The 5 Key Differences between Acrylics vs Oil paints – a Beginners Guide

The difference Oils and Acrylics
What is the difference between Oils vs Acrylic Paints?

Do you want to learn to paint but 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 of oils vs acrylics you need to ask yourself a few simple questions to decide 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 ‘Alkyds’ or ‘Open’ acrylics (slow drying acrylics)

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 quickly, I mean really quickly.
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 everything 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 mix 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 speed 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 than this you can create some lovely blends.

You can achieve smooth blends with acrylics you 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 be 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 affecting 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 mix ‘muddy colours’ when 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 colour shift) This means it seems lighter on the canvas when you first put in on and then dries darker as the white binder turns clear.

This becomes really clear 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’re first beginning.

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 to some areas being glossy (still have the oil in) and others staying matt (oil has 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 on 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 extremely 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 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 you’re working in a confined space are working with kids or in an unventilated area. You just need access to water. Acrylics have no smell and are non-toxic.

Oil Cons: The smell of turpentine
If you 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 an 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 little 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.



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

What is your preferred 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

This Post Has 448 Comments

  1. 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

    1. 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,

      1. Thank you.

  2. 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!

    1. 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,

  3. 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!

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

  4. 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

    1. 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?

      1. Hi Will it only took me 3 years to notice your reply and question… so my apologies. I paint mostly abstract work, I’m experiencing with new techniques at the moment but still in oils.. Was wondering if you could tell me if the style of painting of Mallory page could be achieved in oil.. I know she uses acrylics… Your thoughts???? Looking forward to hearing back from you .. Thx :)

        1. Hi Balbinot, yes, you could easily create the style of Mallory Page paintings with oils, using pure turpentine with the oils will get that lovely drippy effect.

  5. 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.


    1. 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,

  6. 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?


    1. 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,


  7. 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,

    1. 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,

  8. 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!



    1. 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,

      1. 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?



        1. 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,


  9. 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

    1. 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.

  10. 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?

    1. 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.


  11. 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 ???


    1. 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,

  12. 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.

    1. You’re welcome Emily, pleased it helped.

  13. 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!



    1. Oh Hi Angie,

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


  14. 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.
    (cheque is in the mail)

    1. 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,


      1. Keep painting and keep singing. Works for me! :) :)

  15. 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)

    1. 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!


  16. 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.

    1. You’re welcome Cheryl,

      So pleased the article helped.


  17. How do I make flesh tones with oil paint?

  18. 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!


    1. 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.


  19. 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

    1. 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,


  20. 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.

    1. 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.


  21. 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.

    1. 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,

  22. 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.

  23. 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?


    1. 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.


  24. 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.

    1. 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.


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

    1. Hey Loretta, Enjoy looking around!

  26. 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

    1. 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.



  27. 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!! :)


    1. 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?


  28. Hi Will,

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


    1. 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,

  29. 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?

  30. 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?

    1. 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.


  31. 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.

    1. 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.


  32. 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

    1. Hi David,

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


  33. 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

    1. 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,



  34. 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?

    1. 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.


      1. 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.

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

    1. Thanks Sugumaje,

      Glad you’re enjoying the site,



  36. 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

  37. 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.

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


  38. 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.

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


  39. 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

  40. 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?

    1. 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!


      1. 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!!!

        1. 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,

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

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

  42. 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.

    1. 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.


  43. 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 ^^

    1. 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.


      1. 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,

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

    1. Cheers Stephanie, pleased you’re enjoying the site.


  45. 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!

  46. 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,

    1. 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!


  47. Thank you, would like to subscribe, not sure how

    1. 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)

  48. 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?

    1. 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.



  49. 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

    1. 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,


      1. Thank you Will.

  50. so helpful for the beginner painter- thankyou!

    1. You’re welcome Ali, pleased it helped.

  51. 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?

    1. 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.


  52. 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!


    1. 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!


  53. 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.

    1. 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.


  54. 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!

    1. 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.


  55. 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

    1. 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.


  56. 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?

    Marie-Jeanne (MJ)

    1. 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


  57. 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,

    1. 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.


  58. 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?

    1. 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.


  59. 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

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


  60. 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!

    1. Hi Amy,

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


  61. 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

    1. 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,


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

  62. 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?

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


  63. 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!!

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


  64. 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!

  65. 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?

    1. 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.


  66. 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

    1. 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.

  67. 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,


    1. Hi Sarah,

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



  68. 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?!

    1. Hi Krystal,

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

      Hope it helps,


  69. 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.

  70. 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?

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


  71. 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.

    1. 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,


      1. 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.


        1. 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.


          1. Will look forward to it.


  72. 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?

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


      1. Thanks for the reply

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

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


      1. Thnx Will

  74. 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!

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



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

    1. Thanks Zeal, pleased you found it helpful.

  76. 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!

    1. 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.

  77. 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.

    Gene Alvin aka “Aelf”

    1. 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.



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

  79. 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!

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

  80. 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.

    1. 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,

  81. 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.

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

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

        1. 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.


  82. 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 :)

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

  83. 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?


    1. 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.

  84. 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

    1. 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.


  85. 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?


    1. 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.


