Two images of artists, one using oils, the other using acrylic


Acrylic or oil, what attributes makes an artist choose?  Many artists use one or both of these two mediums, especially for larger pieces and the preference of collectors.  Learning a bit about each of them can enhance our own experience when viewing art. 

Oil - The wide range of texture, the rich and vibrant colors which stay true when dried, and the slow drying nature of oils add to its advantages, allowing for plenty of time for blending and reworking.  Historically, most of the painting masters used oils when creating.

Acrylic - Having been developed in the 1940s, the attributes of this newer paint medium, fast drying, less expensive, and less toxic, has made it more attractive than oil to many contemporary artists.

We asked several of our artists for their opinions.  Leslie Lambert, who has been a guest artist in our gallery, uses oils with larger canvases. “All paint mediums have the same pigments, they just use a different binder, which causes the paint to move in a different way,” says Lambert. “With oils I love the luminosity and transparency they give to my work.  Acrylics feel more plastic to me.”   Because using oil requires the need for proper ventilation due to the use of solvents, Lambert has offset this issue with water soluble oils. 

Another of our gallery artists, abstract painter Bob Hogue, loves working with acrylics. “Acrylics dry fast. When I paint, I don’t like to stop and wait to create what is in my mind,” says Hogue. “I can layer my colors with another full-bodied color or something more transparent and immediately see the result.”

The choice of a paint medium is the jumping off point for the creation of any work and the artist must consider which one, or combination, will best express their artistic vision. When reviewing art, look at its description and what medium was used.  Perhaps you'll find your own preference as a viewer or potential collector.


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