The 5 key differences between Acrylics & Oil paints – a beginners guide.

by Will Kemp

in acrylic painting

The difference Oils and AcrylicsWhat is the difference between Oil and Acrylic paints?

Do you want to learn to paint put don’t know where to start?

Get excited about all the paintings you are going to create but don’t know which types of paints to begin with?

To understand the pros and cons you need to ask yourself a few simple questions to determine which medium is best for you…

Please note: The comparison below is for standard acrylics and oil paints, not taking into account quick drying oils or ‘Open’ acrylics (slow drying)

1. Do you work quickly or slowly?

Acrylic Pros: You can paint on anything.
This is one of the key things that make acrylics a great medium to start with when beginning to learn to paint. To be able to set up quickly, start painting on anything is brilliant. Paper, card, canvas board, whatever you have to hand.

Acrylic Cons: They dry quick, I mean really quick.
You want to do some painting, so you book in a little me time. You’ve got a canvas ready, you’ve prepared your ground and now you’re ready to paint.
All is quiet and at peace with the world. You carefully squeeze out your paintings, being careful not to use too much, and then what happens?

The phone rings.

Wrong number.

In this short amount of time the first blob of paint you’d squeezed out will now be dry, solid, unable to shift. So you scrape it off, squeeze out some more, ready to go and…

A knock at the door.

You put down your brushes, come back 10 minutes later and every thing has dried! Not quite the tranquil painting experience you had imagined.

The solution?

  • Squeeze out more paint
  • Add a retarder to keep the acrylics wet for longer (no more than 15% or the paint goes funny)
  • Use a stay wet palette to keep the paints moist. See my video on How to set up a stay wet palette.

Oil Pros: Longer working time.
Because oil paints stay wet for a lot longer than acrylics it gives you the flexibility to start a painting and then come back to it the next day and continue straight where you left off. The paint on the palette will still be wet and pliable, the colours on your canvas can still be blended together.

Oil Cons: Preparation is key
Due to the corrosive nature of the oil (in oil paints) you have to work on a prepared canvas or board. If you are going to prepare the surface of the canvas yourself the preparation time is longer. You could of course buy a pre-primed canvas and get going straight away.

2. Do you like subtle blends or hard lines?

Acrylic Pros: A Crisp edge
The crisp edges that can be achieved with acrylics can be hugely beneficial if you paint with a more graphic composition. You can mask out areas, work over them quickly, and easily cover a hard shape with thicker paint. You can achieve clean, bright colours very easily.

Michael Craig Martin - Acrylic

Michael Craig Martin

Acrylics Cons: Achieving a smooth blend
Blending with acrylics can be frustrating due to the rapidness of the drying time. Especially if you are working on a large scale it can be practically impossible to work the canvas as a whole to bring it all to the same finish together.

This is for a size of say 6ft x 4ft. If you are working smaller that this you can achieve some lovely blends.

You can achieve smooth blends with acrylics you just have to work quickly. You can add a medium to the paint to help keep the working time open for longer. Either use soft gel gloss, retarder (slows down drying time) or my preferred choice, glazing liquid gloss.

Pro tip: I use the glazing liquid gloss even if I don’t need a gloss finish. This is because the matting agent used in the matt glazing liquid is white when wet, it dries pretty clear but i have found it can sometimes leave the blacks looking milky)

Oil Pros: smooth blending
Oil paints are king of the ring when blending colours together. Because of the slow drying nature of oil paints they can can fantastic for creating subtle blends.

Working wet-into-wet is the sure fire way to get a smooth transition in your painting. This is especially true for portrait painting when the subtle shading of the face can need constant revisiting and tweaking. You can also add slower drying oils to your paints to create surfaces that can stay wet for weeks.

Oil Cons: Trying to create a crisp edge without it effecting the underlying colours with oils means you have to wait until the next day, or touch dry otherwise your brushstroke will pull and mix with the paint underneath it. It is very easy to achieve ‘muddy colours’ when first starting with oils due to everything staying wet and the colours mixing together on the canvas.

Solution: Experience teaches you to work cleanly.

3. Colour shift

Acrylic Pros: They are lightfast
With projected laboratory tests acrylics won’t fade in time, the colours will look the same now as they will in 200 years. The binder in oil paint – oil, goes yellow over time, this causes the subtle glow on old master paintings with acrylics they are colourfast, the binder – acrylic polymer doesn’t yellow over time.

Pro tip : The most likely cause of fading is using pigments that are not lightfast, this is true of oils and acrylics.

Acrylic Cons: They change colour when they dry.
The binder used in acrylics is usually white but dries clear (the recent binder in Winsor & Newton Artists’ Acrylics is clear, but I feel still has a slight color shift) This means it appears lighter on the canvas when you first put in on, and then dries darker as the white binder turns clear.

This becomes really apparent when painting portraits. You think you’ve cracked the precise colour, turn around and the colour has changed. With practice you can learn to judge to shift but it can be disconcerting when you begin to learn.

If you add more acrylic polymers to the paint, in the form of mediums (quick dry mediums, flow release medium) the colour shift will be even greater.

If you use student quality paints that have extra fillers added, which are often white, the colour shift will be more pronounced.

Oil Pros: No immediate colour shift.
Initially oils stay the same colour when painted on a canvas. However, once the colour dries it can appear to change if the oil from the paint ‘sinks in’ to the canvas.

This can lead some areas to be glossy (still have the oil in) and others to be matt (oil has been soaked into the underlayer) to produce a deader colour. To overcome this you have to “oil out’ the area of the painting you are working on. A paint surface can appear dull and is usually caused by too little oil in the paint film due to the absorption into the ground layer (or overuse of thinners such as turpentine)

Pro tip: In classical painting you build an oil painting up in layers and one of these layers is called the ‘dead colouring layer‘ It is painted using oil paint thinned with turpentine onto an absorbent gesso ground, this soaks up the oil, speeds the drying time and gives a local colour to the painting.

dead colouring or underpainting

Leonardo Da Vinci, Adoration of the Magi, detail.

See the painting in close up: Adoration of the Magi, Leonardo Da Vinci

Oil Cons: Yellowing
Oil paints will have a slight yellow tinge to them due to the colour of the oil (think of olive oil) As oil dries over time through the process of oxidation additional yellowing takes place. This varies in degree depending on the binder used in the paint.

“Yellowing must therefore be considered as an unavoidable characteristic of drying oils and this must be kept in mind by users.”
Professors Mallegol
, University Blaise Pascal in France.

4. Do you like working with thick paint or thin layers?

Acrylic Pros: Acrylics are flexible.
If you like the idea of using a palette knife and creating thick, impasto paintings, acrylics could be the choice for you. You can paint thickly, build it up and the paint will dry. If you try to achieve the same with oils the outer surface will dry to the touch but the inner paint will still be wet.

You can also work very thinly with transparent glazes or very thickly with a mountain of paint but the actual surface quality of the acrylic remains flexible, this means your painting won’t crack over time.Thin coats of acrylic paint can be used to give a watercolour look to a picture.

Pro tip: Acrylics can crack but usually only in extreme cold temperatures.

Oil Pros: Long drying times
If you have plenty of time set aside for your painting, oils can be fantastic. You can work with thick paint, wait a couple of days for that paint to dry then add thin glazes to create luminosity in your work.

Oil Cons: To work with thick paint you need to take into account the drying time of oils. Each particular pigment needs a different amount of oil mixed with it resulting in a different drying time, e.g: Earth colours such as Burnt umber is a rapid dryer whereas Ivory black takes much longer to dry.

The solution: Add a siccative to the paint. A siccative is a medium that helps to speed up the drying process in oil paints. Traditionally this was a cobalt drier, more recently, Liquin by Winsor & Newton is a synthetic medium that can accelerate the drying time of the oil paint by about 50%

5. Do you work in a small space?

Acrylic Pros: Acrylics can be a great alternative to oils if your working in a confined space are working with kids or in a unventilated area. You just need access to water. Acrylics have no smell, and are non toxic.

Oil cons: The smell of turpentine
If your start painting with oils in a confined space the fumes from the thinners can overwhelm you, turpentine and white spirit can be really strong. White spirit can also be a irritant to the skin and turpentine rags can spontaneously combust!
I work with odourless mineral spirits or ‘Zest It‘ (a thinner made from citrus ) that have a very minimal odour compared to turpentine.

Pro tip: The odourless mineral spirit does not cut through the oil as well as pure artist turpentine and if you are using Dammar varnish in your mixes can cause problems.

Conclusion

Phew!

Okay, there’s a lot to take in but once you get to grips with which paint is best for your style you can just get on and create masterpieces.

What is your favourite medium, oil or acrylics? Let me know in the comments below.

