries the same color as when wet. However, when aged over a long period of time, oil paint takes on a yellowish hue.

What to consider: Despite acrylics being said to be beginner friendly, if you are new to painting, keeping in mind to buy/mix acrylics a shade lighter than the color you intend can be difficult.

PREP + CLEAN TIME

Acrylic paint can be applied to just about any surface. Since the paint is water soluble, cleaning them is a breeze – as long as you don’t let the brushes sit out and dry. Typically cleaning them with warm water does the trick!

Oil paint needs to be applied to a prepped surface to avoid corrosion. You can either prep your canvases yourself, or buy pre-prepped ones. The oil-based paint, however, will not respond to water. Your brushes will need to be cleaned with either turpentine or mineral spirits.

What to consider: If you are using acrylics, you cannot procrastinate on cleaning your brushes, as the paint will harden very quickly. If you are using oil paints, make sure you have windows in the room you are painting, in order to avoid inhaling the toxins of the cleaners.

COST

Acrylic paint is a way more cost effective way to get painting. All you need is a brush, a surface, and some water.

Oil paint will end up being more expensive, especially when taking into account the chemicals to both prep and cleanup.

What to consider: if you are working on a budget, you might want to start out with acrylics and see how you like them.

Ultimately, the choice is up to you! Picking which type of paint is best for you depends on the needs of the painting, and preference of the artist. Just remember, clean your brushes so you can keep putting those paints to work! Learn the best ways to extend your brush life here.

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