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nebule's avatar

Acrylic v. Oil? What are the pros and cons and your personal preference?

Asked by nebule (16356 points ) November 24th, 2010

In terms of acrylic paintings and oil paintings what are the pros and cons?

Do you have a preference and why (and from which perspective…painter or appreciator)?

Is one superior to the other?

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11 Answers

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I haven’t any patience,so I work with acrylics.The drying time is fast,they clean up easily and they don’t smell as bad.Oils can be really beautiful and they do have a certain richness.

downtide's avatar

As a painter, I prefer acrylics. They’re easy to work with, very versatile (you can use them like a watercolour as well as like an oil paint), easy to clean up, and they don’t smell. As an appreciator of art, I prefer oils. The results are so much better.

Jeruba's avatar

I love oils. I love the smell, the feel, the character, the depth. I even love the mess and the cleanup; it has an almost ritual quality for me. I’d rather paint with oils than in any other medium.

I do appreciate some effects that you can get with acrylics and not with oils, but I leave those to others. When it comes to owning a painting, again, it’s oils for me.

TexasDude's avatar

Depends on the project for me.

I prefer to do landscapes in oils because I’m sort of a traditionalist, I guess, in that sense, and like @Jeruba, I love the sensual quality of oil paint and the associated mediums.

I do just about everything else, including portraits in acrylic because it is an incredibly versatile type of paint, and there are a vast number of mediums available that can be mixed with it that let you do crazy stuff like this and this that you just can’t do with oil. I do a lot of diorama, model, and functional painting too, and acrylic’s drying time and other properties are optimum for this type of work. Water solubility is a huge plus too.

fundevogel's avatar

I have never been a painter, but people used to mistake my work for painting when I worked with oil pastel. I just thought I’d mention that depending on your style you don’t actually have to paint at all to produce something that looks painted. The nice thing about oil pastel is when you’re done you don’t have to clean up anything but your fingers and you don’t need to wait for anything to dry. Also, pastels are a hell of a lot cheaper than most paint.

nebule's avatar

Thank everyone… I do think that there seems to be a deeper, (perhaps embedded in history) respect for oils. I rather like painting with acrylics but have a sense that I’m not painting properly unless I move over to using oils… or at least use oils as well… but they scare me a bit. For some reason I seem to think that acrylics are easier to deal with a more suited to my ‘amateur’ status? Should I be changing my thinking do you think? Are oils, because of their lack of versatility, more difficult to paint with generally?

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I think you should use the medium you like.
Skill is where it’s at. ;)

TexasDude's avatar

@nebule I rather like painting with acrylics but have a sense that I’m not painting properly unless I move over to using oils…

There is really no reason you should feel that way.

Dog's avatar

I paint in oils because I have no patience for acrylics. They do not allow me to push the paint and blend when my mind shifts the lighting of the painting.

I paint with thinner only and no mediums so my paintings usually dry to the touch in 48 hours and in two weeks can be shipped. A year they are varnished.

I know acrylics can be a great asset but my mind does not work as precisely as they demand. I do admire those who pull off excellence with them, especially considering the short window for working.

Earthgirl's avatar

I have limited experience with painting in oil versus acrylic but if I had time to devote to painting I feel sure that oil would be the way to go for me. Oil painting as Dog says allows you to push and blend the paints more. This appeals to my taste for building up colors and blending colors. Although you can use thinners and paint extenders to lengthen the drying time of acrylics, it is harder to achieve the nuances of light and shading that you get from building up and blending oils, layer upon layer. I believe they also have a greater translucency than acrylic. I would not feel compelled, however, to paint in oil in order to be considered a “serious” artist. Acrylic with it’s greater viscosity and versatility of texture might be better suited to you and your subject matter. Absolutely a matter of personal taste. There are great artists who work in either medium. The thing you want to express will determine what medium is best to express it as you gain experience. That said, I will repeat my high school art teacher’s mantra-“breadth before depth” There is nothing to be lost and much to be gained by experimenting a little in order to see what works for you. Good luck! Enjoy!

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