Acrylics vs Oils-Which is better?

I began my career as an illustrator so acrylic paints and ink were the norm for the work. Slow drying times are not desired especially when you have a deadline to meet. With acrylics you can paint on anything….. paper, card, canvas, boards, whatever you have on hand. Then go wash your hands with soap and water. No messy oil based spirits to deal with.

There is no corrosive or toxic nature with acrylics as with oils. Oils have a linseed oil base that will “Rot” an ill prepared board or canvas. Preparing a canvas or a board for oils is therefore more involved. Then there are the fumes from the paints, turpentine, and varnish. This means ventilation is required….especially during winter.

Acrylics do dry quickly but the dry time can be slowed by misting with water and use of a slow dry medium. If you like heavy impasto strokes add acrylic gel. Most important  store your paints in something like a Masterson Stay Wet palette. Paints can stay wet for as much as a week in one of these boxes.

It takes time to master but one can paint like an oil painter with acrylics. I usually paint in thin layers and dry each with a hair dryer to keep the painting session going. You cannot do this with oils. Oil paint layers usually need 24 hours to cure to be dry to the touch.

More and more artists are painting with acrylics. But, the gold standard which is painting with oils is still alive and well, especially for portrait painting due to the longer blending properties of oils. I paint in oils from time to time and the quality of my work remains high with either medium. I just know oils are a bit more expensive and will take longer to dry so I compensate for that.

Acrylics are the way to go if you are just learning to paint and don’t want to spend a lot of money until you make the commitment. The painting process of acrylics and oils are similar but acrylics are easier for the beginner to handle. Both mediums are great ways to show your talents. Paint on!