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Advantages of latex acrylic paint vs. oil-based paint


Painting is one of those things some people enjoy and some people find a chore to do. Painting is a hobby for some. A lot of people love to paint or is learning. So, if you are a beginner, there is a lot of things about painting you don’t know. One of the most puzzling problems are choosing the right paint. Sometimes if you don’t choose the right paint, it can really ruin all your hard work. There are many different types of paint in the market like oil based paint and latex acrylic paint. Many become confused over which one to choose. “Should I use oil based or acrylic?” is a common question. So this article will help you choose the right paint.

1. Do you work fast or slow?

Acrylic paint Pros: You can paint on anything.

This is one of the crucial things that make acrylics an important choice for beginners. Being able to set up everything quickly and start painting on anything is brilliant. Paper, card, canvas board, whatever you have at hand you can paint with this.

Acrylic Cons: They dry quickly


Now acrylic paint dry very quickly. Say you’re about to start painting and you squeeze some paint out and then suddenly there’s ring on your phone. When you comeback you’ll see that the paint has already dried out. You take some more and before you begin there’s a knock at your door, you go to check and by the time you return the paint has already dried. So that’s a problem with this type of paint that they dry really quick.

The solution?

  • Try to squeeze out more paint
  • Try adding a retarder to keep the acrylics wet for longer (no more than 15%)
  • Use a stay wet palette to keep the paints moist.


Oil Pros: Longer working time

Since 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 later and continue from where you left off. The paint on the palette will still be wet and pliable, the colors on your canvas can still be blended together. So you get a huge advantage.

Oil Cons: Preparation is key

Since oil is corrosive in nature (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 can take a lot longer. You could always buy a pre-prepared canvas and get started right away.

2. Blend or gard lines?

Acrylic Pros: A Crisp edge

The crisp edges that you can achieve with acrylics can be a huge benefit for you if you paint with a more graphic composition. You can mask out areas and work over them quickly and easily cover a hard shape with thicker paint. Mixing clean, bright colors very easily.

Acrylics Cons: Achieve a smooth blend

Blending with acrylics can be really frustrating since the speed of the drying time is quite high. If you are working on a large-scale it can be practically impossible to work the canvas as a whole to bring it all to the same finish together.

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

You can however achieve smooth blends with acrylics if you just work quicker. Add a medium to the paint to help keep the working time open for longer. Use soft gel gloss, retarder (slows down drying time) or glazing liquid gloss.

Oil Pros: smooth blending

Oil paints are number one when blending colors together. Because of the slow drying nature of oil paints they can be really fantastic for creating subtle blends.

Working wet-into-wet is a sure-fire way to get a smooth transition in your painting. This is particularly true for portrait painting when the slight shading of the face is needing constant revisiting. Adding slower drying oils to your paints create surfaces that can stay wet for weeks.

Oil Cons: Trying to create a crisp edge without it affecting the underlying colors 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 colors’ when starting with oils due to everything staying wet and the colors mixing together on the canvas.

Solution: Experience teaches you to work cleanly.

3. Shifting colors

Acrylic Pros: They are superfast

Acrylics won’t fade in time, the colors will look the same now as they will in 200 years. The binder in oil paint, oil goes yellow over time which causes the slight glow on old master paintings with acrylics they are colorfast. On the other hand, the binder – acrylic polymer doesn’t yellow over time.

Acrylic Cons: They change color when they dry

The binder used in acrylics is usually white but dries clear. Acrylics is clear, but still has a slight color 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. When you think you’ve cracked the precise color, you turn around and the color has already 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 the color shift will be even greater.

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

Oil Pros: color doesn’t shift immediately

Initially, oils stay the same color when painted on a canvas. However, once the color dries it can appear to change if the oil from the paint ‘sinks in’ to the canvas.

This can lead some areas being glossy (still have the oil in) and others staying matt (oil has soaked into the under layer) to produce a deader color. To overcome this, try 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).

Oil Cons: Yellowing

Oil paints will have a slight yellow tinge to them due to the color of the oil (like 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.

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

Acrylic Pros: Very flexible

If you like the idea of using a palette knife and creating thick, impasto paintings, and 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. You can use thin coats of acrylic paint to give a watercolor look to a picture.

Oil Pros: Longer 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

If you are working with thick paint, you need to take into account the drying time of oils. Each particular pigment needs a different amount of oil mixed with it resulting in a different drying time,.

The solution: Add a siccative to the paint. A siccative is a medium that helps to speed up the drying process in oil paints.

5. Are you working 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: turpentine smell

If your start painting with oils in a confined space the fumes from the thinners can really overwhelm you, turpentine and white spirit can be really strong. White spirit can also be irritating to the skin and turpentine rags can spontaneously combust. So, by now you should be able to decide which is better suited for you.

