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What are the Advantages of Acrylic Paints?

By Shannon Kietzman
Updated May 16, 2024
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Acrylic paints are made from pigment that has been suspended in an acrylic polymer emulsion, which is a mixture of two substances that cannot be blended together. These paints did not become commercially available until the 1950s. At this time, they were oil compatible. Acrylics are a favorite form of paint for many artists because of their ability to dry quickly, unlike oil paints, which can take several weeks to dry.

It is possible to dilute these paints with water. When diluted, the resulting painting can look similar to a watercolor painting or an oil painting. In fact, acrylic paints are sometimes used instead of watercolors because they tend to dry closer to the color that is desired. Usually, this color is slightly darker than it appeared when first applied to the canvas. Watercolors, on the other hand, tend to dry lighter, and the amount of lightening can be unpredictable. This is particularly true for beginning artists.

Despite the fact that acrylic paints can be diluted in water when being used to create a work of art, they are also highly resistant to water once the art dries. This is advantageous, as it helps protect and preserve the final piece.

Acrylic paints are also used as an alternative to oil paints, because they are much faster to dry. In fact, they usually dry within in an hour, and many dry in less than one minute. The amount of time it takes the paint to dry is largely dependent upon the brand and how thickly it is applied.

For those artists who wish to lengthen the amount of time it takes for the paint to dry, it can be mixed with extenders or retarders. These products are available for purchase from most large art companies. Extending the drying time of acrylic paints makes it possible to blend colors more easily with one another while working on an art piece. Those who paint model figures often use extenders or retarders, as do those artists who simply prefer acrylics over other paints but need a little more time to complete the work.

Acrylic paints are also thought to be more permanent than other types of paint. Oil paints have a tendency to turn yellow as they age and oxidize. Acrylics, on the other hand, have shown no signs of changing, yellowing, or cracking in the 50 years since they have been invented.

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Discussion Comments
By anon989151 — On Feb 22, 2015

I think acrylic paints are better to use than other paints. This is because they dry much quicker than other paints. I personally think that acrylic paints are better because the texture is so much softer and when you mix them their colors stay and don't become lighter after.

By anon201601 — On Jul 31, 2011

Excuse me...Can anyone tell me is this sentence "utilises a 100 percent Extreme Acrylic formula" means it is an acrylic paint?

By rjh — On May 26, 2011

@goldenmist - I think the slower drying time for oil paints isn't as much of an issue for professional artists because they have longer to work on paintings. Another reason oil paint is more popular in certain circles is the price difference between cheap acrylic paint and oil paint; if you're a professional you might be willing to pay a little extra for paint but it's harder to justify for an art student or someone who does it just as a hobby.

Personally though, I find it a lot easier to blend oils and the colors appear a lot richer and heavier to my eyes. You also don’t have to worry about that pesky problem of the colors of acrylics drying darker than what you painted. I tend to find acrylic paint colors kind of plastic looking.

It is like you said though, all a matter of personal preference. I've seen plenty of great paintings done with acrylics and it’s certainly a lot easier to start painting with acrylics than oil.

By goldenmist — On May 23, 2011

Another advantage of using acrylic paints that wasn't mentioned in this article is that if you're working in a space that doesn't have good ventilation, then oil paint is going to smell pretty bad and it might give you a headache, especially if you’re using turpentine as well. I know this from the few times I tried to paint with oil. I use acrylics mostly because I like to paint in layers so waiting for hours for the previous layer to dry before I paint the next interrupts my flow. I think I’ll most likely stick to acrylics, but I might try mixing oil paint with Liquin like @robert13 suggested and see how that goes.

I mainly want to try oil painting more often because I seem to get the impression that most renowned artists use it almost exclusively. Are there any specific reasons for this or is just personal preference?

By robert13 — On May 21, 2011

The same way you can mix acrylic paints to lengthen the amount of time for it to try, you can also mix oil paints with Liquin to make it dry faster or mix it with poppy-seed oil to make it dry even slower. I'm not sure why you'd want it to dry any slower than it already does, but to each their own I guess!

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