Acrylic Paint vs Oil Paint: Which One Is Better and What’s the Difference?

Oil paint and acrylic paint are both great mediums for artists. But which one is better? You may be wondering what the difference is between them. And what about beginner-friendliness? This article will explore how these two mediums compare, from their application to drying time. We’ll answer questions like “What’s better: Acrylic or Oil?” and “Is one more expensive than the other?”

Acrylic vs Oil

Both oil and acrylic paint are great mediums to use. When picking between the two, consider what you might be painting because both have their own unique qualities! For example, if you were painting a landscape or portrait where detail was important, oils would probably suit your needs better since it has more opacity than acrylic does. However for quick sketches or murals where there’s little blending involved, then acrylic is going to work well for that application because of how fast it dries compared to oils.

Acrylic vs. Oil Paint Comparison Table

Acrylic Paint Oil Paint
Easier for beginners Tends to produce better results
Best for creating texture Best for blending
Bright colors Realistic shades
Contains fewer additives and chemicals More toxic
Less durable Very durable
Affordable More costly
Dries fast Takes longer to dry

What Is Oil Paint?

Oil paint is made by mixing pigments with oil, usually linseed or safflower oil. The mixture can be used directly on a surface (like a canvas) as an impasto effect for thicker applications of the color, or it can be diluted to create glazes and washes that spread out thinly over the surface.

An example of oil paint being applied thickly is Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” where he applies large dollops of dark brown pigment in contrast to his subject matter. It looks almost like chocolate syrup!

In this way, you could think about acrylic as watercolor — thin and transparent — while oil would be something more akin to tempera – opaque and richly colored.

What Is Oil Paint Used for?

Oil paint is often used in still life, portraits, and outdoor scene paintings. It’s great for bringing the luscious texture of oil paints to your paint application!

Getting Started with Oil Paint

When you use oils, there’s more of an emphasis on mixing colors together rather than layering them (though both techniques are possible).

You may consider using mediums like linseed or walnut oil in order to thin out your paints when necessary. As well as adding fluidity, these help condition the artist’s brush by moisturizing it while painting — but be careful about overusing it because too much juice might break down the adhesive quality that holds pigment in place!

For beginners looking into oil, we recommend starting with a small palette of colors that you can mix together to create your hues.

What Is Acrylic Paint?

Acrylic paint comes from a mixture of pigment particles suspended in acrylic polymer emulsion, which means it’s water-based rather than oil-based!

Because the base isn’t oil, this medium has less odor and doesn’t take as long to dry. This means that you have less time to blend colors together before they dry which can be frustrating when learning how to use acrylics but also allows artists more control over where their color goes since there isn’t much blending time after painting begins.

The drying time for acrylics depends on environmental factors like humidity and typically takes only about an hour or two before being tack-free (though waiting 24 hours will give you better results).

The emulsion might add some weight too — not significantly though so don’t worry about getting bogged down with a heavy oil painting that you have to carry around.

An example of how artists use glazes is Andy Warhol creating his signature pop art pieces by layering various transparencies until he achieved the look he wanted — sometimes just dots, sometimes a blend of colors.

What Is Acrylic Paint Used for?

Acrylic paint is often used for quick and dirty art, such as sketches or murals which makes it great for beginners!

It’s also good for kids’ paintings because it has less of an odor than oil paints so there isn’t any worry about kids inhaling the fumes from the solvents in acrylics. Also, since acrylic dries quickly, if they accidentally spill their colors on their clothes or flooring, not much time will pass before being able to wipe up or brush off the spilled paint.

Getting Started with Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is great for beginners because it’s forgiving and dries quickly, but there are also plenty of advanced techniques that artists use to create everything from vivid landscapes to impressionistic pieces! Because acrylics dry so fast, you can even add another layer immediately after the first one — perfect for building up the color gradually.

Oil paint vs Acrylic – Similarities

Before we look at some differences in the two different types of paints let’s look at similarities: acrylic and oil can both produce beautiful paintings with a rich texture perfect for portraits as well as landscapes alike! Both also come in a variety of different colors and brands.

Both oil and acrylic are versatile mediums that can be used to create a wide range of different artworks.

The Differences Between Acrylic and Oil Paints

Drying Time

Oil dries through oxidation – that means it doesn’t immediately dry when you apply it as acrylic does. It can take days for it to become tack-free and weeks before the surface is fully cured, though this will depend on environmental factors such as temperature and humidity.

