Acrylic Paint vs. Alkyd Paint

What's the Difference?

Acrylic paint and alkyd paint are both popular choices for artists and hobbyists due to their versatility and durability. However, they have some key differences. Acrylic paint is water-based and dries quickly, allowing for easy layering and blending. It has a smooth and glossy finish, and its colors remain vibrant over time. On the other hand, alkyd paint is oil-based and takes longer to dry, but it offers a more traditional oil paint look and feel. It has a rich and lustrous finish, and its colors tend to be more intense. Alkyd paint also has excellent adhesion and is resistant to yellowing, making it a great choice for outdoor projects. Ultimately, the choice between acrylic and alkyd paint depends on the artist's preferences and the desired outcome of the artwork.


AttributeAcrylic PaintAlkyd Paint
Drying TimeQuick dryingSlow drying
FinishMatte, satin, or glossyGlossy
OpacityCan be transparent or opaqueOpaque
ApplicationCan be applied to various surfacesPrimarily used on metal and wood
Clean-upWater-based, easy clean-upRequires solvents for clean-up
Color RetentionGood color retentionExcellent color retention
PriceGenerally more affordableUsually more expensive

Further Detail


When it comes to choosing the right type of paint for your artistic or DIY projects, there are several options available in the market. Two popular choices are acrylic paint and alkyd paint. Both of these paints have their own unique attributes and characteristics that make them suitable for different applications. In this article, we will compare the attributes of acrylic paint and alkyd paint to help you make an informed decision based on your specific needs and preferences.


Acrylic paint is made from a water-based polymer emulsion, which consists of acrylic resin particles suspended in water. These resin particles are responsible for the paint's adhesive and binding properties. On the other hand, alkyd paint is oil-based and contains a synthetic resin derived from alkyd resins. This resin is dissolved in a solvent, typically mineral spirits or turpentine, which evaporates as the paint dries.

Drying Time

One of the key differences between acrylic paint and alkyd paint is their drying time. Acrylic paint dries relatively quickly, usually within 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the paint layer and environmental conditions. This fast drying time allows artists to work more efficiently and apply multiple layers without waiting for extended periods. On the other hand, alkyd paint has a slower drying time, typically taking several hours to dry completely. This longer drying time can be advantageous for artists who prefer to work with wet-on-wet techniques or require more time for blending and manipulation of the paint.

Opacity and Coverage

Acrylic paint is known for its excellent opacity and coverage. It provides vibrant and solid colors, even when applied in thin layers. This attribute makes it ideal for artists who require strong color intensity and want to achieve a solid, opaque finish. Alkyd paint, on the other hand, tends to have a more translucent quality, especially when applied thinly. It may require multiple layers to achieve the desired opacity and coverage. However, alkyd paint can also be formulated to have high opacity, depending on the specific brand and product.

Flexibility and Durability

Acrylic paint is known for its flexibility and durability. Once dry, it forms a tough and flexible film that can withstand various environmental conditions, including temperature changes and humidity. This flexibility makes acrylic paint less prone to cracking or flaking over time. Alkyd paint, on the other hand, also offers good durability and flexibility. It forms a hard and durable film that is resistant to wear and tear. However, alkyd paint may become brittle over time, especially in extreme temperature conditions, which can lead to cracking or chipping.

Color Retention

Both acrylic paint and alkyd paint offer excellent color retention. They are resistant to fading and yellowing over time, ensuring that your artwork or painted surfaces maintain their original vibrancy and appearance. However, it is important to note that the quality of pigments used in the paint can also affect color retention. It is advisable to choose high-quality paints with lightfast pigments to ensure long-term color stability.

Application and Cleanup

Acrylic paint is easy to apply and clean up. It can be used on a variety of surfaces, including canvas, paper, wood, and more. Acrylic paint can be thinned with water or acrylic mediums to achieve different consistencies and effects. Cleanup is also simple, requiring only water and soap. On the other hand, alkyd paint is typically used for oil painting techniques and is best suited for primed canvas or wood surfaces. It requires the use of solvents like mineral spirits or turpentine for thinning and cleanup. The use of solvents makes alkyd paint less environmentally friendly and requires proper ventilation during application.


Acrylic paint and alkyd paint are both versatile options with their own unique attributes. Acrylic paint offers fast drying time, excellent opacity, flexibility, and easy cleanup, making it a popular choice for artists and DIY enthusiasts. Alkyd paint, on the other hand, provides a slower drying time, good durability, and can be formulated for high opacity. It is commonly used for oil painting techniques and requires the use of solvents for thinning and cleanup. Ultimately, the choice between acrylic paint and alkyd paint depends on your specific needs, preferences, and the desired application. Consider the attributes discussed in this article to make an informed decision and achieve the best results for your projects.

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