Acrylic VS Oil Paint: Which Is Best For Painting?

  • By: Artistic Bees
  • Time to read: 11 min.
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The world is full of colors. Artists love to create their own world on canvas through their imagination with the help of these colors. With so many colors to choose from, people might get confused easily. Acrylic and oil are two basic and widely used paints among them. There is a lot of debate about acrylic vs oil paint which one is better.

Acrylic and oil paint are both made of pigments. But there are a lot of differences between these two paints. Acrylic is a water-based color. On the other hand, oil paint is an oil-based color. Another major difference between these two paints is the drying time. Acrylic dries very quickly, and oil paint takes months. There is a vast difference in the painting process as well.

If you’re unsure about whether to use acrylic or oil paint, read on to learn which is best for you. This article will help you understand all the differences between acrylic and oil paint, so dive right into it!

Acrylic vs. Oil Paint: Basic Differences

Although acrylic and oil paint look quite similar when squeezed out of a paint tube, there are some fundamental differences in the construction of these two paints.

Key Characteristics:

Oil and water base
  • Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is a water-based color paint and acrylic polymer emulsion. This polymer consists of pigments that produce colors. Also, the consistency and texture are lighter in this medium.

Acrylic paint is packed with elements like stabilizers, synthetic resins, and silicone oils. However, most of them are water-soluble and become water-resistant once they’ve dried.

  • Oil Paint

The main difference between oil and acrylic paint is that oil painting is an oil-based color, and acrylic is water-based. That’s why oil paints are different in their consistency and texture, thicker than acrylic paint.

Oil paints contain color pigments, binding agents, and they are oil-based. This oil base keeps the paintings wet for a long time. Also, it gives a thicker and creamier consistency to the color layer on the canvas.


  • Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint quickly dries. That’s why many people prefer acrylic paint for short-term projects and doing craftworks. Also, if there is a deadline, acrylic paint is the best option to go for.

  • Paper
  • Canvas
  • Wood
  • Glass
  • Ceramics
  • Oil Paint

Oil paints need a thicker medium or canvas for the consistency and their oily base texture. It doesn’t easily go with every material like acrylic paint. Also, you need a much longer time to dry the paint. So you better choose this medium for long-term projects. Oil paint is suitable for:

  • Wood
  • Metals
  • Ceramic
  • Cloths or canvas


  • Acrylic Paint

There is some essential equipment you need to have while coloring with acrylic paints. Let’s have a look at them:

• Color palette
• Paintbrush
• Paper towels
• Jar or a cup for water
• Varnish
• Easel
• Water
• Palette knife

  • Oil Paint

You might need some particular types of equipment in the case of oil paints as it is different from acrylic paints. Let’s have a look at them:

• Large color palette
• Rags or paper towels
• Required canvas
• Solvent and oil medium
• Paintbrush
• Palette knife
• Cups or jars
• Tape

These are the primary elements you will need for painting. But according to the work styles, the equipment also varies from person to person.

Acrylic vs. Oil Paint: Material Differences

Acrylic paints and oil paints have many differences in their techniques and methods. The materials are entirely different from each other. That’s why their working process, drying time, durability, flexibility, blending, cost, everything is different. Let’s dive into the depth of these topics to know more:

Drying Time

Both acrylic and oil paintings have their own individual features. Acrylic paint dries very quickly and doesn’t require much time to finish. Fast-drying is one of the key factors that make acrylics a great medium to start with for a beginner. If you have a short time for painting, you can surely go with acrylic paint and paint on any medium like paper, wood, a wall, or canvas.

Oil paint takes much longer to dry than acrylic paint. For detailing and larger workpieces, oil painting is a better option as you can structure it flawlessly. Oil paint may take 7-8 days or even months to dry properly. So, it is quite risky as anything can damage the work easily during this time.

You will have to be very careful with the oil paint drying process. If you have a project deadline or are a beginner artist, acrylic paint will be more suitable for you in this case.


You must be wondering, is space really a vital factor for painting? Well, yes! Acrylics can make a great alternative to oil paints if you’re painting in a confined space. You just need access to water, which is also required in a minor quantity, to mix and blend your colors.

It is better to have a ventilation system in the room, as some acrylic paints contain ammonia and some trace elements, which can harm your health.

