Oil Paintings versus Acrylic Paintings

The cons and pros of oil painting versus acrylic painting. Helpful tips, ideas and techniques to create and maintain quality oil painting or acrylic painting.

Everyone probably knows that oil paint dries a lot longer than acrylic paint. However, not so many people realize that when oil paint is drying it is changing color.

When a large quantity of oil paint is used for oil painting it can take a year for it to completely dry and settle. Here are a few tips on how to handle oil painting before it is ready to be displayed or sold.

Day 1 - Day 10
The issue in the first few days is how to protect oil painting from dust and other debris while the paint is still fresh.

One approach is to cover oil painting with a cloth or plastic wrap, which for obvious reasons can be tricky and might not work 100%.

Another approach is to cover oil painting with thin layer of lacquer. It dries faster and will protect the painting from dust and debris. The flip side is - the oil underneath will take a lot longer to dry. It will actually be drying from the back of the oil painting through the canvas (if the oil painting is on canvas). This technique should only be used by experience artists, since applying lacquer on top of the painting will also cause oil paint to change its colors a little.

Acrylic paintings do not have this issue, however acrylic paint seem to work better on canvas board not canvas, or it works well when used for watercolor drawings since it can be diluted with water.

Day 11 - Day 100
After a few days have passed oil paint on the painting can still be sticky, but it is more or less stable enough for the painting to be unwrapped. Now, the other issue is sunlight.

Obviously direct sunlight is bad for any painting, but in the first month or so after an oil painting is completed the paint is still fresh and it seem that the sunlight is doing a lot more damage during that time. Keeping the painting in dry and dark palace (not dusty) should take care of this issue.

Again, Acrylic paintings will not have this issue since they dry so fast.

Day 100 - Day 367
Now, the best thing is to leave oil painting alone for a while. If you planning on taking pictures of the oil painting to publish, created prints or post on the Internet, just wait. The colors have not settled yet, and they will be different when oil painting is ready (mostly there will be a slight difference, but the difference can be obvious depends on the paint brand and colors used).
If it is absolutely necessary to take photographs of the painting before it is ready, then they should be retaken later on when all the color on the oil painting have settled.

Acrylic paintings do not change colors over time due to drying out, however all paintings change colors with age.

Day 368
The oil painting is now ready for expositions, galleries, shows and to be sold. If you are selling a painting make sure to take a lot of good quality pictures of it for your portfolio and possibly for reproductions such as art prints posters.

Based on the amount of oil paint used this process can take less or more time, but in general a year is a good amount of time for oil painting to settle.

Mikhail Onanov
Artist