Paintings in oils by Peter Gray.
Which Medium Will You Paint With?
The joy of creating art can be experienced in many different ways. From the vibrant colours of acrylics to the delicate washes of watercolour, the choice of medium can be daunting. Each medium has its own unique properties which can create a variety of effects and can be used to create works of art that are truly unique.
The pros and cons of painting with oils, acrylics or watercolours can help you decide which medium is best for you. Oils are known for their rich texture and depth, while acrylics allow for bright colours and fast drying times. Watercolour paints provide an almost transparent effect, and can be used to create subtle gradients and washes of colour. All of these mediums come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages, so understanding them can help you determine the best medium for your needs.
What is oil painting?
Oil painting is a type of painting that uses a liquid paint made from pigments mixed with a medium such as linseed oil or turpentine. The medium dries slowly, which gives the paint time to “breathe” and evaporate, leaving the coloured oil residue behind on the surface.
The choice of oil paint can have a significant effect on the appearance and quality of the finished work. The oil paint dries over time to form a solid, durable layer. Before it dries, the oil may change the colour of the paint, making it appear darker or lighter.
The slow drying time allows the artist to manipulate the wet, fresh paint with a palette knife to create rich textures and thick paint strokes.
Advantages of oil painting
- Rich texture: Oil paints create a smooth, thick texture that feels almost creamy when applied. Thick oils can be built up to create rich, deep colours and textures, while thin paints are perfect for creating translucent washes and glazes.
- Excellent durability: Oils are very durable, and can last for many years. This means that oil paintings can be passed down from one generation to the next, making them a great choice for an heirloom piece.
- Variety of effects: Oils are incredibly versatile, and can be used to create a wide variety of effects. Thick oils can be used to create bold, textured finishes and impasto works, while thin oils can be used for a delicately translucent effect.
Disadvantages of oil painting
- Long drying time: Oil paints take longer to dry than watercolours, and can take several months to dry completely. This makes them unsuitable for quick projects, as they require a lot of patience while they dry.
- High cost: Oil paint is generally more expensive than acrylic paints.
What is acrylic painting?
Acrylic paints consist of pigments mixed with water-soluble binders, such as acrylic polymer emulsions, and are applied to a wide variety of surfaces including paper, wood, canvas, fabric, and stone. They are quick-drying and can be used for a wide variety of arts and crafts projects.
In short, acrylic paints can be applied on almost any surface, making them a great choice for beginners. The acrylic paints can be diluted with water to create washes of colour or applied in thicker layers to create bold, textured effects. The paints are water-soluble and will dry to a flexible finish that can be reworked or repainted if necessary.
Advantages of acrylic painting
- Bright colours: Acrylic paints come in a wide range of vivid colours, and can be used to create bright, vibrant works of art.
- Fast drying times: Watercolour paints are notorious for their long drying times, but acrylic paints can dry in minutes, making them a great choice for quick projects.
- Excellent durability: Acrylic paints are very durable, and can last for years on almost any surface.
Disadvantages of acrylic painting
- Lack of texture: Acrylic paints create a smooth, flat finish with little texture, unlike oil paints which can create rich, textured surfaces.
- Lack of versatility: Acrylic paints tend to be limited to bright, bold colours, whereas oil paints can be used to create a wide variety of effects.
- Can be difficult to remove from porous surfaces.
What is Watercolour painting?
Watercolour paints blend pigment with water to create a translucent, watery effect. The paints can be diluted with water to create washes of colour or applied in thicker layers to create bold strokes and impasto.
Watercolour paints are renowned for their delicate, ethereal quality, and are best used to create works that evoke a sense of dreamy, nostalgic feelings. The paints are very easy to use, making them an excellent choice for beginners and children. Watercolours do, however, require careful attention to detail as they are best suited to creating subtle, understated works.
Advantages of watercolour painting
- Ethereal, dreamy quality: Watercolour paints have a delicate, almost translucent quality that makes them perfect for creating subtle, understated artworks.
- Quick drying times: Watercolour paints are slow drying, but the finished artwork can be framed and displayed as soon as it is finished. This makes them a great option for impromptu art classes or projects.
- Versatility: Watercolours come in a wide range of colours and can be used to create bold strokes, as well as subtle, ethereal washes of colour.
Disadvantages of watercolour painting
- Fragility: Watercolour paints are often delicate and should be applied to a light-weight surface, such as watercolour paper or illustration board.
- High cost: Watercolour paints are the most expensive medium out of the three compared here.
The joy of creating art can be experienced in many different ways. From the vibrant colours of acrylics to the delicate washes of watercolour, the choice of medium can be daunting. Each medium has its own unique properties which can create a variety of effects, and can be used to create works of art that are truly unique.
Hopefully, this article can help you decide which medium is best for you.