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Oils vs Acrylic Paints; My Preference and Why

A few weeks ago, I was hosting a class and I was asked if I ever painted in oils. I responded pretty quickly no and gave the reasons related to not wanting to work with the chemicals to clean my brushes, thin the paint etc. I have thought about this a few times since. My Mother was an oil painter and I remember her working with Varsol and other chemicals and I think it turned me off. I did not care for the smell and having to get it on my hands. I do not even know if you still use the same type of things for oils today. I have used water-based oils several times since and they produce paintings that are rich in depth of color, and I enjoy the result other than it takes a while for them to dry. But that is one reason they are so lovely; they give you time to work with them.

On the other hand, I use acrylics almost daily, I love them and their bright colors. Time is not necessarily your friend with acrylics. Sometimes I must rush to use the paint on my palette before it begins to dry. The opposite issue of oils, but after working with them for some time I have begun to understand how to blend on the canvas and get some great looks. I find I like the challenge. I also love the brilliant colors, totally different than the richness of oil. Sometimes the colors look like they are going to vibrate off of the canvas. I like that!

I probably will not be going back to oils, but I appreciate that I was asked and as a result I took the time to think about them again. Maybe I will pull my water-based oils out for a play day soon… We’ll see!

What is your favorite medium for your art?

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  • I have never painted with oil – only acrylics and water colors. I also dye book pages, just regular RIT dye like I was dying fabric. I’ve seen some dying with wildflowers though I’ve never tried that… I want to!

    Julie JordanScott
  • Thanks for sharing and comparing oils and acrylics. I think I’ll stick to acrylics.

  • What is the best paint for painting on stones? do they have to be primed first with a base coat?

    Doug Jarvie
  • My medium to date has been pottery. The glazes act completely differently than paint since green doesn’t come from mixing yellow and blue but by the chemical reaction in the kiln. Such a metaphor for life. But I’ll tell you a secret: I’ve been wanting to try acrylics… ;-)


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