General Question

jellyfish3232's avatar

Can I use oil and acrylic paint on paper, or do I need actual canvas?

Asked by jellyfish3232 (1849points) March 22nd, 2011

I’m trying to get into painting. I like to sketch, but my aunt is a great painter, and she just gave me a bunch of supplies so I can get started. I have a notebook full of thickish construction paper. I also have oil and acrylic paint: Can I use either or both on this paper, or do I need canvas? How much does the canvas cost? (And while you’re at it, would you mind briefly explaining the differences between oil and acrylic paint?)

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17 Answers

ETpro's avatar

They both work fine on paper. I’ve painted with them. But canvas is far more permanent and resists cracking as it ages.

Carly's avatar

I would think oil paints could soak through paper if it’s not treated. Oils also take a while to dry and unlike acrylics, they do not thin with water.

creative1's avatar

You can use Acrylic paint on paper, like the Acrylic Guache they also have a wonderful either hot pressed or cold pressed paper you can get. Its easier to start off with than canvas when your starting with painting. I took a color theory class to get started with painting because you you get more familar with the colors you are using. In the class we had to copy a master and I chose climt’s the virgins and it came out so well my mother had it framed and its hanging in her room. This was painted on the paper, using the acrylic quache paints. The wonderful thing about acrylic guache is its water based so you just wash your brushes with water.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

There is only one way to find out…;)
I finished an acrylic painting a few weeks ago and used it on cold press board rather than canvas.
Just experiment and see what happens.

jellyfish3232's avatar

Thanks, everyone!

JmacOroni's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille and it is beautiful!
I’ve used acrylic on paper many times, but I’ve never tried it with oil.

Buttonstc's avatar

Just remember that another difference between oil and acrylic is that you’ll need turpentine to clean out your brushes and to thin the paint if using oil.

Another thing is that artificial fiber brushes (Nylon, Taklon, etc.) are better for acrylic paints.

Natural bristle brushes have a tendency to swell up and lose their edge when used with water based paint like acrylic.

The other thing to watch out for with acrylic is that you should avoid overloading the brush. If the paint gets down into the ferrule it can dry very quickly and can ruin a brush permanently. If it does happen, rinse it out immediately.

Good brushes can get expensive You also need to wash them out very thoroughly after each painting session. Acrylic paint can dry incredibly quickly. Much faster than you might think.

I learned this lesson the hard way.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

You could also try painting on a wooden plank or cardboard primed with gesso or white house paint.You might get alot of wrinkling on the paper if you use alot of water or linseed oil.They do also sell canvas sheets in pads too.You can paint on all kiiiinds of things.I would go for something with some firmness and low porosity.Even then,I most most likely prime it.
I don’t use oils anymore.I like acrylics for the speed of drying and they’re less smelly.They do look nice though
Have fun!!:)

@JmacOroni Thanks

creative1's avatar

If you use an Acrylic Guache its a water color so you can add water as you go to slow down the speed in which it dries. Actually for another class I took in 2d design we had to recreate a area in a painting using triangles we had to paint and the color had to be mixed just right. All they allowed us to work with in these classes were the Acrylic Guache and I needed to let them dry days in order to start using them to start working with them otherwise when I used them too soon with the clear drying glue the paint would run. The classes I took were at RISD (Rhode School of Design) continuing education and they have alot of the students learning to paint use the Acrylic Guache its less likely to crack over time because its more of a water color than just an acrylic paint. It allows you to paint on paper rather than canvas and it provides for an easy clean up.

creative1's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille Your picture came out beautiful!

auntydeb's avatar

Ok, some basics for you: Acrylic paint is water based, which means it is simple to use, brushes may be washed in water etc. It also means that if you want to use oil paint with it, the Acrylic must be painted first – oil floats on water – then you can use oils on top. Many bought artist’s grounds are actually primed with acrylic paint. The medium in Acrylic, which makes it permanent and also so versatile is PVA, or Polyvinyl Acetate. This is the stuff that wood-glue is made from, and is often used in crafting. Acrylic paint can be thinned with water, until almost transparent, like water-colour, it dries very quickly and is simple to clean off most surfaces.

Oil paints are made using an oil base to carry the colour. This is usually linseed, sometimes cottonseed. Oil paint never really ‘dries’, it continues to change, often for centuries which is how ‘old masters’ survive. It must be thinned using solvents, turpentine is traditional. Linseed oil is also used.

Your paper can be easily primed with a thin layer of acrylic paint, then used for oil or for further acrylic work.

All paints are made using pigment which these days is often made from ‘anyline’ dyes, obtained from the oil industry. The old, traditional pigments, and colours are made from earth and plant extracts. The pigment is ground very finely, then mixed, either with oil or the acrylic medium, slowly and carefully. Making paint is great fun – I’ve done it and still have some I made about 15 years ago!

As long as you keep in mind that oil must go over water, you can have fun with all the materials you have, without buying more. Canvas is very expensive, you can get ready-primed canvasses and boards, but I think you might as well experiment with what you have. Don’t be afraid of it, you will make mistakes, but that will help you learn!

Please feel free to message me if you want more info, I have expertise in paint technology, art and materials, and love to waffle on about them! Best of luck, above all, enjoy the gift from your Aunt!

SpatzieLover's avatar

As a kid I had oils. I used them on paper all the time without any issue.

I know use both for all sorts of projects they were never intended for. They work well on kids Tyco plastic castles…and other assorted stuff.

countrybumpkin's avatar

Yuo can use acrilic on paper but I don’t know why you would. Same for oil. Use a canvas or other. (wood, tile, tin)

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auntydeb's avatar

An additional note, just to respond to @countrybumpkin – ‘why you would’ use acrylic on paper – flexibility! As long as the paper has been stretched, you can treat acrylic paints like water colours, making washes or stains, painting thin or thick. When dry, you can roll it up, or store it in a portfolio, the drying time will be minutes or very few hours, unlike oils that can (as noted above) take years. Many artists use paper as the base for painting, it is incredibly versatile, simple to prepare and easy to store. Canvas is expensive, wood can be heavy, metals still need some preparation.

Having just returned to painting after a very long break, I have rediscovered a great love of working on paper and thoroughly recommend it!

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Having painted in all media, and just about all dry media, since age 6 or so, I would say the best surface foir oils is canvas or Masonite. At least for me, I found paper to be weak, is soaked up the oils in the oil paint and unless the paper was mounted to something very stiff, left you with a wimpy mess. Acrylic was not much better as you really could not do thin washes or gradient washes because the paper could not handle the water. I suppose if one uses the acrylic thick, almost from the tube like Van Gogh it could work.

Acrylic is basically water based paint with a plastic pigment. I teasingly call it the refined art house paint, because in many ways, house paint is like acrylic, just much cruder. High quality synthetic brushes can work well with acrylic, but I have never really seen any synthetic hold up to my liking. Hog bristle seem to me the best for acrylic, the paint doesn’t seem to worm its way to the ferrule and dry causing the brush to lose its integrity.

Oils stay open longer, as in it dries slow, that makes it good to take your time on detail. I really like it for portrait work. You can do it with acrylic, but you have to be fast or good at glazing or dry brush technique. Oils, to me, have a deeper, richer color, especially after you varnish the end result.

When it comes to painting, to me stiffer less absorbent is always better.

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