Acrylic vs Oil Painting: Pros and Cons for Artists
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. What is acrylic painting?
  2. Pros of acrylic painting for artists
  3. Cons of acrylic painting for artists
  4. What is oil painting?
  5. Pros of oil painting for artists
  6. Cons of oil painting for artists
  7. How to choose between acrylic and oil painting
  8. Acrylic vs oil painting comparison chart

When it comes to painting, there's a world of difference between acrylic and oil. Both have their unique qualities and challenges. If you're an artist or someone who enjoys playing around with colors, it's essential to understand the pros and cons of acrylic vs oil painting. This way, you can better know which medium best fits your style and needs.

What is Acrylic Painting?

Acrylic paint is a type of paint that artists love for its fast-drying nature and versatility. It's made of pigment suspended in acrylic polymer emulsion. Now, that might sound like a mouthful, but in simpler terms, it means that the color (pigment) is mixed with a type of plastic (acrylic polymer) that binds it all together.

When you're using acrylic paint, you get to enjoy some pretty neat features:

  • It dries quickly: We're talking minutes here! This means you don't have to wait for days to add new layers to your painting or worry about smudging your work.
  • It's water-soluble: Yes, you read that right. When it's wet, you can thin it with water, making it easier to work with. But once it dries, it becomes water-resistant, and you can't change it with water anymore.
  • You can paint on almost anything: From canvas to wood, paper, and even fabric, acrylic paint sticks to a lot of surfaces. That opens up a world of possibilities for your art projects.

But remember, every rose has its thorns—and acrylic painting is no different. In the next section, we'll discuss some of the challenges you might face when using acrylic paint.

Now that you know what acrylic painting is all about, let's dive into the world of oil painting. As we explore the pros and cons of these two mediums, you'll be better equipped to make an informed decision about which one is right for you.

Pros of Acrylic Painting for Artists

Acrylic painting can be a real game-changer for artists, but why? Here are some of the upsides:

  • Fast Drying Time: With acrylics, you don't have to wait for ages for your painting to dry. This makes it ideal for those who like to work quickly, or for those projects that require multiple layers.
  • Easy Cleanup: Because acrylic paints are water-soluble, cleanup is a breeze. All you need is some warm water and soap, and voila, your brushes are as good as new!
  • Versatility: Acrylic paint is incredibly versatile. You can use it thin as watercolors, thick as oils, or anything in between. Plus, you can paint on almost any surface!
  • Longevity: Acrylic paint doesn't yellow or crack over time, which means your artwork will retain its vibrant colors for a long time.

But, as with all things in life, acrylic painting is not perfect. While there are many pros, there are also some cons to consider. But we'll get into that in the next section.

For now, let's just say that if you're an artist who values speed, flexibility, and easy clean up, acrylic painting might just be your cup of tea. But hold on, we haven't explored oil painting yet. Keep reading to learn more about the pros and cons of acrylic vs oil painting.

Cons of Acrylic Painting for Artists

As much as we love acrylic painting, it's only fair to discuss its drawbacks as well. Let's dive into the cons:

  • Quick Drying Can Be a Con: Yes, the rapid drying time can be a pro, but sometimes it's a con. It doesn't leave much room for error or changes. If you make a mistake, you've got to act fast before the paint dries.
  • Color Shift: Acrylic paint tends to darken as it dries, a phenomenon known as color shift. This can make color matching a challenge, especially for beginners.
  • Lack of Texture: While versatile, acrylic paint doesn't provide the same depth and texture as oil paint. It also doesn't have the same luminous, rich color that oil paint is known for.
  • Difficult to Blend: Acrylics are notoriously hard to blend, making it difficult to achieve soft transitions between colors.

So there you have it, the cons of acrylic painting. But remember, every medium has its pros and cons. If you're still unsure about whether acrylic is for you, why not take a look at oil painting? It's got its own set of pros and cons that might sway your decision. Keep reading to learn more about the pros and cons of acrylic vs oil painting.

What is Oil Painting?

Now that we've covered acrylic painting, let's move on to oil painting. So what is oil painting, exactly? It's an age-old art technique that involves painting with pigments bound in a medium of drying oil, usually linseed oil. This rich and vibrant medium has been the choice of famous artists for centuries—from Rembrandt to Van Gogh.

Oil paints are known for their richness, depth, and luminosity. They offer a level of detail and versatility that's hard to match. But it's not just their beauty that draws artists in—oil paints have a slow drying time, allowing artists to work with the paint long after it's been laid on the canvas. This lets you tweak and fine-tune your masterpiece until it's just right.