  86. 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.

  87. 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

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


  88. 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!

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


  89. 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?

    1. 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,

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

  90. 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…

    1. 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?

  91. 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!

    1. 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,

  92. 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 !!

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

  93. 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.

    1. 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,


      1. 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!

  94. 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!

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

  95. Dear Will,
    Firstly thank you so much for all your wonderful classes. They have really been a big help.

    I am going to make the jump from acrylic to oil and am wondering if you can recommend a limited pallet for classical landscape painting? I am inspired by Constable, Turner and the Hudson Valley School.

    Thanks in advance for your time.

    1. Hi Kevin,

      You can produce some great landscapes using the same basic palette with a couple of extras for speed.

      Cadmium Yellow Light, Permanent alizarin crimson, Burnt umber, Ultramarine Blue and Titanium White.
      You can add a Burnt or Raw sienna or yellow ochre for more muted greens and a Phthalo Blue Green (can be called winsor blue) if you want more vivid blues.

      On the Impressionistic seascape course, the only colours used initially are: Burnt umber, Ultramarine blue and Raw sienna. This will give you a good muted base you can add stronger pigmented colours too.

      Hope this helps,


  96. My god I’ve learned so much. Thank you will.

  97. hi,thanks for explaining the difference thats what i thought and you explained it wonderfully easily for me to understand ,thanks.

    1. Thanks Karen, pleased you found it helpful.

  98. Hi Will
    Incredible resource you’ve set up here!
    I’m struggling to choose between acrylics and oils for portraiture. I prefer the look of oils as they can appear softer, more true to life and muted. However I’m seduced by acrylics drying times and low odour.
    Is this possible to achieve a more natural look with acrylics or a faster drying time coupled with reduced odour with oils?
    Any direction on this would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Hi Donna, pleased you’re enjoying the site, your question is very timely as I’m launching a brand new acrylic colour portrait course tomorrow which addresses these very problems, of achieving natural skin tones with acrylics. Look out for the announcement on the blog as I’ll be running a launch week offer!

  99. Hey Will,
    Reading your article was of great help. I will be making a canvas painting for which I will be blending colours. Also, I need the piece to have a smooth, soft look. After reading your article, I think using oils would be good. Your views?


    1. Hi Harjas, yes the oils will make it easiest to create a smooth soft look.

  100. Hi Will, I think acrylics have to be my staple because they are so much easier to use and leaving paintings to dry for a year before varnishing is too much. I have bought a small set of oils though and done a couple of small pictures and found the oil paint to have a lovely quality of its own, kind of rich and beautiful so perhaps I will keep making the odd small canvas painting. Is it ok to use the same brushes for oil and use the same ones for acrylic too or is it best to keep a separate set for each?

    1. Hi Dave, ideally you would have a separate set of brushes for each as the residue of oil/turpentine can change the characteristics of the brush and the handling of the paint, and sometimes you might use a coarser brush to more easily move the oil paint around the canvas.

      1. Thanks Will, I’ll keep them separate to be on the safe side.

  101. Hi

    Im really struggling to string together bursts of thick painting with oils because of the drying time, however i am worried that with acrylic, is it still possible to scrape and clean the canvas as you can with oil? When the acrylic has dried (and it is on thick) will the canvas be unusable or is there a way of scraping it down?

    (also, any thoughts on how the medium effects the price of painting, does acrylic still have the stigma of an inferior, less valuable medium than oil?)

    Thanks in advance


    1. Hi Luke, you won’t be able to scrape and clean the canvas down with acrylics as you can with oils. If working with oils in thick impasto you can use a medium such as Oleopasto medium from Winsor and Newton which is a quick drying impasto gel.
      Hope this helps,


  102. Wow I recently began painting again after many years. I started with acrylics because that was prevalent at the art store. I painted several times and noticed the color change once dry. I researched oils and decide to try oils. Loved the colors but didn’t anticipate the SLOW drying. That changes everything. I have paint everywhere haha. I’m learning!!

    1. I need some paintings to be ready before Christmas. What about doing the background colors of my oil paintings with acrylic? Unheard of?

      1. Hi Carla, yes that would work, oils on acrylic, just not acrylic on oils.

  103. Hi Will. I have a question. A little unrelated to your others. LOL
    My fiancee and I have some amazing paintings done by his mother. She passed 15 months ago. We are trying to decipher which ones are oils and which are acrylic. Also, she is a well known artist in our area having had some of her painting hang in local banks and museums. She was also a well known and loved, long time art teacher here for many, many years. She was definitely an eccentric French artist!! How do we go about marketing her art work for sale? It seems such a shame to have them wasting away in storage. You would be amazed at her talent. I know they are worth something. Where do we go to market them? To find out their worth? I would appreciate any and all advice you are willing to share. I really enjoyed this blog. Thanks so very much for your time.
    Jamie Romantic

    1. Hi Jamie, the easiest way to determine if they are oils or acrylics is to smell them. The acrylics would be practically odourless. In terms of marketing your fiancee’s mothers paintings, its hard to have a one size fits all approach as there are different approaches for different styles. However, If she was a well known artist in the area that would be the first area to market, as previous buyers would be more likely to expand their existing collections.

