Acrylic Vs Oil Paint – What Others Aren’t Telling You?

Are you an art enthusiast who is passionate about learning multiple painting techniques and creating stunning artwork?

If you are trying to determine the perfect paint medium for your next painting project, you’re in the right place.

The debate between Acrylic vs Oil Paint has sparked curiosity among many, and I am here to shed light on it today.

So, let’s delve into the fascinating world of paints and understand which paint suits you more.

Acrylic Vs Oil Paint – All the Differences

In this section, I will discuss seven crucial comparison factors between acrylics and oil paints that will help you choose which type of paint suits you.

FactorsAcrylic PaintOil Paint
Drying TimeDries quickly; great for quick projectsDries slowly; allows for seamless blending
Blending & MixingSharp edges, bright colors, quick dryingSmooth blending, slow drying, rich transitions
Color ShiftingShifts while drying; consistent over timeMaintains color integrity throughout drying
Paint FinishFlatter matte finish, can be made glossyHigh-gloss, smooth finish, textured possibility
Paint LayersQuick drying, versatile layeringSlow drying, layering requires patience
LightfastnessMaintains color over time; UV protectionDurable, centuries-old examples available
CleaningEasy to clean with water and soapRequires solvents, linseed oil for cleaning
CostAffordable, accessible, less investmentCostlier due to paints, brushes, and canvas

Comparison 1: Drying Time

Drying time is crucial when choosing the right paint for your art projects, as it can significantly affect your creative process.

Acrylic and oil paint show different characteristics when it comes to how quickly they dry on the paint tray.

Acrylic Paints

Acrylic paints are often considered a budget and beginner-friendly option, making them the best choice for painters just stepping into the art world.

One of the greatest advantages of acrylic paint is its ability to stick onto any surface, including paper, card, and canvas board.

This eliminates the limitations and allows an artist to paint wherever they wish.

However, acrylic paints tend to get dry at lightning-fast speed.

Once the paint is out of the tube and poured onto the paint tray, the rapid drying of acrylic paint can soon turn it into a solid blob.

This may disrupt your painting process and put you in a difficult position where you have to waste valuable paint.

To get rid of this, you can always use a ‘retarder’ that alters the paint’s consistency and keeps it moist for longer.

Oil Paints

Oil paints provide a very different drying time than acrylic paints.

In fact, one of the biggest upper hands of working with oil paints is their delayed drying time.

Unlike acrylics, oil paints tend to remain wet and moist for longer, allowing the painters to pick up their unfinished work even after a day!

This feature enables artists to blend and layer the colors seamlessly.

But working with oil paints also has a few catches, and one of them is preparation.

The oil content of the paint is usually extracted from linseed oil, which requires a properly installed canvas on a board for the best results.

Though the preparation time is extended, oil paints still give you an immersive painting experience throughout your project.

Depending on factors such as the thickness of the paint layers, blending of the colors, and the humidity of the room, it may take up to months for oil paints to dry and cure fully.

This setback makes oil paints unsuitable for painters working on a deadline or looking for easy project completion.

Comparison 2: Blending & Color Mixing

When it comes to blending and mixing colors, both acrylic and oil paint show different strengths.

Acrylic Paints

Acrylic paints offer the advantage of vibrant colors, while oil paints provide the smoothest blending due to their moisture retention.

Acrylic paints tend to add the sharpest and most crisp edges to your strokes, benefiting artists in graphical compositions.

It can mask out areas, work rapidly, and cover shapes with thicker paints, which helps acrylic paints give the artwork a precise and fine finish.

You can easily achieve very clean and bright colors with acrylic paints.

However, the challenging part of working with acrylic paints is the blending due to their fast drying time.

While working on large canvases, achieving the desired consistent finish across the whole canvas can be hard.

Adding a retarder or soft gel gloss prolongs the drying time of acrylic paints and helps artists avoid potential color shifts.

You can also spray a limited amount of water on the colors to rehydrate the paint; this way, you can manipulate and mix the colors for a richer finish.

Oil Paints

Oil paints, on the other hand, offer the most versatile blending abilities.

They can create marvelous and seamless color transitions thanks to their slow drying time.

You can take the wet-to-wet approach while using oil paints to achieve blends that are as smooth as butter.

If you are painting a portrait, this method should be your go-to method, as the shading requires continuous revisiting and adjustments.

But despite having amazing blending capabilities, getting crisp edges with oil paints is really challenging.

