Oil Painting v/s Acrylic


So, you are all excited to pursue your passion for painting, but don’t know where to start? One of the first choices in front of beginner painters is to choose the types of paints they should get started with. Some common paint types include oils, acrylic, watercolor, etc. In this article, we compare two of the most common paint types for beginners – oils and acrylic.

Oil Painting & Acrylic Painting – Key Differences

Choice of surface: One of the key advantages of acrylic paints is you can use them on any surface – paper, card, wood, canvas, brickwork, etc. This gives a lot of flexibility, especially for new painters. Oil paintings are suited for a prepared canvas because oil is corrosive. Unless you are buying a pre-primed canvas, oil painting requires a longer preparation time.


Drying times: Acrylic paints dry quickly, whereas oil paints remain wet for a longer time. It takes 18 to 24 hours for oil paint to become touch dry on a canvas. This makes oil painting an ideal choice if you are not painting in a single setting. You can complete some part of the painting one day and carry it over to the next day. If you add drying oils to paints, you can keep them wet for several weeks. While there are ways to keep acrylics wet for somewhat longer, they cannot match the drying times of oil paint.

Blending experience: The fast drying times of acrylic paints result in a frustrating blending experience. If you want to create smooth blends with acrylics, you need to work at a very fast pace. Whereas, oil paints are an excellent choice if you want to create subtle blends and transitions. But if you are looking for crisp edges, acrylics have an edge over oil paints.

Lifespan of paintings: Acrylic paintings have a much longer life than oil paintings. According to lab tests, acrylics can last for centuries. In comparison, oil paintings tend to get yellow over time as well as develop cracks and become brittle.

Size of working space: Acrylics are non-toxic and don’t have any smell. This makes them a good choice if you are working in a small place or a place with kids. On the contrary, in confined spaces, the fumes from oil paint can be intolerable and strong, and there is also a risk of irritation to the skin.

Materials used: Acrylic paints, being water soluble, can be used instantly by mixing with water. For the same reason, paint brushes used for acrylic painting can be cleaned with water easily. Oil paints require oil, such as linseed oil, which serves as a thinner for these thick paints. Also, brushes used in oil painting require a thinning solution, like turpentine, for cleaning.

Type of paintbrush: Synthetic bristles are more suited to acrylics as they can be cleaned easily, work well with acrylic resin, and can be kept in water for long. Whereas for oil painting, natural hair bristles are a preferred option because they work well with the heavy texture of oil paint and remain in shape even after multiple uses.



Price: Oil paintings command a higher price than ones made using acrylic. One of the reasons is oil is seen as a medium of professional and seasoned artists. Also, oil paintings have a rich history, whereas acrylics are a more recent discovery. Then there is also the cost factor. With thinners and oil and other such special materials, it costs more to create oil paintings.

Famous paintings:
Almost all of the world’s greatest painters have relied on oil paint for producing their masterpieces. Famous oil paintings include Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci, Café Terrace at Night by Vincent Van Gogh, and Girl with a Pearl Earring by Jan Vermeer.


Acrylics, which appeared first in the 1940’s, are a popular medium among contemporary artists. Some of the famous acrylic paintings are Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy and A Bigger Splash by David Hockney and Drowning Girl by pop artist Roy Lichtenstein.

Final Thoughts:

As can be seen, both oil and acrylic paintings have their unique advantages and requirements. For beginners, acrylic is a more suitable choice as they can get started with simple paint and water and can be painted on any surface. Oil painting is more appropriate for advanced painters as they can be used for creating complex paintings which may last for multiple sessions.