Acrylics or oil

Probably an old question. I’ve started painting with acrylics and I think I’ve done ok but I can’t help but notice that most of you use oils. Is there a reason for this?  What is the real reason for everyone using oil? I would love love to paint something that looks like a photo. Everything I paint looks a little cartoonish to me, maybe I just can’t pull it off.

Comments

  • edited July 18
    Good question @Reagan..
    personally in the past I have found acrylics to look chalky and garish. They have generally been considered as not having the depth and richness of oils.
    I have changed my mind on that now having seen some great work done in acrylics. Also associated issues such as them drying too fast for some peoples liking is now in the past. There are many different products that will make them slow drying, products that will make them behave more like oils.

    Though I do love working in oils I have purchased some goods and intend to try out acrylics myself.

    You may want to check out one of @Richard_P. `s posts on here as he has been doing some acrylic work.
  • Marks DMP method paints alla prima with an open pallet.  The pallet stays wet for days up to a week.  Many painters here follow that approach.  
  • Reagan

    Acrylic block in on an aluminium support followed by an oil painted top coat.

    This emulates the technique of Michael James Smith (youtube) but the rest of the technique is DMP as taught by Mark Carder.

    I prefer oil paints for their long open time, blendability, mixability, richness of value and brush stroke variety.

    Denis
  • edited July 18
    I've also changed my mind, @MichaelD. I  used to think acrylics were awful but I see now that it's how they're handled.  One can indeed get depth and smooth transitions like in oils.  I've bought some high quality acrylic colours and will begin experimenting with them when I finish the current series of paintings in oils. I think that for realism in acrylics one has to work everything out before starting because, even with drying retarders, there is much less time to blend or make changes.  But here are some examples of what can be achieved in still life, portraiture and landscape:







    @Reagan, I think you'll have no difficulty "pull[ing] it off" if you watch all of Mark's free videos and do the practice. You're already well advanced. We nearly all use oils here because that is what Mark teaches but, as the above paintings demonstrate, remarkable realism can be achieved in acrylics.

    (Folks can Google these photos for details - they're easy to find)

    MichaelD
  • I agree @tassieguy, you have shown some stunning examples there.


    If I felt that I could get as the same level of work as I do in my oils I would probably just use acrylics.

    Mainly for the sake of my cat Louie

     :) 
    tassieguy
  • For alla-prima and especially blending oils are so much easier than acrylics which dry very quickly and can have a large colour shift. They also have less pigment load and shrink when drying so impasto becomes flatter. So why would anyone use acrylics?

    Well, very little yellowing compared to oils, no dark yellowing when stored in the dark, no brittling or cracking so the paint is flexible enough to paint on paper or flexible supports, and no worries when layering for fat over lean.

    Every medium has advantages and disadvantages, find what works for you.. :)
  • New member here. I like to paint with acrylics because of their consistency. They are soft and very easy to lay on the canvas (even the heavy body paints), whereas I find oils too stiff, like a putty. This is something I found odd, as many online say the opposite is true.

    Even for the most 'fluid' brands, like Cobra water mixable or Rembrandt, I don' t like the way they feel under the brush. I didn't try Gamblin, which is another fluid one.

    Of course, it might be that I am not using oils properly, but unless I add a lot of solvent or oil, I just don't get the fluidity I like, and my understanding (from manufacturer's instructions and online boards) is that one should not add too much medium).

    I will probably try the Geneva paints for that reason, I suspect I will enjoy working with them because of the lower viscosity.

    The acrylic works posted above are nice. I personally don't like the hyperrealistic style, but they are well made. Another artist that does beautiful work in acrylic is John Hammond, and he has more of an impressionistic style.

