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Acrylics vs. Oils: Which is Better for Your Portrait

03 Jun 2023, 02:42 GMT+10

Portrait painting is a time-honored tradition practiced for centuries. From the early days of oil paintings to modern-day acrylics, artists have had a variety of mediums to choose from when creating their masterpieces.

With the emergence of acrylics as a famous painting medium, many artists are now wondering which is better for portrait painting: acrylics or oils?

Both mediums have unique advantages and disadvantages when it comes to portrait painting.

Understanding The Differences Between Acrylics and Oils

When it comes to painting, choosing a suitable medium is essential to achieving the desired outcome. Two of the most popular mediums for artists are acrylics and oils, with unique properties and characteristics. Understanding the differences between these two mediums is essential in choosing the right one for your artwork.

Drying Time

Acrylics are known for their fast-drying properties. While this quick-drying time allows for adding more layers to the acrylic painting in a shorter time, it can also make blending colors and corrections challenging.

Oils, on the other hand, are made of pigment suspended in oil. They are known for their slow drying time, allowing more flexibility in blending colors and making corrections. However, working with it can also be challenging, as a layer can take days or weeks to dry thoroughly.

Artwork Differences

Color is another significant difference between acrylics and oils. Acrylics tend to have a more vibrant, saturated color that remains true even after drying. Oils, however, have a softer, muted color that tends to deepen and become bolder as it dries.

The texture is another crucial difference between acrylics and oils. Acrylics dry to a hard, plastic-like finish, while oils dry to a softer, more flexible finish. Acrylics are often used for creating modern, contemporary artworks with bold, graphic lines, while oils are for traditional, realistic paintings with softer, more subtle cues.

Longevity and Preservation

Acrylics are known for their ability to resist fading and cracking over time. Their synthetic polymer forms a durable, plastic-like film over the artwork's surface. This film is resistant to the effects of environmental factors that can cause damage to the painting.

Conversely, oils can be more susceptible to fading, cracking, and other damage over time. They have natural oils, such as linseed oil, that can oxidize and become brittle over time, leading to cracking and other forms of damage.

Oils can also be more prone to fading, as some pigments may be less stable than others and may fade over time when exposed to light.


Acrylic paints cost lower than oil paints. They are water-based, making them easier to produce and less costly. Acrylic paints also have a longer shelf life, so you can store them for longer periods without drying out or becoming unusable.

In contrast, oil paints tend to be more expensive than acrylics. They use more expensive materials, such as linseed oil, and require a more complex manufacturing process. Oil paints have a shorter shelf life than acrylics and must be stored carefully to prevent drying.

Oil paints require extensive preparation, including applying several layers of gesso to the painting surface before use.

Other factors, such as the painting surface, brushes, and other materials, can significantly impact the artwork's cost. For example, high-quality canvases and brushes can be expensive, and using more layers of paint or adding texture can also increase costs.

Choosing The Right Paint Medium for Your Skill Level

Choosing a suitable paint medium is crucial for any artist and essential when considering your skill level. As a beginner, start with a forgiving and easy-to-use medium, such as acrylics. Acrylics are versatile, water-based, and dry quickly, making them an excellent option for beginners still developing their skills.

However, oil paints may be better if you have more experience and want to create detailed, realistic artwork. It's essential to consider your desired outcome, painting surface, and budget when choosing a painting medium to ensure you make an informed decision that aligns with your goals and skill level.

By considering these factors, you can select a painting medium that will allow you to create beautiful and satisfying artwork.

Know More About Acrylics and Oils From The Pro

Whether you are just starting or have been painting for years, choosing a medium that aligns with your skill level, artistic goals, and budget is essential. An artist from Memorialize Art can help you understand the importance of choosing a suitable painting medium. Acrylics and oils have unique characteristics and advantages, and knowing when to use each medium can help you achieve your desired outcome.

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