the difference between acrylic and oil paint

May 21, 2020

The difference between acrylic and oil paint. What are the differences that one should think of before choosing one option over the other?

The end product I find is the most effected by which type of paint you choose. I find that acrylic gives a crisper, less blended look and bolder colored paintings as a result of the drying time. Acrylic paint has a matte finish. Overall, I find that oil paints provide a richer end product in all aspects. The colors blend, providing depth and detail that is much harder to obtain when painting in acrylic. I also find that the thicker paint allows you to create a textured painting, and the paint can actually pop off the canvas! This is another huge reason I use oil paint, I love making my paintings almost 3D!

part of a painting found on

Lastly is the shine! I always liked paintings that had a glossy finish and with oil paint it is so easy to incorporate it in the painting process!

The lighting in this picture shows the glossy finish

Now for a detailed break down regarding the technical aspect of the different paint types.

Drying time

The most pronounced difference between oil and acrylic paint is the drying time. Acrylic paints dry within an hour while oil will stay wet for days, weeks, and sometimes months! (I wait 6 months to frame an oil painting to be on the safe side)
This brings us to the next issue. Are you meticulous, and detail oriented, and slow? Or do you work very fast, less detailed in your art style, and do not need to blend colors?

While the drying time for oil paints may sound frustrating, this time allows for more blending and shading. I love it when color flows. I am okay with the wait needed to create a clear and crisp difference. (Interestingly, the first time I painted on canvas, I used acrylic. I couldn’t stand that the paints dried so fast and assumed that I was a bad painter. I ended up dropping out of classes for 2 years and attended a professional drawing class. When I decided to try painting again, I used oil paint and 9 years later, I haven’t turned back. ) Your personality is going to really help you make the decision between fast dry or slow dry.

mixing acrylic vs oil paint

Now we can attend to the nitty gritty differences between acrylic and oil paint. These little issues all have to do with the drying times! Mixing colors with acrylic is harder because you are working against the clock. This is fine if you are painting continuously, but if you take breaks, this may be a problem for you. Remember, once you squeeze out the paints they will start drying. Oil paints give lots of time to mix colors and reuse paint. In the past I have used paint that was a day or two old, and it did not affect my painting.

judaic art for sale
I painted this 24″x36″ painting in 2 days. I wanted the paint to stay wet while I worked. With acrylic, this would have had to be painted in one sitting.

Cleaning brushes

Cleaning your brushes, very different methods. Acrylic is easy, it just takes water to clean them. However, you will have to clean it right away, as the paint will dry very quickly! With oil paint, you have about 12 hours, and it is hard to clean. I usually prefer to stick with non-toxic paint cleaners, so I will first use regular dish soap. When I feel I did my best with dish soap, I use turpentine to do the rest.

Cost difference between acrylic and oil paint

Oil paints are generally more expensive than acrylics. So for those looking to keep the cost down, acrylic is definitely the better option. I found that Blick’s has a line of their own oil paint. It is much cheaper than the regular brand names. One issue is that it is a bit more diluted than the standard more common companies such as Winsor and Newton and masters choice.

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