Dear Art Nerd,
What’s the difference between oil and acrylic and watercolor paint?
Well, the names of the paints. There. That’s what’s different.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME YOU’RE A LOVELY AUDIENCE THANK YOU, THANK YOU-
Okay, so there’s a bit more to that answer than just the names. Watercolor is cheaper than acrylic, acrylic is cheaper than oil, and all of them are an absolute paint to clean up afterwards, ha ha ha.
But seriously, there’s more than just price worked into the difference of watercolor vs. acrylic vs. oil. For instance: drying time. Oil takes longer to dry than acrylic and watercolor, for example. There’s also the matter of how much time you’re willing to put in…but let’s stop beating around the bush here.
Watercolor is so named because the pigments are suspended in something that’s water soluble. Not to mention the fact that the colors of watercolor are, more often than not, transparent and “lighter” than the other paints. It’s a very light kind of painting, and while it can be made more opaque by way of adding Chinese white, its charm usually comes in how bright everything looks afterwards.
Acrylic paint dries quickly and, although it can be doused with water and diluted, it’s water-resistant when dry. Acrylics are very versatile, in that they can look just as light as light as watercolor or just as opaque as oil when modified and/or diluted. The key is that they are cheaper than oil, but it’s harder to give off the same kind of shine and/or glow that oil tends to have when it’s finished.
And that’s what makes oil very lovely when used by painters. Oil takes the longest to dry out of all of them, and it tends to look the best. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to use if one can’t quite get the details in when necessary. There needs to be procedure, mastery, and all kinds of very small things to think about when painting with oil. There needs to be enough paint. The canvas must be stretched far enough. The artist needs to have a plan in mind, etc.
I heavily recommend that new artists use acrylics and watercolors before trying oil. I know from experience that it’s an absolute pain to try and paint with oil. Especially without enough experience to make it look anything other than awful.
The Art Nerd
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