  104. Hi Will,
    I just started painting with acrylics and found your website while looking for some advice on painting (being a total novice). Thank you so much for all the information you have made available. It’s awesome! One question – can I do a background using thinned acrylics and let it dry overnight and then paint over it when it’s dry with quicker-drying ones? Sorry if this is a stupid question, but I am just learning.
    Thank you so much.

    1. Hi Yayoi, pleased you’ve been finding the site helpful, you’ll be able to paint a thin acrylic and then paint ontop with a few minutes. If you where working in oils you would leave a thin colour overnight to dry and then paint with thicker paint the next day.

      Hope this helps,

  105. Thanks Will, this helped me a lot.

  106. can you use acrylic instead of oil paint? x

    1. Hi Emma, it depends what you’re trying to achieve?

      1. Well I’m supposed to be using oil paint to experiment with before I get back to school but my teacher has not shown me how to use it and I don’t have any so I was wondering if I could just use acrylic instead? x

        1. Hi Emma, they have similar properties when mixing colours (because you are adding white to the paints unlike watercolours) and you can achieve similar results, the main big difference is the drying times between the two.

  107. Hi Will! I’m working on a impasto painting for class and we’re required to use oil. I’ve tried impasto but only with acrylic and I was wondering how the end product will turn out? Thick blobs of acrylic dry kinda “rubbery” and they keep shape. Will oils be the same (albeit drying much slower) or will they sink? Thanks!!!

    1. Hi Anisia, on thick passages with straight oil paint it will take a long time for the paint to dry, so I would recommend using a quick drying impasto paste for oil paint, the Liquin Oleopasto from Winsor & Newton is good.

      Hope this helps,


  108. Maybe slightly off-topic, but what do you think of Alkyd paints? When I was doing A-level I got put off oils because they took ages to dry (especially mine because I didn’t realise you were supposed to massage the tubes, so when I squeezed the paint out I got an extra helping of oil!) At that time they had only just came out, and I used them, and quite liked them. Would be good to hear a professional artists opinion about these paints.

    1. Hi Peter, Alkyd paints can be great to use if you want a faster drying time to your oil paints and you can achieve some really nice results with them.


  109. Thank you for all this information, it has open my eyes to a whole world of painting. I’m just getting into painting and found this articular very easy to understand and helpful.

    1. Great to hear it Kevin, pleased you found it helpful.

  110. Hi Will,
    I’m really glad that I found your website. Although I’ve been painting a number of years and have almost completely taught myself to paint, I feel that I still have a ways to go before reaching my potential as an artist. In this regard I feel I will be able to use your lessons to make good headway toward my artistic goals. One of my goals is to be able to make a living from painting. Sadly to say this has not been the case. It isn’t that my work is bad. I have been commissioned a few times, 7 to be exact, and made decent money. I also have my work on FinaArtAmerica, been there for the last 5 years, and though my work gets lots of hits (overt 9,000 hits for some pieces) no one buys anything–except for selling 2 or 3 prints of my “mating lions.”
    So my question is: would you be able to offer suggestions or point me in a direction where selling my art regularly becomes possible? How do I get into a good gallery? Do I need an agent? If you’d like to see my work, please visit

    Thank you kindly for any feedback.

    1. Hi George, hope you’re doing well and really pleased you’ve been finding the articles helpful. Regarding making a living from your paintings, different approaches suit different painters so its hard to give a one size fits all answer, but the best thing I’ve found to start with is to focus on one market, and then build from there. For example, if your lions print sold (or the print that has had the most views) gives you a good indication of a subject matter that is saleable. Then you can start to think around where people who are interested in wildlife would go. It could be a local travel agents that sells safari’s or a forum interested in protection of lions. This will give you a more specific focus to start with and will be easier to gain momentum.

      Hope this helps,

  111. Hi Will, THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH!!!! Giving all the time, effort, and generosity, sharing your amazing talent and gifts, is such a blessing for us all!!! I just found you after giving up the search for an art class in NYC that could teach me just the technique for working with oils. (Futile to say the least.) I have many questions, but my first is; Do you paint with more than one medium? Do you find that oil paintings are taken more seriously insofar as $ value?—–Thank you again for your wonderful support.

    Blessings, Joni

    1. Hey Joni, thanks for your kind words, yes, I paint with oils, acrylics and watercolours. In terms of $ amount for oil paintings it really varies on subject matter. If you’re painting more classical moody scenes having the painting in oils can add a ‘heritage’. But more and more high end galleries are as keen on acrylics due to the long archival qualities, but personally I would match the medium to the qualities in painting you’re trying to achieve.


  112. hello will,
    i am a mechanical engineer but painting is my hobby and do not have any guide for artist like work. but tries to learn things from internet.
    i am happy to get lot of answers to my questions on this site.i loved your work.and would love to learn a lot from here.
    till now i am using oil paints for painting.recently i have developed an interest in doing heavy impasto and palette knife painting.i am interested in exploring right technique but struggling for correct materials at affordable cost.
    i have never used acrylics but i understand that acrylics are better for impasto and palette knife painting.
    i am confused whether to continue with oil or use acrylics.

