Acrylic vs. Oil Paint


Whether you are a novice or professional painter, there is always some wisdom in choosing the correct paint for your artwork. In this article, we shall compare some of the differences between acrylic paint and oil paint with a view to informing you on which of the two would be the perfect fit for you in a particular situation.

As a general rule, it always serves us better to begin easy by defining them. Acrylic paints refer to fast-drying paints which contain pigment suspension in acrylic polymer emulsion. They are often water-soluble but become water-resistant upon drying. On the other hand, oil paints refer to paints made of ground pigment and a drying oil, for example linseed oil.

Acrylic vs. oil paint: What are the differences?

Ease of drying

The first difference that exists between acrylic paints and oil paints is in regards to the ease of drying. It is observed that acrylic paints dry much faster than the oil paints. This, therefore, means that you should determine your painting speed before deciding which of the two to settle with. If you are a slow painter or if the painting process requires an extra degree of diligence, I would strongly recommend you go for the oil paints.


The corrosive nature of a paint goes a long way in determining its suitability. We all understand how corrosive the oil paints are as compared to their acrylic counterparts. This means that if you were to choose oil paints, you will be looking at intensive preparation before starting with the painting process. One such preparation involves preparing a canvas or board in order to shield the ground from its corrosiveness. As a painter, you will also find that you require protective gear while handling these paints.

Suitability for small spaces

If you are working in a small unventilated space, then you need a paint that is odorless and non-toxic, and this is where the acrylic paints come in. This is in sharp contrast to the oil paints which are not recommended for small spaces due to the overwhelming effects of the fumes from the thinner as well as the irritability of the spirits.

Thickness level desired

Given the desired effects, we may decide to have our paints thick or thin. If you desire a thick paint, then acrylic is the best choice as it dries faster, enabling you to continue adding layers of the paint until you reach your desired size. Oil paints are ideal when the desired outcome is a thin layer of paint. This is not only due to the fact that oil dries slowly, but also because each pigment of the paint used has its own drying time and requirements and if more pigments are added in quick succession, the inner pigments may not necessarily dry properly.

Color shift

One thing observed with acrylic paints is that they change their colors when dry. They are therefore more difficult to use where precision painting is required. However, once the pigments have set in, they are fairly durable, lasting up to 200 years. On the other hand, oil paints may not change their pigments upon drying but their durability is definitely not as high as the acrylic paints.

As is evident, the question as regards the best paint between acrylic and oil paints depends upon three things namely; the desired outcome, the overall health and financial implications as well as the skill of the painter.

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