Creating fine edges with oil paints requires a significant time for the paint to dry; otherwise, the underlying layers can get hampered by brushstrokes.

Without the proper curing time, oil paints tend to produce ‘muddy’ colors on the canvas.

acrylic Paint

Comparison 3: Color Shifting

Understanding how the colors behave while painting is important, as it can make all the differences in your final outcome.

Let’s delve into how acrylic and oil paints handle their color shifts and how they impact your painting process.

Acrylic Paints

Acrylic paints tend to stay more vibrant over time, and tests have proven that they can stay fresh even after a hundred years.

Unlike oil paints, acrylic paints hold up to their true colors because of their special binder, an additive glue that holds the paint together.

But acrylic paints shift their colors while they are drying.

When you first put the color on a canvas, it looks like one color. But that changes a bit as the paint starts drying.

It’s because the binder is white at the beginning, but it becomes transparent as the paint dries.

If you are working on a portrait, it can be tricky to understand how the color is going to turn out at the end.

Oil Paints

On the contrary, oil paints are very consistent in maintaining color integrity.

The color stays the same from putting it on the canvas for the first time until it dries completely.

This can benefit artists while they are planning on the entire project by saving them time.

However, oil paints get absorbed into the canvas when they are drying.

This leads to some canvas areas looking shiny while the rest areas look more matte.

Though unplanned, this feature can add a nice texture to your painting.

Before working with oil paints, you should always consider the yellowing of it.

As time flies by, the oil in the paint tends to get yellower, giving a light yellow tint effect all over the painting.

This yellowing mainly depends on the oil quality used in the paint.

Comparison 4: Paint Finish

Deciding between acrylic and oil paints mostly depends on your artistic vision and preferences.

Acrylic Paints

Acrylic paint offers a more subtle matte finish with a shine, while oil paint offers a comparatively higher glossy finish.

Acrylic paints are famous for their flatter, more matte finish.

Once dried, these paints tend to show a subtle sheen, and the colors more dense and dark.

If you are opting for a matte finish, acrylic paints are your best option.

However, you can increase the glossiness of acrylic paints by mixing them with gloss mediums.

You can do it at the beginning of your painting process or just paint it as a final layer.

This will help you to bring a brighter sheen to your painting while maintaining the integrity of the matte finish.

Oil Paints

Oil paints are naturally high-gloss and provide a more smooth finish.

The finish may seem delicate at first, but its robustness will amaze you when it’s dry.

If you are aiming to add depth and fine texture to your painting, oil paints can easily fulfill those requirements.

But is it possible to get a matte finish with oil paint? The answer may surprise you.

To achieve a matte finish with oil paints, you can mix additives like alkyd medium, such as Liquin, during your painting process.

You can also utilize matte varnish as the final layer to transform your glossy art into a subtle masterpiece.

Oil Painting

Comparison 5: Paint Layers

Acrylic and oil paint share a common characteristic: they are usually transparent or semi-transparent.

So, to achieve your desired solid finish, you need to apply multiple layers of paint, allowing each one to dry before you paint the next one.

Acrylic Paints

Acrylic paint has an advantage when it comes to layering due to its fast curing time.

You can paint seamlessly and save a lot of waiting time for layering your paints than oil paints.

Acrylic paint has the most versatile use in the painters’ world, as it is flexible to work with thin and thick layers.

You can build up multiple layers in a shorter time because of their quick drying time, which allows you to complete your project flawlessly.

However, it is important to remember that the paint may often remain wet inside while working with thick layers.

Nonetheless, the surface of the paint still remains flexible, so your painting doesn’t get cracked or chipped over time.

You can also use thin layers of paint if you are trying to achieve a watercolor-like effect.

Make sure not to put your paintings in extremely cold temperatures, as it tends to crack your acrylic paints.

Oil Paints

Oil paints perform differently when it comes to layering.

If you are trying to work with thick layers, you need to wait a few days after putting the first layer of paint due to their slow drying time.

With enough time in hand, you can add a delicate and luminous glaze to your painting that enhances its depth.

But it’s important to remember that different pigments of oil paints need different amounts of oil mixed in, leading to different drying times.

Add a siccative like cobalt driers or Liquin to your oil paint to speed up the layering process as they reduce the drying time by 50%.

Comparison 6: Lightfastness & Durability

Both acrylic and oil paints have the same lightfast quality and the same color pigments.