For oil painting, you need a spacious and larger room. If you paint with oils in a confined space, the fume or scent of oil painting might overwhelm you. Turpentine and white spirit can be intense. Also, the white spirit can be an irritant to the skin. Likewise, turpentine rags can spontaneously combust.

So, it would be helpful if you work with oil paints in a larger space. Though acrylic painting doesn’t require this, you can work with it anywhere.

Blending And Mixing

Blending colors and mixing them creates the magic of art. Oil paints take longer to dry as they dry slowly. So you can keep working and layering them until you are satisfied with them. Oil paints are more flexible and easier to work with, in the sense of blending and mixing.

So oil paint is better to experiment with and play with, as it retains moisture and glides easily over the canvas. It also gives you time to think, and you can change the shades if your mind changes.

On the other hand, acrylic paint is harder to mix and blend as it dries very quickly. However, you can keep some water in a spray bottle to re-wet your canvas. It will help mix and blend. But using too much water can ruin your painting.


Both acrylic and oil paint last for a long time. In comparison with oil paint, acrylic paints are pretty new to people. So, it hasn’t been confirmed yet how long it can last. But many people presume that it can last longer than oil paints over the centuries, and many suspect that it might fade away, affecting weather with time.

The durability of oil paints is proven. Many oil paintings from famous painters and artists show that it has been 100-500 years but they are still the same. It is waterproof and doesn’t get affected by weather or any other materials easily. You can also make your paint last by adding sealants to it. So, we can say both colors have a long lifespan and durability.

Acrylic and oil paint both start as vibrant and bold and then they slowly change and fade away with the passage of time. These paintings will last throughout history. Oil paintings are aging with dignity and grace rather than being interred in immortality like acrylics are.


Lightfastness determines the rate of affection on your painting by the light and sunlight. Most of the color brands have a rating of lightfastness on their individual color sets. The sealants will also benefit from this lightfastness rating.

Acrylic paints may look light and bright, but they become darker and give a matt finish after drying. However, it won’t fade away that much with time. It will remain the same as it was 100 years ago. It doesn’t get yellowish as well. But if you don’t protect it accurately, it can fade away over time for the weather and other reasons.

On the other hand, oil paint gets a little yellowish as time flies. You can overcome this yellow vibe if you’ oil out’ the area you are painting.


Color quality is one of the most important key factors in determining the medium of paint. Acrylic and oil paints come in good quality, but they are good in different ways.

Acrylic paints are pretty dense and flat. It is easy to make a thin layer with it. Since it is a water-soluble material, it seems light and dries faster. But sometimes acrylic paint dries darker than expected.

On the other hand, oil paints are quite thick and create deep layers on the canvas or medium. It is opaque, and the shades are glossy. It creates endless chances to mix and blend more and more colors. Since it dries slowly, it creates subtle blends. Also, the color is very smooth to paint with.


Cleaning your painting tools and paintbrushes is an essential step for a long time of maintenance. Good paint brushes can be expensive. If you don’t use them carefully and clean them regularly, they will get damaged easily.

Oil paints and brushes need cleaning more often than acrylic paints. Since oil paints contain chemicals, they might harm or damage your paint tools and paintbrushes easily. These chemicals and oils cannot be cleaned with water alone. To wash your oil brushes, first, mix them with some oils, as it will loosen the color inside the bristles. Then gently wipe it up with a paper towel.

If you want, you can prefer artist soap for cleaning purposes as well. Artist soap is more effective in removing solid stains from your paint, paintbrushes, and fingers. You can also use walnut oil for cleaning oil paints.

Acrylic paint brushes don’t need this complex and deep cleaning. Since it is a water-based medium, you can easily remove the paint using water inside the bristles and paintbrushes. Then gently wipe up and rinse again. In this part, acrylic paint is simpler to clean compared to oil paint.


Affordability is also a significant concern while choosing paints or making a purchase of them. When someone starts to build a hobby, they are not expected to spend lots of money initially. As a beginner or a student artist, you can choose entry-level painting sets as many brands offer these kinds of beginner painting sets for both oil and acrylic paints.

However, professional-level oil paints can be pretty costly as you need other tools and solvents with oils which add extra expenses. Oil brushes are also expensive. The equipment used in oil paintings, like canvas, primer, and all the tools and equipment, can add up to a pretty costly budget.