You might also like:
1. The Trouble with oil paint
2. The 8 key differences between artist quality & student grade paint

{ 209 comments… read them below or add one }

charles taylor December 2, 2011

Hello Will
I am a long time amateur photographer who is a brand new painter. I stumbled onto your website via a photography website and I love it. I plan to make a complete survey of it over the next several days. Many, many thanks for your efforts.
Charles Taylor

Reply

Will Kemp December 2, 2011

Hi Charles, glad you’re finding the articles of interest.
I’m just about to start a free step-by-step series on how to start an acrylic landscape painting, it will be videos and step-by-step instructions which as a brand new painter should help you get started. The first post should go on this afternoon,
Thanks,
Will

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Jasia December 3, 2011

Hey Will,
I too am an amateur photog who found your site via the DPS blog. I’ve been wanting to try my hand at painting for some time now but had no idea where to start. I found this article interesting and educational. I found your comment to Charles serendipitous because what I most want to try my hand at is a landscape painting using acrylics. I’m excited to see how you will go about it! Thanks for your articles!

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Will Kemp December 3, 2011

Hey Jasia,
That just sound like perfect timing! I think you will really enjoy it. If you have any other questions where to start just let me know,
Will

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Nicole February 11, 2012

Thanks for this article. I started painting about a year ago and I was considering switching to oils.
I’ve decided to stick with my medium ….I’m all about acrylics!

Reply

Will Kemp February 11, 2012

Hi Nicole,
Glad you enjoyed the article, they are a great medium to use and so versatile.
Will

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Balbinot February 12, 2012

Thanks for the article, I just recently started painting with oils and now I’m spoiled. I feel crippled when trying to paint with acrylic in the same manner. I guess I just need to accepts my style of painting will differ based on the medium. Is it common that artist will try oils and prefer it to acrylic? just wondering … B

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Will Kemp February 12, 2012

Hi Balbinot,
It really all is a matter of personal taste. Some of my students who have been struggling with blending acrylics on portraits have moved onto oils and now wonder how they managed without them! Others find the slower drying times of oils doesn’t suit the thick, painterly style of painting they do. I work between the two mediums depending on the subject.
What subjects are you painting in the oils?
Will

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Dominic February 21, 2012

Hey Will,

I am just about to start painting again as a hobby. I started charcoal painting back in high school but now I’ve decided to try painting with acrylics after reading this article of yours. Though I have an idea on how to mix colours, I have no idea on how to use paints. It is really a big help for us beginners.

Thanks,
Dominic

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Will Kemp February 21, 2012

Hi Dominic,
Acrylics can be great to start with to learn about colour mixing and handling paint, a lot of the techniques I teach are also designed to be easily transferable to Oil paint as well.
Let me know how you get on with your paintings,
Will

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Gloria April 20, 2012

Hello Will,

I am trying to decide between SLOW-DRYING ACRYLICS (open acrylics) and WATER-SOLUBLE OILS. I have used both regular acrylics and regular oils but I have problems with both – I don’t like the smells in the oils and I have problems blending faces with the acrylics. I have researched a bit and can’t decide which is better. I am hoping for the best of both worlds in one paint. :)

Have you used either of these products?

Gloria

Reply

Will Kemp April 20, 2012

Hi Gloria,

Yes I have used both, I think if you have worked with oils before you will get on well with the water soluble oils. I’ve found the open acrylics can be okay, but lack the opacity of standard artist quality acrylics, and the working time isn’t as long as oils. If you are working with portraits oils would definitely be the way to go to get the nice smooth transition of colours.

Hope this helps,

Will

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Martin July 7, 2012

Hi Will,
I am just beginning ( at 70) to learn to paint with acrylics. Your insights and videos are very helpful. I am practicing to blend with acrylics. I use heavy body (Golden, Liquitex) paints, My questions:
1. What medium do I use to change the heavy body to medium consistency ?
2. What medium do I use while blending.
I have watched your related videos, you mention both Soft Gel Gloss and Glazing Medium Gloss in the above context, could you please clarify,
Thanks

Reply

Will Kemp July 8, 2012

Hi Martin,

Thanks for your comment, to change the heavy body to medium consistency I mostly use just water, it’s often a fine line between being too thin and not thin enough. If you have trouble getting the thinner mixture to flow you can always add a touch of ‘acrylic flow release’ this helps to release the surface tension of the paint ( very handy for staining effects)

For blending I personally usually use the glazing liquid ( gloss)

Hope this helps,
Will

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Jon Milet Baker August 2, 2012

Hi Will,

You mention above you have used Zest-It as an alternative to OMS and was wondering if there were any disadvantages? Have you successfully used it as a replacement for your mediums? For example in your 4-1 OMS-Linseed mix in your Portrait tutorial could you directly substitute it? And from what I understand it is a stronger solvent so would you reduce the mix?

Also does it have any negative effect on the painting such as discolouration or degradation over time etc?

I’m enjoying your drawing course by the way!

Thanks,

Jon

Reply

Will Kemp August 3, 2012

Hi Jon,

Nice to hear from you, pleased to hear you are enjoying the drawing course. I haven’t personally found any really obvious disadvantages between using zest-it or oms.

The only slight issue with anything citrus based like Zest-it is that it doesn’t evaporate 100% from the paint film, so it is not as pure a solvent as rectified turpentine but the benefits interms of more pleasant working conditions if working in a confined space far out way it.

You could substitute the proportions of the mix for a 4:1, the more important thing really is the amount of oil in the mix as as touch more of the solvent will evaporate reasonably quickly in comparison to a touch more oil.

When working in layers with oil paints all you need to be aware of is that each subsequent layer has to have an increased flexibility in comparison to the layer underneath. And because of this more medium will be added (oil or liquin) in each subsequent layer.

Hope this helps,
Will

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Jon Milet Baker August 3, 2012

Hi Will,

Thanks for your response. Can you clarify what you mean by it not evaporating 100% from the paint film? as in, what does that mean in practical terms?

Thanks,

Jon

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Will Kemp August 3, 2012

Hi Jon,

In practical terms, when I say ‘not evaporating 100% from the paint film’ the residue left is so minimal you wouldn’t see it, and the citrus smell means the solvent takes longer to dry than OMS or turpentine.
‘Zest it’ have released a citrus-free version which will cut through the oil a bit better and dries slightly faster, so this might be a better alternative, although I personally haven’t tried it.

So if there is no visible difference, why do I mention it, I hear you cry! – well classically, purists would only consider using Rectified Artist Turpentine as it cuts through the oil and cuts through varnish (such as Dammar varnish) better than anything, however there are now these alternatives that compromise in strength and clarity of solvent for a odour and headache free environment.

It’s personal preference and the compromise is small.

Hope this helps,

Will

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Shreya August 9, 2012

Hello Will
Thanks a ton for this extremely helpful article. I’m a 14 yr schoolgirl about to try my hand at canvas paintings. I find painting silhouettes very interesting and I’ve done a few good pieces too. I would like to try painting a silhouette on canvas and I’ve been searching for the best kind of paint considering my age.
I find acrylics tough to work with, especially when it comes to blending so I was just wondering whether oil paints would do.

Thanks a lot
Shreya

Reply

Will Kemp August 9, 2012

Hello Shreya,

Thanks for the comment. Great to hear that the article was helpful in your decision to give oils a try!
Good luck with your painting, thanks.
Will

Reply

nicole September 10, 2012

Hey Will,

I was wondering where is the best place to let my oil paintings dry? In the sun? Near a window? Under a fan? Or a combination of all? And what helps oil dry faster cold or hot air?

Reply

Will Kemp September 11, 2012

Hey Nicole,

It’s best to leave the oil paint to dry facing the light rather than a wall as it helps to stop the oil from going too yellow in the future. A damp, cold room will dry slower than a warm room with a constant temperature (cold studio vs warm house!)

Also, the drying times will vary depending on the individual drying times of the specific paint pigments you have used. (some paints contain more oil so dry slower) and if you have mixed a fast drying medium (called a Siccative – like Liquin) in with the paints.

Thanks,
Will

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Indy September 19, 2012

Hey Will,

This might be a difficult one coz I guess it depends on once preference ,liking, bend etc but still what would be your suggestion to an amateur who is just staring off to explore painting … oil or acrylic ???

Thanks,
Indy

Reply

Will Kemp September 19, 2012

Hi Indy,

Yes it is a difficult question to answer due to all the variations you mentioned, the easiest thing to do is to try both.

Acrylic is probably the quickest and easiest to get started with as you only need water to mix with them and can paint onto any surface, paper, card, canvas etc. Also, as it dries so quickly you can paint over your mistakes very easily so can be great for learning about colour theory and colour mixing.

With oils you have a few more technical considerations to content with, such as different drying times of different paint colours, using solvents, preparing the surface to work on etc.

But for some paintings you just can’t achieve the same results with acrylics.

Hope this helps,
Will

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Emily C. September 23, 2012

Hello, new to painting, I started with acrylics and I love them but, I always like to try and dive into new things right away so, this was a good, clean, comparison I needed. Thank you so much.

