It’s not uncommon to find people asking this question. It’s a good question because sometimes you need the properties of both in your painting. Generally, it’s not advisable to mix oil paints with acrylic paints. It can turn your painting into a disaster slowly. Oil paints are oil-based while acrylic paints are water-based. Simply put, oil and water don’t mix. Even though it might look like they mix on your palette, the pigments do not combine well and so after a while, it will break down and ruin your painting.
This difference also means that they behave differently which is hard to make up for. A major example is their drying process which affects their drying time. Acrylic paint dries through the evaporation of water from the pigments and usually takes about 20 minutes to 1 hour for it to dry, depending on how many layers of the paint you apply. On the other hand, oil paint dries through the process of oxidation and can take several weeks to dry. A mixture of both will have inconsistencies.
The major difference between oil and acrylic paint is that oil paint is oil-based while acrylic paint is water-based. This means that even if they share the same pigments, they will work differently. Other differences to take note of include:
1. Drying Time
Acrylic paint dries fast while oil paints dry slowly. Depending on how many layers of acrylic paint you have on your surface, it can dry in less than 10 minutes. The disadvantage of this is that you need to learn to work fast which is unlikely with beginners. Oil paints can take several weeks to dry. You can leave your paint for a few hours and still come back to find it wet which means you can continue from where you stopped as if you never left.
Due to the short drying time of acrylic paints, it can be hard to create subtle blends of colors. It is easier to create crisp edges with them. This is not the case for oil paints since they stay wet for long. The transition is smooth when it comes to creating blends of colors. Creating crisp edges though can be quite daunting because of the wait time.
Acrylics are safe to use as they do not have a strong odor. They are suitable for confined spaces although ventilation is advised nonetheless. On the other hand, when working with oil paints, ventilation is necessary. The odor produced by the thinners is strong and can be toxic if inhaled continuously.
4. Ease of cleaning
Acrylic paints can be cleaned easily compared to oil paints. Cleaning acrylic paints usually require only materials you already have. Most times, soap and water will do the trick. In the case of dried paint, you can make use of vegetable oil or denatured alcohol.
However, to clean oil paint off your brushes, you will need to purchase paint thinners. The brushes are dipped into a paint thinner of your choice and left for a few minutes. This is done about three times, using different batches of the thinner to ensure you have rinsed off all the paint. After using the paint thinner to rinse off the brushes, you need to ensure proper disposal. Buying paint thinners add to your cost and the whole process can take time.
Painting oil over acrylic paint is the advisable way of using both types of paint in one painting. Due to acrylic paint being water-based, once it is dry, oil paints can easily stick on it. You cannot reverse the order.
It is not advisable to paint acrylic paint over oil paint. Oil paints are oil-based which means the acrylic will not stick on them. The aftermath of doing this is that your acrylic paint will flake off either immediately after drying or several days after.
Acrylic and oil paints can be used together in one painting, but are not to be mixed on the palette first. This is because acrylic paints are water-based while oil paints are oil-based. Although they might appear to mix, the pigment does not mix properly and after a while, it will ruin the appearance of the painting.
Acrylics can be used as an underpainting for oil paints. Acrylics are popularly used as an alternative among artists for underpainting because it dries faster compared to thinned oil paint which can take days to dry. It also helps in protecting the art surface from the oil contained in the paint. Underpainting is an important part of the painting process as it helps to set the color values in an overpainting.
The acrylic paint should be applied thinly on the art surface. More than one layer can be applied depending on what the painter needs to achieve. The acrylic paint must be completely dry before attempting to paint on it. This usually takes between 20 minutes to 1 hour.
It is important to know that the order cannot be reversed. Acrylic paint cannot be used over oil paint. It will either flake or crack in the long run.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you mix acrylic and watercolor paint?
Yes, you can mix acrylic and watercolor paint since they are both water-based. You can experiment to create different shades of color and textures depending on the ratio you choose to combine them. Be aware that once you mix acrylic and watercolor paint,
in terms of drying, the mix assumes the property of acrylic paint. This means that unlike watercolor alone, you cannot revive colors once dried. Asides from mixing the two paints, you can use both in a painting with either one acting as the background.
Can you mix acrylic paint with linseed oil?
No, it is not advisable to mix acrylic paint with linseed oil. This is because acrylic paint is water-based and oil and water do not mix. Mixing will affect the durability of the paint on the canvas.
Depending on the aim for mixing with oil, there will be alternatives more suited to acrylics.
Can I add olive oil to acrylic paint?
No, you should not add olive oil to acrylic paint. Oil does not mix with water and since acrylic paint is water-based, adding olive oil is not recommended. Although at first,
the addition will make the acrylic smoother, it causes adhesion problems in the long run. There are alternatives to explore depending on what you want to achieve.
Can you mix acrylic and latex paint?
Yes, you can mix acrylic and latex paint because they are both water-based. Usually, both paints are mixed to achieve a certain color or texture. To mix, you need latex paint, acrylic paint, a small bucket, and a paint stirrer. You will need to soften the acrylic with a little water first before pouring it into the bucket containing latex paint.
Afterward, mix thoroughly with the stirrer. Make sure to test your paint mix on a small patch first to be sure you are satisfied with the outcome.
Can you paint acrylic over enamel?
Yes, you can but not without preparing the surface. Enamel paint is mostly oil-based and the glossy finish will prevent the paint from adhering properly to the intended surface. To prepare the surface, you will need to first clean with detergent and a rag and then use sandpaper to smooth the surface, getting rid of the glossy layer.
The next step is to apply multiple layers of latex primer over the surface, allowing each layer to be completely dry first. After this, you can then paint with acrylic over your enamel-covered surface.
Learn more about acrylic paints:
Acrylic paint and oil paint should not be mixed but they can both be used in one painting. It is advised that oil paint is used over acrylic paint and this order must be maintained. If the order is changed, it will ruin the painting since the water-based acrylic paint will not stick to the surface of the oil paint.