Painting with oil or painting with acrylic: which one is the best technique?

Written byMagaly

Magaly Jacqueline Arocha was born in Caracas in 1968. She lived in the roar of Greater Caracas. She changes house and neighborhood several times and each time it is a new experience which almost immediately makes her understand that travel and change will be an integral part of her life.

30 October 2020

“Color is a power that directly affects the soul” Wassily Kandinsky

Many people ask me which technique is better for painting. First, I would say that to establish it you have to consider what object you want to represent, your working spot and the experience you perceive.

Oil painting

The origins of oil painting Where did oil painting originate?

Oil painting is the most classic painting technique ever. The first real evidence of the use of oil colors dates back to the 15th century in the Flemish territory, cradle of the most important artists who were able to create paintings that are beautiful to look at, vivid and with a strong aesthetic impact. At the time, in this territory, the most important artist was Van Eyck. who used in his oil paintings the reflection of light and light colors. His paintings were applying two or three thin layers of white clay and animal glue, smoothed with great care. Van Eyck’s main work, The Adoration of the Mystical Lamb, was created exclusively for St. Bavo’s – cathedral Sint-Baafs in Ghent, occupies a prominent place in history books. Not only for its exceptional qualityand details, but also it is one of the most stolen works of art of all time.

It did not take long for oil painting to spread in Italy as a matter of fact, initially oil painting was used only mixed with other techniques. Among the most important Italian artists who made oil paintings are Piero della Francesca, Giovanni Bellini and Antonello da Messina.
For about four centuries, in all the most important European countries, oil technique remained one of the most used. As soon as the first acrylic paintings were born, around 1800, oil’s paintingsimportance tended to diminish.

However, in the early 1900s, the Impressionist artistic current changed its approach to art again. As a matter of fact, artists used the oil technique as a form of rebellion and expressive freedom.

The technique of oil painting

The technique was fine-tuned to create a new direct painting in which the colors were spread purely on the canvas. The palette was not used nor were the colors diluted with other substances. At the time of the birth and development of oil painting, however, the colors were prepared right before their use in the workshop. Therefore, an artist was obliged to a patient and slow preparation, through the use of natural or calcined earth. To obtain the tints, animal and vegetable extracts as well as stones were used. Everything was ground on a granite or glass plate using a little oil.

Fortunately, today we save ourselves from this tiring procedure, simply buying the ready-made oil paint tubes.


Oil painting’s characteristics

  • The main component of oil paint is linseed oil, which gives the works brightness, transparency, opacity, precision of mixtures, body and durability
  • Painting with oil requires more time: both for the development of the painting and for drying.
  • Oil paint uses powdered pigments mixed with inert bases and naturally dried (poppy, linseed, walnut) or essential oils. The oil painting technique is quite complex.
  • • It takes some experience to paint in oil because you work with extracts. A very liquid first draft is made to outline the chosen subject.
  • For example, if you decide to start with a portrait it is better to paint with oil. But be careful: it takes a lot of talent and practice in overlapping the colors in more or less full-bodied layers.
  • • It is a technique that requires special care in dilution, mixing and application on the supports. If you are a beginner, I would say that it is better to start with simpler subjects.
  • • When painting with oil it is important to have a large and ventilated room. Oil paints take a long time to dry and, in the long run, the smell can be slightly toxic and allergies can be developed.
  • I colori ad olio richiedono l’uso di solventi come l’olio di lino, e vanno stesi sulla tele con accuratezza.

The advantages of oil paints

• The positive aspect of oil paint is that since it has long drying times, you can correct your painting as many times as you want. Also, if you make a mistake, you can scrape off the paint with the palette knife and start over.

• Painting with oil guarantees greater brilliance, color solidity and the use of a greater range of shades. The oil, contained in the colours, has the valuable property of giving it freshness, softness and making it docile to the most delicate brush, giving the painter the possibility of proceeding with a loose and decisive hand.

  • It is easy to obtain the substantial pastiness of the material from the oil, combined with the excellent resistance to time and atmospheric agents.

Less is more

  • Use as few tubes of color as possible, having so many colors is confusing. To start with, white, yellow, red and sienna will be enough. The colors should be mixed on the palette with the spatula, not used directly from the tube.
  • Few brushes. Three rounds (large, medium and small) plus three plates may be enough.
  • Get used to using the easel
  • Pay attention to the drawing, it is the basis of a painting, if done badly it will be difficult to remedy when you start painting.

In conclusione…

Each technique has its pros and cons. I would say that we should paint both with acrylics and with oil and choose the one we feel most ours.

Se sei interessato alla tecnica della pittura acrilica ti invito ad iscriverti alla mia newsletter potrai ricevere il mio articolo su questo argomento.
Comunque dopo gli esperimenti casalinghi, direi che ti conviene pensare alla possibilità di prendere lezioni di pittura
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Magaly pittrice artista figurativa

Finally, I believe that, when painting, you should have fun and express yourself freely. Also, representing your emotions and ideas on the canvas can be therapeutic especially at the begging. You will have the time to master the various techniques. 😊


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