    1. Hi Manish, you can create heavy impasto work with both mediums, it’s just that with acrylics the thicker paint will dry much, much quicker. What you can do to your oil paints is add a quick drying medium such as Oleopasto from Windsor & Newton to help speed up the drying time.

  113. Hello Will,
    I am trying to choose between buying regular oil paint or the new oil paint that mixes with water. I have used the traditional oils in the past but don’t like their smell.

    The problem is I have read of a few problems with the new paint:
    If thinned too much with water the paint doesn’t want to stick to the surface,
    The finished product is not as shinny as a regular oil painting,
    A loaded paintbrush does not go as far as with regular oils,
    Adding the quick-dry medium greatly reduces the painting’s life,
    If have added a medium then adding water will make paint sticky.

    What is your opinion?

    By the way I am amazed at the length of time you have kept up this one post and the speed of your responses. Thank you so much for this service.


    1. Hi Gloria, nice to hear from you, water mixable oils can be a good alternative for working without the smell of turpentine. They do have different working properties than traditional oils but the best way is just to try a couple of tubes and see if you like the feel on the paints. You can still achieve some fantastic results with them you just have to be aware of the differences.

  114. What makes various brands and colors of oil paint safe or not? Is one kind of paint (oil, acrylic, watercolor) safer than another kind?

    A number of years ago I discarded all my oil paint. An aging artist friend of mine had some serious health issues blamed on her years using leaded paints. I bought acrylic paints thinking they were so much healthier. Thinking back I see my assumption was rather naive. All paint needs to be treated with respect. But there you go.

    For the last several years I have used, and fought with, acrylics. I know they have their place but not for someone attempting to paint portraits!

    I am back to wanting to use oils again but am leery about making that purchase. There are so many brands (how do I choose?) and so many dangerous ingredients (lead, zinc, etc.) that I am stymied. I discarded my oils for safety reasons. I don’t want to consciously buy back similar materials.

    So I am hoping if I tell you what I want you can give me some suggestions:
    I want oils made with safe ingredients, as safe as possible considering they aren’t meant to be food.
    I want mediums that have low odor. The room I paint in has great ventilation in the summer but not so great the rest of the year.
    And I want professional, quality products that are known to stand up to the test of time. I’ve read about this paint reacting with that medium and becoming gummy, or this paint mixed with that medium cracking after a few years. Etc. Probably too much research. Maybe there is no right answer. Still. Buying a whole new set of paints and brushes is not cheap and I would like to make the best use of my money as possible.

    Can you help me?


    1. Hi Gloria, the toxic levels of oils are usually due to either the pigments used or the mediums used to dilute the paints. You can create non-toxic oil paintings if you keep to a muted earth tone palette and use a non-toxic medium to dilute the oil paints such as walnut oil. You might be interested in Leah Mebane’s range of Natural Earth paints.

  115. Thank you. I’ve never heard of natural oil paints. I thought that was only a thing from the medieval era. Thank you for your effort to find this information for me. Have you or anyone you know used these type of paints? I wonder if the pigments are like the old masters used and if they will stand the test of time.

  116. Hi Will,

    Im pretty new to this, actually as new as just having finished skatching my picture. I have got acryllic paints, canvas and brushes as a Christmas gift and I got so excited that I want to paint pretty much, so I’m learning the basics through video demonstrations and comments. I read about acryllic colors not smelling – which is not a case with my paints. They stink pretty much, that much actually I thought at first they must be toxic or something! What are good acryllic paint brands? What could be the reason why my paints are smelling? Maybe they are not the real stuff? If that’s the case, I’m rather buying me the proper acryllic paints to get the full experience! Once acryllic paint has dried on the canvas, can it be diluted with water?

    Your site is lovely and explains nice the differences between the acryllic and oil paints. According to described, I could say I’d rather go for acryllics at least at the beginning, to start with.. Later when have gained experience with acryllics I could give a try to oils. Thanks for the tips here.

    1. Hi Vanessa,

      Most artist quality paints have very little odour, if any, but with many hobby paints the fillers that have been used to extend the colours of the paints can cause a stronger smell. Standard Acrylics can’t be diluted again with water once they have dried, although specialised acrylics like Atelier Interactive paints can be ‘re-wetted’ I’ve just released an absolute beginners acrylic course you might find of interest, on the course I demonstrate with standard artist acrylics.

  117. what medium of paint gives us more realistic paintings?i have been using only acrylic paints.they are extremly comfortable but i dont find them looking realistic,especially potraits.could you advice me which paints to use to get realistic paintings on would be of great help to me :)

    1. Hi Hana, if you’re after a super photorealist finish it can be achieved with acrylics you might find Jason’s painting of interest to see the level of detail possible.


  118. This is really helpful for anyone–either new or having painted for a long time. I have been at it for a long time and sometimes go in spurts. Just starting wit ha painting knife and love it. I always go back to acrylics. Oils are slow and and also hard to use unless you have a decent size studio. Thanks for all of this.

