There are key differences and a few things to consider in determining which medium is best for you. While oil paints are generally considered a standard for painters because they have been used for centuries, acrylic paints are fairly new in the art world and have only been available since the 1950’s.
Do you like to work quickly or slowly?
With Acrylics the preparation is minimal and you can paint on anything: Paper, canvas, wood, or whatever you have in front of you. In addition, because all you need is water to clean your brushes, working in a small space is not an issue. With Oils Preparation is key. Due to the corrosive nature of the oil in oil paints, you have to work on a prepared canvas or board. It’s a long process because you have to prime and prepare your painting surface. However, to save some time, you can always buy a pre-primed canvas and get going straight away. Also, the fumes from turpentine and paint thinners used to clean your brushes can be overwhelming. Therefore, is important to work in a ventilated or open area.
What’s the Difference?
The biggest difference in working with oil and acrylics is that oil paints are slow drying and acrylic paints dry fast. Oil paints can take weeks or months to dry. Because oil paints stay wet longer than acrylics, it gives you the flexibility to take your time. You may stop painting one day and come back the next day and the paint in your palette will still be wet and workable. In addition, it is easier to work with when blending colors and smoothing lines. This is particularly important when working on a portrait for example. With acrylics, achieving a smooth blend can be frustrating due to the speed of drying time, particularly when working on a large scale. The paint could dry completely before you are only halfway through blending. However, if you like to work on more graphic compositions, it is fantastic to achieve crisp hard edges and lines. This is the main reason that I have been using acrylics in my most recent series. While it should be mentioned that oils are created to be more vibrant than acrylics, it really depends on the quality of acrylics you are purchasing. In addition, once dry you may always add a gloss to your painting to protect it and add more brilliance.
I'm a New Artist - Which is Best for Me?
My suggestion to new artists is to always get comfortable with acrylics before moving on to oil paints. Acrylics are easier to familiarize yourself with because there is less preparation involved, making them more accessible and easier to use. If you don't have the time, proper preparation, and knowledge with oil paints, it can be frustrating to separate colors and sharp edges. Regardless of which you choose, the last thing you want is to be discouraged when you are learning a new skill, so be patient! Work the colors in slowly and study technique as you develop your individual style.
Which do you prefer? Oils or acrylics? Leave a comment below and feel free to share any tips or tricks you use!
I welcome questions, commissions and collaborations. You can find me on social media @gustavopuenteart. Thanks for stopping by and happy painting!