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5 Reasons to Choose Acrylic Versus Oils

Feb 06, 2020

There's a lot of discussion out there about Oils vs Acrylics. Oils have been used for 600 years or more making Acrylic paints seem like a baby by comparison. Acrylic artists are vastly outnumbered by oil artists. Just head to any painting event and take a look around - we're outnumbered 10 to 1! I'm going to give you five reasons why you will love painting with Acrylics. It doesn't matter if you're an oil painting veteran or a beginner artist, these all apply to you.

1 - Oil Paint Thinners and Solvents Contain Toxic Chemicals

Oil paints are naturally very thick. In order to get a thinner coat of paint, oil painters use solvents and thinners to thin down the paint. Solvents are also used to clean paintbrushes when you're done painting. The toxicity of oil paint thinners and solvents are well documented. These chemicals evaporate into the air you breathe as you paint and are known to cause nasty physical and neurological problems over time. One of our incredibly talented instructors, Dianna Shyne, quit painting with oils because the chemicals were giving her seizures. And I have heard many other stories of other artists having the same experience.

I always joke with my friends that I can drink my thinner. It's true! All you need to thin down Acrylic paint is water. That's it.

2 - Acrylic Paints are Easy to Learn, Hard to Master

Thinking about getting into painting? Acrylic paints are much more beginner-friendly and here's why. Acrylic paints dry quickly. Some artists think of this as a negative thing. Oil paints stay wet for hours and hours after you put them down. This allows you to blend back into the colors hours later, but this can also be a huge disadvantage.

Layering: Because Acrylic paints dry so quickly, I can create many, many layers of paint in the same time an oil painter could add two, maybe three. I can make changes to my painting super easily. A part of my design isn't working? No problem! I just wait two or three minutes and I can completely change that aspect of my design. With oil paints, you have to wait until one layer dries or your paint will blend with the layer beneath it, making it much harder to control - especially for beginner artists.

Transportation / Storage: Acrylics also have an advantage when it comes to travel and storage. When I'm done painting outside, I can stick my painting under my arm and walk off whistling a merry tune. With an oil painting, you need special carriers to transport your oil painting or you risk getting oil paint everywhere. And of course, the requirement for a special carrier means spending more $$.

3 - Acrylic Paints are Versatile

The third reason I know you'll love switching to Acrylic paints is that they're so incredibly versatile. Again, this makes them easier to pick up for new artists. 

You can paint on almost anything with Acrylic paint. Plywood, canvas, glass and much, much more. Don't believe me? One of our members created an Acrylic painting on a sawblade.

You can paint in any order with Acrylic paints. With watercolors, it's important to work light to dark. With oils, it's important to work thin to thick so that your paint doesn't crack. Not so with Acrylics! You can paint any color over any other color. You can paint from light to dark or dark to light. There's so much less to worry about, especially for a new artist.

The cherry on top of all of this is that you don't need glass to frame an Acrylic painting. With oil paintings, unless you pay for museum quality glass, there's usually quite a bit of glare from the glass. With Acrylics you can get up close and personal with beautiful works of Acrylic art. There is no barrier between you and the masterpiece in front of you.

4 - Painting with Acrylics will Save you Money

 Who doesn't want to save money? Acrylic paints are much less expensive than other mediums. It's another reason why they're so beginner-friendly and approachable. This allows you to try new things and learn without worrying about your mistakes being too costly. Most of my artistic journey has been trying new things and messing up a ton. I'm glad I didn't have the added stress of worrying about wasting expensive paint.

5 - It's Super Easy to Travel with Acrylic Paints 

It's so easy to travel with Acrylic paints, seriously! And if you're traveling to events and shows, this is super nice. Oil painters often have the complication of trying to figure out where to get thinners and solvents at their destination. Because Acrylics use only water, this simplifies traveling with them. While they are subject to the normal liquid restrictions on airplanes, it's quite simple to fly with them because there is nothing toxic or volatile in them. Once you get to your destination, all you need is water and you're ready to paint!

So that's it. I've thoroughly enjoyed working with Acrylics and I know you will too. All jokes aside, I know many talented oil artists. I love and respect both them and their medium! But I believe there's so much potential for Acrylic paints to be adopted more widely and my goal is to get as many people excited about Acrylics as I can. 

If you want to learn more about the fundamentals of Acrylic painting, here are some more resources for you:

Acrylic 101 - The Foundation of Painting

Acrylic University Blog

Jed Dorsey