  119. Hi Will. I stumbled upon this website today, after a near 6 month hiatus from painting following a less than graceful departure from school halfway through my art degree. One of the reasons for my disillusionment with academia was that I felt I was receiving very little instruction in technique – many of my professors simply turned us loose without providing the framework that would allow us to develop our skills. I just wanted to thank you for providing such a wealth of concise (not to mention free) information.

    1. You’re more than welcome Emily, really hope you find the articles and tutorials helpful in your journey back to the Easel!

  120. Hi Will, thank you for your article. I used to paint in oils many moons ago, but I have been ill and disabled for 26 years now and I feel ready to dip my toe into the genre again. However, I want to start small and easy with proper oil painting by numbers set. I have Acrylic number sets but, due to my fluctuating illness, I need to be able to leave the painting and come back to it hours or a couple of days later. I found I could do this with oil paints but not acrylic paint. I am looking for an adult proper oil painting by numbers kit that isn’t too big. Something about 12″ x 10″, ot there abouts. I have looked a every website I can find but the smaller the canvas/board, the more juvenile the picture. This is fine for children but not for me. Have you any suggestions please Will? Thank you very much. I live in England but don’t mind buying from overseas to acquire what I want. Thank you so much.

    1. Hi Dot, nice to hear from you, I haven’t personally used a paint-by-numbers so I’m not sure of how the different brands vary, but hobbycraft do a range you might find of interest.
      Hope this helps,


  121. Thank you, you just inspired me :) I am going to be next Picasso

  122. i want to paint a picture which was originally done by oil colors, so can i use acrylics instead?

    1. Yes, you definitely can, you just might find some of the smooth blending more difficult with acrylics, depending on the subject matter of the painting.

  123. Hi Will,
    Absolutely fantastic site. A great inspiration. I am finding my acrylic landscapes too realistic and want to head to a more “painterly” approach. I am a big a admirer of Donald McIntyre’s style. I was thinking that I would need to switch to oils but maybe I can still achieve that approach with acrylic and brush working with thicker layers?

    1. Hi Dave, pleased you’re enjoying the site, yes you could definitely achieve that effect with acrylics similar to Donald’s painting style.

  124. Hi Will

    I have just started my art painting course (for beginners) a few weeks ago and I am loving it. We only used Acrylic paints so far and I am struggling with blending and shading in my paintings trying to make my paintings look more 3D than 2D. So I’m considering switching to oil paints.
    Do you suggest I switch to oil paints or continue with acrylics and try to improve on my techniques?

    Thanking you

    1. Hi Taahirah, it often depends on the level of smoothness and blending you’re trying to achieve. Working with acrylics to create a smooth blend is excellent training in developing your brush handling and paint handling techniques. You’ll find if you’ve got to a good stage of blending with acrylics when you then try oils the process will be much much easier. Have a look at this lesson on blending a 3D form with acrylics and see how you get on.
      Hope this helps,


  125. Great post.
    I use the “dead colouring layer” technique in all my paintings and turpentine is my friend. I have run into all the issues you mentioned when using oil and a lot of turpentine, but that is how I paint. Any suggestions on how to keep the colors vibrant? I have tried the windsor newton, maybe not applying it right, but no success. In my own experience, Windsor Newton paint has really changed the past year or so, no matter where I buy it from….

    1. Hi Sarah, when diluting the paint with turpentine it will always dull the paint and make them less vibrant, the more turpentine you use the less vibrant and dull the paint will be, making it a ‘dead colour’ It’s usually the gloss of the oil that will make a paint feel richer, and as you add turpentine it becomes more matte and flat.
      Hope this helps,


  126. Hi Will,

    I found your tutorial videos very helpful especially the how to paint still life of a single red cherry. I am new at this and enjoy using acrylics very much. I would probably eventually want to use oils in time but for now I truly enjoy working with acrylics as I have a very small place to work from with little ventilation.

    Thank you for all your helpful tips and suggestions. I will from now on try to only select better Artist grade acrylics to work from as I do notice the difference visually. They are more expensive but are worth the extra cost.

    Kanata, Ontario

    1. Hi Diane, great to hear it, really pleased you found the cherry painting demo helpful. The artist grade titanium white will make the biggest difference in your mixes, hope you enjoy experimenting with them.

  127. After reading your article here on choosing acrylics or oils, where I have learned and truly GRASPED the information, I like both mediums and feel quite natural at wanting to learn and master techniques for not only oil and acrylics, but for watercolors and pastels. I am soooo excited about discovering the artist within me — and yes, I was scared at first to finally admit that I can draw and paint — and feel truly blessed to find your ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC website!

    Thank you, Will, from the bottom of my heart and the depths of my soul, for so graciously and energetically sharing your knowledge and wisdom of art with me and the world for the incredible and unbelievable price of free! May Father God’s infinite blessings continue to rain down on, and be upon, you ALWAYS!

    Grateful and appreciative of you,

    Antoinette — Queens, New York

    P.S.: Today is the first day of my visiting your site. I had “Googled”: “How to use gesso and why?” and your website was listed, THANK GOD!

    1. Hi Antoinette,

      Great to hear from you and thanks for your kind words on the tutorials, so pleased you’re feeling inspired and really hope you enjoy exploring the site.

