Watercolor vs. Acrylic: Is Watercolor Better than Acrylics?

Knowing which medium does what and which surface goes well with it makes you a better painter.

Today’s debate is on watercolor vs. acrylics. It isn’t debate, actually, it’s comparison, although they share similar qualities in a bunch of areas.

If you ask me which medium is better, I’d say acrylics, but I’d also say watercolor is easy to clean, affordable, and has a fast drying time.

It’ll be absurd if you use acrylic or watercolor to craft your composition just because you’ve seen some classics going viral on your Instagram or YouTube shorts.

Which is why I feel that there should be an in-depth comparison guide on watercolor vs. acrylics.

After delivering over hundreds of handmade paintings using acrylics and watercolors, I guess we hold a little authority to state their differences and provide genuine feedback on watercolors and acrylics.

This way, you wouldn’t make a mistake, which our artists did while dealing with it for the first time, and you could also make an informed decision and craft a desirable composition with your favorite art medium.

mona lisa ad of reproduction

(Suggested: Unity in Art: Guide)

5 Things to Consider Before Picking Painting Medium (Watercolor vs. Acrylic)

Before you get jars of watercolor or acrylics and start setting up your easel, canvas, palette, and whatnot—required for drawing or painting—let me tell you how important it is to know painting mediums.

The number one mistake a painter makes is that they put little thought into the selection of the right mediums for their art.

Family painting from different photos

Which ultimately sprouts a new issue, as lack of knowledge makes a simple art worse and sometimes a horrible mistake.

As a beginner, you must know the properties of the medium you pick to create your art. 

In watercolor vs. acrylic, you’ve got to consider its surface, price, accessibility, drying time, safety, and so on. 

Believe it or not, some factors determine the results, and you can’t undo some blunders that could potentially ruin your entire piece.

  • Surface:

The surface is where you want to apply your paint. 

It’s imperative that you know whether the paint you pick goes well with the surface.

Some surfaces aren’t meant for specific paint types; while choosing either watercolor or acrylic, you must confirm which surface you want to make your art on.

For instance, watercolor paint medium works well only on watercolor paper.

  • Price

Envisioning your art on a painting medium that doesn’t fit in your budget can be a colossal mistake.

Every art medium comes with its own price and availability. 

Before you visit any marketplace and make a purchase, first do a brief study on their pricing.

  • Painting Approach

The most challenging part of the process is its painting approach, as you can’t begin with any random paints.

What if you wanted a lighter effect but started off using a darker color, realizing halfway through you made a mistake?

It is suggested that painters start with lighter to darker paints. 

Because lighter ones can embrace darker paints, but darker ones won’t. 

Toning it down may weaken the surface and distort the composition, which would rather ruin the art than amplify its beauty.

  • Drying time, Mixing, Blending, and cleaning up

How medium blends with water or other liquid and how long it takes to dry hold equal importance in the process. 

It’ll remind you when to complete the entire task and when to stop laying brushes across the canvas. 

Also, drying time plays a key role in telling you you have a limited time, and it’ll be only appropriate if you finish one part and start the next as colors get dried quickly.

  • Accessibility and safety

Painting is an artistic process that requires you to be excellent at every stage of the creation process.

As a painter, you can make the composition better and more appealing with every brush stroke only when you know it is safer to explore every property it possesses.

Starry Nights Reproduction AD

Of course, you will want to create the finest piece of art for yourself.

Let me tell you, some paint contains hazardous elements, and to avoid any harm, it demands that artists wear gloves and take proper precautions.

Now you know which points to consider while selecting the right medium for your portraits/paintings. 

Let’s see which medium (watercolors or acrylics) helps artists make an impactful piece of art.

Before I state the difference between these two mediums (acrylics vs. watercolors), let’s quickly learn what these art mediums are and what properties they carry.

What are Watercolor Paints?

Watercolor paints are a popular and translucent medium that contain pigment in natural gum arabic.

They are affordable, globally available, and easy to use painting mediums, which are widely known for influencing the viscosity and intensity of the composition.

They come in pans, tubes, and bottles, which have properties appealing to beginners and novice painters.

(Also Read: Balance in Art: Four Types of Balance)

Features of Watercolor Paints: 

  • It comes in a variety of transparencies.
  • Drying time is fast
  • The cleaning process is easy.
  • Available at cheaper rates
  • Easy to dissolve and high at adaptability
  • Vibrancy can be adjusted.
  • It’s generally non-toxic but in some cases, it contains hazardous metals.

(Recommended: Here’s a Guide to Oil Painting Vs Acrylic Painting)

What are Acrylic Paints?