So if an artist were planning on adding details later down the line, they would likely use some sort of varnish over the top so the oil paint won’t smear while being worked with once dried.

The longer drying time allows artists to blend colors by smearing them together with their fingers or using solvents such as turpentine or mineral spirits.

Acrylics, on the other hand, dry through evaporation which means they don’t need as much time to dry — only about an hour or two after applying!

This difference makes using acrylic great for beginners because they don’t have as much time to blend their colors together so mistakes are less noticeable when learning how to work with this type of paint.

Blending and Mixing Colors

Acrylics are known for their bright colors and ability to mix well — which is why they’re also great for kids’ paintings! Since acrylic dries quickly, artists can add another layer of color immediately after the first one has dried.

However, if an artist uses oil paints instead then there will be some time before the paint becomes tack-free (or at least dry enough that it won’t smudge) so this gives them more time to blend colors together with a solvent like turpentine or mineral spirits. Plus many oils come in sets already mixed by professionals while acrylics generally don’t include any additives such as mediums and varnishes.

Oil may take longer to dry but you get better results once the painting’s done!

So while acrylics are great for beginners, oil paints tend to produce better results.

Which paint you should use depends on your specific project – if it’s a quick sketch or painting that doesn’t require blending then definitely go with acrylics since they dry so fast but if the goal is an impressionistic style artwork where smooth transitions between colors are key — opt for oil instead.

The Finish of Your Painting

Oil paints produce a nice thick finish when dry which makes them great for covering up mistakes or adding texture to the surface of your painting.

However, acrylic paint dries flat so it’s better suited for creating artwork with more vibrant colors rather than textured effects on top once dried!

This is why oil paint tends to be used in pictures where realism is important while acrylics are generally preferred by abstract artists and painters who want their paintings to look bright and bold.


Oil paintings are known for their durability which is why they’re the preferred choice of many museums around the world!

Since oil paint doesn’t dry completely, it’s bonded to the surface that acts as a protective barrier against damage. This means water-based substances can’t seep through and ruin your painting — ideal if you want to hang something in a bathroom or kitchen where humidity levels tend to be high.

Acrylics also bond well with surfaces but since acrylic dries so quickly this actually makes them less durable than oil paints because it leaves gaps between layers instead of an even smooth finish throughout. So while oil may take longer, there won’t be any issues hanging up artwork made using it once dried!

These differences mean oil paint is generally preferred over acrylics for painting on canvas. However, there are some exceptions! For example, if you’re looking to create a colorful piece of artwork then acrylic paints tend to produce vibrant results compared to oil which can look more muted and gray instead.

Similarly, artists who want their paintings to be easily removable from the wall will also prefer using acrylic because it’s so easy to clean up any mistakes or accidents — just remember that this won’t work well if you ever plan on selling your art since once dried acrylic isn’t as durable as oil!


Oil paint is more lightfast than acrylic so it’s the preferred choice of many artists and museums for artwork that will be exposed to sunlight.

There’s a chance some particles of pigment may stick together after extended exposure which reduces their vibrancy and brightness — but this isn’t an issue if you’re using oils since they’re less likely to fade in appearance during long-term storage!

In acrylics, pigments are known to bleach easily under intense UV rays from sunlight or museum lighting.

This means your painting could appear duller over time compared with one made with oil paints instead.

However, both types of paint can last up to 100 years without any negative effects if properly stored in a cool, dry place.

Color Quality

Acrylic paint tends to be more vibrant when it dries compared with oil colors.

Oil paints are known for their thick, creamy consistency which means they’re the best choice if you want to create realistic artwork where smooth transitions between shades are important.

Both acrylics and oils can produce excellent results depending on what kind of painting you’re trying to make!

Acrylics work well for art that requires bright or bold colors while oil is better suited for realism since there’s no drying time involved — just remember that even though acrylic doesn’t take long either, some color particles may still separate over extended periods so your finished product won’t have a consistent appearance through time without any fading issues!

Cleaning Your Tools

Differences in how easy it is to clean up after using acrylic vs oil paints also play a major role!

Oil paint brushes can be cleaned by soaking them in water for several hours before wiping off any remaining pigment with a paper towel. However, this isn’t recommended if you’re planning on saving your brush because as mentioned earlier oil dries slower which means the bristles may become permanently stiff — not very useful when trying to create that perfect stroke!

In comparison, an assembled acrylic paint set should come with cleaning instructions from the manufacturer along with some kind of soap or a solvent-based solution designed specifically for removing dried materials and keeping tools like brushes intact so they’ll last longer.