  128. I love the feel and color intensity of oils. I have just started, and Lukas 1862 was recommended for me. So far, brilliant, beautiful primary colors, and such ease to spread on a prepped canvas. I have one dry so far, and 3 more in process of drying – no mediums, just the paint. I am in grad school online, so am painting as creative stress relief… I have lots of time to allow for drying and any edits I want on them.

    1. Pleased you’re enjoying working with oils Julie.

  129. Thank you so much for your advice. I’ve learned so much from you.
    What is your opinion on water soluble oils?

    1. Pleased to hear it Nancy, you can get some good results with water soluble oils, but if you use water to thin the paint it will evaporate on your palette just like acrylics and the paint can dry and thicken much quicker than standard oils. Also, just thinned with water the paint can be quite thin and watercolour like depending on the brand you use.


      1. Thank you for your response. What brand of water soluble oils would you recommend?

        1. Hi Nancy, the ‘Holbein’s Duo Aqua’ are a good choice.

  130. Hi Will, oil had been my choice for painting. I love the blending for landscapes but now practicing with acrylics , frustrating at times with the drying time and the blending. Enjoy your articles and hints. Thank you.


    1. Thanks Dianne, pleased you’re enjoying experimenting between the mediums.

  131. Thank you for the article. I worked with oil first time when I was 13 years old. After in my art school I tried watercolors, gouache, acrylics, ink etc, but I never really thought about the difference between oil and acrylics…only now after reading your article I’m conciously realized why I picked this or those for my particular painting. By my experience I would prefer oil when u painting realistic portraits, nature,.. when u need “classic” palette and you are ready to work on it long time. And when I wanted to paint modern/contemporary artwork with bright colors, very fast and expressive I chose acrylics. Sorry for my english. Im from Europe, and english is my secondary language,I hope everybody will understand what I wanted to say :-)

    1. Hi Joanna, nice to hear from you and pleased you found the article of interest, sounds like a good balance between the mediums.

  132. Hi Will,
    So happy I found your site. Began painting about 10 yrs old with those good old paint-by-number sets, and I was instantly hooked. Hooked on oils. Didn’t really discover or work with Acrylics until I was at Penn State – mid 1970s – majoring in Chemical Engineering (of all things! I’m also a musician). Became a huge YES fan, and therefore a huge Roger Dean fan, and so of course I experimented a lot with mixing oil and acrylics wet-in-wet; never via air-brush though – all hand brushing.

    Sadly, it became career time, and for 30 years my love for painting, and to some extent music, has been on hold. But now I’ve been forcibly retired, and want to get back to both. I prefer Acrylics (or mixed Acrylics/Oils) for more modernistic or abstract works because the colors always seem a little brighter and more vibrant to me than Oils, but I also really love to do old style landscape and still life work with Oils alone. But first, as you suggest, I’m reviewing fundamentals and beginning with Drawing. You know, I’m still consistently surprised by how quickly we can forget things that were once second nature, if we neglect them for some years.

    So I’m off and running once again – thanks to you! Maybe I’ll go now and paint some happy little trees…(I always admired much about Bob Ross’s style of Git ‘er Done, as well…never saw anyone generate complete oil landscapes so quickly)

    Best Regards,

    1. Hey Mark, great to hear from you and so pleased you’ve feeling inspired with your paintings, good luck with the tutorials.

  133. P.S. Armed with your sections on paint selection, and your video on brushes, I’m about ready to get started. Less is more. Less is more. Less is more. Om

    1. Ha, ha, yes less is more is an excellent mantra to start with.

  134. I am getting ready to start painting and this article was great. I live in an apartment and will be painting mostly on the covered patio. We have very nice weather here in the bay area of northern calif. Which paint will be better if painting outside? The odor is not an issue, just no room in my small studio apt.

    1. Hi Jeff, if you’re painting outside having a water based or traditional oil paint will give you more working time. When paints are outside the wind and warm climate can dry acrylics much quicker as they dry by evaporation (oils dry by oxidation)

      Hope this helps,


  135. Hi Will,
    I’m new at painting and find it very enjoying and frustrating at the same time if that makes any sense.LOL!!! I found a love for it when I learned how to Faux paint an interior wall, and decided to try out painting on a canvas. Well, I bought acrylic paints and started to become frustrated on some of them bc of the blending and drying way too fast! Especially when it came to painting a realistic ocean wave that didn’t look realistic at all.LOL!!! I started watching you tube video’s and came across some Bob Ross videos and fell in love with his techniques on how to make water look realistic and noticed he used oil paints. I did some research and fell in love with the idea of oil paints and the slow drying time. I just bought a, “Master’s Touch oil color art set” along with,” Odorless Mineral Spirits (Bc I have an 8 yr. old daughter) and two 16″ x 20″ Dbl. Primed Canvas’s. My question is, Do I still need to use the wet on wet method to achieve the blending technique with oil paints on a pre primed, stretched canvas, or can I just start painting on it, and still get that realistic look in painting landscapes? If I still need to do the wet on wet with my Primed Canvas can I use the Odorless Mineral Spirits I have and some Titanium white oil paint to make it a liquid white? Sorry, that was more than one question…They make it look easy in the you tube video’s, but don’t explain if you buy a primed canvas ,you still need to use the wet on wet with oil paint. Its really frustrating bc I want to paint on these really bad and not mess up bc I don’t have a lot of money to spend. So i’m scared to start without knowing for a fact if I should or shouldn’t use the wet on wet with oil paint. Thank you for taking the time to read this. Sincerely,

