Oil vs. Acrylic by Heather Goldstein

Oils and Acrylics are like oil and water...LITERALLY! For someone just starting out at painting or a painter wanting to change mediums, knowing which is better is usually the first question. But the truth is that neither oil nor acrylic is better than the other; they are just suited for different things. I will admit that I may be a bit bias since I am an oil painter, but I definitely see the merit in both. After all, I AM a painter and I just love PAINT!

Acrylics: I have found that acrylics are great play paints. They are non-toxic so you can use your hands and just have fun! They are also, often times, less expensive than oils. Acrylics will give you nice flat surfaces of color and, of course, they dry fast! I find acrylic mediums to be very fun and this is the perfect paint to use for mixed media! Use acrylic mediums like a glue to attach things to your canvas, build up texture with modeling paste, or use gel medium to do an image transfer!

Best Pros:
Great for Abstract painting
Fast drying
Flat color
Mixed Media

Some Cons:
Colors change when dry
Not ideal for figure/ portraits

Oils: One of the best qualities of oil paint is its ability to blend. You can really get the colors to mix on your palette and turn into a new color. With acrylics, it is almost like an optical illusion where you get the green you want but you can still see the yellow and blue. For some, the slow dry time of oil paints is a pro, but for others it is a con. You must also be very careful with safety. Oil paints and mediums are toxic!

Best Pros:
Great for Figure Painting
Great for realism
Stay true to color

Some Cons:
Dry time

Suggestions: To save on money (and time) I often do an acrylic under painting with my oils. You can always mix the two mediums, HOWEVER, you can paint oils on top of acrylics but NOT vice versa! The oil will eat through your acrylic over time and ruin your painting.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them here!

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Someone wants me to restore a painting. I cannot tell if it is oil or acrylic. Do you have any ideas?

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