Oil Or Acrylics
Oil paint is a form of slow-drying paint that consists of pigment powders suspended in the drying oil, usually linseed oil. Solvents like turpentine and white spirit enable you to modify the viscosity of the paint so it is important to operate in a well-ventilated location, because these can be both pungent and harmful. Painters eventually varnish the painting to enhance the ‘shine’ or gloss on the dried paint.
Acrylic paint in contrast is a really quick-drying paint that comprises pigments suspended in acrylic polymer emulsion. Polymer-bonded paints are diluted with water, but become water-resistant when dry. This means they are not noxious, even though paints themselves may contain some toxins and if a painter is attempting to slow the drying time then toxic substances should be used.
As to the advantages of the two types of paint, acrylic dries quickly. Oil dries slowly. Acrylics are applied with water or mediums/gels. Oils are applied with potentially dangerous solvents. Similarly, brushes used with acrylics should ideally be washed with soap and water. With oils, solvents once again must be used.
The moment acrylic paints dry, the painting may be over painted- so mistakes can be corrected immediately. Acrylics can be applied as a thick impasto or thin washes. Incidentally, because acrylics are water resistant, they are perfect for painting collages – not to mention frescoes and murals.
The longer drying time for oils means that painters have as much time as they need to paint and mix colours on their palette. The drying time is dependent on how much spirit is added to the oil paints. When it is dry, though, the oils can be over painted in the same way as acrylics without affecting the under painting. Usually, the principle of adding fat to lean (thick over thin) applies..
There is a difference in the colours themselves, too. Oil paints are rich and intense when dry – and because they have been used by the Great Masters for centuries, there is a certain snobbery about them. Many artists, dealers and curators in the so-called ‘Art World’ perceive oils to be somehow ‘better’ than acrylics simply because oils have been used by artists for centuries.
Because oils are slow-drying, artists tend to work on more than one painting at a time – and certainly have to move from one area of the picture to another until the former is touch dry. Oils take as long as six months to dry thoroughly, whereas acrylics are fast in as little as 48 hours. This means they can be varnished and thus protected more quickly.
The drawbacks of acrylic are their ultra-fast drying time, which necessarily cuts short the time an artist can ‘work’ them on the palette. although a retarding medium may be blended into the paints to slow down the process. Similarly, a fine spray of water or the use of a ‘wetbox’ will retard the drying time.
Once dry, acrylics are completely waterproof and no amount of re-wetting the paint will remove them; it is therefore imperative to wash the brushes regularly and not allow acrylic paint to dry on them.
Until recently, acrylic colours also dried a darker shade than that applied, except when employed in thin washes. However, Winsor & Newton have recently launched a new range of paints called “Artist’s Acrylics”. These have much greater luminosity, transparency and a slightly longer drying time – but the real benefit of them is that the colours do not change during the drying process. What you see on the palette is what you will see in the finished painting. And for glazing, acrylics are hard to beat.
When acrylics first appeared in the 1950s, they created a sensation because suddenly art works could be produced much more quickly, which increased the sales potential for artists.
To summarize, acrylics are without doubt as good as, if not better than, oils in that their permanence is at least equivalent, they tend not to crack with age and they do not yellow with age.