Reply

Will Kemp September 23, 2012

You’re welcome Emily, pleased it helped.
Will

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Angie September 30, 2012

Hi Will,
Just started painting in acrylics. So happy I “stumbled” upon you on youtube.
I have been navigating around your website & find it very interesting & helpful.
I can’t wait to begin!

Thanks,

Angie

Reply

Will Kemp September 30, 2012

Oh Hi Angie,

Thanks for the comment. Really pleased you found the website, enjoy having a look around!

Will

Reply

Brad October 19, 2012

Will,

I have ventured off the canvas onto a board with my acrylics. Primed and prepped. Sketched out my subject (a Puffin – bird). Stated painting. What the heck the paint is sliding around on the board like a blob of jelly on frozen pond. Plus I can still see the lines thru the paint.
Did I sand down the primer until it was to smooth?
Not thick enough paint?
Should I ditch the board and go back to canvas?
Or quite painting completely and become a opera sing?

Any suggestions?
Thanks for time.
Brad
Namasta
(cheque is in the mail)

Reply

Will Kemp October 20, 2012

Hey Brad,

The old slippery surface syndrome!! When working on board it can take a bit of getting used to compared with the ‘grab’ and absorbency of canvas. To increase the grab of the board there are a few options, depending on the archival nature/ cost etc. I’ll try to do a more in-depth article on the differences in the future but a quick overview of what you can do follows:

1. Mix in ‘whiting’ with the gesso, this is essential one part of the gesso, the chalk, and the more chalk you have in the gesso the more absorbancy you will have. So add a touch in with your mix.

2. If you don’t have whiting a guerrilla trick it to add a bit of polyfilla in with the gesso, this will again increase the grab of the paint.

3. Painting on a sanded surface will give you a slippery surface in comparison to painting with slight texture on the board.

4. Apply thicker paint.

Hope this helps Puffin,

Cheers,
Will

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Bonny October 25, 2012

I’m just a high schooler and don’t have a job yet, and my family doesn’t have much money. Acrylics tend to be a lot cheaper than oils, and their faster drying times appeal to me. Acrylics are a lot easier to wash off, too. Since I’m just a beginner painter I think its best to work with acrylics and move on the oils once I feel more comfortable working traditionally. (I do mostly digital art, where I can layers and layer effects)

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Will Kemp October 25, 2012

Good one Bonny, the techniques I teach stem from classical oil painting, so if and when you decide to move onto oils it will be a breeze!

Cheers,
Will

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Cheryl October 27, 2012

Hi Will,

Thank you for sharing you knowledge with those of us who are just starting out.

Your article helped me decide to stick with Acrylics for now… As much as I love the idea of slower drying times of oils, the thought of two little boys running around turpentine (and wet paintings) hadn’t crossed my mind!

Thanks again.

Reply

Will Kemp October 27, 2012

You’re welcome Cheryl,

So pleased the article helped.

Cheers,
Will

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kiara geldenhuys November 3, 2012

How do I make flesh tones with oil paint?

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Will Kemp November 3, 2012

Hi Kiara,
You should have a look at my video on mixing flesh tones with acrylics,
Cheers,
Will

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Carol November 8, 2012

Hi Will

I’m an oil painter from New Zealand.

Your website and videos are so informative and easy to understand. I especially like how you explain how to pre-mix colours for the landscape painting. I’ve seen other artists who seem to just “wing it” on their palette, but your way seems so much more do-able.

I just have a question about acrylics going darker when they dry: is there any way to mitigate this at all? I’d dearly love to use acrylics, but the colour change very much puts me off!

Cheers,
Carol

Reply

Will Kemp November 8, 2012

Hi Carol,

Pleased to hear the videos have been helpful.

As for the darkening issue, it is hard to avoid.

The winsor & newton artist acrylic only have a very minimal shift due to using a clear acrylic binder, rather than a white binder that most companies use.

Some artist add a touch of zinc white into their mixes but I find this impractical. The best way is to buy a few colours and to give it a go, this way you can judge how much of a shift you can handle.

Thanks,
Will

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Maretta Mitra November 17, 2012

Hi Will.

Thanks for your site. I am a High School Math teacher by trade, but have always loved art and painting. This year when we were in need of a teacher for the painting class I volunteered. I will have about 15 students for 18 weeks in the spring so I am trying to plan my lessons now. We will meet 5 days a week for 50 minutes. Most of the students will be beginners. I was thinking of choosing either Acrylics or Oils, but I am not sure which one to choose. I am doing some practice painting now in each. Do you have any suggestions? I have thought of doing some introductory lessons with Acrylics that the school has on hand and then having students purchase 6 – 8 tubes of oil paint once they have the basics of mixing colors and brush strokes.

Thanks, Maretta

Reply

Will Kemp November 17, 2012

Hi Maretta,

Good to hear from you.

Acrylics are a great place to start as students can easily paint over their mistakes and learn the basic principles of how paintings, brushstrokes etc work.

You could then introduce them to oils if their having trouble with the quick drying time of Acrylics.

Have a look at the free courses The cherry painting gets fantastic results!

Good luck with the class,

Will

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Roy Lopez November 29, 2012

Hi Will
I’ve never done painting before, but I’m looking forward to a new hobby. Alot of info to take in.

Love your site and info supplied.

Thinking that Acrylics are the way to go. I’m interested in doing Still art with shadows. Any advice would be extremely helpful.

Reply

Will Kemp November 30, 2012

Hey Roy,

Pleased you’re finding the site helpful, have a look under the free courses tab the top, the cherry still life or jug painting are a great place to start.

Cheers,
Will

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Jan Brown December 15, 2012

Hello Will
Very pleased to find your site, lots of useful advice here.
I’m just starting out trying to paint using W&N Galeria acrylics. My main frustration with these paints is that if, say, I paint blue over a dried yellow, I get green – is this common to all acrylic paints?
Also, I do love to paint thickly and acrylics are great for this, but I also love the dry, chalky look that can be achieved with oils. Is there a way to manipulate acrylics into behaving this way? Or are they just too plastic?
Many thanks for your help.
Jan

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Will Kemp December 15, 2012

Hi Jan, great to hear you’re enjoying the site.

Blue over the yellow will always produce an optically mixed green, unless you apply thicker paint to completely cover the yellow. Artist quality acrylics will often have more opacity and coverage than the galleria range.

Acrylics usually dry more matte and chalky than oils, as it is the oil in the oil paint that gives the glossy look.

You can alter the finish to your paintings by applying a matte or semi-gloss finish, depending on your preference, once the painting is complete.

Hope this helps,
Cheers,
Will

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Jan Brown December 15, 2012

Thanks for your swift response, Will.
How funny that you say acrylics dry more matte than oils when to my eye it is round the other way. Perhaps it depends on how you apply them and other factors? I will experiment and perhaps upgrade to better quality acrylics to get round the colour mixing problem.
Thanks again.
J.

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Will Kemp December 16, 2012

You’re welcome Jan.

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Natasha December 27, 2012

First off, thank you for all these fantastic articles!!

I would like to ask, though, do you find it necessary to have to add a retarder to acrylics? I’ve finally decided to make the jump from digital art to the canvas, and ordered all the supplies I would need, but completely skipped over purchasing a retarder. Do you have any tips that could substitute in any way for a retarder until the time comes that I can purchase one?

Thanks!
-Natasha

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Will Kemp December 28, 2012

Hi Natasha,

Pleased to hear you’re enjoying the articles.

No, you don’t need to use a retarder with your acrylic paints. Personally, I rarely use retarder as I find it can change the consistency of the paint.

The one medium I would invest in next time you’re at the art store is ‘acrylic glazing liquid gloss’ ( I use Golden brand) as it can help greatly when blending paints. But to start with just water will be absolutely fine.

Cheers,
Will

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Chris December 30, 2012

Hello Will,
I am a pencil artist for most my life, I have found myself in blocks doing drawings so I have started looking at alternative art forms to keep my creative juices flowing. I have always been interested in painting and I had a favorite TV painter I grew up watching. My interests are more with acrylics, there seem to be more pros for me in this area compared to oils. I am into landscape, cartoon, portrait & fantasy drawing…hopefully I can incorporate my skills into painting as well.
Chris

Reply

Will Kemp December 30, 2012

Hi Chris,

Thanks for dropping by, with your knowledge of drawing you will be able to pick up painting very quickly. The biggest stumbling block will be colour mixing. Just start with a couple of colours and build from there.

This tutorial is a simple starting point,

Looking forward to hearing how you get on.

Cheers,
Will

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loretta January 4, 2013

just discovered your website – wow – thank you so much – probably spend most of day on it -

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Will Kemp January 4, 2013

Hey Loretta, Enjoy looking around!
Cheers,
Will

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sudha January 16, 2013

Hi Will,

Your website is very helpful for beginers.
I am new to painting and wanted to start with flower painting on canvas but I am not sure what paints are good to start with as a beginer.And I want my canvas to look like glossy like the original one.
Please suggest me with this.

