Pros & Cons of Painting Mediums: A Guide
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


Have you ever gone through the art supply section of a store, looking at all the different painting mediums and wondered, "What's the difference?" You're not alone! The world of painting mediums is as vast as it is fascinating. Let's explore the pros and cons of different mediums in painting and get a better understanding of which type suits your artistic style the best.

Pros and Cons of Oil Paint

First up on our palette, let's brush up on oil paints.

Pros of Oil Paint

Oil paint is a traditional medium that has been used by artists for centuries. Here's why it's still a favorite:

  • Blendability: One of the main advantages of oil paint is its slow drying time. This allows you to blend colors seamlessly on the canvas, creating a smooth transition between shades.
  • Richness: Oil paints have a depth and richness of color that's hard to match. They can give your artwork a luminous quality, making it stand out.
  • Longevity: Oil paints are also incredibly durable. Once dry, they're resistant to fading, ensuring your artwork stays vibrant for years.

Cons of Oil Paint

While oil paint has its perks, there are some downsides to keep in mind:

  • Drying Time: The slow drying time of oil paint can be a double-edged sword. While it's great for blending, it means you have to wait longer to add new layers or details without smudging the paint.
  • Maintenance: Oil painting requires a specific cleaning process to keep brushes in good condition. Plus, it's essential to safely dispose of used solvents.
  • Cost: High-quality oil paints can be expensive. If you're a beginner, you might want to start with a more affordable medium.

So, as you can see, oil paint has its own set of unique characteristics. It can be perfect if you're looking for in-depth blending and richness of color, but requires patience and proper care. Up next, we'll discuss the pros and cons of acrylic paint as another popular choice in the world of painting mediums.

Pros and Cons of Acrylic Paint

Stepping away from the classical realm of oil, let's dip our brushes into the modern world of acrylics.

Pros of Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is a versatile and popular medium, and here's why:

  • Fast Drying: Unlike oil paint, acrylics dry very quickly. This allows you to work at a faster pace, adding layers or details in a shorter amount of time.
  • Water-based: Acrylic paint is water-soluble which makes it easy to clean. You can wash your brushes and other tools with just soap and water.
  • Flexibility: Acrylic paint is flexible when dry, making it less prone to cracking or damage. Plus, you can use it on a variety of surfaces including canvas, wood, and even fabric.

Cons of Acrylic Paint

Despite its advantages, there are some aspects of acrylic paint that may not work for everyone:

  • Limited Blending: The fast drying time of acrylics can limit your ability to blend colors on the canvas. If you're a fan of smooth transitions, this could be a drawback.
  • Color Shift: Acrylic paint tends to darken as it dries. This might alter the final appearance of your artwork if you're not careful.
  • Plastic look: Some artists find that acrylic paint doesn't have the same depth and luminosity as oil paint. It might give your work a more plastic-like finish.

As you see, the pros and cons of different mediums in painting are all about what suits your personal style and needs. Acrylics are great for quick, versatile work, but they might not offer the same depth of color as oils. Next, we'll dive into the world of watercolors and see what they bring to the canvas.

Pros and Cons of Watercolor Paint

Imagine a world brimming with soft hues, delicate washes, and a play of transparency—welcome to the realm of watercolor paint!

Pros of Watercolor Paint

Let's take a look at why watercolor paint might be the medium you're looking for:

  • Easy to Mix: Watercolors allow you to mix colors directly on the paper. It's like having an artist's palette right on your canvas.
  • Transparent: The transparent nature of watercolors lets you create stunning layering and blending effects. This can add depth and dimension to your artwork.
  • Portable: Given they're light and compact, watercolor sets are perfect for on-the-go art. You can easily take them outdoors for plein air painting.

Cons of Watercolor Paint

Watercolors do have some traits that might not be ideal for everyone:

  • Difficulty in Control: Watercolors can be unpredictable. With its fluid consistency, controlling the paint's flow might be challenging for beginners.
  • Hard to Correct: Once you lay down a watercolor wash, it's pretty much permanent. Mistakes can be hard to correct without disturbing the layers underneath.
  • Fading Over Time: Watercolors are prone to fading over time, especially when exposed to light. You'll need to take extra care to preserve your watercolor artworks.