Some tips to use acrylic paint

  • Latex acrylic paint have water soluble base thus may be easily applied and can be dried up within 1-2 hours. This kind of paint also produces less odor than the solvent paints. Oil-based paint on the other hand requires longer drying period around 24 hours. Moreover, oil-based paint produces strong odor.
  • Latex acrylic is also less expensive than the oil-based paint.
  • Latex acrylic paint is resistant to fading, chalking, blistering and peeling while oil-based paint may become brittle thus may lead to peeling and chalking. Blistering in oil-based paint may also appear over time.
  • Latex paint is preferred to be used in exterior painting as this kind of paint is less prone to fading. Oil-based paint is susceptible to mildew thus may not be preferred for exterior painting.
  • Latex acrylic paint is non-flammable while oil-based paint is highly flammable.
  • Latex acrylic paint may be easily disposed while oil-based paint cannot be easily disposed due to its hazardous material components. Turpentine is also required in cleaning up oil-based paint.

As they say, painting indeed is a remarkable way to bring life to a once dull space. While the right color is one of the major considerations for choosing, color is not entirely the basis for selecting paint. In choosing oil-based paint vs. latex acrylic paint, it would be wise to choose paint depending on the texture of your existing wall surface, how easily you like it to be cleaned up later on and the appearance that you like your walls to have. Ultimately, you need to wisely select how well the paint will last and wear in your walls.

Selecting the Right Paint: Oil-based or Latex Acrylic Paint

Selecting the type of paint for your painting project may be a tough decision. The question to ask before choosing oil-based paint vs. latex acrylic paint really depends on your existing wall surface, how you prefer to clean it later on and the visual appearance that you like your walls to have.

Before selecting between oil-based paint vs. latex acrylic paint, one must understand first the advantages of each kind of paint versus one another.

Advantages of oil-based paint vs. latex acrylic paint

  • Oil-based paints are better stain sealers compared to latex paint where stains can easily penetrate.
  • Oil based paints are better for holding unto steel, metal and dirty surfaces while latex should rather be applied to clean surfaces since the paint does not stick unto dirty and chalking surface.
  • Oil based paint usually are more resistant to low temperature thus are less susceptible to shrinkage compared to latex that is more sensitive to temperature thus is vulnerable to shrinkage.
  • Oil based paint may be used in high foot traffic areas due to its durability and the capability to be cleaned. Latex on the other hand must rather be used in non-high traffic areas such as the bedroom.

The Difference between Latex and Acrylic Latex

In works of art, amateur painters care less on what kind of paint they will use while the professional ones are keen on choosing their equipments and materials for painting. Paint is a mixture of liquid. It is used in art application and designs. Two popular types of paint are acrylic and latex. Though both looks and works the same, there are certain differences that shouldn’t be overlooked. Originally, latex paints are made by rubber. They are produced from a certain Brazilian rubber tree named Hevea Brasiliensis. Now, they are produced with only water or chemical-based paints and are mixed with different pigments as well as additives that act as the binders. Acrylic latex, on the other hand, contains acrylic or vinyl binders instead of water. There is a big debate on whether which kind of paint should be used. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Painting with sponge techiqueHere are the following differences that you can use in deciding on which one is better:1. The main difference of the two is that latex paint is water-based while acrylic is chemical-based. Latex paint is non-toxic while acrylic is composed of different chemicals which give a less odor for the first one mentioned.
2. Elasticity is one property of acrylic paint that latex doesn’t have due to natural- based components. The elasticity of acrylic allows the paint to contract and expand more so it is better to use it on exterior surfaces. Also, it resists chalking, flaking and peeling for a long period of time.
3. Latex paints are non-flammable compared to chemical-based paints. The solvents used in acrylic paint are considered toxic waste and are usually high-flammable which is kind of dangerous nowadays.
4. Acrylic paint is great on applying to interior surfaces. However, latex paint is better in having gloss and is easier to apply. The bad thing is, the more gloss, the more the imperfections can be seen and it can be quite difficult to have a touch up after applied.
5. Latex paints have a faster drying time compared to acrylic paints.
6. For cost, acrylic paint is more expensive compared to latex paints. But let’s also bear in mind that the more expensive the product is the better quality it can give.
7. In the area of clean-up, latex wins over acrylic. Latex can be easily washed by simple soap and water while acrylic needs a lot of things like thinner, etc.

Painting roomsWith the differences mentioned, it is obvious to see that in terms of cost and nature-friendliness, latex paint is the one we should depend on but in terms of painting expertise, acrylic is the better one. Acrylic is always considered as the highest quality latex paint and it is composed of properties like durability, flexibility, opacity as well as color-retention. Nevertheless, it’s still the user’s choice on which one he or she thinks is better.

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I love writing about interior design. I am in love with achieving harmony at home to improve the well-being of my family. I usually write for the "Visitacasas" blog, both in Spanish and English, and personally answer the questions about home decoration of all our users.

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