Thanks and Regards,
Sudha M

Reply

Will Kemp January 17, 2013

Hi Sudha,

I always favour artist quality paints as they give a really vibrant colour. Have a look at this article about the differences between student and artist quality.

To achieve the glossy look, you just need to apply a gloss varnish to your painting when you’ve finished. It is advisable to add an isolation coat before the vanish, so if in the future you want to remove the varnish layer, you can do so.

Here’s an article on how to do it.

Cheers,

Will

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Fátima January 23, 2013

Hi Will,

Thank you so much much for the info, really useful!

I have been painting with oils since I was a child and now I’m considering to switch to acrylics due to the smell of turpentine…it gives me such headaches!
I am bit confused with the mediums though…which ones should I definitely get? I usually paint landscapes on large canvas in a impressionist style.

Thank you!! :)

Fátima

Reply

Will Kemp January 24, 2013

Hi Fatima,

Nice to hear from you, with acrylics the 2 mediums I use the most are ‘acrylic glazing liquid gloss’ and ‘soft gel gloss’ ( both from Golden Acrylics) the first is for blending and the second is for applying an isolation coat to the painting prior to varnishing.

Switching to acrylics for large scale landscapes you’ll notice a big difference in drying times, have you considered water soluble oils, or using walnut oil and Odourless mineral spirits as a medium, rather than turpentine?

Will

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Rawdha February 8, 2013

Hi Will,

I just wanted to ask if there is a difference between dry pigments and liquid colors?
and which is better?

Rawdha

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Will Kemp February 8, 2013

Hi Rawdha,

Yes there is a big difference. Dry pigments are just the raw ingredients for the paint that then needs to be mixed with a binder to create a paint. For oils you would mix the pigment with oil, for acrylics you would mix the dry pigment with an acrylic polymer.

You can mix our own paints, but when you’re first starting painting using tubes that have been pre-mixed for you is far more affordable and easier.

Hope this helps,
Will

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Tannis February 16, 2013

I am a not totally new at painting but I’m not a seasoned painter either. I’m about to start a painting on a canvas 20X36 on white background with black and grey objects. The actual objects I would like to be is a large fallen tree up front and in the middle, way back behind the tree, a small accent of spruce trees, grass blades and a bit of a lake look. What I would like to know is how should I prepare the canvas. Gesso or white paint?

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Will Kemp February 16, 2013

Hi Tannis,

Personally I wouldn’t paint onto the white ground as it makes it a lot harder to judge the tones. If the canvas is already white it will already have a coat of gesso on. If the canvas is raw you will need to apply gesso.
These articles might be helpful:

How a coloured ground can drastically improve your painting
How to use acrylic gesso

A nice tone would be a light grey mixed from raw umber and white.

Cheers,
Will

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Heather Shelton February 20, 2013

I am painting a giant ( 10ft x 12 ft) paper backdrop for a photoshoot. Will the acrylic paint crack and peel when I roll the paper up to transport itto the shoot location? If so, can you recommend a paint that will not crack when being rolled up?

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Will Kemp February 23, 2013

Hi Heather, the acrylic shoule be fine. When it dries it forms a plastic skin so is still flexible, so shouldn’t crack when you roll it.

Cheers,
Will

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Mark Marlow February 26, 2013

Hi Will, I’m probably one of the many people who have come to this site saying they are planning to do some painting and just reading the first steps I already feel a little more confident with actually starting now lol.
It’s the first time since I left school back in 87 that I’ve even picked up a brush but many years of taking landscape photos in Cornwall and seeing all the fantastic art there have given me an urge again.
So I think I’ll choose one of my images and give it a go.

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Will Kemp February 26, 2013

Hi Mark,

Thanks for stopping by, yes, the first steps of picking up a brush again can be the most scary, but with your compositional skills from your photography, and understanding of light and drama I think you’ll get on really well. This tutorial is a great starter.

Cheers,
Will

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David L. Phillips March 12, 2013

Greetings Will,

I am a school teacher just painting to relax. Stumbled across your website and thought WOW what a great artist and teacher! Just wanted to say hello and commend you on the feedback you give everyone who comments on your site…one of the greatest characteristics of a great teacher…honest and fast feedback! I will certainly visit this site often for the painting tutorials. Thank you sir.

David L. Phillips

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Will Kemp March 12, 2013

Hi David,

Thanks for dropping by, and for your kind comments. Looking forward to hearing how you get on with the painting tutorials.

Cheers,
Will

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John Simlett March 23, 2013

Pleased to meet you, Will,

Found you on Youtube: Acrylics for beginners, from which I found your website.

I have been a professional artist, in the 1980s, but using Pen & Ink. So I can draw! However, that’s an end to it, unless you count coloured inks! Paint to me has been a no go area… too scary.

My granddaughters have kicked me out of retirement and I have been selling my work on-line. In the process I have found myself in close communication with a new bunch of friends from all over the world – they are all painters who have both inspired and are cajoling me to paint. But where to start?

Well you certainly have produced a magical website which has ticked all my boxes: which medium? beginners palette? etc…

So I’m going to work my way through your site in the hope that I do not commit too many crimes against art on the way.

Best wishes
John

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Will Kemp March 25, 2013

Pleased to meet you to John!

Great to hear you’re making the jump from pen to paint, you might find this tutorial a good starting point: Simple jug still life.

It only uses two colours (plus white) and is aimed at artists such as yourself who are making the transition from drawing to painting. Hope you enjoy it,

Cheers,

Will

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John Simlett March 25, 2013

I’m sure I will. Many thanks.

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Robert April 1, 2013

This may be too general a question, but are there certain brand names of acrylic paints and brushes that are of a higher quality than others?

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Will Kemp April 4, 2013

Hi Robert, yes, there is usually a big difference between artist quality and student quality materials. Both in paint quality and brush quality. You might find this article helpful.

Cheers,
Will

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Robert April 5, 2013

Will
Thank you for your prompt response. I found the article on artist quality vs. student quality acrylics extremely helpful. I´m anxious to get started. Thanks again.
Robert

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Will Kemp April 5, 2013

You’re welcome Robert

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Sugumaje April 25, 2013

Hi will Kemp, Thanks for Wonderful writing about drawing and Painting…

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Will Kemp April 29, 2013

Thanks Sugumaje,

Glad you’re enjoying the site,

Cheers,

Will

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Franco April 26, 2013

Hello Will,

This is an excellent resource for artists, particularly those like me who have never painted, so thumbs up to that!

I have a drawing background, and am familiar with the concepts of tone, light-sources, etc, but what would you recommend as the bare minimum of colours to work with as a beginner painter. I may choose oils to work with – I prefer the flexibility of this medium based on reading through your site – if that helps.

Many Thanks

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Will Kemp April 29, 2013

Hi Franco,

Nice to hear from you.

Have a look at this article on my recommended beginners palette, the colours are available in acrylics and oils,

Cheers,

Will

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Amy Lorraine May 1, 2013

I have preferred acrylic, but did not know the exact difference between acrylic and oil. You did a fantastic job breaking down the differences. After reading, I believe acrylic is still my choice. Thank you.

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Will Kemp May 1, 2013

Hey Amy, thanks for the comment, pleased you found the comparison helpful in your painting.

Cheers,
Will

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daljit kaur May 18, 2013

Thank you Will.i am thankful to have come across your website, the pro and cons of oil and acrylic in your article have answered my doubts/confusion!next step try it out ! I am self learned painter, who has always pined for guidance…my frustration brings long spells of inactivity. My usual medium is oils with pallete knife, hence my surprise, I thought the acrylics are to be used as thin color washes .thanks.

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Will Kemp May 19, 2013

You’re welcome Daljit, really pleased the article helped you to understand the differences between oil and acrylics.

Cheers,
Will

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Jodrien May 23, 2013

Hi Will

Great site and and very useful, for which I’m also starting acrylic paints as a new hobby, I just want to make make sure what to have as an beginner acrylic painter as one do get the starter kits, but really want to make sure.

Thank you
Regards
Jodrien

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Will Kemp May 23, 2013

Hi Jodrien, pleased to hear you’re finding the site a useful starting point for your ventures into acrylics!
These two articles might help:

How to choose a beginners acrylic palette

Are beginners starter kits an expensive mistake?

Cheers,
Will

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Meaghan May 26, 2013

Hi Will,
Your site is amaaaaazing!
I love the extended drying time of oils but hate the smell of turpentine and the hassle of clean up. Any advice on using water soluble oil paints?

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Will Kemp May 27, 2013

Hi Meaghan,
Pleased you’re enjoying the site. I don’t currently have any specific tutorials on watersoluble oils but I’ll add it too the list. Generally they dry quicker than standard oils as you don’t have the oil in the mix, but this might be advantageous, depending on the subject you’re painting.

They can be harder to get a nice even consistency with as sometimes dry up too quickly on you and other times go too thin, because you’re diluting them with water the ‘medium’ of water doesn’t ‘hold’ the same way as oils. Traditional oil paints can feel more fluid to work with, but on the bonus side you can paint in a solvent free environment. As with most mediums there are pros & cons depending on your own personal prefrences, but I can feel a ‘paint shootout’ on the way!

