Oil Vs Acrylic, Which Is Better?


Senior Natalie Eid shows off her painting of a man in front of a red backdrop.

Painting is an act that can turns anything into beauty. The tools for creating such beauty include popular paints like oils and acrylics. But, what are oils and acrylics and which is best to use?

Oil paints were created by Jan van Eyck, an artist during the Renaissance era. It’s considered a slow-drying paint mixed with bits of pigment and drying oil.

Acrylic paint has a more recent history, it was made by Sam Golden and Leonard Bocour in the 1940s. This type of paint is opposite to its counterpart as it’s known to be a fast-drying paint consisting of multiple ingredients such as pigment, acrylic polymer emulsion, and silicon oils.

Both types of paint partake in a variety of artwork including pieces from artists at Air Academy High School. Do they prefer one over the other? Senior Natalia Eid, an experienced painter, gave her opinion.

“I use both acrylics and oils, it really just depends what I’m working on. For school projects or other projects that I have to complete by a deadline, I generally work with acrylics. I love working with oils, but I typically reserve it for projects that I can really take my time on and make it look professional,” said Eid.

Senior Chloe Schippers shows off her painting of Boba Fett.

Although people like Eid can better choose a favorite, for new artists like Senior Chloe Schippers it’s a bit more complicated.

“I prefer to use acrylics and it mostly has to do with the fact that I don’t have a lot of experience with oils. I also like that because I’m still learning, it dries fast and allows me to get it done more efficiently,” explained Schippers. 

Acrylics, for time management at least, seem to be the way to go. But what about oils?

“There are pros and cons to both mediums. Oils give you more time to rework the paint and build up layers of color but also take a very long time before it’s completely dried. Oils are also far more expensive to buy and maintain all the necessary supplies,” stated Charlie Graybill, an art teacher at AAHS.

Graybill made great points about oil paint but to be able to rework and layer paint, requires skill. Like Schippers, I’m also relatively new to painting. I started with acrylics and recently worked my way into oils. Working with oils was different from what I was used to, but Junior Susan Mahaffey has advice for those who, like me, don’t have much experience.

“Do research about techniques, practice, and get good paintbrushes because the quality really impacts your painting,” advised Mahaffey.

It depends on the painter to decide on what materials they want to use, but hopefully, Eid, Schippers, Graybill, and Mahaffey’s words guide aspiring artists to create beautiful pieces.