Oil vs Acrylic

Oil vs. Acrylic – Difference Between Acrylic and Oil Paint

This post may contain affiliate links. We may earn a small commission from purchases made through them, at no additional cost to you.

Ever heard people saying acrylic is the best paint to use? Or perhaps you have heard that the best medium is that of oil paint.  Well, it does not matter which type of paint you use if you know what you are doing. What matters are the excellent drawing and designing skills that you have, as this is what makes the best paint. This article will take you through the key differences between two vastly popular painting mediums: acrylic vs. oil paint. 



Getting to Know Your Paints

Oil and acrylic paints differ in terms of the ingredients used in manufacturing them. Oil paint is made of a pigment and a binder (dry oil like safflower), while acrylics have a binder that is made from polymer resin. Both pigments are the same. The following section will discuss the paints in more detail. 

Acrylic vs Oil Paint


Oil Paint

If you are a slow painter who usually takes a lot of time working on one drawing, then this is a great choice of paint for you. Oil paint is the most famous paint because it has been around since the golden ages. It was used by the great masters hundreds of years back.

Oil and pigment are used to make most oil paints. A lot of oil paints are harmful, so keep them away from children and be extra cautious when handling them. When using oil paint, you need a medium (oil), paint thinner (solvent), and the oil paint itself.

However, do not forget to protect yourself by wearing protective clothing and leaving your windows wide open when doing your project. It is advisable that you do your painting on paper first before you work on the canvas, as this will allow you to practice. You can also opt for a gesso to coat your paper and use Turpentine for cleaning.

Oil paints mostly come in a tube. So, you must add a medium (oil) so that you can increase the fluidity of your paint and use a small amount of paint from the tube. The thinner can break down the oil, thus thinning the paint. The paint thinner also accelerates the drying process of the oil paint.

When it comes to the solvent, make sure you get an odorless one, or else you might end up dealing with a strong odor while working on your painting.


Acrylic Paint

This is a perfect paint for you if you are a quick-working artist because it has excellent drying features. It works well for pro-artists who do not spend a lot of time on one drawing. A quick drying time will enable you to do layers of paint in no time without waiting long periods for layers to dry first before applying a new coat.

However, if you are looking for a non-toxic paint that you can also use around children, then this is not your paint. If you decide on buying acrylic paints, be ready to invest a little money in buying mediums, retarders, and so on in order to adjust the texture and properties of the paint to suit your preferences.

You must be very decisive when using acrylic paints, otherwise the paint will quickly dry on your palette before you finish working on your art. Acrylic paints are not suitable for portrait painting or for any projects that would require you to go back and make any adjustments.



Oil Paint vs. Acrylic Paint

If you are already confident with your drawing skills, then you must know and understand the differences between oil and acrylic paint. Knowing the differences between the two paints will help you in determining which paint will work best for you between the two.

What is Acrylic Paint


Drying Time

This is the most important difference between the two paints. Oil paints tend to take exceptionally long to dry, and can take days or even weeks. While on the other hand, acrylics will only require a short period for them to dry. Acrylics usually dry within an hour, and some as early as 15 minutes.

The fast drying time of acrylic paints is the reason as to why this paint is not suitable for beginners. This is because if you are still a newbie to the world of art and painting, you will require a lot of time to perfect your work and correct any mistakes before the paint dries out.

A paint that dries fast like acrylic might end up frustrating you. However, you can opt for retarders that can slow down the paint a little bit so that you can get your work done. But if you are a fast painter, then acrylic paint is the best for you, because it will challenge you to showcase your talent within a limited time frame.

Oil paint dries very slowly, which makes it the most comfortable paint for most people since they do not have to rush when using it. Oil paints are also more flexible to work with. These paints may even take up to a year to completely dry.


Mixing Paint

The fast drying time of acrylics also influences their mixing procedures and processes. Therefore, it is exceedingly difficult to mix acrylics because they will already be drying before the mixing process is complete. This is a different story when it comes to oils; oils can take days or weeks for the colors to mix, thus creating amazing color variations. This makes oils the best paint in terms of their favorable mixing properties.


Cleaning Processes

Once you are done with painting and playing around with your colors, then comes the cleaning process. A good artist always ensures that the painting gear is thoroughly cleaned and safely stored away for the next art session.

So, this takes us back to acrylic paints, which dry extremely fast. This means that the brushes and bristles will be covered in dried paint. You can use plain cold water to clean the acrylic paint. Oils, on the other hand, require mineral spirits for the cleaning process, which makes their cleaning process long. This is because oils are quite hard to clean. If you opt for oil paint, be sure to invest in some cleaning materials.



The two paints have different finishes because of the different paint textures and features. A slightly glossy, refined, and smooth finish is associated with oil paint, while on the other hand, acrylic paints have a matte finish.



Oil paints are best known for lasting long, some even for 500 years. However, you need to take care of the oil paint properly or else it will lose its color. This is a feature that is not found in acrylic paints. Oil paints cure and acrylic paints dry very fast.

Painting Oil Over Acrylic



Color is the most intense feature that can add or minimize the vibe in the artwork. Oil paints can create vivid and rich colors because they contain a high pigment level. Acrylic paints tend to turn dark when they dry, thus creating a different color from the initial color. This is not the case with oil paint. However, some oil paints may turn yellowish with time.



This factor is usually used as an excuse by most people, especially students or hobbyists who prefer acrylic paints to oil paints. The reason being is that acrylics are much cheaper compared to oil paints. Thus, most beginners prefer purchasing acrylic paint.

