Acrylic or Oil Paints?

Acrylic painting - trees 2011 Soo Kim

Jul 17 Acrylic or Oil Paints?

I prefer acrylics due to its convenience: easy to clean and no toxicity. But all the famous paintings are done in oils, and they really shine under good lighting. While there’s a certain prestige commonly associated with oil paintings, I don’t think it does really matter if you use one or the other.

Acrylic painting - trees 2011 Soo Kim

Trees, Acrylic painting on canvas – Soo Kim 2011

Acrylic  and Oil, what’s the difference?

While oil and acrylic paintings seem similar to an amateur eye, they hold very different properties for painters. Oil is probably the most popular medium used by all painters. The world’s famous paintings are all painted with oils.

These drying oils, typically made from linseeds, are durable and especially user-friendly for painters. They are also good for creating aesthetic textures for each work of art.

Time to Dry

Oil is a traditional, centuries-old medium which is much respected. They take a longer time than acrylic to dry, therefore may be more suitable for certain painting techniques. As acrylic is water-based, the fast evaporation of water allows it to dry more rapidly.

For painters who prefer to work faster, they may choose acrylic over oils. Beginners may prefer oils with longer time for consideration and correction before drying.


Toxicity of oil also sets it apart from acrylic. The use of solvents such as turpentine in oil increases its toxicity. Hence, it is best to work in a well-ventilated room whenever using oil.


Acrylic colors tend towards a shade darker when dried. While experts have added that it is less appealing than oil, contemporary artists are fast becoming fans of acrylic. Its versatility allows the use of pastel, charcoal and pen on top of the dried acrylic surface, great for creating mix-media art works. Blending other bodies into acrylic such as sand, metal and paper are also possible.


Whether acrylic can last longer than oils, it remains debatable. Given acrylic’s 50 year-history, it is still early to say that it can outlast its counterpart. Oil, however may crack and discolor over time.


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