Should I Use Acrylic or Oil Paint?

academy agustin stillleben 01 - Should I Use Acrylic or Oil Paint?

Opinions diverge when it comes to whether is better to use oil or acrylic paints. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. We’ll show you the differences so that you can get rid of all the prejudices you may have against oil painting and start using them.

Many people believe that painting with oils is more difficult than with acrylics. Of course, this discourages beginners to work with them. However, what does this “difficulty” refer to? Most of the time people say oil paints are harder to mix. But the fact is you can learn to work with oils as easily as with acrylics.

Maybe oil painting seems to be more difficult only because it offers more complex options. For example, if you want you can create smooth transitions from one color to the next, without time pressure. With acrylics is difficult to do it because they smear, smudge and dry fast. The difficulty of working with oil paints is caused by the effort you have to put into it. But the result achieved is definitively worth it.

Furthermore, it is said that when you paint with oils, you have to wait until it is dry. Yes, it is true that oil paints dry more slowly than acrylic paints. However, even if this may seem a disadvantage, it is actually a great advantage. You can still correct your painting, revise it and create seamless connections even after days, without any hurry. You can work on several works at the same time, without having to fear that what you have painted so far can no longer be changed. Many people also forget that you have to apply several layers when painting with acrylic to achieve good coverage. That also takes time. Where painting with acrylic ends, because the possibilities offered by acrylic are exhausted, the actual painting with oil starts.

Another prejudice is that oil paints are more expensive than acrylic paints. It may seem so at first glance. But considering that oil paints have a higher opacity and brilliance than acrylic paints and slower drying so that you can continue to use the same color palette again and again and the colors do not have to mix again, the consumption of oil paints is much lower than that of acrylic paints. You also have to take into consideration that acrylics may darken slightly as they dry, while oil paints do not.

You often hear that acrylic paints are modern and expressionist, whether oil paints are classic and traditional. That may be true. Acrylic can be mixed with other mediums such as watercolor and pastel colors, which allows you to work with modeling paste, and therefore, to create collage-like artworks. Oil painting is considered a “classic royal discipline” and has its origin in the 15th century, whereas, the acrylic painting much later in the 20th century.

So, which one should I use? It depends on what you want to express with your work and how you want to do it. The subject and the technique are in this regard essential. Many modern artists use exclusively oil paints for their works, which do not look classically traditional and are less expressionistic than the works with acrylics.

The oil painting looks, in contrast to acrylic, soft and slightly shiny. With oil paints, you can achieve the same painting effect that you can achieve with acrylic paints. However, the other way around is not possible.

Oil Paints:

  • provide more complex options
  • smooth transitions
  • no time pressure (Long drying time)
  • you can correct your painting even after a long time without creating rough transitions
  • intense painting results due to the high coverage and luminosity
  • at first glance more expensive when buying it, but lower consumption

Acrylic Paints:

  • you are limited as regards what you can create
  • smear when you try to create transitions of colors
  • dry quickly so you need to work fast
  • you need to apply several layers to achieve an optimal opacity
  • may darken slightly as they dry
  • it is cheaper to buy them, but due to the fast-drying time you are also going to use a greater quantity of it

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