    As for color shift, there are brands where it is minimal. Winsor and Newton is one. I also think Liquitex doesn't shift that much.
  • edited July 22
    Yes, I forget to mention the colour shift which is mainly what has put me off acrylics up until now. If it is true that the brands mentioned above have overcome this then they will be the ones I'll try after I finish the Matisse acrylics I've already bought. I don't much like hyperrealism either but if one can achieve the same painterly effects with acrylics as can be achieved in oils then I think they are worth a try. The main reason I would use them is because they dry quickly and so you can paint light over dark without the lights milking up the darks. And also because I can't use the solvents normally associated with oil painting.

    @francjs, if you like blending, and if you like a more fluid consistency that levels well, then you will probably enjoy slow drying Geneva paints. But you can achieve the same leveling properties and long open time just by adding more medium and some clove oil to other stiffer brands of oil paints.
  • @tassieguy, i would go for the W&N if you want to avoid color shift. I think they have less than Liquitex, because for a painting I was doing with Liquitex, I was adding some highlights in cerulean blue mixed with white... then after some time, the highlights were done, and this was because the paint darkened - slightly.  Then I grabbed the W&N, did the same thing, and could see no discernible shift.  This of course may vary between colors, but I didn't test that.

    People say you get used to it, and it's probably true, but since I started with the W&N, I never felt the need to worry about it much.

    In any case, I mentioned Liquitex because they are good, not too expensive (unlike Golden brand), and it seems to me they still shift less than other brands.

    Interesting that you say I can get the viscosity of Geneva paints by adding medium to regular oils. Tried that, it becomes a bit of a hassle to do for every color, but I get the advantage that would come by doing it in bulk. 

    Still, when I'm ready I'll just buy the Geneva colors. I am not sure if I need the very slow drying, but I've only heard very good things about them.


  • Rob @tassieguy the level of realism is crazy in those pics you posted.  What’s amazing about that is the level of control required to achieve that.  Just holding a brush steady enough to do the lines in the striped shirt is impressive.  
    I can see the advantages and disadvantages to  oil and acrylic when trying to achieve that level of realism.  
  • @GTO Yes it is. However.. if you see the picture being painted you'll realise that the canvas is massive, much larger than it appears in the finished painting:


    kaustavM
  • Wow.  That is big.!
  • edited July 23
    I have used both for years but felt oil has more body to it compared to acrylic. I guess it's the solidity of the oils is the main reason. This is the same reason for choosing gouache over watercolor because gouache is heavier. Also, the oil doesn't change the color that much while painting whereas the water medium changes while it dries (acrylic becomes darker, opaque and transparent watercolors become lighter). 
    I feel it's less complicated to use oils and stay connected to all the masters of the past who painted with oils.
  • edited July 27
    They're very good, @ArtGal. She knows how to use colour and value to draw the viewer in to the focal point. Her compositions are great, too.  :)
    ArtGal
  • I use both, and do like acrylic.  But the values shift is significant.  It is another thing to learn.  Obviously people can handle it. 

    I also don't trust them to hold up.  Early acrylic paintings are already falling apart.  I don't expect my paintings to be kept, at least not yet.  But for serious artists, there is that concern.  We are told that the newer products are better, but we won't know until it is too late. 

    Oil paintings also have a marketing advantage.  There is a cache to them.  It is one of those things where a person only needs to learn a single word to feel superior to what they are looking at.  Of course many people will not know or care.

    When people talk about oil, they are usually talking about themselves.  You don't tend to hear "I use acrylics because they look better, last better, have more intrinsic value to the collector".  It is usually "I use acrylics because they are safer for me (maybe), easier to clean up, I like the texture, etc".
  • @ArtGal thanks for posting the link to Christina Ramos.  I like hearing about other artists and their story.  Her work is excellent.  The only criticism I might have is some of the skin colors and tones look a little cartoonish.  For example the figure with the white sunglasses and pink fur.  I like her success story and her works are amazing.  Especially being acrylics which I would find difficult to handle.
    ArtGal
  • TamDeal said:
    I use both, and do like acrylic.  But the values shift is significant.  It is another thing to learn.  Obviously people can handle it. 

