Painting With Acrylics, Oils, and Watercolors

Painting with Acrylics, Oils, and Watercolors

Do you want to paint as a hobby? Do you know what object you would like to paint? The article to be painted dictates the type of paint you will be using. Will you choose oils or acrylics?


I paint portraits with acrylic paints because oils would tax my budget and there is no interest in watercolors at this time. I spray my finished portraits with a matte varnish for a smooth and no shine effect. Satin varnish leaves a subdued shine and gloss shines brightly.

I want to paint three planters a different color. The planters are plastic and will require cleaning to improve the adhesive quality. I purchased a special acrylic paint designed for this project.


Acrylics can be applied to paper and cardboard, plastics, glass, wood and wood products, fabrics, and metal. However; some surfaces may require cleaning, or other special preparations, such as a priming agent, before covering with these paints.

Spray or brush a polymer varnish on finished painting to seal and protect the surface from dust, dirt, and other unwanted damages, fading, and chipping. Varnishes are manufactured as satin, matte, and gloss.

Craft people who use acrylics in their decoupage and scrap booking projects may use a solution of white craft glue and water to glue, seal, or varnish their porous projects.

Water based acrylic paints afford control over its pigment consistency. Apply as many layers as necessary to accomplish color intensity and texture.

Oil Paints:

Both oils and acrylics use the same techniques. One of the main differences is that acrylics dry fast and oils dry slowly. Acrylics are water based, easy cleanup with soap and water, and non-allergic. Oil paints are oil based, clean with mineral spirits, turpentine, or acetone. Many of today’s oil paints are odor free and non-allergic, but the cleaners may pose problems for people with skin and breathing sensitivities.

Both paints are agreeable on many different surfaces. Oil can be used on art canvases, paper, wood, and metals. However, primers need to be applied before paint application.

Oil paintings have been around for hundreds of years and have proven to have a long life. Acrylics came into popular use in the 1960s and their longevity has yet to be determined.


Watercolors have a different appearance from oil or acrylic paints. Painting techniques are unlike oils or acrylics. Artists like to apply their skills to painting portraits, landscapes, and still life with this medium.

These paints are limited to watercolor paper. The paper is heavier and stronger as they are composed of cotton, linen, and plant fibers. It does not pill or tear and absorbs water.

Acrylics reduced to watercolor consistency can be applied on watercolor paper. Colored and graphite pencils, ink, and watercolor pencils may also be used. Both sides of the paper are usable unless the manufacturer advises otherwise.

These paints are non-toxic and contain no caustic solvents, However; their pigments contain heavy metals which will pollute soil and waterways. Check your state requirements for proper disposal of unused paint and its water.


The object, intended use, and finishing results determines the usage of oils, acrylics, or watercolor paints. Use each type of paint as is or mix and match for creative results.

Mildred K. Pearson

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