Cheers,
Will

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Meaghan June 3, 2013

Thank you for the reply Will. All the cons you mention are definitely true. I’m so conflicted about continuing to use them. It’s hard to determine if it’s my technique that is lacking or the medium. Perhaps I need to experiment more with both traditional oils and the water soluble ones. I’ll definitely keep referring back to your site either way. Thanks again!!!

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Will Kemp June 3, 2013

You’re welcome Meaghan, it can be hard to tell when you’re first starting if it is the paints or the technique that is holding you back from the style you’re trying to achieve.
An investment in a couple of colours from each medium can be very advantageous in your own painting development.

Try painting the same image with the different mediums and just note how the painting flows for you. Every artist paints differently and has different preferences so a bit of self experimentation is the way to go!

Speak soon,
Will

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Kimberley May 30, 2013

Just stumbled across your site and have now been on reading articles for 2 days!! Lol Very informative for a beginner like myself.
Thank-you
Kimberley from Canada

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Will Kemp May 30, 2013

Cheers Kimberley, really pleased you’re enjoying the website and the tutorials.
Thanks again,
Will

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Divyanshu Agrawal June 2, 2013

Hello Will,
I am a beginner and a student studying in grade 7 . I love your step – by – step teaching and they have greatly improved my painting skills.
Thank you very much!
Soon , I will write a review of your site on my website ! please do visit it.

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Will Kemp June 3, 2013

Hi Divyanshu, thanks for dropping by and your kind comments on the eaching style. Really pleased the site has helped you to improve your painting skills and thanks in advance for the site review.

Cheers,
Will

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Angelina June 13, 2013

Another key difference that you forgot Will, is the cleaning for me!!

Cleaning brushes/palettes when you paint with acrylic is so much easier, a little water + soap and there you go good as new. Fast, neat.
When you paint with oil… it gets complicated for me, if i want to deeply clean brushes + palette + my fingers/nails (yes i have paint on my fingers hihi) i have to use a lot and i mean a LOT of thinner (not very cheap, i choose the odorless eco-friendly stuff….), this awfully dries my hands and takes a lot of my time. It’s messy for me. I even tried painting with gloves… (don’t try it lol) I’m probably doing something wrong and probably need more experience I suppose..

I love the blending that you can achieve with the oils, but the cleaning scares me, that’s why I take too much time starting a painting…. decisions decisions decisions… oil or acrylic? and then i end up doing nothing, just staring at my canvas ^^

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Will Kemp June 14, 2013

Hi Angelina,
Good point! It can take a bit longer clean up with oils, have you tried the Masters Brush cleaner?

I’ve found it can work like a charm, just wipe off any excess oil onto paper towel or a rag. Then mix the brush around the in Masters brush cleaner until you have a lather and then rinse out with water.

Have a look at this video for cleaning an acrylic brush, the same principles apply.

Cheers,
Will

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Angelina June 16, 2013

Cheers Will, I will follow your advise and try it. Oh, i will oil paint without second thoughts, sounds fantastic!
Thanks for the tips again,
Angelina.

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Will Kemp June 16, 2013

Good one Angelina,
Will

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Stephanie June 16, 2013

Acrylics!!! But I would like to try oils and watercolours in the future. Thanks for this wonderful site – very informative!

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Will Kemp June 17, 2013

Cheers Stephanie, pleased you’re enjoying the site.

Will

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Rahima July 6, 2013

Hello Will,
I am a beginner when it comes to painting as I usually draw rather than paint. But recently I bought Acrylic and Oil paints and a canvas so I could paint one of my drawings and I wasn’t sure which to use as this is my first time using them properly. I’ve used both at school but have decided to go with the Acrylic after reading the differences. I was just wondering if you could give me any beginners tips when painting my first piece onto a canvas. I have absolutely no idea where to start!

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Will Kemp July 7, 2013

Hi Rahima, pleased you’ve found the article helpful, here’s a Guide on the best place to start,

Cheers,
Will

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Lana August 5, 2013

Hello Will,
I really hope you can help me. Painting was a hobby to me, but now I have an opportunity to show my work. I have an oil painting, which is more than 10 years old, it needed some touch up fast and all I had was acrylic paint. So, i used it in random places to touch up. Big mistake. Now I’m afraid it will peal or crack. What can I do? It will be crazy to repaint the whole painting with oil. Impossible. It’s huge with a lot of details. Can i put linseed oil over it or something similar to it, or oil paint medium or something else that is clear?
I appreciate any answer or advice you can give me.
Thank you very much,
Lana

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Will Kemp August 7, 2013

Hi Lana, the most likely thing that might happen is the acrylic will peel off the oil as it doesn’t have as good a tooth to adhere to. If the acrylic isn’t too thick you might just be ok, you’re in good company though as Turner is rumored to have applied watercolour glazes to his oil paintings due to clarity of the glaze!

Cheers,
Will

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Julia Koh August 8, 2013

Thank you, would like to subscribe, not sure how

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Will Kemp August 9, 2013

Hi Julia, to subscribe for updates just enter your first name and email address to the signup box on the right-hand side of the website. (It says get updates)
Cheers,
Will

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Steve G August 16, 2013

I find when I do backgrounds and then try to paint objects on top, in acrylic, the two colors blend. Is there a way to do this where the colors will stay separate and vibrant?

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Will Kemp August 17, 2013

Hi Steve, this shouldn’t happen with acrylics as they dry so quickly, you should be able to paint over the acrylic within a few minutes and you will get a clean colour.

They might be atelier interactive acrylics which can be blended once dried. Check the label of the paints you’re using, as this won’t happen with standard acrylics.

Cheers,

Will

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Rakh August 20, 2013

Hi Will. I have been painting with oils since I was 13 (am 33 now). I love oils but
I want to paint cartoons for my son on canvas. More like pop up art
Should I try acrylic??? I have never used acrylic so am super confused
Please advice

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Will Kemp August 21, 2013

Hi Rakh, yes, for painting cartoons for your son acrylics will work really well. You’ll be able to get crisp clean colours very easily. You could also use an ‘acrylic marker‘ which are quite new out, but you can then draw with the marker and fill in the rest of the shapes with a brush.

Hope this helps,

Cheers,
Will

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Rakh August 22, 2013

Thank you Will.

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Ali Carter August 31, 2013

so helpful for the beginner painter- thankyou!

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Will Kemp September 1, 2013

You’re welcome Ali, pleased it helped.
Will

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Lily September 16, 2013

Thank you soooo much! I’m a beginner artist and i’ve always had the doubt of the differences between this two! I really enjoy your page and love the design!

Also, one question: I like to make paintings that have depth and just feel like dreams…should I use oil? or watercolor? (i suppose I can’t use acrylic). Many people have told me to use watercolor, but I’ve always used oil, and I am kind of afraid of watercolor and how to use it. Should I learn watercolor then? or just stick to oil?

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Will Kemp September 16, 2013

Hi Lily, pleased the article helped, if you’re trying to get a very blended, soft dreamlike effect (like looking through a soft focus lens) oils will be fine to use as you can easily blend and soften the edges.

Cheers,
Will

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Sheri September 29, 2013

Hi Will,

I hope this isn’t a silly question, but my 8 year old daughter recently found some (very) old paint-by-numbers kits that I had stored in the attic. She was very excited and wanted to paint with them, but when we opened up the little plastic paint pots, the oil paint was dry. My question is, is there any way to bring this type of oil paint back to life once it has dried out? (I realize that this question is probably not exactly up your alley, but I hate to see my little girl so disappointed and if this is the way that she wants to start to learn about painting, I want to encourage her.) Thanks in advance for your help!

Sheri

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Will Kemp October 3, 2013

Hi Sheri, if the paints have fully dried out you can’t really bring them ‘back to life’ as they won’t have any of the oil left within the paints to be able to flow, It might have to be a trip to the art store!

Cheers,
Will

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Jack October 5, 2013

Hey Will, this is a brilliant read. Very detailed. But im still unable to decide which one to choose. I recently fell in love with a girl, who loves paintings. I want to paint a scenery for her. I am totally new to this. So, what do you propose i do? Would be of great help. Thanks in advance.
Jack

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Will Kemp October 7, 2013

Hey Jack, pleased you enjoyed the article, as a total beginner to painting, acrylics are the quickest way so create a painting with the most limited materials.

Cheers,
Will

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Tony Kalemba October 8, 2013

Hi Will,
I’d like to thank you for the effort you have put in to your incredibly informative guide throughout your website. It’s good when one finds a teacher like yourself who assumes students don’t know anything. ( although we do know somethings ) :-). It is so good that you teach with the understanding that students know nothing! It makes for a better and fuller learning experience as it makes you leave nothing out in regards to the information you provide, that is a rare quality that only natural teachers like yourself posses.

I also love the pro tips you include. Keep up the great work and more power to you!

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Will Kemp October 8, 2013

Hi Tony,

Thanks for your very kind comments, really pleased you’ve been finding the tutorials comprehensive and the pro tips helpful in your paintings.

Cheers,
Will

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shawna miller October 11, 2013

I have only painted two pictures using acrylic. I do like to blend and kind of do “happy little tree” type paintings. I would like to try oil. Can u give a beginners list of needed items to use oil. Are they much more expensive than acrylic? Thank you..and I love your tutorials

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Will Kemp October 11, 2013

Hi Shawna, oils are slightly more expensive than acrylics but you don’t need much equipment to start, just some linseed oil, odourless mineral spirit, a couple of hog brushes and you’re away!

Pleased you’ve been enjoying the tutorials.

Will

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MJ Ribbink October 11, 2013

Hi Will,

Great article. I’m a pastel painter, but are thinking of doing some oils too. Never done it before. I was just wondering if oils (production and coloring) contain any animal products?

Cheers,
Marie-Jeanne (MJ)

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Will Kemp October 11, 2013

Hi Marie-Jeanne,

There are a few materials used in traditional oil painting that are derived from animal products, usually used in the preparation of the canvas, such as ‘Rabbit Skin Glue’ and ‘Gelatin’ which is sometimes used in Gesso. Also some paint colours and oil pastels contain animal fat and bone (such as bone black) and natural hair brushes are from animals, squirrel, mongoose, pig etc

Cheers,
Will

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Xylia October 18, 2013

Hi Will ,
Im a senior High School student soon to graduate. I read your article and i liked it very much .Ive been using acrilyc paint since sixth grade and ive always loved it.Im aiming to become an artist such as yourself ,but ive always been wondering if acrylic and oil can be put together in one art piece. Usually its because there both so different i was curious to know if will it look good using both mediums in one art work?. Ive never used oil But im willing to give it a try.

Thank you,
Xylia

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Will Kemp October 19, 2013

Hi Xylia,

Pleased you’ve been enjoying the article, you can work with acrylics and oil, but the acrylic must always be underneath the oil. Also, it’s best to have a thin application of acrylics or it will be harder for the oil paint to adhere to the surface of the acrylics.

Hope this helps.

Will

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Shea October 28, 2013

Hey Will,
I just started painting about a month ago and people are now asking to buy my paintings over Facebook. I’m still in high school, and I want to travel after I graduate. This question may depend on many factors, and you may not know much about this, but would it be a good starting point to make my money by selling my paintings out of my van?

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Will Kemp October 28, 2013

Hi Shea,

You can start selling your paintings anywhere really, it’s very simple to set up a shop on Etsy and then you can direct your friends so they can pay direct through the site.

Cheers,
Will

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Dee October 28, 2013

HI, I have been experimenting with acrylics for a few months and recently tried a new style, and did what i considered my most beautiful painting on canvas. The colours were all swirled together and so incredibly detailed, so i took photos and someone wanted to buy my piece! BUT now that it has dried, all the detail has gone, sort of all merged together, and it looks like a horrid maroon/brown sludge of colours..what happened? I have ordered some gloss varnish to go on top, but i can’t see how this will change the picture to how it was when it was still wet :-( Any advice? What paints retail their detail and colour vibrancy even when dry? Thanks

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Will Kemp October 28, 2013

Hi Dee, the gloss varnish will increase the colour vibrancy to the piece, but won’t alter any of the details.

Will

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Amy November 13, 2013

Hi Will,
Thanks for sharing these tips! Have always loved art, drawing, painting, dance, and just now getting to actually work with acrylics. We have some quick paint and sip classes here where the instructor shows how to complete a painting in 3 hours ~ the glass of wine helps for beginners.
Now I am seeking more serious instruction and your site and information is wonderful. I will be taking my time and reviewing all of it, starting with acrylics and then developing as I paint. Just want to say how much I appreciate your videos and site! Thank you!

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Will Kemp November 13, 2013

Hi Amy,

Thanks for dropping by, so pleased you’re finding the site helpful in developing your painting.

Cheers,
Will

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luna travers November 14, 2013

Hi Will,

I am not sure if i have bought a pre prepared canvas or not for my latest portrait and i have not prepared it- this link has been very useful to me as I am experiencing a lot of the pitfalls of oils and your website has helped me extensively to understand the process clearer so thank you for that. However I am stuck on one area I believe i have what you refer to as ‘dead colouring layer’ in certain areas of my canvas. it is not possible to see face on but from the side and it full light it is evident in places. My portrait is currently 95 % complete and i was wondering if you knew of any technique that i could try at this late stage to rectify this problem? I dont believe that i can varnish until at least six months? Thank you

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Will Kemp November 15, 2013

Hi Tony,

Sounds like your painting has ‘sunk in’ this is where different amounts of oil have soaked into the support (your canvas) and made the painting look dull and ‘dead’ this is exactly what you want to have if you are building up the painting in layers, if you have finding it hard o judge the colours you can ‘oil out’ the canvas. This helps to revive the colours as they looked before the oil was absorbed.

This is from the Oil painting glossary on the site:

Oiling out – this is where you paint a very thin coat of medium over the painting to bring the colours back to how they looked when you first painted them.

“Depending on the absorbency of your canvas, the oil can soak into the canvas leaving the paint looking dull. This is called ‘sinking- in’. Oiling out can be used to blend wet layers into the layer below but is often best used when you’ve had a bit of practice with oils.

It is most notable in dark areas of painting, and oiling out enables you to judge the colours as they were when you first painted them. I don’t usually recommend it for absolute beginners as you can get into a mess quite quickly and it can create issues with fat-over-lean principles. However, for more advanced painters, especially realist painters, it can be an invaluable technique to use.”

Hope this helps,

Will

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luna travers November 16, 2013

Thank you Will thats great advice all is not lost! I will try that -cheers

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demo November 15, 2013

Oil paints seem to stand the test of time. I wonder what condition the great masters painting would have been after hundreds of years, had they been painted in acrylic?

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Will Kemp November 15, 2013

They would have been extremely similar to the way they are today, acrylics are a very stable medium.

Cheers,
Will

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Diane November 16, 2013

Thank you for so much info. I have wanted to paint for a long time now but have not been able to decide between acrylic or oil. I have never seen them compared & contrasted so well before. Based on reading this I now know that I want to use oil. Thank you so much!!

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Will Kemp November 16, 2013

Good one Diane, pleased it helped you to make an informed decision.

Cheers,
Will

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Ingrid November 25, 2013

As for people who like a bit of both Oil and Acrylics, I recommend trying out Golden’s series “Open Acrylics”, they have an amazing longer drying time, up to a week they are still workable on the palette, and there is no use of terpentine and it’s more environmental!

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Will Kemp November 26, 2013

Thanks Ingrid,

You might find this article on Golden OPEN acrylics interesting.
Cheers,
Will

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Liddia December 3, 2013

Hi,
I’m sort of new to the art world so sorry if this seems stupid. I’ve been using acrylics for a while and they are great but I cant get it to look misty. Should I try oils, or is there some special trick for acrylics, or is it more of skill that I would have to develop on my own?

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Will Kemp December 3, 2013

Hi Liddia,

To get a really smooth Smokey blend, oil paints are easier, you can achieve it with acrylics but as soon as the paint dries it’s then impossible to blend. So oils are very easy to blend with, but this also means they are very easy to get dirty colours, because very colour blends with the next. So if you have a good basic knowledge of colour mixing with acrylics first and then try oils you’ll get on really well.

Cheers,
Will

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Ainslee December 14, 2013

Hi so I have been using oil paints for a while but I haven’t used anything with it. Just the paint by itself… Is that a bad thing? Also how do you use thinners and whatnot with oil paints? And is there a easier way to get my brushes clean?
Thanks Ainslee

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Will Kemp December 15, 2013

Hi Ainslee,
You can create an oil painting without any thinners, it will just stop you from varying the thickness of the paint as easily. Thinners will help get your brush clean, then use washing up liquid or brush cleaner.
Cheers,
Will

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Sarah December 23, 2013

Hi Will,

I’m not an artist, but I have found that I really enjoy painting. I’ve been starting to work with acrylic paints and have found your words to be very helpful. I think I’ll do as you suggested, and build up and ask for oil paints from my birthday. I look forward to trying them. Thanks again for your words,

Sarah

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Will Kemp December 23, 2013

Hi Sarah,

Great to hear you’ve been enjoying painting and have been finding the articles helpful. Enjoy experimenting with oil paints.

Cheers,

Will

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Krystal December 31, 2013

Thanks for the great information. I mostly work in acrylic but have dabbled in oils for something different. I love the depth of oils, however my recent oil took me over a year to do because I kept losing my inspiration in between drying periods; in contrast, my last acrylic took 7 hours in one day, I loved the sense of achievement plus getting my idea onto the canvas while it was still fresh in my head.
Can you recommend any other mediums? Ps i’ve tried water colour, but i hate seeing the grain of the canvas through the paint. Sigh. Oh! I have some gouache – what the heck is it?!
Thanks

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Will Kemp December 31, 2013

Hi Krystal,

Pleased you found the article of interest. Here’s an article from the Winsor & Newton website regarding understanding Gouache.

