Acrylic Painting vs. Oil Painting

What's the Difference?

Acrylic painting and oil painting are two popular mediums used by artists to create stunning works of art. One key difference between the two is the drying time. Acrylic paint dries quickly, allowing artists to layer colors and make corrections easily. On the other hand, oil paint takes a longer time to dry, which gives artists more flexibility to blend and manipulate the colors on the canvas. Another difference lies in the texture and finish. Acrylic paint tends to have a matte finish, while oil paint has a glossy finish. Additionally, oil paint has a rich and vibrant color palette, while acrylic paint offers a wider range of colors and can be easily mixed to create various shades and tones. Ultimately, the choice between acrylic and oil painting depends on the artist's preference and desired outcome.


AttributeAcrylic PaintingOil Painting
Drying TimeQuick dryingSlow drying
OpacityCan be transparent or opaqueCan be transparent or opaque
Color VibrancyHighHigh
TextureCan be smooth or texturedCan be smooth or textured
LayeringEasy to layerEasy to layer
BlendingCan be easily blendedCan be easily blended
Brush CleaningWater-based, easy to cleanRequires solvents for cleaning
FlexibilityFlexible when dryFlexible when dry
CostGenerally less expensiveCan be more expensive

Further Detail


Acrylic painting and oil painting are two popular mediums used by artists to create stunning works of art. While both techniques involve the application of paint on a canvas or other surfaces, they differ in various aspects, including drying time, color intensity, texture, and more. In this article, we will explore the attributes of acrylic painting and oil painting, highlighting their unique characteristics and discussing the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Drying Time

One of the key distinctions between acrylic painting and oil painting is the drying time of the paints. Acrylic paints dry relatively quickly, usually within minutes to hours, depending on the thickness of the application and environmental conditions. This fast drying time allows artists to work efficiently, layer colors, and make corrections or adjustments easily. On the other hand, oil paints have a significantly longer drying time, often taking days, weeks, or even months to fully dry. This slow drying process gives artists more time to blend colors, create subtle transitions, and work on intricate details.

Color Intensity and Opacity

When it comes to color intensity, both acrylic and oil paints offer vibrant and rich hues. However, acrylic paints tend to dry to a slightly darker shade than when initially applied, while oil paints retain their original color more accurately. This characteristic of acrylic paints can be managed by using a color chart or testing the colors before applying them to the artwork. Additionally, acrylic paints can be easily diluted with water to create transparent washes or glazes, allowing for a wide range of opacity levels. On the other hand, oil paints are naturally more opaque, making them ideal for creating thick, impasto textures and achieving a sense of depth in the artwork.

Texture and Layering

The texture achieved in acrylic painting differs from that of oil painting. Acrylic paints dry to a plastic-like finish, resulting in a smooth and glossy surface. This quality makes acrylics suitable for detailed and precise work. However, artists can also add various mediums or gels to acrylic paints to alter their texture and create impasto effects similar to oil painting. On the other hand, oil paints have a buttery consistency and retain their workability for a longer period, allowing artists to easily blend colors, create texture, and achieve subtle transitions. The ability to layer multiple glazes and build up the paint in oil painting gives artists more control over the final result and enables them to create luminous and realistic effects.

Durability and Longevity

Both acrylic and oil paintings can be highly durable if properly cared for. Acrylic paints, once dry, form a flexible and resistant film that is less prone to cracking or yellowing over time. They are also less susceptible to damage from UV light and moisture. Oil paints, on the other hand, dry through a process of oxidation and become more resistant to damage over time. When properly varnished, oil paintings can last for centuries. However, oil paintings may be more prone to cracking or yellowing if not handled or stored correctly. It is important to note that the longevity of a painting also depends on the quality of the paints, pigments, and techniques used by the artist.

Clean-up and Toxicity

Acrylic paints are water-based and can be easily cleaned up with water and soap. They do not require the use of solvents or toxic chemicals, making them a safer and more environmentally friendly option. On the other hand, oil paints require the use of solvents such as turpentine or mineral spirits for cleaning brushes and palettes. These solvents can be toxic and emit strong odors, requiring proper ventilation and caution during use. Additionally, some pigments used in oil paints may contain toxic substances, so artists need to be mindful of their handling and take necessary precautions.

Cost and Availability

In terms of cost, acrylic paints are generally more affordable compared to oil paints. Acrylic paints are available in a wide range of qualities, from student-grade to professional-grade, allowing artists with different budgets to find suitable options. They also dry quickly, reducing the need for excessive amounts of paint. On the other hand, oil paints tend to be more expensive due to the higher cost of pigments and the longer drying time, which may require larger quantities of paint. However, oil paints offer a unique richness and depth that some artists find worth the investment.


Acrylic painting and oil painting each have their own distinct attributes and advantages. Acrylic paints offer fast drying time, versatility, and ease of use, making them suitable for artists who prefer a more controlled and efficient painting process. On the other hand, oil paints provide a longer working time, rich color intensity, and the ability to create texture and depth, making them a preferred choice for artists who enjoy the traditional techniques and the ability to manipulate the paint over an extended period. Ultimately, the choice between acrylic painting and oil painting depends on the artist's personal preferences, desired effects, and the specific requirements of the artwork.

Comparisons may contain inaccurate information about people, places, or facts. Please report any issues.