Oil paint is costly as compared to acrylic paint due to the additional materials that are required. These are oil mediums, solvents, certain cleaning materials, and palette knives. Even the paintbrushes for oil paint are expensive. Thus, you need to invest more time in the proper cleaning of your oil brushes and other items to increase their durability.

Unlike oil paint, which requires several additional tools, acrylic paint can be used in two simple ways: either right out of the tube or container, or it can be mixed with water to create amazing watercolors.



It is easier to blend oil paints rather than blending acrylic paints. Oil paints are much friendlier to the brush, thus making the painting process easier and faster too. Acrylic paints are not quite as easy to blend because of the differences in their drying times.



Most people suggest that acrylic paint is the best paint for beginners. This is because the paint requires only a few materials and items. However, acrylic paint dries extremely fast, which might pose a problem for a beginner.

Oil paints take longer to dry, thus making their drying-to-the-touch period to take from a day to months. We suggest that beginners opt for acrylic paint and then buy mediums so as to adjust the drying properties of the paint. This will make your work a lot easier as a beginner.



Best Acrylic and Oil Paints

Now that we have covered some of the differences between the two paints, it is time to analyze some of the best oil and acrylic paints. This will help you in buying the best product based on the properties and reviews from other users.

Is Acrylic Paint Water-Based


Best Oil Paint Set: MYARTSCAPE Oil Paint Set

This is an oil paint set that offers professional quality at a reasonable price. The MyArtscape set offers value for money and quality. The paint comes in a variety of high-grade colors that can capture a good vibe in the art world. The whole set is non-toxic and you can use the paint for several projects like wall art, portraits, and so on.

This oil paint set is of excellent value with unlimited surface applications. You can use this paint in the bedroom, on bathroom wallpaper, and so on. This paint is perfect for professional artists as well as beginners. If you prefer having a wide range of colors, then this set is for you. The tubes are sized 12 ml, making them convenient for traveling.

  • Set of 24 vibrant, non-toxic colors
  • Professional-grade oil paint offered in a full range of colors
  • Created in order to capture vibrancy and even application
View on Amazon


  • A good starter set for beginners
  • Comes with several oil paint colors
  • Great value for money
  • Colors are easy to blend
  • Offers excellent coverage


  • Inconsistent color matching with tube label


Best Acrylic Paint Set: WINSOR & NEWTON Galeria Acrylic Paint Set

This set is suited for beginners because of the professional results that are produced by the paints. This set is also suitable for professional artists who enjoy art at an affordable price. It has a variety of highly pigmented quality colors. The set has paints that have a strong brush stroke, thus giving a smooth, satin finish. The paints offer high levels of performance and opacity.

WINSOR & NEWTON Winton Oil Colour Basic Paint Set
  • Sold as a set of 10 individually formulated, high-quality oil colors
  • Moderately priced pigments offering a traditional range of oil colors
  • Lightfast, permanent, and intermixable with other brands
View on Amazon


  • Excellent sheerness level
  • Best suited for beginners
  • Great value for money


  • Quite hard to work with
  • Does not include cyan, making it difficult to mix versions of purple and pink colors



Tips and Tricks

While both acrylic and oil paints are suitable for beginners, there is certainly a learning curve. Below, we have outlined some useful tips and tricks to help you when using acrylic or oil paints. 

What is Oil Paint


Using Acrylic Paints

  • Spray a little bit of water over your palette to prevent your acrylic paint from drying too quickly during your project. You can use a spray bottle to spray the water effectively.
  • To prevent all your different color paints from drying at the same time, you can use three colors in the first session. Pick the three most relevant colors for your painting and mix them. Use these three in your first session and use the other ones in the next mixing session. This will prevent the problem of having all the colors drying quickly before you get the chance to use them all.


Using Oil Paints

  • There is an important rule of thumb that must be followed when making layers with oil paints. Always paint “fat over lean” and “thick over thin.” This is because when the lower layer dries first before the top layer, the top layer will crack.
  • The thicker and oilier your paint is, then the slower its rate of drying. Have a process that ensures the first layer dries first before the second layer, as this might impose problems for you.
  • Start with a paint that is combined with a solvent for a light wash. Then, use the ratio of 3:1 for the oil medium to solvent. When you go to the next layer, opt for 2:1 and then then 1:1 until you are no longer using any solvent. Do the final layer to highlight or darken areas by using oil mixed with straight-from-the-tube paint.
  • If you are using oil paint for two consecutive days, then you can save yourself from a lengthy cleaning process. After the session on the first day, wipe away any masses of paint from your brushes. Dip the bristles in oil and leave them to rest. Thus, the oil will keep the brushes moisturized until the next session of the following day. You can wipe them again before you start.

Difference Between Acrylic and Oil Paint



Frequently Asked Questions


Is Oil Paint More Expensive Than Acrylic Paint?

Yes, oil paint is generally more expensive compared to acrylic paint. This is because of the additional materials required in making oil paint. You can even check the prices of most oil paints online and compare them with the acrylic ones.


Which Paint Is Easier to Use Between the Two?

There is no definite answer to this question, as it all depends on preferences. Some people do suggest that acrylic is less complicated to use compared to oil paints, but acrylic paints also tend to have extremely fast drying times, which is not suitable for everyone. Thus, the choice of paint is based on the user’s preferences.


Are the Finished Appearances for Both Paints Different?

Yes. Oil paint has a high pigment content as compared to acrylic paints. Thus, oil paint will remain the same color even when it has completely dried. On the other hand, acrylic paint will change color and become a bit darker once dry.


Similar Posts