Well, on the other hand, acrylic paints are pretty budget-friendly. Since it is water-soluble, you can use water as a medium and don’t need to buy any oil solvents. The tools are also affordable and available. So, acrylic paints are mostly cheaper and simpler for painting. However, some acrylic paints can be pretty expensive, depending on the materials.


For comparison, finishing these paint mediums is also an essential factor to take into account. If you like bright colors and a matt finishing, then you should go for acrylic paints. It comparatively provides a flatter and matt finish.

But if you like shiny, glossy, and wet looks, then pick oil paints. It offers high gloss and leaves a smooth finish. It is opaque, and it can provide a matt look as it has various color types. So you can choose according to your requirements and desires.

Painting Processes

Since the materials are different, the painting will be different for acrylic and oil paint as well. Let’s discuss the whole procedure step by step so that you can understand the differences properly.

Acrylic paint

Acrylic paint is simpler to use in comparison with oil paints. These are steps you need to follow for painting with acrylic colors.

Step 1: First, gather all the necessary equipment and place your canvas on the easel. If you are using a different medium, place it in a proper place to have control over it easily.

Step 2: If you prefer to sketch before beginning to paint, draw all of the basic lines first, then cover the background with light colors. Mix the colors with water until you get the perfect shade. It will be easier for you to put the color on the canvas.

Step 3: After applying the light or mid-tones, you can progress to darker colors. It helps you to maintain the shades, shape, and balance of the details.

Step 4: As acrylic dries very quickly, you have to start blending the color on the palette, and you can use a spray water bottle to keep your painting wet to blend the layers easily.

Step 5: Finally, after finishing all the colors, you can highlight the main areas with darker shades. And then you are done!

Oil Paint

On the other hand, oil paint is quite difficult to proceed with. When you are ready with all the required elements in a proper space, you can follow these steps to start your painting:

Step 1: First of all, gather all the elements and start with a piece of charcoal, or chalk, or pencil.

To draw on the colored ground, you can also use any kind of paint, no matter how thin.

Step 2: Secondly, draw all the lighter, basic, and more opaque paints.

Step 3: Next, apply the darker tones, which should be opaque and heavy. Likewise, the background will be covered with this step.

Step 4: After covering all the main parts in detail. Begin painting with densely applied paint in impasto strokes.

Step 5: To remove excess paint, start “Tonking,” using a rag or piece of paper to dab the canvas where needed. Tonking is similar to blotting ink from a piece of paper. Don’t rub while doing it. Gently wipe the surface to remove the paint.

Step 6: Now it’s time to blend the colors over the blocking area on the canvas.

Step 7: Finally, start putting details on the focal points. If the painting is still damp, you can use a mahl stick to place the colors accurately. Then add the finishing touches, such as highlights and your signature. And that’s it!

Now you know what the differences are between the painting procedures. However, practice will make you better at both techniques over time.

Which Is More Beginner Friendly?

Acrylic paint is extensively considered the most beginner-friendly medium. Since it is simpler to paint with, requires very few materials, and is much less time-consuming in comparison with oils. These factors are extremely troublesome to handle as a beginner painter. All you need to start with acrylic painting is a canvas, acrylic paints, paintbrushes, and water.

Oil paints will be sensitive for much longer, with the drying time from a day to months. And it’s also very complex to learn the blending and mixing techniques of oil painting. The equipment for oil painting is costly as well.

If you are a beginner at painting, I would recommend you start with acrylics and then thoroughly consider moving into oils.

Final Verdict: Which One Is Best For Painting?

For a beginner, it is better to go for acrylic paint. Because acrylic paint is simpler to paint with, requires very few materials, and is much less time-consuming than oil. And for the professionals, who are skilled in painting and want to practice it in the long term, then oil paint is preferable for these people.

Over and above, based on all the material and structural differences, you can say both the paint mediums have their advantages and disadvantages. You have to make your choice according to your requirements and desire, following these guidelines.


The medium is not as important as your willpower, whether you paint with acrylic paint or oil paint. If you are determined to get skilled in your desired method, you can explore everything.

But according to materialistic and fundamental disparities, we hope this article helped you find out which is better between acrylic vs. oil paint. All the best with your painting!