    1. Hi Robyn,

      To answer your question:

      Do I still need to use the wet on wet method to achieve the blending technique with oil paints

      Yes, any paint, watercolour, acrylics or oil will only blend together when wet into wet. The liquid white technique is a method used by Bob Ross for his style of painting that applies a layer of slow drying white to the surface. Adding OMS will thin your white but speed up the drying process so won’t act the same as the branded liquid white that he demonstrates with.
      Hope this helps,


  136. Hi thank you very much for sharing your knowledge of art, it’s so very kind of you. I have learnt so much from reading just a few articles, that I am going to make a point of reading all I can find on line.
    My question is can you use a varnish on acrylic paint? I find its dull finish a bit, well dull really. I like the shine you see on the old masters, it makes a dark back ground colour look so much more interesting .

    1. Hi Georgina, pleased you’ve been enjoying the articles, yes you can use a varnish on acrylics, a gloss would be best for adding the shine similar to Old Master paintings. You might find this article of interest.

  137. I use acrylic paint only and I love it! Acrylic is the best paint I’ve ever used and I really enjoying using it.

  138. Thank you so much for this article. I started painting in oil about 20 years ago mostly because that was the medium my grandfather used. I have lived in a series of small spaces which have prevented me from having a space where I could leave my supplies set up and thus it has been at least 5 years since I have painted with them. I really miss it and was thinking about trying acrylics; however, after reading your article I do not think I would like working with them. It seems that I would run into the same frustrations that encountered when I tried watercolors the lack of time to manipulate the paint on the canvas.

    1. Hi Sarah, you might find water-based oils to be the best choice, you can clean up with water and don’t need to use solvents, the handling properties are slightly different that standard oils but they will give you more working time that acrylics.
      Hope this helps,


  139. Hi…
    I am beginner for Spray paintings…, i have some doubts
    1.i would like to know SPRAY PAINT BOTTLE requirements…?
    2. can we mix ACRYLIC PAINTS and OIL PAINTS while painting..?
    3. which one is better for beginners..?
    and help me to get through…

    1. Hi Keerthi, you can spray paint with acrylics such as Montana brand, you can paint oils ontop of acrylics but not acrylics ontop of oils.

      1. I’ve produced some really interesting results from spraying them together, using oils in one airbrush, and acrylics in a second airbrush (with a drying retarder) at the same time. It produces really wild textured marble-like effects. I found it really difficult to get the mixture of paint and media just right, as well as spraying with both hands at the same time, but had lots of fun with it.
        I understand Roger Dean was a master at mixing “un-mixable” media in this way (ref: Roger Dean: Visions)

        1. Cheers Mark, thanks for sharing your experience when spraying both together.

  140. Hello Will, I’ve just finished reading the info about ‘oils v acrylics.’ I’m a bit bewildered by some things because painting is a relatively knew experience for me. I started with watercolors but the quick drying time made me feel pressured. I then switched to acrylics and had a bash with those… I had some success but once again the drying time was yet a factor. In the autumn of last year I had a go with oils and I’ve taken to it like a duck to water. I love painting with oils! However, I’m still confused with how to work… someone said start lean and build up with thicker layers of paint. Another said work fat to lean. Also, I do a grounding before I paint using Yellow Ochre on a double primed pre-stretched canvass. Help me out here Will. Many thanks, Sylvia.

    1. Hi Sylvia, when working with oils if you’re working using a ‘in-direct’ method the classical technique is to work ‘fat over lean’ so the further the painting progresses the thicker the layers and the more oil (fat) is in the paint medium. If you’re painting ‘alla-prima’ you don’t have to worry so much about the differences in the medium.


  141. Will, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer my question…. it’s a big help to me and I’ll work ‘fat over lean’ from now on. I think it’s wonderful of you to help so many of us who are trying to learn to paint properly… your desire to help is very apparent. I want to do an impressionistic painting so, I watched your demo using acrylics. I’ll watch it again so that I’ve got it in my head and I intend to do your beginner acrylic course. I don’t want to be restricting myself to one medium. Says I…lol!

    You’re a real gem of a guy for helping all of us! Thanks again, Sylvia

    1. You’re welcome Sylvia, hope you enjoyed the demo.

  142. I did enjoy the demo Will, and big thank you to you!

    Your demo was very informative and your explanations were clear, concise and easy to follow… that makes it so much easier for me since I didn’t have a clue how to paint using impressionistic strokes. Tomorrow I’ll watch a second time and a third if necessary. What I found intriguing was the way that you blocked in colors first then, built upon that. I also watched the ‘Cherry’ composition too and learned a lot from that. From now on I intend to ‘block’ in and do it your way. Also, your colour theory lessons have been a god-send.

