Oil Painting Vs Acrylic Painting: How Are They Different?

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As an art lover, if someone pulled you in a debate of Oil Painting vs Acrylic Painting, which side would you choose?

Are you also one among the many who often gets confused with these two mediums from the various painting styles

Well, it happens, but the important thing is that you are here and willing to learn more about them. 

Be it fueling your artistic side or buying art paintings, it is vital to know about these two mediums and what makes them different. 

In this article I’ll take you through the key differences between oil vs acrylic paintings.

Along with that I will also help you decide which medium suits your best interest! 

But before we get into the good stuff, let me first introduce you to these two painting mediums; oil and acrylic!

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Introducing Acrylic and Oil Paintings

What is Oil Painting?

painting by Rembrandt: Isaac and Rebecca.
Image Source: britancia

An oil painting is an artwork made with an oil paint medium in which dry oil is the binding agent

It is a medium that is often assumed to be “difficult” to create art with.

Family painting from different photos

But with proper training, I believe it is definitely an art form that can be mastered. 

When it comes to buying artworks, I would surely go for oil paintings any day and would recommend anyone the same!

There is no other medium that wins over precision to detail and smooth finishing like the oil medium. 

Apart from this, when we look back in art history, most of the famous paintings we know today are oil paintings. 

With that said, there are certain measures to take when it comes to cleaning an oil painting and even preserving them. 

Don’t worry we will have a detailed review on the features of oil paint in this debate of oil painting vs acrylic painting!

But before that let’s get to know the next medium;

What Is Acrylic Painting?

set of acrylic paints with a painting
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Acrylic paintings are artworks made with a painting medium which has synthetic acrylic resins. 

It has  the property to dry off rapidly, making it a convenient painting medium for learning artists. 

I am sure a lot of you who have already ventured into their artistic passions have started with acrylic. 

The art form is versatile and its easy-to-use properties makes it the perfect medium to explore your artistic journey!

Do you want to get an acrylic painting made for yourself? Then, click on the link below:

Oil Painting Vs Acrylic: Key Differences

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1. Cost In Making

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In the ultimate debate on oil painting vs acrylic painting, we will have to see how affordable and cost effective each are. 

Comparatively, oil paints are expensive, and to create an artwork using oil paints also requires additional supplies.

Acrylic paints, on the other hand, are widely available, inexpensive, and do not require any additional supplies.

Hence, if you’re looking for an option that is light on your pocket as well as one that creates graphically pleasing artwork, maybe you should consider acrylic paints over oil paints. 

2. Painting Life

a crumpled sheet of paper with paint brushes at the side.
Image Source: Envato elements

Any artwork can be preserved for years if kept safely and with proper care.

Acrylic paints are made from acrylic polymers, (which belong to the plastic family).

Hence, they are believed to provide extra life to your painting.

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On the other hand, oil paintings have been preserved for years as well. 

Oil paintings tend to turn yellow, but they stay intact. 

P.S. Both the mediums can be preserved well, which can increase their longevity. They can last for a lifetime as well.

(You can also read: Comparison between PortraitFlip and PaintYourLife)

3. Texture

a paint brush showing paint texture
Image Source: Envato Elements

There is a huge difference between the texture of an oil painting and acrylic painting. 

If you are someone who loves uniformity and symmetrical buttery flow, then oil paints will give you that finish and neatness in your painting.

Whereas if you are looking to give a rough edge to your painting, then acrylic paints will get the job done without fuss!

4. Color Reaction Over Time (Lightfastness)

a table showing lightfastness
Image Source: PortraitFlip

Lightfastness refers to the time it takes for a painting to switch its tone to a lighter shade.

In simpler words, how soon will your paint fade? 

Oil paints tend to turn yellowish over time due to the absorption of oils present in them.

Whereas, acrylic paints, being made of polymers, stay intact and fresh for a long time. 

Recommended read: Acrylic Painting Tips for Beginners

5. Versatility

different color paints with a number of paintbrushes
Image Source: Envato elements

If we talk about which medium is more versatile, then it definitely has to be acrylic paints.

They are versatile as they can be used on any surface, whether it be glass, cardboard, or canvas. 

If mixed with water, acrylic paints can be used as watercolors as well.

Moreover if pushed further,  they can be a great substitute for oil paints. 

It’s not the case in terms of oil paints, because they are highly pigmented, but the artwork they create is extremely vibrant.

6. Drying Time

showing drying time of oil paint vs acrylic paint
Image Source: Envato elements

Oil paints take a lot of time to dry as they are oil-based, and the binding agents take time to set on the surface.

After applying an oil paint layer to your canvas, you must wait a few days before continuing to work on it.

Whereas acrylic paints, being water-based, dry quickly. 

You don’t have to wait as long to paint with acrylics because they dry quickly and you can easily blend and use them without worry.

(Also Read: Watercolor vs. Acrylic

Final Verdict: Oil Painting Vs Acrylic Painting!

Oil painting vs Acrylic painting shown on a paper
Image Source: PortraitFlip

Whether you choose oil over acrylic paints or vice versa, both of them are individually amazing painting mediums. 

You should opt oil painting if;

  • You have patience and you are ready to wait for longer periods of time, because well, this paint takes its time to dry.
  • If you want to make heads turn by looking at your work of art then definitely go with Oil paints. 
  • If you are willing to explore oil painting techniques such as chiaroscuro, impasto, glazing, etc. 

You should opt acrylic painting if;

  • You are a passionate artist who loves to complete their artwork in one sitting, then you should opt for acrylic painting, because they dry at a much faster pace.
  • If you are a pro or a beginner who’s looking for a paint medium which is versatile and a bit easy to work with. Viola! Acrylic paints are just the right medium for you.
  • If you are on a tight budget and you can’t afford to spend a lot of bucks on getting your paints, then go with acrylic paints.
  • If you want to create graphically pleasing paintings then acrylic paints are your best pick.

There you go, I have put it in a nutshell for you to finally decide which side of the oil painting vs acrylic painting debate you want to choose. 

That said, as an artist, I would totally urge you to get your hands dirty and experiment with both painting mediums.

See for yourself and decide, while also keeping my pointers in mind!

Hope this article has helped you know more about both mediums and you would not need to indulge more into any oil vs acrylic painting debates!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Which paint medium amid oil and acrylic is best in terms for artists on budget?

If you are an artist on budget then you should definitely go with acrylic paints as they are much cheaper than oil paints.

Q2. Which paint medium is widely used by professionals?

Professional artists prefer oil paints over acrylic because it retains moisture for a longer time and also it is easy to blend, layer and to add textures. But, either ways artists use acrylic paints as well because they are more versatile.

Q3. Oil paints or Acrylic paints, which amid these two are easy to work with?

It has been proven that acrylic paints are more easy to work with as they dry quickly, they are easy to clean and can work on almost any surface.

Q4. Should you learn to paint with oil paints or acrylic paints?

As a beginner, if you don’t mind working on your painting for longer hours and going in with multiple layers, then you should opt oil paints.
And, in case you are someone who wants to work with a more versatile and a medium which is a bit on the easier side then you should go ahead with acrylic paints.

3 thoughts on “Oil Painting Vs Acrylic Painting: How Are They Different?

  1. Larry Kirkland says:

    Oil Painting now days is solvent-free. Out of the tube you add solvent-free medium and to clean the brushes you use Baby Oil that removes the paint very easily. NO THINNER at all. So that being the case then Oil should win this .. hands down…

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