Is Watercolor Paint The Same As Acrylic?

  • By: Artistic Bees
  • Time to read: 5 min.
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When it comes to painting, you are not supposed to abide by too many rules. Creativity is free-flowing. But in order to be a good painter, you should be aware of the basics, such as watercolor painting and acrylic painting. They are the two most popular forms of painting, and some tend to confuse them with one another.

Watercolor paint can be the same as acrylic paint, mainly due to the water solubility factor in both. Acrylic paint is a type of water-soluble paint. It is made from acrylic acid. Watercolor paint is a method of painting where the pigments make the paint by suspending them in a water-based solution.

As you can see, their painting forms are similar. So, it is no surprise that people have confusion regarding them and their usage, especially beginners. Hence, in this article, I have provided all the relevant information about watercolor painting and acrylic painting to help you understand them better. I would recommend reading the whole article.

Is Watercolor Paint The Same As Acrylic?

The Similarities Between Watercolor Painting And Acrylics

As mentioned, their water solubility is what unites them together. This means you can thin them down with the addition of water. While painting with both these types, the brushes used can be cleaned easily. You can do so by rinsing them with water.

As a result, none of these painting methods work with any sort of harsh chemicals that can be detrimental to your health or cause skin irritation. Another similarity shared by these two is that they are both quite cheap, in comparison to other mediums.

You can easily combine these two in your painting due to their similarities. The wet-on-wet technique is a popular technique. It consists of layers of wet paint that are added to a previous layer of wet paint.

If you can get the right textures and the right color combinations from both painting methods, you can easily create masterpieces.

If you want to take a look at a tutorial to get some inspiration, you can check the following video.

Differences Between Watercolor And Acrylics

Despite their similarities, there are a lot of distinctions that separate watercolor from acrylics. Beginners are mostly not aware of these things.


Watercolors have pigments that consist of natural gum arabic. This works as a binder for watercolors. It helps with the shiny element and the transparency of the painting. Watercolors can also sometimes include preservatives or glycerin. These help with the viscosity of the paint.

Acrylics consist of acrylic resin, pigment, and binder. The resin is man-made instead of the natural one found in watercolors. They also offer more versatility as they can be watered down as per your usage.


When it comes to transparency, watercolors offer a variety of options. They can be in the form of opaque, semi-transparent, or extremely transparent. With such a variety, you can experiment with different layers and the vibrancy of the colors.

The appearance of acrylics is a lot brighter than that of watercolors. Hence, it is more on the opaque side. They can be thinned down to match watercolors. Even then, the painting is likely to create a velvety and cloudy texture instead of the natural transparency of watercolors.


When it comes to surfaces, watercolors have limitations. Watercolors require a specific paper for effective application. The paint will not be properly absorbed otherwise. For the best results, you should work with thicker papers. Such papers will enable you to be freer with the colors.

Acrylics are flexible enough to work with, so they can be used on any surface such as wood, paper, canvas, glass, etc. However, you should be aware that in most cases, acrylic cannot be applied directly. You have to prime the surface beforehand, that is, coat the surface with a special type of paint. Latex primer, sealer, and gesso are good examples.

Color Techniques

Since watercolors cannot be maneuvered easily, it is better to always start with lighter colors. Watercolors have a lot of transparency, so lighter colors will not show properly unless you cover them with darker tints. If you start with dark colors first, in the case of mistakes, they cannot be fixed upon their application.

Since acrylics are more flexible, you can easily experiment with dark and light colors together. However, you should keep in mind that acrylics take on a slightly darker appearance upon drying. So, when you use lighter shades, you might want to make them extra light.

Time For Drying And Cleaning

Watercolors take 5–15 minutes to dry up. The drying time is also affected by external factors such as humidity and the amount of water used. You should also know that watercolor painting dries to an overall lighter shade. Cleaning is also not a hassle because of its water solubility. If you get any on your clothes, a wet cloth can easily get rid of it.

Acrylics dry extremely fast, so you need to get your blending and stroking done quickly. If not, it can be difficult to cover the larger areas with your preferred surface. Upon drying, the painting will have a flat and darker appearance. Since they dry fast, make sure you clean your brushes instantly. You can clean them with some soap and water.

For Beginners

As an artist, you should always experiment with your creativity to know which medium suits you best. Yet, I would recommend starting with acrylics. This is because they offer a better learning experience. You can also fix your mistakes. As a result, you will not be demotivated in any way.

When it comes to watercolors, once you apply the colors, you cannot fix any mistakes. So, your art might just end up going to waste. Secondly, the blending of watercolors, their range, and their application on surfaces can be challenging to navigate at first.

Make sure you ckeck our article: Is Watercolor Paint Good For Beginners?


After reading this article, you should know that, to a certain extent, watercolor paint is pretty much the same as acrylic paint. Yet, when you dive into the specifics, you will see that they both include elements that contrast with each other.

I hope this article gave you all the information you needed to clear up your questions regarding this topic. I hope it helps you become a better artist. Happy painting!