Oil Paint vs Acrylic Paint: What’s the Difference?

When you’re just starting your journey with painting, your first approach should be getting acquainted with the basics. This is where oil and acrylic paints come into the picture. Painting basics require you to be familiar with watercolor, acrylic, and oil paints.

Most people can differentiate watercolor paints due to their consistency. But the job gets hard when it’s about acrylic and oil paint. Since they look similar in terms of packaging and consistency, it gets pretty difficult to distinguish between them.

So, we’ve discussed some differentiating points between oil paint vs acrylic paint to help you become familiar with them, and choose the one that meets your needs.

What Are Oil Paints?

What Are Oil Paints

Before diving into how oil and acrylic paints differ from each other, it’s better to know what kind of paints they are. 

Oil paints have been here for a long time. It’s quite common to find that all the famous renaissance paintings that you adore are oil-based.

The composition of oil paint includes the color pigment and oil. It usually also requires an additional medium and paint thinner to work with during painting.

This paint thinner reduces the time for drying as well as the thickness of the paint. On the other hand, the medium, which is also an oil, makes it easy to work with the paint. 

So, a stable balance is needed to work with oil paints.

What Are Acrylic Paints?

What Are Acrylic Paints

Acrylic paints are more of a modern invention compared to oil paints which have been here forever. Professionals and DIY enthusiasts are now keener about working with acrylic paints. They are a synthetic type of paint that can dry faster compared to oil paints. So, they are quite tricky to work with.

Moreover, acrylic paint is made of pigment dispersed in an acrylic polymer emulsion. They are usually soluble in water and attain a water-resistant property during drying.

Upon adequate dilution with water or modification with certain mediums, acrylic paint can attain a finish similar to oil or watercolor paint. 

Oil Paint Vs Acrylic Paint: The Differences 

Acrylic Paint Vs Oil Paint

Now that you’ve learned about what oil and acrylic paints are, it’s time to move on to the part where we explain the difference between oil and acrylic paint. Here are some features which set these two paints apart;


When it comes to pigmentation, oil paints produce richer and more vibrant colors on the canvas due to the higher amount of pigment present in them. They do not alter the actual color even after they dry, so you’re getting exactly what you’re mixing and painting.

On the other hand, acrylic paint tends to alter the color slightly as they progress more toward drying. So, you may end up with a slightly changed color from what you had mixed. 

In terms of color, oil paints are a better pick. But if you don’t mind slight color alteration, you can easily go for acrylics.

Drying Time

When you’re looking for paint, drying time is the most important feature that can influence your decision on which one to get.

Among the two, acrylic paints take the highest time to dry. So, if you’re not a professional, and you do not like to finish your paintings in one sitting, these paints might not be the right pick for you.

On the other hand, if your artwork involves graphic style and needs faster strokes, acrylic is the best choice for you. Acrylic paints also work well for painters who need to finish their work within a fixed deadline.

Oil paints take a longer time in comparison with acrylic paints to dry down. This can act as both a plus and a minus point, depending on what kind of artist you are.

Since they take time to dry down, your entire work might take days to fully set. So, if you’re on a deadline, it is better not to go for these paints. However, the slow drying time also makes it easier for painters who prefer taking time to complete their works.

Oil paints provide you with the scope to pick up where you left off and finish it at your own pace.


If you love playing with your paints and experimenting with them, then you’ll love the acrylic ones.

Acrylic paints are very flexible when it comes to creating diverse artworks. They can attain a texture like watercolor or oil paint, depending on the mediums they are mixed with.

You can even adjust the thickness of the paint through these mix-ins, and delay the drying time quite a bit & work your way with them. These paints work best if you’re doing palette knife paintings with them. They are super fun to work with.

Oil paints lack this kind of flexibility. So, they can’t blend well in mixed media. You can of course use a paint thinner and a binder oil to make it easy to paint with, but they only stay within their respective texture and cannot be used for experimentation.

So, if you like to experiment with your work, you might not like oil paints.


The property which demonstrates the alteration of color with time upon exposure to light is called lightfastness. This is a unique feature that sets oil and acrylic paints apart. 

Oil paints have a relatively average lightfastness compared to acrylic ones. Upon exposure to light, over time, oil binders start peeking through the paintings. It makes the oil paintings look dull and yellow.

But acrylic paints stay pretty strong, even after exposure to light for a long time. This is because of their strong lightfastness property.

Now that you know about both oil and acrylic paints, you can definitely make up your mind on what kind of paint you’d like to work with.


On the whole, both oil and acrylic paints are great choices if you’re starting to work with paints. Our discussion on acrylic paint vs oil paint will be beneficial for you if you’re confused about which type to go for.

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