Is the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci an oil painting or an acrylic painting? Which medium is used more frequently by the best artists in the world? If you’re buzzing with curiosity to find the answers to these questions, you have come to the right place. Through the course of this piece, we will answer these and many other questions for you.
The two most common types of paints used in the art industry are oils and acrylics, which further offer many other kinds of variations depending on how we use them. Prints on canvas are a close third and have gained a lot of recent popularity, but they fall under a different category.
What Are Oil paints?
Simply put, oil paints are powdered pigments mixed with linseed oil to make a smooth paste. They are of the highest quality among the other options. Oil paints offer vibrant colors, the ability to work with layers, and well-blended textures. They take a relatively longer time to dry than acrylics.
What Are Acrylic Paints?
Acrylic paints are composed of a solution of pigments and plastic or acrylic resins. They are non-toxic and dry very fast. Acrylic paints offer the flexibility to work on most types of surfaces. Acrylic paints offer stable colors but can darken up after drying.
The Basic Difference—Oil Versus Acrylics
The final products with both types of paints will be different in color brightness, durability, and optimal storage conditions that they need. Both have unique preparation and working procedures as well. Oils dry slowly, while acrylics dry fast. Acrylics give a darker hue upon drying, while oils turn slightly yellow with time. Both, however, have unique pros and cons that make them valuable.
Oil Paint Pros
- Oil paints offer excellent adhesion and coating, which means that a lesser amount of paint is needed, saving money for the artist.
- Oils dry slowly, which means that the artists get more flexibility in things like blending the colors or making corrections to their work.
- Oil paints have a butter-like texture, which means that they provide smooth consistency for the artist and are easier to work with. They also have exceptional finish-smoothness.
- Because oil paints have more pigment content than other paints, this makes the paintings look more vibrant and vivid, and the color tends to stay fresh for a longer time.
- Oil paints have a longer open time as well. Open time is the time during which paint can be brushed before it settles.
- When oil paint settles and dries, it has superior abrasion resistance as well.
Oil Paint Cons
- Oil paints have a strong odor that can cause dizziness, headaches, or even fainting.
- The longer drying time of oils does provide flexibility, but it also means the artist has to wait before every re-layering or finishing of the product.
- Oil paints and the solvents used in them are toxic. They also contain heavy metals like lead and mercury, and most of the oil pigments are harmful to the skin.
- After drying, oil paint becomes harder, paving the way for great abrasion resistance, but at the same time, this means that the paint is less flexible and can crack more often.
Acrylic Paint Pros
- Acrylic paint dries fast, which means that artists can be efficient with their time.
- Acrylics can be used on almost any surface. The most commonly used surfaces for acrylic paints are paper, canvas, fabric, and wood.
- Acrylic paints are water-soluble and can be diluted with water, making it easy to clean up and correct your mistakes.
- Acrylic paints are odorless and less toxic than oil paints.
Acrylic Paint Cons
- Acrylic paints tend to darken with time. Hence, the color of your acrylic paintings won’t stay the same forever.
- Because acrylics dry quickly, you need to work fast with them.
- After drying, acrylic paint is hard to remove from painting equipment like brushes, painting knives, palettes, et cetera.
- Acrylic paintings are easy to clean.
Using Oil And Acrylic Together
Mixing oil and acrylic is never recommended. Acrylics have a water base, while oil paints have an oil base, and hence, the two cannot mix. Oil paint can be added over acrylic, but acrylic can’t be added on top of oil. If you try to add acrylic over oil, the acrylic will crack and flake with drying and aging.
Hence, acrylic is water-soluble while oil isn't, and they both cannot make one homogenous solution. However, both oil and acrylics can be used in a single painting. You need to make sure that oil is added over acrylic and not the other way around. The acrylic needs to dry completely before any oil is added on top.
Best Oil Paints For Beginners
Many decent brands offer high-quality oil paints. The most notable ones are listed below.
- Winsor & Newton
- Daler Rowney Georgian
- Mont Marte H20
- Royal & Langnickel Essentials
- Pebeo XL Studio
Oil Paint Starter Kit
The following starter kit offers everything an artist needs to start their oil painting journey.
- Oil paint
- Turpentine or mineral spirits
- A jar for cleaning brushes
- Linseed oil or oil medium
- Newsprint or rags
- Painting surface
Some Famous Examples Of Oil And Acrylic Paintings
Over time, artists have used both mediums to make their artwork. However, the most popular ones are oil paintings, examples of which include:
Mona Lisa By Leonardo Da Vinci
The Starry Night By Vincent Van Gogh
Girl With A Pearl Earring By Johannes Vermeer
Las Meninas By Diego Velázquez
Red And Blue Sunset By Miguel Camarena
There are many notable acrylics:
Orange, Red, And Yellow By Mark Rothko
Necronom IV by Hans Ruedi, “H.R.” Giger
Fishing By Jean-Michel Basquiat
Traveling Tequila Donkey By Miguel Camarena
After reading this piece, oil paints are the clear winner to use for your paintings. They may be toxic, but if used properly, their toxicity will not affect us. Most of the masterpieces throughout the world are painted in oil. Acrylics, on the other hand, offer some silver linings and can be used for your painting every once in a while.
Is acrylic water-based?
Yes, acrylics are water-based, which makes them quick-drying. On the other hand, oils are not and hence require a longer drying period.
Does oil paint dry faster in the sun?
Yes, oils do dry faster in a warmer environment. The sun’s heat can catalyze the drying process, which otherwise would take longer.
Does acrylic paint wash off in the rain?
Because acrylic paints are water-resistant, they won’t get washed off in the rain. However, heavy or prolonged exposure to water can degrade and ultimately wash off the paint.
Can you use water-based acrylic paint on the skin?
Even though acrylic paint is non-toxic and safe to use on many surfaces, it can cause allergic reactions on the skin and isn’t recommended at all.
How do I make acrylic paint thicker?
A lot of things can be added in order to make the acrylic paint thicker. Things such as powdered chalk or dry pigment are great options to make acrylics thick.
How long does oil paint last?
Oil paints in tubes have a shelf life of almost 40 years. Oil paintings, if stored properly, can last for centuries or even eternity.