But, like acrylic paints, oil paints also have their pros and cons. Let's look at those next, as we continue exploring the pros and cons of acrylic vs oil painting. Stay tuned!

Pros of Oil Painting for Artists

So, why do some artists swear by oil paints? Here are some reasons:

1. Rich Colors: One of the biggest advantages of oil painting is the vibrancy of its colors. The way oil interacts with pigments creates a depth and richness that can't be matched by other mediums. This is why oil paintings seem to glow with an inner light.

2. Slow Drying Time: Oil paints take longer to dry compared to acrylics. This can be a great advantage for artists who like to take their time with a piece, making changes and adjustments over several days.

3. Versatility: You can use oil paints in a variety of ways, from thin glazes to thick impasto strokes. This makes oil painting a versatile choice for artists with different styles.

4. Longevity: Oil paintings can last for centuries without fading. This is a big plus if you're thinking about the legacy you're leaving behind as an artist.

These are just a few of the pros of oil painting for artists. But it's not all rosy. Next, we'll look at the cons of oil painting as we delve deeper into the pros and cons of acrylic vs oil painting.

Cons of Oil Painting for Artists

Now that we've got the pros covered, let's chat about the cons of oil painting:

1. Long Drying Time: Yes, you read that right. The slow drying time of oil paints, while a pro for some, can also be a con. If you're an artist who likes to work quickly or needs to finish a piece in a short time, waiting for oil paints to dry can be a bit of a drag.

2. Complexity: Oil painting can be a complex process. It requires knowledge about different types of oil, how to mix them with pigments, and how to prepare the canvas. This might be overwhelming if you're just starting out.

3. Maintenance: Oil paintings require more care than acrylics. They can be sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity, which means they need to be stored carefully.

4. Cost: Generally, oil paints and the associated materials are more expensive than acrylics. If you're on a tight budget, this could be a significant factor in your decision.

Remember, every medium has its ups and downs. The trick is in understanding the pros and cons of acrylic vs oil painting, and deciding which fits your style and needs best. Stay tuned, because we're about to delve into the world of acrylic painting next.

How to Choose Between Acrylic and Oil Painting

Making a choice between acrylic and oil painting can feel like picking a favorite child. But don't worry—here's a simple guide to aid you in this arduous decision-making process:

1. Consider Your Style:  If you're someone who likes to finish your artwork quickly, prefers bright colors, and enjoys layering or textured work, acrylic might be your go-to. On the other hand, if you enjoy working at a leisurely pace, love rich and deep colors, and are drawn towards realism, oil painting might be your cup of tea.

2. Think About Your Environment:  Oil paints can emit fumes, which some people may find unpleasant or even harmful, especially in a poorly ventilated space. Acrylic paint, on the other hand, doesn't have this issue.

3. Gauge Your Patience:  As mentioned earlier, oil paints take a while to dry. Can you wait for days, or even weeks, to see your masterpiece complete? Or do you need to see the fruits of your labor sooner?

4. Assess Your Budget: Oil painting can be more expensive than acrylic painting, not just because of the paint itself, but also due to the cost of additional materials and maintenance. If you're budget-conscious, this might tilt the scale towards acrylics.

Remember, the pros and cons of acrylic vs oil painting are not rules set in stone. They're just guidelines to help you make an informed choice. Ultimately, the best medium for you is the one that feels right and brings out the best in your art.

Acrylic vs Oil Painting Comparison Chart

Still torn between acrylic and oil painting? Don't fret! To make your decision a little easier, here's a handy comparison chart summarizing the pros and cons of acrylic vs oil painting:

Acrylic Painting Oil Painting
Drying Time Fast - usually minutes to hours Slow - can take days or weeks
Colors Bright and vibrant Deep and rich
Work Style Suitable for rapid layering and textured work Allows smooth blending and detail work
Environment Factor Odorless and non-toxic Can emit fumes; requires good ventilation
Cost Generally cheaper Can be more expensive

Of course, this chart just scratches the surface. The real verdict? Experiment with both mediums and see which one sparks your creativity the most. After all, art is about pushing boundaries and finding new ways to express yourself.

If you're interested in learning more about acrylic painting and its advantages, check out the workshop called 'Improve Your Acrylic Painting Skills' by Rachel Christopoulos. This workshop will provide you with essential techniques and tips to enhance your acrylic painting abilities and help you make a more informed decision between acrylic and oil painting.