Acrylics vs oils ? – that is my question


When I re-ignited my passion for painting a couple of years ago I started using acrylics because of the environmental impact of cleaning up after painting with oils. I always used oils at art school – lots of it. My paintings were huge (up to 2mt square) and mostly applied with a pallet knife. I practically ate the stuff, so I reckon I’ve had enough solvent based paint exposure for this lifetime. Plus I didn’t want to stink out the household.

There have been moments in the past couple of years when the lure of a slow-drying medium was appealing. In a warm climate and having my studio on the verandah, it has been a journey to learn techniques to keep my acrylics wet enough to get a satisfactory wet on wet blend that I’m going for. I use a great paint – Artelier Interactive, wet palette technique, a fine water spray and their unlocking formula, and that keeps me out of trouble most of the time. I also like Hydrocryl acrylics because they are made in Australia, they are non – toxic, their colours are amazingly vibrant and they don’t dull as they dry. Unfortunately for my Hydrocryl set is they don’t get the attention from me that they deserve because they are very fast drying. I just cant blend with them in my current climate, and I want my animal’s fur silky smooth.

Clean up is so quick and simple with acrylics. I swish my brushes in a container of water and give it to the grass. It takes about two minutes. So, for the most part, I’m happy with the paints that I’m using.

Then I read about a water soluble oil paint. Come on!, I thought. How can you have a water soluble oil paint? That’s not gunna work! So I tucked it into my memory bank with other artsy fartsy fun facts.

But the other day I was at the local art supply shop and we were chatting art materials – as only art enthusiasts can. I was shown the studio set of the Windsor & Newton Artisan water mixable oil paint. She said she would sell it to me for the sale price. It had all the colours I needed to have a good experiment. It was on sale. I didn’t want to spend any extra money. I only came in for a canvas for Ruby’s commissioned piece.

I bought the set.


This little canvas was at the stage where I had done the under painting in acrylics and was intending to continue in the same manner. It is going to the Dog Lovers Show in Melbourne in 4 weeks so I was taking a little bit of a risk to be experimenting with a new medium.

Well I started on the water mixable oils and love the blending capacity. I did have a colour challenge though, as I didn’t have all my usual hues. I was, however, able to mix what I needed to a level that is reasonably acceptable to me. Overall, the experience was great. The paints really are water soluble and are very easy to blend. I can get a lovely smooth effect with them.

When it came to cleaning my brushes, I had no trouble with detergent and cold water. Cleaned easily and quickly.


What I had forgotten about using oils is how slow they dry. After a few days, the painting is still wet to the touch. It’s also difficult to photograph progress shots because of the shiney surface.This will mean that the turnaround time for future pet portrait commissions in oil will be longer than acrylics, as you just have to wait a week or two for the paint to set completely before posting. So the characteristic that I loved whilst painting is becoming the quality that will test my patience.

Oh my Libran nature is in such a dilemma right now!!

So as for the question, to use acrylics or oils? I think I’ll just have to add the oils to my repertoire of acrylics and pastels and use them as the subject and technique (and client) require.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere is the completed painting. “Ruby and the Raindrops” Acrylic and oil 25 30cm

She will be on view at my artists wall at the doglovers show in Melbourne very soon – May 4 – 6. If you are going to be in Melbourne and want to check out one of the worlds biggist dog expos, you can use promo code OPALPASTROMDLS and get a further 10% off the 20% discount when you book online. Thats a fantastic 30% off the door price.

Looking forward to seeing you at the Doglovers Show


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