Acrylic paints are a type of paint made of pigment, binder, and acrylic resin. 

They are versatile in nature and can be toned down to watercolor with the addition of water. 

Acrylics are as vibrant as watercolors, but their resins are man-made unlike the binder used for watercolors.

Features of Acrylic Paints:

  • It has a brighter appearance and is mostly opaque in nature.
  • Drying time is fast, but faster than watercolor paints
  • Its cost is high and can be even higher.
  • Easy to clean and carry, and is sustainable
  • Most acrylics are safe to use because of ingredients used in them.
  • Can be safely applied on any surface

After seeing these features of acrylics and watercolors, you must’ve learned about the functionality of these painting mediums. 

Somewhere, you learned which medium could align with your expectations.

If not, you’d learn it in no time after taking a look at this watercolor vs. acrylic comparison table: 

Watercolor vs. Acrylics (Comparison Table Between Acrylic and Watercolor)

DifferenceWatercolor PaintsAcrylic Paints
TransparencyTransparent and translucentOpaque
Drying Time5 to 15 minutes10 to 20 minutes
RichnessLow to MediumHigh to Extreme High
LightfastnessPoorHigh (depending on time)
SurfaceWatercolor PaperPaper, Canvas, Wood, Glass, and More
Mix and BlendVery EasyEasy
SafetySafe (depending on pigment type)Safe
Clean UpEasy clean-up with waterEasy Clean-up with soap, water, and others
AvailablePans and TubesPans, Jars, Tubes, and Bottles
BindersNatural gum arabicPlastic acrylic resin

(Also read: How to Clean an Oil Painting)

Is Acrylic Painting Easier Than Watercolor?

It’s a never ending debate about which medium (watercolor vs. acrylics) appears best for beginners.

Every art medium comes with its pros and cons,  but after taking the features and benefits of watercolor and acrylic into consideration, I could say acrylics make a better medium for beginners.

Firstly, it can be applied to any surface, which means it doesn’t restrict you on a creative level and lets you experiment with it.

Most painters prefer paper because it produces a soothing and captivating effect. Acrylics is suitable for all type of surfaces—wood, glass, paper, etc. 

The next factor that bothers every new painter is the ingredients of colors, as we tend to avoid paint types that contain toxic and poisonous elements.

In that scenario, acrylic paint contains a smaller or negligible amount of toxins compared to watercolor paint.

Although acrylics aren’t as cheap as watercolor, there are marketplaces where you can get affordable acrylics.

The positive side of acrylic is that it doesn’t require additional supplies. 

Whether you want to take the acrylic paint off the brush or palette or fix the issue on canvas, it can be done with just a stroke of the brush without additional supplies.

Most importantly, while painting with acrylic, you don’t require a proper set up; with limited supplies, time, and space, you can make any type of art.

Acrylics are by far the most loved art medium, but one can even pick watercolors.

Marvelous and magnificent art was also made using watercolor, but from a beginner’s perspective, acrylics make a great art medium.

If you’re a novice painter or someone who seeks ways to ignite the creative spark, then you must try out acrylic paints at the very beginning of your career.

Don’t know how? Here’s a list of research-backed acrylic painting tips for beginners.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is better, watercolor or acrylic?

Watercolor and acrylic paint both make great mediums for beginners. But acrylics stand out because of their properties and benefits. However, watercolors come at a cheaper price than acrylics and have a relatively fast drying time.

Should beginners use acrylic or watercolor?

Well, it depends on person to person. Acrylics and watercolors share similarities in various areas. Depending on one’s budget, painting approach, and environment, some people prefer watercolors, and some prefer acrylics.

Can you use acrylics as watercolor?

Yes, you can. Acrylics need no more supplies than water, and with every drop of water, you can dilute them and tone them down to the level of watercolors.

Is acrylic painting easier than watercolor?

Yes, acrylic paints are easier for beginners to use than watercolors. Beginners are prompt to make silly mistakes, and some are even unavoidable. One can fix it by applying another layer of paint or toning the color down with water. This technique can only be useful if you use acrylics, not watercolors, because watercolors are already lighter in nature and work well only on watercolor paper, unlike acrylics, which go well with any surface. Watercolor paper gets thinner every time you add water or paint to a part you want to fix. Whereas acrylic paints cover mistakes with just a stroke of paint.

Can acrylics be applied to watercolor paper?

Yes, you can use acrylic paints on watercolor paper. But you need to tone it down and make it as lighter as watercolors are, perhaps transparent, which makes acrylics possess the features of watercolors. Once it is done, you’re free to make your art using acrylics on watercolor paper.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend