Acrylic vs. Oil Paint

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Difference between Acrylic and Oil Paint

Artists use all sorts of differing mediums to represent their talent. Every artist has their own preference of material and use different materials for differing works of art. Which material is better really depends on the desired effect, desired use, and in some cases, ease of use. When choosing paints, there are generally two options to choose from - acrylic or oil paint. The true artist will argue that oil is the best way to go, but acrylic paint has some effective arguments for use that can not be produced using oil. The truth probably lies somewhere in between and is determined by the desired end product

Oil Paint


Oil paint consists literally of oil, linseed oil which serves as a vehicle for an emulsion of acrylic polymer that in turn is the binder in acrylic paint. This leads for the distinction of definition of oil paint being “oil based” and acrylic being “water based”.


The thing that really sets the paint products apart is in the drying time. Oil paint, having its base in oil has a much longer drying time than its counterpart acrylic paint. Acrylic paint has a quicker drying time since it is water based. This calls for the limitation, however, in the usage of acrylic paints. Because drying time is longer with oil paints, the administer has a much longer period of time to work with the pigment. The artist has a prolonged period of time to mix colors and achieve the exact pigment that they desire. Acrylic paints, because they dry much quicker, have a shorter time to mix color. There are certain substances that you can add to acrylic paints, however, to slow their drying time, you can use retarders which slow the evaporation rate of the water.

Pros and Cons

When using paint for painting techniques, such as brushing, ragging, oil paints have a real advantage over acrylic paints. When using oil paints, you actually have the option of working with it for up to several hours, reforming, revisiting. The major advantage of acrylic paint, is that once it is dry, it is impermeable. Once acrylic paint dries it is permanent, which is not the case with oil. Even once dry, it is still possible to interrupt oil paint. Oil paints do not hold up as well as acrylic for long term convenience. Oil paints over time have a tendency to become brittle and lose their flexibility.

Weighing the Positives

Acrylic paint is water-based and although it dries quicker, when dry, is permanent. Oil paint, with its base in oil, holds pigment better, dries more slowly making it a better choice for technique painting. Oil paint, however, does not withstand the time as well as acrylic. Over time oil paint has the tendency to lose its flexibility and become brittle, making it not the best choice for long lasting works of art. There are additives that can make acrylic behave more like oil paint like retarders which speed down drying time. There is no way to make oil become more permanent however.


  • Acrylic paints are water based
  • Acrylic paints dry quickly leading them to be less useful for technique painting
  • Oil paints are oil based
  • Oil paints have very long drying times

Acrylic and Oil Paint Video

Which type of paint has worse fumes?
  • Acrylic
  • Oil Paint

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