Can an artist oil out an acrylic painting to make the painting look oily like an oil painting?

edited December 2019 in Painting
I have a question that might seem weird to all of you. I have been painting in oils for 5 years and lately I've been experimenting a lot just trying to find the best way to be efficient, best mediums to use etc... I met a fellow artist who only paints using acrylics. Before I discovered draw mix paint and Mark Carder I was painting in acrylics and I hated them.... I think they are way harder to work with than oils. Long story short, I tried them again now that I have been painting with oils for 5 years and I kinda love them... they dry real fast making it possible for me to layer and glaze and do all sorts of impasto styles in a very short time... the one thing I don't like is how matted they are even when you add a gloss medium... which gets annoying trying to add them to your paints all the time... I was wondering if there was an expert in acrylics if I could oil out a painting when I'm totally finished with the painting to give it that oily look. Sounds kinda crazy, but everyone who paints usually tries to manipulate acrylics to look like oils... couldn't we just make them oils by oiling them out at the end? Many will tell me the painting will yellow over time like an oil painting... i guess thats fine, we will varnish-like we do with oil paints anyway... 

So the question is: 

1). Can an artist oil out a finished acrylic painting to make the painting look oily like an oil painting?

2). If you can oil out an acrylic painting, is it then considered an oil painting? 


ps. I had an acrylic painting i didn't care for so I decided to give it a shot... looks great, fresh, and oily... :) The question is what will happen overtime...?


  • CJDCJD -
    edited December 2019
    I'm interested to know how an acrylic painting can be done to look more like an oil painting. I doubt adding a layer of oil on top at the end is the best way to do it though. As you mentioned oiling out causes permanent yellowing over time. I'd ask this in the painting best practices facebook group for the best responses. There are knowledgeable people there for these kinds of questions.

    One possibility is to use faster drying oil paints. There are pigments/mediums/brands that can be used if you want the paint to dry in a few hours and be ready for another layer. I have been using Rublev lead white for this purpose. Dries extraordinarily fast and is great for a first layer.
  • I think you should continue you your experiment and report the results. I also think the best way to  finish an acrylic is with an acrylic gloss clearcoat that hardens like a varnish. Putting oil on acrylics has nothing in the oil to make it harden and putting varnish over the oil may prevent the varnish from curing properly. 
  • If you apply a clear isolation coat and then a shiny varnish like Gamvar you can get the same effect as a glossy oil painting.

    I would not recommend putting a thin layer of oil over the acrylic. It will yellow more than acrylic and be less flexible.
  • When I used to work in a framing store, we used matte medium or gloss medium, or clear gel with a bristle brush to add the texture to the posters, making them appear as though the were actual paintings?
  • Artists,
    Thank you for the quick reply as always. I would like to report that I tried adding a thin layer of oil to my acrylic painting and right away you could see the vibrant colors as they were when the painting was still wet. 

    I would like to respond to some questions... 

    Adding a fast drying medium to oil I think negates the purpose of oil... and I doubt it will ever dry as fast as acrylics... acrylics dry so fast that by the time I put down my paint its already dry... the amount of paint and layers I placed down on this venice painting I am working on would have taken me 2 months to do in oil. 

    The best thing about acrylics is that it is so easy to clean up... 

    There are so many benefits to painting with acrylics, there just one problem... in the end its just not an oil painting... an oil painting feels different, and kinda looks different... 

    You have to force yourself to work different with acrylics... your working in layers and blending is hard to do... knowing that before you start is helpful... I try to plan ahead and I use thin glazes and thick impasto depending on the piece and what needs work... after you are done with the whole painting, if you want to tint the colors like you would in can just get a medium for that or just add water to thin a color and add it to the surface with a soft brush... 

    Most of the time oil paintings look better than acrylics because oil painters seem to have a lot more experience and are more professional... 

    As for my experiment, the painting looks much more like an oil painting now that there is oil all over it... after the oil dries i'll add a varnish... 

    perhaps if I were to just add a varnish that would be fine as well... i'm not sure if this now counts as an oil painting? 

    One thing I will tell you, mixing oil paints is much easier. 

    With some acrylics, the painting can look like rubber...gloss medium fixes that... 

