Acrylics vs oils: get to know the differences

A selection of tubes of oil and acrylic paints
(Image credit: Lancelot Richardson)

Oil paint and acrylics are two popular painting mediums for artists, but which one should you use for your work? Each has its own properties that give it specific advantages and disadvantages, suiting it to some painting approaches more than others.

Both types of paint come in artists' and professional ranges, which mark intermediate and high-end quality, as opposed to cheaper student quality. It is important to pick good quality paint, such as those in our guide to the best oil paints. It is also a good idea to work at an easel in both oils and acrylics – check out our best easel lowdown if you need to get one – as it gives the arm lots of room for expressive brushstrokes and helps prevent the hand from smearing the painting. And you'll also want a quality canvas so check out our favourites in the best canvas for oil paints guide.

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Lancelot Richardson

Lancelot Richardson is an artist, painter, and freelance illustrator based in Brighton, UK. He tutors life drawing at independent art school Draw Brighton, and teaches in their online Patreon courses. He is also a freelance writer, producing articles on art and drawing. He works in both traditional and digital mediums.