When weighing the pros and cons of different mediums in painting, the choice comes down to your personal preferences. Watercolor paint offers a unique, delicate touch to your artwork but comes with its own set of challenges. In the next section, let's explore the world of tempera paint and its unique characteristics.

Pros and Cons of Tempera Paint

Ever wondered how those vibrant medieval and early Renaissance paintings got their stunning colors? Look no further than tempera paint!

Pros of Tempera Paint

Here's why tempera paint might just be the color medium for you:

  • Vibrant Colors: One of the hallmarks of tempera is its rich and vibrant colors. It can bring an almost jewel-like quality to your paintings.
  • Quick Drying: Tempera paint dries quickly, which can be a boon if you're working on a project that requires rapid layering.
  • Longevity: Tempera paintings can last for centuries without fading. If you're aiming for artwork that stands the test of time, tempera could be your go-to medium.

Cons of Tempera Paint

However, tempera paint does come with some considerations:

  • Not Flexible: Unlike oil or acrylic, tempera paint isn't flexible once dried. This means it can crack over time if applied to a flexible surface like canvas.
  • Hard to Blend: Tempera dries quickly and it can be difficult to blend colors smoothly. You might find it a bit of a challenge if you're trying to achieve subtle transitions of color.

When considering the pros and cons of different mediums in painting, it's important to note that no one medium is inherently better than another—it all depends on your style, skill level, and the effect you're trying to achieve. Now, let's move on to the fascinating world of gouache paint and its unique qualities.

Pros and Cons of Gouache Paint

If you're a fan of bold, matte colors, gouache paint might just pique your interest. Let's dive into the pros and cons of this unique medium.

Pros of Gouache Paint

Gouache paint has some distinct advantages:

  • Opaque Finish: Gouache paint is known for its opacity. This means you can easily paint light colors over dark ones, offering a lot of flexibility when it comes to layering and corrections.
  • Matte Finish: Unlike oil or acrylic, gouache dries to a flat, matte finish. This can give your paintings a unique and modern look.
  • Re-workable: Even after it dries, you can re-wet gouache and work it again. This is a rare feature among paint mediums and can be a lifesaver if you spot areas you'd like to adjust or improve.

Cons of Gouache Paint

Yet, there are a few things to watch out for:

  • Can Reactivate: While the ability to re-wet gouache can be a plus, it can also be a problem if you accidentally reactivate areas of your painting you didn't intend to touch.
  • Dries Darker: If you're not used to it, gouache can surprise you by drying darker than it appears when wet. This might require some practice to get the colors just right.

So, when pondering over the pros and cons of different mediums in painting, remember that the best choice is the one that suits your vision and technique. Next, we'll explore the world of encaustic paint and what it brings to the table.

Pros and Cons of Encaustic Paint

Encaustic paint, known for its rich texture and vibrant colors, is an ancient medium that's been experiencing a modern day revival. Let's look at some of its pros and cons.

Pros of Encaustic Paint

Encaustic paint offers some unique benefits:

  • Deep, Luminous Colors: Encaustic paint is made with pure pigments and beeswax, resulting in incredibly vibrant colors. If you're after a glowing, luminous effect, this could be the medium for you.
  • Texture and Relief: This type of paint allows for high relief and texture, offering possibilities for sculptural effects you can't get with other mediums.
  • Durability: Encaustic paint is resistant to moisture and won't darken or yellow with age, making it a durable choice.

Cons of Encaustic Paint

However, encaustic paint also has its challenges:

  • Requires Heat: Encaustic paint needs heat to work with. This can mean more equipment, and a need for care to avoid burns or fires.
  • Hard to Correct Mistakes: Once it cools and solidifies, encaustic paint is difficult to correct or remove.
  • Needs Ventilation: The process of heating the paint can release fumes, so good ventilation is a must.

As we navigate through the pros and cons of different mediums in painting, it's clear that each medium has its own charm. All that matters is finding the one that aligns with your artistic spirit and style. Up next, we'll delve into the world of tempera paint!

If you enjoyed this blog post on the pros and cons of various painting mediums and want to continue expanding your artistic knowledge, check out the workshop 'Was it Worth it? The Pros and Cons of Art School' by Faira. This workshop will provide you with valuable insights and advice on how to make the most of your art school experience, which can be helpful in better understanding and choosing the right painting mediums for your artistic journey.