Remember: always follow manufacturers’ recommendations when working with different types of art supplies to avoid accidents!

Unfortunately, oil paint can be difficult to remove from clothes or skin so it’s not the safest choice if you plan on wearing your painting clothes afterward. For instance, some artists use smocks made out of old sheets when working with oils just in case any colors come off onto their clothing later on down the road — but this isn’t something that would normally happen with acrylics which are easier to clean up and won’t ruin your wardrobe as easily either!


Oil paints tend to be more costly than acrylics due to their lower supply and demand. However, some companies sell student-grade versions at affordable prices while others may only offer pricier high-end products depending on where in the world you live (for example, art materials in Europe tend to be more expensive than in the US).

In summary, acrylic paint is the better choice when it comes to a budget since you can get a full set for under $20 while oils cost around twice as much per color so they’re not ideal if money is tight!

Painting Tips

Tips for Working with Acrylic Paints

  • If you plan on using acrylics for painting, make sure to purchase a water-soluble type rather than permanent ones which are meant more for arts and crafts projects. Permanent paints have the potential of being very difficult to remove if applied incorrectly so they’re not recommended when working with children or even adults who aren’t familiar with proper art techniques!
  • Always ensure your hands are free from oils before touching paint tubes because acrylic won’t stick well onto surfaces covered by oil which is a common mistake some people make!
  • If you’re painting more detailed work with acrylics then choose ones that can be diluted easily since heavy viscosity paints tend to leave behind undesirable brush marks which aren’t useful when trying to create the illusion of smooth surfaces.
  • Because acrylics dry much faster than oils, there’s less time for paint mixing which is why an assortment with fewer colors may be more suitable if you’re looking for high quality.
  • If you plan on painting with acrylics, make sure to get a palette that’s easy to clean because it can be very difficult to remove residues from plastic surfaces!
  • You should also purchase an easel for your artwork so the paint doesn’t touch any part of the work surface.

Tips for Working with Oil Paints

  • If you plan on using oil paints then use a brush that can hold plenty of solvent — this will give it the power to keep your tool clean and working as expected!
  • Make sure to read oil paint manufacturers’ recommendations before using them because some types need plenty of time (upwards of several days) in order to cure completely into the final color so they can’t be mixed or removed from your work surface until then.
  • When using oil paint, remember that a little goes a long way since it’s much thicker than acrylics so you need less of the product in order to have enough energy for your painting.
  • You should also consider buying extra thinner and turpentine if you plan on working with oils as they’re more likely to dry out before being finished – plus these can be added onto dried colors too which may change their tone slightly depending on how much solvent is used during mixing!

What Paint Is Best for You?

While there are good reasons to use both acrylic and oil paints depending on the project you’re working on — ultimately it’s up to your personal preference!

Most artists will prefer using one over the other so experiment with different paint types until you figure out which is best suited for your next painting or artwork!

For example, if you want something that dries quickly then go ahead and choose acrylics but keep in mind this means less time blending colors together before they set too hard meaning no smooth transitions between layers compared to when oil paintings are done instead. On the other hand, oil paints take longer to dry but this gives you more time to blend colors together and create a smooth finish throughout.

Acrylic vs Oil for Beginner

After all, many people choose acrylics because they contain fewer additives and chemicals which means they tend not only to soak into surfaces easier but also aren’t as likely to give off toxic fumes over time. So in this way when working on smaller pieces like canvas paintings acrylic paint might actually provide greater flexibility because you won’t have to worry about whether or not it will work with your surface!

Some people might prefer working with oils due to how slow it dries down — this means that there’s less risk of making mistakes when applying layers quickly like with acrylics – generally speaking neither is strictly superior.

It all comes down to personal preference and while there’s no problem in choosing either medium we think beginners should at least give acrylics a shot for themselves before deciding on anything else.

Frequently Asked Questions
Can you mix oil paint with acrylics?
Which is more flexible, oil or acrylic?
Is Acrylic Paint Water-Based?
How does acrylic paint clean up?


In conclusion, both acrylic paints and oil colors have unique qualities which may work better depending on what kind of project you’re working on.

Oils are a better choice when it comes to mixing colors together smoothly even though acrylics dry faster which may be more appropriate for those who want their paintings finished as soon as possible.

Try both types of paint and judge for yourself which is better before committing! There are plenty of styles available such as traditional oil vs acrylic original paintings or watercolors so don’t limit your artistic ability since you never know what will inspire you next!

Leave a Comment