Oils or Acrylics? The ever looming question for painters, I have gotten the question many times about which I prefer. And for me there really isn’t a straight forward answer, as there are benefits to both.
Acrylic paint was first introduced in the 1950s and are made from pigment in an acrylic polymer emulsion (plastic). They can be thinned with water and the paint dries fast. Acrylic paint can be mixed with various “mediums” such as gels, to create different effects.
Oil paint is what the old master’s used. The paint is pigment suspended in an oil, which makes it non-water soluble. A solvent is required to dilute or clean up paint. Paint is often thick and buttery (due to the oil) and dries very slowly. Depending on the thickness, it can take days for a painting in oil to dry.
So which do I prefer?
There are lots of things to consider, such as ease of use, clean up, speed of drying, color of dried paint and price. Acrylics dry fast, which is nice when something needs a quick turn-around, as I can work quicker with it. They are also easier to clean up as it just takes water to clean brushes. Oils dry slow, which can be a benefit or a hindrance, they also require solvents to clean brushes. These need special and careful handling. Acrylic paint dries a bit darker than it goes on the canvas, this is known as color shift. Oil paint dries pretty much how you apply it to the canvas. Acrylic paint is usually a bit cheaper than oil paint, which can also be a factor.
When painting one of the most important aspects to me is how the paint feels when coming off the brush. I like thick, buttery, smooth. These are the qualities of oil paint. However, I use heavy body acrylic paint, which does a really good job of getting that same quality in acrylic paint. I can usually make them look quite similar in my painting style. If I absolutely had to choose one I would choose oil, only based on the fact that I like how genuinely buttery it feels when going on the canvas!
Did you guess correctly?