Hope it helps,

Cheers,
Will

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Nicky Wise January 3, 2014

I have been into all types of art for years (keep in mind im only 23). Drawing, painting, chalk pastel, and other types of crafts. I can never remember a time I wasn’t into art. In all the years I’ve been painting, I’ve always used acrylics. I’ve considered trying oils, but I’m so used to acrylics now, I’d probably wind up with a big muddy mess. Some of my favorite side tools (i guess you could call it that) is a Floating Medium and sponges of various textures. I love how the floating medium helps me layer my colors without them covering up each other.
-Nicky

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Will Kemp January 3, 2014

Good one Nicky,

Cheers,
Will

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Isha January 10, 2014

I’m looking forward to start oil painting, but first I want to try my hand with water colors and acrylics. I don’t know exactly what I should draw. Can you help me?

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Will Kemp January 10, 2014

Hi Isha, just find a subject or tutorial that interests you and start simply.

Cheers,
Will

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Siddhangana January 10, 2014

Will great post! For the last 1+ years I have been painting using oil paints and have been thinking if I should switch to acrylics??? and how to go about it… My paintings are mostly potraits with the lot of shades on the face to show the play of light, it has been easy to handle it with oils, reading through your article I understand it may not be so easy with acrylics, did I get it correct.

Is it a good idea to complete the face or potrait subject with oil and then use acrylic in background to have textured effect? Whats the long term effect on the painting, that will be expected in this case.

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Will Kemp January 10, 2014

Hi Siddhangana,

Yes, that’s right, its harder to achieve smooth blends and subtle shading with acrylics due to the quickness of drying times.

You can paint oils on top of acrylics, but not acrylics on-top of oils.

So you could build up the background with an acrylic gel and have a oil face in the centre.
make sure you leave the area of canvas of the face quite thin with acrylics though as you need a thin surface for the oil paint to ‘grab onto’.

Hope this helps,

Cheers,
Will

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Siddhangana January 11, 2014

Thanks for the quick reply Will. I have also gone through you potrait tutorials in black and white. I think my paintings will improve significantly specially in terms of the layers.

Are there any (free/paid) tutorials, where you have created a potrait in colours, would be very helpful if you share links of already shared ones or post new if they are not there already.

Thanks
Siddhangana

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Will Kemp January 11, 2014

Hi Siddhangana, I don’t currently have any colour portrait tutorials on the site but an working on a new colour portrait course for the new year.

Cheers,
Will

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Siddhangana January 12, 2014

Will look forward to it.

Regards
Siddhangana

Ritu January 16, 2014

Thank you so much for the clear information. What type of the brush will be best for blending colour in oil and acrylic on a canvas?

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Will Kemp January 16, 2014

Hi Ritu, I like using a filbert brush for blending.

Cheers,
Will

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Ritu January 16, 2014

Thanks for the reply

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mani February 9, 2014

Can we use acrylic paints on cloth?
and oil paints on cloth?

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Will Kemp February 9, 2014

Hi Mani, yes they will both work, acrylic will have more flexibility and dry way quicker.

Cheers,
Will

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mani February 10, 2014

Thnx Will

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Rebecca February 10, 2014

Fab website and great advice and content. Thank you for the obvious amount of effort and care taken in compiling this – you have done a great job. Now found I will be a frequent visitor. Thanks!

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Will Kemp February 10, 2014

Thanks for your kind comments Rebecca, pleased you’re finding the articles helpful,

Cheers,

Will

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Zeal February 25, 2014

Thanks for the clear, unbiased information, it was very helpful!

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Will Kemp February 27, 2014

Thanks Zeal, pleased you found it helpful.
Cheers,
Will

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Kylie March 8, 2014

I love the article! But, when I was shopping for acrylics, there were multiple different kinds! What is the difference between satin acrylic and high gloss acrylic? The color I want is in the satin acrylic. I am painting the canvas a solid color with the acrylic then doing a melting crayon project over them. Any sort of advice would be great! Thanks!

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Will Kemp March 8, 2014

Hi Kylie, most acrylics have a satin/matte finish to them, high gloss is usually put on in the varnish stage. If you’re going to be working with another medium ontop I would also go for a standard satin finish acrylic.
Cheers,
Will

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Gene Alvin March 27, 2014

Hi Will, I’ve been painting for years and have always found that oil painting is my choice. I’ve tried acrylics but just can’t live with the blending difficulties and fast dry times. I don’t find the colors to be as vibrant in acrylic as in oils as well. When acrylics first came out I was instantly taken by them. (Yes, I’ve been around a long time). As I started painting in oils way back when, I guess I am spoiled when it comes to that medium. Acrylic seems to be the most popular medium today as instant results are what most beginning artists are all about. I do however, use acrylics for basecoats as well as toning a canvas before painting. Good work on your article, most informative.

Regards
Gene Alvin aka “Aelf”

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Will Kemp March 27, 2014

Hi Gene, most artists work between the two depending on the subject/effect they’re after. I often apply a coloured ground with acrylics and then paint oils on-top, or paint the whole scene in acrylics. It’s more about understanding the pros and cons of each medium and then deciding on the best one to achieve your vison in your paintings. Pleased you enjoyed the article.

Cheers,

Will

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Nadya April 3, 2014

Hi Will,
Thanks a lot for your tutorials, helps a lot! Happy painting!
Nadya

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Will Kemp April 4, 2014

You’re welcome Nadya,
Cheers,
Will

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Hannah Chase April 5, 2014

Hi Will,
I recently found this website and love it! I am a new painter and am painting something for a school project. I am trying to figure out which paint would be best for my painting. I was wondering if I could get your opinion? So, I am painting a beach sunset with a black orca whale tail rising out of the water. Which paint do you think would be best? Do you have any tips for beginners? Thank you so much for your time if you reply to this!

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Will Kemp April 5, 2014

Hi Hannah, I would go for acrylics as the black oil paint will take a while to dry.
Cheers,
Will

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Elen West May 1, 2014

Hi, thanks for the useful tips on your website; I’m a figurative artist specialising in urban landscapes and wildlife. I started using oils a few years ago, but as an asthma-sufferer had to give them up (despite the acquisition of sansodor). I’ve now resorted to becoming an acrylic painter which means my lungs can now take a breather and I can vary my painting technique; and that’s the other thing with oils, the dreaded ‘fat over lean’ principle can drive you a little mad if you wish to be an experimental painter, whereas acrylics allow you to work with other media, such as watercolours, and materials to make collages and mixed-media painting. However, I have found two disadvantages for me with acrylic paint: firstly, it has been hard to convert my palette of Michael Harding oil paints to an equally pigment-rich and traditional set of tube colours in acrylics, and the other issue I have concerns the paint film when it dries – its as they say a matt ‘skin’ that isn’t as aesthetic as an oil film. I suppose I was wondering which ranges are best for both pigment and film; Atelier Interactive has been recommended to me, but I’ve learnt that there can be problems with ‘open’ acrylic paints.

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Will Kemp May 1, 2014

Hi Elen,

Pleased you’ve been finding the website helpful, to answer your questions:

It has been hard to convert my palette of Michael Harding oil paints to an equally pigment-rich and traditional set of tube colours in acrylics.
Michael Harding does make some lovely paints! it is often the oil in the paint that gives the illusion of a more saturated pigment, not necessarily the pigment load. The New Masters acrylics from Old Holland might be the perfect match for you as they have been designed to dry with a slight satin finish and have some great historical colours.

Hope this helps,
Will

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Loann Griffin May 1, 2014

Im just dabbling at the moment with student paints, i bought both acrylic & water paints, small tubes, the water colour set has a tube of oil, no instructions on how 2 use it? What can i mix with the acrylics? Thanku.

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Will Kemp May 1, 2014

Hi Loann, you can mix acrylics with water or acrylic mediums.
Will

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Loann Griffin May 3, 2014

Thanku for your reply, so how much water with about 12ml of paint? Thanku.

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Will Kemp May 4, 2014

Hi Loann, if you have a look through one of the free tutorials, that’s the best way to see the different ratios of paint I use.

Cheers,
Will

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jin May 7, 2014

thanks for the article! I have always used acrylic, and I am just starting to use oil paints. I finished one but I had to use acrylic because I need to put sharp edges to the portrait. I guess mixing isn’t that bad at all :)

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Will Kemp May 7, 2014

Hi Jin, you can paint oils ontop of acrylics, but you can’t paint acrylics ontop of oils.
Cheers,
Will

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Val May 7, 2014

Hi
I have recently switched from oils to acrylics for health reasons. I find I have quite a few canvases (half finished)… Is there anything I can paint on or prime with in order to use acrylics on top of the oils?

