• Claire Tolles

Acrylic v Oils: the Great Paint Debate

Updated: Feb 6, 2021

Not sure when to use which paint? Read on to decide the best paint for the best piece.

When starting a new masterpiece, it is imperative that you know exactly which paint to use, what canvas you want, and what type of brush is best. Experienced artists know exactly what they prefer--acrylic to oils--but for us beginners, its a little more up in the air.


Oil painting is for the calm, patient artist who wishes to take their time--step away and come back the next day. Since these paints are oil-based, they take much longer to dry which makes them optimal for larger more complex pieces. You don't want your paint drying half-way through, so you can't blend the colors.

“Oil had more dimension. Since they stay wet longer the colors blend better.”

Further, oils have a deepness to them that acrylics simply don't. For smoother blending, moodier colors, and more realistic art, oils are definitely the way to go.


Acrylic paint is perfect for the artist who wants to whip out something spicy and creative in a few short hours. Acrylics are a water-based plastic paint and therefore less toxic than oils. If you get this paint on your hands, wipe it off, no biggie. Oils on the other hand can be very harmful if you get it on your hands, face...etc.

“Acrylics are a water-based plastic paint and therefore less toxic than oils.”

Also, acrylic paint tends to be brighter and is more versatile. With acrylics you can paint fabric, canvas, concrete--anything whereas oils only work on certain surfaces.

In the end, the paint you use depend on the type of artist you are and they kind of art you want to create. Are you patient and slow like a thousand-year-old boulder? Or are you quick and changeable like the ocean waves?