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The Difference Between Oil Painting, Watercolor, and Acrylic

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

Visual art can be created in different ways, you can be yourself and choose the method you like the most to express your thoughts and feelings. Because there are so many different types of paint media to choose from, having multiple options for the type of paint can be a total hassle for beginner painters.

What Is A Paint

"A Binder is an adhesive component in which the pigment is suspended."

Before getting started with the comparison, and in case you’re a beginner at painting, you must know what paint is. So how do all paints start? They start with pigment.

Also, since we talk about three types of paints here which are: oil painting, watercolors, and acrylic, you have to know that at their most basic level, all three you have to know that at their most basic level, all three of them have this same key element.

So, what is the difference between oil painting, watercolors, and acrylic? The main difference is how they carry this pigment in their binding medium, this not only keeps dry pigment together, but it also gives each painting its body and characteristics.

Pigments are ground particles that give color to paint. A Binder is an adhesive component through which pigment is suspended.

The difference between oil painting, watercolor, and acrylic paint is the type of binder used.

Furthermore, acrylic paint's binder has very different working characteristics than watercolor paint's binder. This has an impact on how artists use the medium, the techniques they employ, as well as the final appearance of the painting.

Pigments are ground particles that give color to paint.
Pigments are ground particles that give color to paint.

The Difference Between Oil Painting, Watercolor, and Acrylic

"the integrity of the art for a longer period of time."

Before knowing the difference between every type of painting you have to know that each painting has its own powerful points and each one of them is perfect in different scenarios.

So, you have to know what kind of paint you should choose for every project.

Some of them is a fast drier than others, some produce a unique visual, and some handle wears better.

Bear in mind that you can’t use one kind of paint for every project, for example, You would never use watercolor paint to create textile art. Because the paint is so delicate, it could be washed away in water's presence, As a result, it is an inconvenient option.

Acrylic paint, on the other hand, can dry quickly as well as resist any water it comes into contact with, keeping the integrity of the art for a longer period of time.

Oil Paint

You surely know that oil painting was used a long time ago and has been used as the main paint choice for many projects, dating back to before the renaissance.

And we have a very famous example of that, which is The Mona Lisa painting, and it is just one famous example of many more.

So here’s what you need to know before choosing oil painting:

· The pigment of oil paints is suspended in oil, usually linseed oil, and that is what makes it unique from other paints.

· It is a fantastic choice for vibrant, bright colors, or even creating a picture with depth.

· Oil painting is much easier to mix than acrylic paints, and the result of mixing is often a much larger color palette.

· The main disadvantage is that they dry slower than watercolor and acrylic. As they take days or sometimes weeks to completely dry.

Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is a relatively new medium as it was invented in the 1950s and since then, there were many famous adopters of that paint such as Andy Warhol who used it in the 20th century, and Roy Lichtenstein who used an early version of acrylic paint called Magna.

Here’s what you need to know about acrylic paint before choosing it:

· It is made from pigment and a polymer binder, it is a water-based paint so that means when water evaporates, the binder and the pigment form a hardened, flexible film on the surface.

· They have the same paint colors as oil colors because many acrylic paint brands use the same pigments as oil brands.

· Acrylic paint is an ideal choice for people who want their paint to dry faster within hours.

· The disadvantage of acrylic paint is that it’s much less versatile when it comes to combining and mixing colors.


Painting with watercolor is not the same as painting with oil or acrylic. Control, restraint, as well as knowing when to stop are more significant. It's especially thrilling to watch the colors dance across the paper.

What do you need to know about watercolor before choosing it? Here’s what you need to know:

· Watercolor pigments are suspended in Gum Arabic and also available as a block or hardpan that is soluble in water.

· Watercolor paint is the least expensive kind of paint, it can dry very fast.

· Watercolor paint is the least resistant option between oil paint and acrylic because they are very delicate when it comes to standing up to even a single drop of water.

· Watercolor paintings are distinguishable from acrylic and oil paintings, which can look similar.

· Watercolor materials contain no toxic chemicals. Nevertheless, if you choose to include pigments such as cadmium as well as cobalt in your palette, they will be toxic.

So, now you know what it takes to decide what kind of paint to choose, go on and create your masterpiece just like a pro!

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