Val

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Will Kemp May 7, 2014

Hi Val, its’ not recommended to paint acrylic on-top of oils as the acrylics won’t adhere to the surface of the oils and they will prevent the oils from curing properly due to stopping the air hitting the surface of the oil paint.
Cheers,
Will

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Cindy May 29, 2014

Hello Will,
I am a retiree who started painting a couple of years ago with basic acrylics. I wanted a hobby and now I have one. I wanted to paint, and digitize my work to make Christmas cards, plus grow as an artist. I have so much to learn, and not much time to learn it in. No classes at all except casually with the help of another artists.
I just love to get involved in painting but am really liking detail. I accidentally found I like portrait painting..AMAZING how a subtle shade can change a person entirely!

I just found your website and just love your advise! so organized! I am thinking about rethinking …getting back to basics and practicing instead of creating a masterpiece each time which ends up stored in the basement. LOL

I am playing with oils now and OMG what a mess….experimenting is more like it. I am so used to the feel of acrylics that I seem to be really great at making expensive MUD! with oils more easily..

I think I found the best resource for a small (laundry room) studio painter…YOUR WEBSITE! Thanks. I just have to figure out what works for me BEFORE I end up in a nursing home…I’m sure I’ll be signing up for a course or two. Wonderful site…especially for beginners. Easy to understand. THANKS

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Will Kemp May 30, 2014

Hi Cindy,

Nice to hear from you and so pleased you’re finding the tutorials clear and easy to follow, good luck with your portraits and hope you enjoy the courses.

Cheers,
Will

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Geralne June 1, 2014

Hi Will!

Very glad I stumbled on to your website.. I’ve been trying to learn to paint using acrylics, and I love it! However, I have difficulty blending colors when doing portrait, and the color seem to be a bit darker on the canvas when it dries.. So I am thinking of trying oils…What is the best ground color to go well with skin tone?

Thanks!

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Will Kemp June 1, 2014

Hi Geraline,

Great to hear you’ve been enjoying the tutorials, the background choices vary depending on the mood and feel you’re after. You might find this article on studio wall colours of interest. the same principles apply to backgrounds of skin tones.

Cheers,
Will

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Sam Yannakoureas June 23, 2014

My first painting and only acrylic work I’ve ever done must have been years ago,when i was still in highschool, i was the only kid using oil, everyone in my art majors class used acrylic, i dont know i just hated it. Messing around with oil and dry brush was my trademark there! I try to tell others why i liked oil but it always seemed useless so i guess it really is taste, but seriously it wouldn’t hurt some to try and explore some new style and beauty, thats why we’re here for, or i am at least. Btw thanks for the post, really needed some facts and opinion.

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Will Kemp June 23, 2014

Good one Sam, pleased it helped.
Will

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Michael Maguire June 27, 2014

aaaaaaAAAAaaaa…. now I know why all the old brilliant oil paintings (eg. The raft of medusa, Mona lisa etc.) are having yellowish color. Thank You soooo much for the information. I was starting on my friends portrait. But then I got confused should I use acrylics or oil. Since I already have acrylics I was just starting to paint with acrylics but thanks to u, now i think i’ll have to buy oil colors cuz they have fab features

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Will Kemp June 27, 2014

You’re welcome Michael, pleased to hear you’ve found the article helpful, good luck with your portrait.

Cheers,
Will

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Aude-Noëlle June 30, 2014

Bonjour Will,

this article helped me make a simple decision, which is to postpone using oils. I mainly use watercolors and acrylics (not together, indeed!) and I was thinking about exploring oils but have been resisting the idea for a number of reasons, and you listed most of them above. So I think that I have much to learn in acrylics yet, and I love the medium, so I know what to do now, read many of your articles and take some of your courses!
Your style of teaching is fantastic and thorough, I know I will learn plenty! I can’t wait to paint!

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Will Kemp July 1, 2014

Thanks Aude, really hope you enjoy working through the articles.

Cheers,
Will

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Christina July 8, 2014

Hi Will
Thanks for the wonderful website. I have been painting with Acrylics for some years now (as a novice – for pure enjoyment thereof) and have found your website very informative. Some of the things I have been doing was pure instinct – now I know why I should have/should not have done certain things.

However, I have a question. I am trying to master a technique to replicate a sandstorm – so that you can still see what is behind the sandstorm (almost a see-through). Any ideas on how to get that technique?

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Will Kemp July 8, 2014

Hi Christina,

Thanks for your kind words, to achieve a see-through sandstorm you would just need to apply a thin glaze of paint over the entire paint surface using a transparent pigment, this will let you still see the image behind the sandstorm but it will be as if trying to look at it through a veil.

Hope this helps,
Will

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Christina July 9, 2014

Thanks Will. It helps – will try it out and let you know if I have any other questions.
Regards

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Valen July 11, 2014

Hi Will,
Thanks for this post… very informative. I started painting with oils but switched to acrylics when I became a mom… they’re just more practical when you have kids.
I am having trouble blending, though. I recently tried your apple exercise (How to paint light & shade in Acrylics) and I could not achieve the desired result. When trying to blend the halftone and the form shadow, with every brushstroke the paint underneath was “removed” and I could see all through the white canvas! Any ideas of what might be causing that? I was using a relatively soft brush…

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Will Kemp July 12, 2014

Hi Valen,

Nice to hear from you and pleased you enjoyed the post, it is tricky to get a smooth blend with the acrylics due to the quick drying time, the paint underneath shouldn’t be removed though if it was from the first layer. Did it happen on other parts of the canvas or just on the area you blended?

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Beryl August 1, 2014

Dear Will,

Thank you for all the information. I have not had the right mixture of equipment, desire, time and energy for 40 years. Just painted last night. I now understand some things I experienced using acrylic paints. I just worked with the quick drying issues I experienced. I see what you mean by choosing to use different paint for different results.

My question is this: I remember when young that I could never mix purple in oil. I assume that it can be done, but what are the names of colors in oils that are true primary colors, or do I just need to buy purple? I want to mix my own colors!

I used to paint oils when young, but felt that I should try acrylics. I am out in the middle of nowhere, and I think I also need to get some good oil paints and all the solvents and brushes needed. I think I can pick through your site to make a list before my next 100 mile trek to a store because it is better to look at the real thing than a website.

Your website makes me feel at home, with tons of people picking up their brushes whether for the first time or like me, after so long that it is like something new. Thank you!

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Will Kemp August 3, 2014

Hi Beryl, nice to hear from you and so pleased you’ve been enjoying the lessons. Yes you can mix purple with oils you just need the right red and blue, you might find these two videos helpful on mixing bright pink and bright purple. I demonstrate with acrylics, but the exact same principles apply with oils.

Hope it helps,
Will

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lynda brook August 17, 2014

Hi Kemp I buy some cheap cotton canvas boards for my acrylic painting. I decided to use small one last weekend, painted the background like normal horizon, sky clouds only one layer of paint, dabbed in clouds then found every time I put any paint on brush { small amount } the paint started crumbling and rubbing off. Its made huge mess of my pastel background, tried over painting and it looks worse, dreadful, upsetting and disappointed. !
I’m wondering if you can tell me if it could have happened from no primer on canvas or old white paint that went little dry as mixer please? I’ve never had this happen before and definitely don’t want my art work to be ruined again. I live in tropical Qld Australia where it gets warm and humid often, paint dries quick !!

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Will Kemp August 17, 2014

Hi Lynda, you mentioned “Its made huge mess of my pastel background” was this pastel colour, or actual pastels?

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Susan August 26, 2014

Hi Will, thank you so much for your generous instruction. I am transitioning from oils to acrylics, so I consider myself a beginner in this medium. My biggest struggle is drying time. How do you approach coming back the next day to work on a painting once it’s dried? It feels more like I’m starting over and covering up everything I’ve done, rather than adding to the painting.

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Will Kemp September 2, 2014

Hi Susan, If I’m working on larger scale painting I’ll often build up the painting and transition into new colours on new days. So I might just work on the underpainting day 1 and then the next day I’m fresh in with new colours. You can also use a ‘stay-wet palette’ to keep your colours fresh for a few days so it’s a quicker start back at the Easel.

Hope this helps,

Cheers,
Will

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Susan September 2, 2014

Yes, thank you. I think a better description of what I’m experiencing is that I’m having trouble mixing new color to match the dry. I’ll definitely look into the stay-wet palette!

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Will Kemp September 2, 2014

You’re welcome Susan, here’s a video on how I set out my stay-wet palette when using a limited palette.

Cheers,
Will

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Jim Rackson October 1, 2014

Hi Will… I draw well enough but have no idea how to paint…did fairly well though, following your instructions on that apple painting…really excited at this point and cant wait to get started in earnest…thanks for the encouragement! ps I’ve got the “grab a brew” part down pat!

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Will Kemp October 1, 2014

Good one Jim, really pleased you’ve been seeing some good results with your painting (and your tea consumption!)
Cheers,
Will

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