    Will, you’ve no idea how happy I am having you as an online resource and to watch real demos too. I live in a rural location with no neighbours… the nearest art class is 90 minutes away and I can’t get to it in the long winter months with all the snow. I’m a Scot living in Michigan and I’ve never seen so much snow in all my life.

    Thank so much again! I’m very appreciative. Sylvia

    1. You’re more than welcome Sylvia, yes blocking in can be so helpful to see the tonal range in your picture and start to build the composition quickly without getting too engrossed in the details.


  143. Hi Will,

    Thank you for this very clear article. I would like to start painting, and having dabbled very very little with paints, I’m instinctively attracted to acrylics, I think because they appear simpler (no worry about multiple solvents, water will do, dry quick etc.). I also will paint in my living room in London (not big) and I have a small child so toxicity is an issue. But I have a friend who paints, he’s good and uses oils… he’s kind of discouraging me from acrylics, criticizing them for being more amateurish and plasticky. I don’t know.. I feel stupid for even asking this here, but why is it that he says that? Is it a common perception and does it have any foundation at all or with today’s paint quality it is only snobism?

    I look forward to seeing more of your website. Thanks a lot for your instruction!

    1. Hi Frank, as with all mediums it depends what you do with them and the style of painting you’re trying to create. Oils can still have an ‘Oil on canvas’ factor in comparison to acrylics but modern acrylics are a much different material than when they were first developed and the quality of the pigments used today are excellent in artist quality acrylics. You can also use water mixable oils which enable you to work without solvents yet have a bit extra working time if you want to experience working with oils.


      Hope this helps,


  144. Hi Will, after reading your ‘oil vs. acrylic’ article, I realize I may do better with oils to begin with. I understand the reasoning behind buying the best paints one can afford and am wondering what brands/colors to begin with in oils? I am a total beginner, only having taken a very enjoyable watercolor class with an excellent teacher 30 years ago.
    Thank you for your help!

  145. Thanks! This is just the information I was looking for. I haven’t painted since high school, but I really want to do a large 24×24 painting of my deceased dog. I have a photo I want to use as my inspiration. Thanks to your information, I am going to use acrylics because they lack a strong odor, and because the majority of my painting will be various shades of white, I do not want yellowing to occur.

    I’m ready to go get supplies!

    1. Good one Sarah, good luck with your painting.

  146. Hi!
    I have long been experience in pencil/graphite portraits but I have longed to oil/acrylic paint portraits on canvas. I’ve read so many articles about which to use and I’m still so torn. I strictly do portraits (I can do other things but have always had a passion for portraits). It seems that oil would be the best for more realistic paintings which is what I’m shooting for but the drying time scares me. I have a young child, small spaces, and am a beginner. My customer base usually like 8X10-11X14 so pretty small and usually want it withing 1-3 weeks. Any help!? I can’t decide which would be best

    1. Hi May, you could use a water mixable oil which would give you some more working time yet be able to work without solvents, this video shows a nice comparison of the drying time of water mixable oil.
      Hope this helps,


  147. Hi will,

    Recently trying colors (Acrylics) on Metal (Tin), but because of its quick drying nature when I use any retarder, it affects the actual colors, not happy with the output, is there any other thing I should use while painting on Tin ? can i use the paint, used for painting on walls as they are also water based.
    I have already removed all the rust and used the primer on it, it is a 4ft * 3ft surface.

    1. Hi Sanjoy, you could try enamel paint that will give you a slower drying paint that adheres well directly to tin, it can be more expensive though due to the size of the surface you’re working onto as is often used for small-scale model work.
      Hope this helps,


  148. Hi!

    I wanted to paint abstract art on a Formica sheet. What paint I should use, I want the art to look bright. Acrylic or oil paint?

    Your help most appreciated>
    Thank You!

    1. Hi Henry, I would use Acrylics.

      1. Dear Kemp,
        Thank you very much for your mail.
        I wanted to ask you another question.
        1. can ceramic paints be used on Formica sheets?
        2. If ceramic paints can be used on Formica sheets ,how do I do it.
        I would appreciate if you can let me know the above.
        Thank you!
        With Best Wishes!

        1. Hi Henry, nice to hear from you, I haven’t personally tried ceramic paints on Formica so wouldn’t want to say for sure, I would try contacting the technical department from the brand of ceramic paints you’re using and they’ll be able to give you specifics on the adhesion qualities of the paint onto Formica.

  149. I paint with oils and acrilics.I have been painting since I was in high school in 1965.I like painting scenery deer bear and like Covered bridges the best.Growing up in Vermont gaves me a love for covered bridges. I live in North Carolina now.There is a man that wants me to his gallery.I am working on a painting of the village of Pomfret Vt.Also working on a covered bridge The West Arlington Bridge Arlington bridge.I want to try oil egg tempra.

  150. Hi, Will

    My 16 year old daughter is absolutely a fantastic sketcher/draw. She just recently draw my grandsons picture and was astonish how good she is and made me thought that I think she should go in to painting. She has a talent that cant be denied.I started to search of an art school for her to do after school and they have acrylic painting around my area and also stumbled on your website which I think was very helpful for me and her.

    Thank you!

    1. You’re welcome Arlene, hope you can both find the lessons helpful in developing your drawing and painting skills.

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