Some colors are more prone to fading when exposed to light, so you can cover your painting with UV-protected glass to preserve the artwork.

Acrylic Paints

Acrylic paints offer decent durability, as they are not completely resilient to weather and humidity.

Oil Paints

Oil paints have a well-established reputation for durability.

History shows us all the famous and great artists who have left their mark through oil paintings that are centuries old.

In terms of moisture, oil paints exhibit moisture resistance, while acrylic paints show waterproof qualities when dry.

While both paints offer a certain degree of durability, acrylic paints can offer an extended lifespan if coated with varnish.

On the other hand, oil paints maintain resilience through centuries and serve as a living testament to history.

Comparison 7: Cleaning

While painting is a fun and relaxing activity, the after-cleaning isn’t.

Acrylic Paints

Cleaning up acrylic paint is easier as it is water-based and can be easily washed off with a warm water and soap solution.

You can clean your paint tray and your paintbrushes right in the sink, as acrylic paint is safe to wash down the drain.

Oil Paints

However, it isn’t enough to wash off oil paints, as oil naturally repels water.

Painters often use solvents like turpentine to thin their oil paints, which is harmful and can’t be washed down the drain.

You will need to use linseed oil, artist’s soap, or paint thinners to wash your tools off.

Acrylic Paint

Comparison 8: Cost

Thinking about your wallet before you embark on your artistic journey is really important.

Acrylic Paints

Acrylic paints are affordable, versatile, and accessible, while oil paints offer a traditional touch but require more investment.

If you are a beginner or a student painter, it is your best option to go with acrylic paints, as many manufacturers offer affordable acrylics without draining your pocket.

Cleaning acrylics also requires just water, which is cost-effective and really simple.

Finally, acrylic paints don’t require any expensive customized canvas, saving you extra expenses for your project.

Oil Paints

On the other hand, oil paints are more costly.

Alongside the paint, you will also need specific paintbrushes and solvents, which will significantly increase your cost.

Most oil paintings require a primed canvas, which you will need to buy or create, adding additional costs to your overall expenses.

Acrylic Vs Oil Paint – Which One is for You?

It’s important to know which kind of paint is going to be most suitable for your painting project.

Let’s learn some common painting tasks where you will need to use different kinds of paints.

When Should You Pick Acrylic Paint?

Acrylic paints offer a vibrant color palette so that you can use it for any abstract paintwork

Acrylics allow you to experiment with different techniques, layering, and textures, doesn’t matter which surface you’re working on.

Whether you’re sponging or splattering, acrylics work harmoniously with different surfaces.

If you are planning to create landscapes, acrylic paint is an excellent choice.

You can also use them for T-shirt painting, as acrylic paints work super well on fabrics.

Finally, acrylic paint is the go-to choice for all color-blocking designs.

They can enhance the visual impact of your artwork by creating crisp wedges and vibrant colors.

When Should You Pick Oil Paint?

Firstly, oil paint is the only choice if you are planning on taking a portrait project.

Their slow curing time allows you to blend and layer perfectly, incorporating a natural luminosity to skin tone and creating lifelike portraits.

You can also use oil paints to paint landscapes, as their rich pigments allow you to capture the intense natural pallet.

If you plan to play with light and shadows (Chiaroscuro) in your painting, oil paints have your back.

Due to their slow drying process, you can balance the highlights and shadows of your painting from time to time.

Oil paint is your friend if you often work with palette knives to create thick, textured paintings.

The thick consistency of oil paints allows you to build layers and create textures.

Oil Painting

Bottom Line

There you have it, the complete set of differences between acrylic and oil paints.

With the knowledge that you have equipped from this blog, I believe you are now fully aware of their characteristics and uses.

Well, don’t just sit around with your newly gained knowledge.

Go around, pick up your paintbrush, and have some fun!


Is acrylic or oil paint better for canvas?

Oil paints are certainly better for canvas as their oily base helps them adhere strongly to the canvas or thicker surfaces for long-lasting work.

Why use acrylic instead of oil?

Acrylic paints are water-based, which makes them quick to dry. On the other hand, oil paints can take up to several days to cure.

So if you want to finish a painting job efficiently, you should go with acrylics.

Can I mix oil and acrylic paint?

No, it’s practically impossible to mix oil and acrylic paint.

It is because acrylic paint is water-based, which is naturally repellent to oil.

However, if you still need to mix these paints together, make sure to put the acrylic paint at the base and then put the oil paint on top.