Acrylics vs oil and why I prefer one over the other

“Ask the artist” time – a chance to get your questions answered


One of the big questions I hear is “Why don’t you paint with oil paints?” I know those comments are usually well meant. Coming from my friends, supporters and also my clients. In a way, you would assume that is the next logical step too. Oil paintings are generally twice as expensive (at the very least) as a comparable acrylic painting. And everyone seems to hold oil paints in high regards. Of course, there are the oil paintings of the old masters. Like Rembrandt, Vermeer and Da Vinci, paintings everyone knows and admires.


Acrylics – no patience needed

But I am not drawn to oils for so many reasons and I love acrylic paints for the very same. Did you know that Oil paints don’t dry? Instead, they harden due to oxidation, usually in about two weeks. And they are ready for varnishing in roughly six months. However, sometimes it takes years for an oil painting to fully harden! I am a patient person for all the right reasons. But how could I let my clients wait for 6 or more months AFTER I completed their commission? I wouldn’t want to wait this long and I wouldn’t expect my clients to wait this long! Acrylic paintings are easily varnished after 24 hours and are ready to ship the day after that. Much better I would think.


 Oil paints and pets

The long drying time has another knock on effect I couldn’t live with. I love having my dogs with me in my studio. They are my friends and companions. And they clear up any biscuit crumbs that may fall to the ground during my coffee breaks lol. I can only imagine the nightmare it would be to try and keep any loose pet hair of the always wet oil paints on my palette or the painting itself. Torture! Acrylics are dry within minutes, sometimes seconds after applying them to the board. If my dogs feel the need to jump up in a flurry of legs, sending a whirl of pet hair in the air because the doorbell rang, it’s not a big deal at all.


 And of course, there is the cleanup process. Brushes used in oil paintings need cleaning with solvents. While acrylic paint brushes get cleaned with water. So, considering I got pets in my studio, do I prefer a container with water or a container with solvents around? It’s a no-brainer to go with water. 


Why I love acrylic paints

 But I guess the main reason why I paint my pet portraits in acrylics is that I love using acrylic paints! I love the versatility of it. Thin washes looking like watercolors. Opaque layers with not a single brushstroke in sight. Or even thick layers looking like oil paint. You can even add extra textures to the paint. Glass beads create effects such as air bubbles in water. Sand texture gel gives the feel of sand and iridescent medium to give a pearlescent effect and many more. I personally prefer the flat smooth layers without brushstrokes or textures. But should I want them, I know I can add them at any time.


I love the speedy drying time too. I can paint over any parts of the painting in minutes without a trace. Or if I change my mind or a client changes their wish, changes are made easily and quickly. I love the endless colour mixing possibilities too. From vibrant to mute, every colour under the rainbow. Shipping a finished acrylic painting is never an issue either. But it can be with oils due to drying time or pastels with its fragility.  Verdict : What can I say, I love my acrylic paints and their endless possibilities. Every time I set up my palette with fresh piles of paints, it’s like opening a box of chocolates. Endless possibilities in every painting and always something new to learn and discover. What’s not to love about acrylics.