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Oil vs acrylic, which paint medium is best?

I've been dabbling in acrylic and oil paints recently and thought I'd share some thoughts on them. Both oil and acrylic paints have their own unique characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages. In this blog post, I'll explore the differences between oil and acrylic paint to help you decide which medium is right for you.

Oil Paint

Oil paint is a traditional painting medium that has been used for centuries. It is made from a mixture of pigment and linseed oil. Oil paint is known for its slow-drying time, which allows for more time to blend and manipulate the colors on the canvas. This property makes it a popular choice for artists who want to create detailed and complex works of art. However, the slow-drying time also means that it can take several days or even weeks for a painting to dry completely.

Advantages of Oil Paint:

  • Versatility: Oil paint can be used on a variety of surfaces such as canvas, wood, paper, and metal.

  • Color blending: Oil paint can be easily blended to create smooth transitions between colors.

  • Richness and depth: Oil paint has a high pigment load, which means that colors appear richer and more vibrant on the canvas.

  • Longevity: Oil paint has a long lifespan and can last for centuries with proper care.

Disadvantages of Oil Paint:

  • Drying time: Oil paint can take a long time to dry, which can be frustrating for artists who want to work quickly or create multiple layers of paint.

  • Toxicity: Some oil paints contain toxic solvents, which can be harmful to the environment and human health. I've found that water soluble oil paints are much better for me personally.

  • Maintenance: Oil paint requires more maintenance than acrylic paint, including cleaning brushes with solvents and ensuring proper ventilation when working with toxic materials.

Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is a relatively new medium that was developed in the 1950s. It is made from a mixture of pigment and a water-based polymer emulsion. Acrylic paint is known for its quick-drying time, which allows artists to work faster and create multiple layers of paint in a shorter period.

Advantages of Acrylic Paint:

  • Quick-drying: Acrylic paint dries quickly, allowing artists to work faster and create multiple layers of paint in a shorter period.

  • Water-soluble: Acrylic paint is water-soluble, which makes it easy to clean up with soap and water.

  • Non-toxic: Most acrylic paints are non-toxic and environmentally friendly.

  • Durability: Acrylic paint is durable and resistant to fading, cracking, and yellowing over time.

Disadvantages of Acrylic Paint:

  • Limited blending time: Acrylic paint dries quickly, which can make it challenging to blend colors smoothly.

  • Less vibrant: Acrylic paint has a lower pigment load, which means that colors can appear less vibrant and less rich compared to oil paint.

  • Surface limitations: Acrylic paint works best on porous surfaces, such as canvas and paper, and may not adhere well to non-porous surfaces.

here's an example of a painting. where I used both oil and acrylics, the leaves and branches were first painted in acrylics and then I painted the background in oil.


Both oil and acrylic paints have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. Oil paint is a traditional medium known for its richness and depth, but it requires more maintenance and has a longer drying time. Acrylic paint is a more modern medium that is quick-drying and easy to clean up, but it may not have the same vibrancy as oil paint. Ultimately, the choice between oil and acrylic paint comes down to personal preference and the specific needs of the artist. If you're just starting, it's worth trying both and finding what works best for you. I find oil paints to be super vibrant, buttery soft and a little goes a long way, whereas acrylics can sometimes feel a little easier to work with especially for beginners because you don't have to worry about everything getting muddied up on the canvas, and if you don't like a certain area you can just paint overtop! Try both and see how they work for you! There's no hard rule that says you have to stick to one medium, when it comes to acrylic and oil paint you can paint with oils overtop of acrylics but not the other way around.

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