What Kind of Paint Should I Use


Which paint is right for you? Comparing watercolor, oil, and acrylic

How to Decide What Paint to Use

difference between oil, acrylic paint and watercolrio paint

People often ask: What's the "best" or "most popular" type of paint to use? This is a question that virtually has no definitive answer. Not what you wanted to hear? Don't worry; we're here to give you some pointers!

The fact is that the "best" paint to use depends on the skill and patience of the painter, and also the type of "look" desired. Different paints will give a different type of character to the subject of the painting, and evoke different types of emotions from an audience. For example, watercolor often lends to a more muted, somewhat clouded image. While colorful, it also has a more softened look. The subject can look runny or malleable. Oil paint is very rich and vibrant. Oil paintings usually have a sharper image, but it's also good for colorful pieces that feature a layering of paint. Acrylic is generally always going to give you something in between. Depending on the technique used by the artist, acrylic can look very much like oil or watercolor, and the meshing of the two lends to a style that is uniquely its own. These are generalities; of course, the result depends on the technique and style of the artist.

Aside from the more abstract features of the products, there are fundamental differences between watercolor, oil, and acrylic paint that should be taken into consideration before choosing which medium is best for you.



Pros: Generally the least expensive of the three paints, watercolor makes it easier to paint large areas, or spaces that do not need to be completely filled in (like a painted face on a white background). A small tube of watercolor, mixed with water, can provide yards and yards of coverage. Watercolor offers nice color saturation, and dries pretty quickly.

Cons: While the techniques for using watercolor are fairly simple in theory, they are difficult to master. It takes a special talent and lots of practice. It is more difficult to cover a mistake. It is also a more fragile method in two ways: the paper surface and the fact that one drop of water can ruin details which took hours to create.

Notable Watercolor Artists: Winslow Homer, J.M.W. Turner, and John Singer Sargent.

Recommended Watercolors:





Pros: Oil paints are associated with permanence. They are best to use for demonstrating great detail and the contrast between light and dark. Light refracts through layers of oil paint, creating a luminous appearance of depth. Oil paints are durable and will stay solid over time — many famous masterpieces dating from the Renaissance onward are painted in oils.

Cons: Oil takes a very long time to dry — between 6 months to a whole year. This increases your chances of making a mess or a foreign object (dust, bugs, etc.) getting stuck in the paint. It is the most expensive on the market, and, well, it's also pretty permanent. Oil must be removed from brushes with turpentine, and it is very easy to stain your clothing and other surfaces. Additionally, most oil paint thinners and turpentines are toxic and not particularly safe for prolonged contact.

Notable Oil Artists: Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and Claude Monet.

Recommended Oil Colors:





Pros: Acrylic is the happy hybrid of the bunch. Like oil, it is well-suited for detail, but it is also easy to use. Artists have classified it as the most "forgiving" of the paints and best for novices. Acrylics are also water-based which means they can be cleaned from brushes more easily.

Cons: On the other hand, acrylics can contain various toxins within their pigments. Acrylic paint dries very quickly and is not easily blended. We're also not quite sure how long they will last. Unlike the other paints, they have only existed for about 50 years.

Notable Acrylic Artists: Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko, and Roy Lichtenstein.

Recommended Acrylic Colors:




If you are still undecided about which paint is right for you, you can better familiarize yourself with the artists and paintings from each category. This may give you some insight on which paint is best for your style and subject. If research fails, you can always just get right to it: Pick up a brush and experiment!

So what's your favorite medium, and why? Are you tempted to try out a new paint? Let us know about it in the comments below! Share your thoughts and experiences as well with which paint you use


DIY - How To Gesso Canvas or Board

Learn how to prime your canvas with Gesso and what Gesso is used for. Gessoing a canvas or priming a board is an easy task to do yourself. Find out what supplies you need to gesso and prime your more


How to prime your own canvas and board for painting!


Have you ever found the perfect painting surface -- be it canvas, paper, panel, board, or even a wall-- but it is bare and unprimed? Never fear! Gessoing a canvas or priming a board is an easy task to do yourself, and you wind up with your ideal painting surface with just a minimum of effort!


Supplies Needed:

  • Raw canvas, wood panel, heavyweight paper... whatever you'd like to paint on!
  • Primer suited to your chosen painting medium: gesso for acrylics or oils, oil primer for oils or alkyds, pastel primer, absorbent gesso for watercolors... take your pick!
  • A wide, soft-bristle primer brush
  • A very small amount of patience!

How To Prime a Canvas Instructions:

  • Step 1: First, ensure your surface is clean and free from dirt or oils. A quick wipe with a paper towel or some rubbing alcohol should be more than enough.
  • Step 2: Take the primer brush and dip it into the gesso -- most primers are ready to use right out of the tub, and so long as you don't drop stuff in it, you can use it straight from the packaging.
  • Step 3: Apply the gesso in a thin, even coat to the surface, working all in one direction (say, all horizontal strokes, or all vertical ones).
  • Step 4: Allow the first coat to dry. (This is where the patience comes in! If your gesso is acrylic, you can speed the drying time with a hair dryer.)
  • Step 5: Lightly sand the dried gesso with regular sandpaper. This both smooths any ridges left by the brush, and allows for a slight "tooth" for good adhesion of following layers.
  • Step 6: Apply a second layer of gesso, working the brush in the opposite direction from the first layer.
  • Step 7: Allow to dry again, sand again, and repeat steps 3 through 5 as many times as you like!