    So now that I added oil to the acrylics at the end, does that make it an oil painting? 
  • No. It’s an acrylic painting. 
  • edited December 2019
    @Markalex777, interesting.

    Particularly question 2, in relation to which I will ask you this...

    Some people put down a layer of acrylic as a base before they go on to paint in oils. Would you consider that an acrylic painting ?

    I have just noticed in your most recent post above you seem determined to want your acrylic painting to be deemed to be an oil painting  :)

    Lets just say someone was admiring your painting and asked what you painted it, in acrylic or oils ?

    You can give them a convoluted answer about the layer you added later on etc.

    Or you can just tell them what paint you used.

    And there is your answer

  • edited December 2019
    Or you could look at it this way. You go to buy the `oak table` that you saw advertised.

    When you get to see it its oak veneer, which is a thin layer of oak over a less expensive wood.

    Thats fine some people want veneer, some solid oak. But it would be wrong to claim that the veneer was solid oak.

    I guess I've just coined a phrase for you, you've got an oil veneer painting.


  • It's be more worth if it was an 'oil vermeer' painting.. ;)
  • lol @Richard_P

    However, in the end the same pigments used in oil paint and acrylics is the same. Let me explain my reasoning...

    Acrylic paint is made by mixing pigements or dyes into an acrylic polymer emulsion. oil paints are made by mixing pigments or dyes with linseed oil. If I were to add oil to the acrylic polymer, in theory, wouldn't that effectively be making the acrylics oil paints? :) 

  • Sounds like you have convinced yourself on the answer to your question.

    If calling acrylic paints oil paints works for you then go right ahead 

    Im sure the manufacturers of acrylic paints would have tried that one if they could legally get away with it.

  • lol all i'm saying is high-grade acrylics are made with the same pigments as oil paints... but I wouldn't call it oil painting anyway... I would say its oil & acrylic 
  • Short answer:  NO.

    Acrylic paint is water based.  Oil paint is  . . . well, that's obvious.   If you like the glossy, oil look, paint in oil, which, as you know, stays open longer and is more forgiving.  If you paint daily, as do I, use a little dryer (Cobalt is good) so your work will be touch dry the next day.
  • I got the same question as you have, what i have found is that some artists use acrylics to complete say 90 percent of the painting then proceed with oils, because acrylics dries faster it enables for more layers in shorter time but you can't make it as smooth or shiny as oils .

    Currently for me if i want to use acrylics in my paintings, i may use burnt umber and white to sketch the outlines and put some values on, after getting used to oils i started to see no point to paint in acrylics then oil it out .
  • can you please tell , how is your experience with time passed? Did it dry completely and not tucky after a couple of years? Is it still looks more glossy and oily ?
  • Jerry Yarnell teaches techniques that will help an acrylic painting to look like an oil painting.  Jerry was an oil painter until he developed lymphatic cancer from the solvents.  After he recovered, he switched to acrylics and uncovered techniques to make acrylics resemble oils.

    Here's a rough summary of what he does.

    First, instead of using a tube white, Jerry uses Grumbacher Heavy Body Gesso as his white. It gives an opacity and texture to the acrylics that is more similar to oils and it reduces the "plastic" look that acrylics tend to have.  

    The other problem with acrylics is that they tend to be more difficult to blend than oils.  There seem to be more distinct layers with acrylics.  Dry brush blending and wet on wet blending are techniques used here to give a look that is more similar to oils.  

    Another issue that I haven't seen Jerry address is that acrylics tend to yield more saturation in their colors.  This can be remedied by "graying down" the colors.  I'm not sure why this works, but it seems to result in "better" paintings.

    I think that the idea of "oiling out" an acrylic painting is a good one. 

    Of course, it also works quite well to use acrylic as the underpainting with the oils on top.  Faster and the result is an oil painting!  

  • If you are going to varnish your painting then adding a gloss medium acrylic coat and then varnishing (with Matte, Satin or Gloss) helps unify the sheen, protects the paint layer, and makes everything look more glossy (before varnishing).
  • Markalex777

    Use a heavy bodied acrylic pigment. Use a medium such as Golden Paint Extra Thick Gel. Add chalk for extra bulk. Try Liquitex Liquithick also.

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