Acrylic Paint versus Oil Paint versus Watercolor

Since I’m not teaching this term, I’ve been exploring painting (more) and comparing oil painting to using acrylics to using watercolor. I’ve spent at least one evening a week using oils for the past six weeks or so. Which is to say, I still know very little about oil painting.

Oil Paint

  • Expensive
  • Takes FOREVER to dry. Because of this, I think it’s messy. No matter how careful I am, I always get it on my teeth
  • Toxic
  • Requires a lot of planning
  • Dries shiny, depending on how much medium is used

Acrylic Paint

  • Cheap
  • Dries VERY quickly
  • Plastic
  • Forgiving
  • Dries shiny, unless matte medium is added, or it’s watered down


  • Sorta Cheap
  • Dries quickly with a blow drier
  • Nice color saturation
  • Pain in the ass. Requires a lot of skill and patience
  • Dries flat, not shiny at all

(I’m still working on this one)

It can be nice that oil paint stays wet. I’ve noticed that I can spend a lot of time mixing colors with no penalty, and I tend to get closer to what I’m looking at with oil paint. On the other hand, I don’t have very much time to paint/make art/draw/mix colors, so I appreciate that acrylics dry quickly – I build layers super fast. And I can’t really build watercolor layers…it reactivates once wet and runs.

A value study


Some of my favorite things. Especially the book. Painted with iPhone.

In progress

I $%^& dropped it right after taking this picture. I haven’t swept the barn in weeks. So, there was a lot of schmuz stuck in the paint, which I worked out with a palette knife. If this was acrylic, there would have been no problem.

So far, I still prefer acrylic, then watercolor, then oil. As I become more skilled in what I’m trying to accomplish, I may appreciate oil  painting more. But, I doubt it. It gets on my teeth.