Ta-da! Once your final layer of gesso is dry and lightly sanded, you are ready to paint! Many artists like to go through and prime a large number of canvases or boards at one time, to ensure there's always the perfect surface ready whenever inspiration strikes.

Gessoing your own canvas

For a handy reminder sheet on DIY canvas gessoing, feel free to print out this PDF and keep it in your studio!

Jerry's Best Selling Acrylic Gesso

Jerry's Best Selling Gesso

World's Greatest Acrylic Gesso Primer


Interested in reading more? Check out this post provided by Ampersand artist panels, on how to prime boards for painting.

Artist Joe diGiulio explains how to use some of our favorite primers: Matisse Acrylic Gesso and Grounds. Check out his advice in the video below!

What about you? Do you prime your own panels or canvas for painting? What's your favorite gesso, medium, and priming method?

Tell us about it in the comments below!


Celebrity Art Investors - A New Kind of Patronage

Celebrities and famous people that buy and collect art. From Eric Clapton to Leonardo DiCaprio, celebrities decide to spend millions of dollars on collecting art. What are they collecting? Read more...

Celebrities from Eric Clapton to Steve Martin, David Bowie to Brangelina, Leonardo DiCaprio are all investing in and collecting art!

Celebrity and famous art collectors

Over the centuries, artists have relied on patrons — wealthy people with good taste — to support their lives and art. Without patronage of the arts, the world may never have heard of the likes of Michelangelo or William Shakespeare. Yes — it's been that important! But then, art became a commodity.

Paintings and fine sculptures were once displayed in places for all to see. For example, the art was on the ceiling of a cathedral, perhaps, or in the midst of an ancient plaza. At some point, someone said, "Oh, no, no. That can't be left there. I'll be needing that for display in my study."

Art is so precious because it is so rare. In fact, with the exception of Warholian methods of mass production, no two pieces of art — even by the same hand — can ever be made exactly alike. As art became a privatized collection, it has only increased in value exponentially. Investing in art has become increasingly fashionable, particularly over the last decade. Art is a luxury asset, and a tangible one at that. Perhaps we can even infer that considering the recent downturn that intangible assets such as stocks and bonds have taken, it only makes sense that investors would be seeking an object they can actually hold onto.

Financiers, celebrities, and royalty are becoming more and more ubiquitous in the salesrooms of the auction houses in London and New York. But the difference between this new kind of investment and the patronage of days gone by is that the art these high-profile people are collecting are pricy pieces from already-made names. Here's a brief list of celebrities and the artists whose works they have purchased, just to illustrate this point:

  • Steve Martin: Picasso, Georgia O'Keefe, Roy Lichtenstein
  • Steven Spielberg: Norman Rockwell
  • Elton John: Damien Hirst, Picasso, Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Matisse
  • Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie: Banksy
  • Oprah Winfrey: Faith Ringgold
  • Madonna: Frida Kahlo, Damien Hirst, Picasso
  • Andrew Lloyd Webber: Pre-Raphaelites
  • Elizabeth Taylor: Van Gogh
  • Cheech Marin: Patssi Valdez
  • Gianni Versace: Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat
  • David Bowie: Balthus, Rubens, Tintoretto

Leonardo DiCaprio has decided to invest his millions into the art industry, he has been spotted at a various amount of Galleries, and Art auction houses. Leonardo was spotted viewing Andy Warhol’s ‘Flowers’ at the Eykyn Maclean gallery and later attended the Contemporary Art Auction at Christie’s Auction House.

This is just a very small sample, but the point is that the works celebrities have purchased are iconic. And the fact that a celebrity has purchased these famous pieces increases the value of not only the art, but the artist as well. Values on these artists — Picasso and Hirst seem particularly popular — have really skyrocketed in the years following this trend.

But of all the celebrity purchases, none has been more newsworthy than Eric Clapton's investment which recently made headlines. Clapton was worth around $200 million before he unloaded several paintings from his personal art collection at an auction. He walked away $30 million richer. Most notably, a piece by German painter Gerhard Richter sold for more than twice the listed price -- the highest sum ever paid for a piece by a living artist!

Interestingly, this may not have been the result of sheer luck or fortunate circumstance on Clapton's part. The great guitar player studied at the Kingston College of Art in the early 1960s. Until recently, his investments were something of a side hobby when he had extra cash. For Clapton, his background knowledge earned him a 965% return on investment in just 10 years. Who says studying liberal arts doesn't pay off?


Check out some more celebrity art lovers here. What do you think? Is modern-day patronage of the arts a boon or a bane to professional artists?

Tell us about it in the comments below!

Know any other celebrities, famous art collectors and investors? Have more to add to the list? Please add them to the comments below.

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