    I also don't trust them to hold up.  Early acrylic paintings are already falling apart.  I don't expect my paintings to be kept, at least not yet.  But for serious artists, there is that concern.  We are told that the newer products are better, but we won't know until it is too late. 

    Oil paintings also have a marketing advantage.  There is a cache to them.  It is one of those things where a person only needs to learn a single word to feel superior to what they are looking at.  Of course many people will not know or care.

    When people talk about oil, they are usually talking about themselves.  You don't tend to hear "I use acrylics because they look better, last better, have more intrinsic value to the collector".  It is usually "I use acrylics because they are safer for me (maybe), easier to clean up, I like the texture, etc".
    I am not aware of older acrylics falling apart, do you have an article/reference for this? To my knowledge, lab tests if nothing else indicate that acrylics will last a long time.
  • edited July 30
    From what I've read, Acrylics probably last at least as well as oils. If you pile them on an inch thick and water them down too much then the paint film won't be strong and durable and, as with oils, you'll get cracking etc. But it takes decades.

     I often wonder why people here worry so much about this stuff.  Just paint. Do the best job you can using the best techniques you know and the best materials you can afford and if you paint something worth preserving conservation science will find a way. Worrying overly about this stuff is just procrastination. Just paint!  :)
    Marinos_88
  • tassieguy said:
    From what I've read, Acrylics probably last at least as well as oils. If you pile them on an inch thick and water them down too much then the paint film won't be strong and durable and, as with oils, you'll get cracking etc. But it takes a decades.

     I often wonder why people here worry so much about this stuff.  Just paint. Do the best job you can using the best techniques you know and the best materials you can afford and if you paint something worth preserving conservation science will find a way. Worrying overly about this stuff is just procrastination. Just paint!  :)
    I agree wholeheartedly, paint and experiment.   Without playing around and experimenting you will never fully understand the medium you are working in.    Playing around with thicknesses, substrates, brushes and thinners gives the confidence to foretell how your chosen medium will react in each situation, as well as being able to create effects you never would have known about if not for accidently discovering it whilst playing around.

    If I think about all the materials I have used acrylics on over the years for creating fancy dress costumes, wall decorations for parties in halls,   I have painted on frost cloth, different plastics, canvas backdrops for stage productions, plaster, tin and steel, woods and laminates, glass, just about anything you can name.    Each accepts paint differently, each helps develop a technique that can be transferred to paper, board, canvas or whatever.   Without those years of playing behind me, I doubt I would have been able to transfer so readily to oils.

    Mind you, when I first began with oils, I hated them.   It was only when I went back to acrylics, I found myself frustrated they would not behave the way oils did and that I actually preferred oils.  Personally, I have way more fun with oils, whereas acrylics are a means to an end and very mundane, boring and predictable.    
    dencaltassieguy
  • If the end product is the goal. If proficiency is presumed. Then either medium works. Acrylic has versatility going for it. As transparent permanent watercolor, brushable impasto, sprayable and more. It's an urgent process. Oil is more contemplative. Ever forgiving.  
    Marinos_88
  • I've gone in the opposite direction.  I started in acrylics because I am highly allergic to the solvents used in oils.  I studied in person with Jerry Yarnell in annual workshops (even though he is on TV) and learned some great techniques for paintings in acrylics that produce outstanding results.  

    Now that I paint in both oils and acrylics, I have to mark the back of my canvas with the medium used to remember which one I used. 

    I started in oils when I became interested in portraits.  At about the same time I learned about Gamsol and solvent free oil painting techniques, so I can minimize or eliminate my use of solvents.  I particularly enjoy the slow drying characteristics of traditional oils and I like the extremely slow drying effects of Mark's Geneva paint.    I also like to clove/linseed oil odor!  

    By the way, I was not successful with my portraits until I learned MArk's system.

    Oils and acrylics can produce equivalent quality and equal appearing results, but you have to use appropriate techniques for each.    

    Right now, I'm enjoying oils the most.  
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