Painting Clinic: Why Acrylic Paints Have Come a Long Way

Liquitex Acrylic Paint

Painting Clinic: Why Acrylic Paints Have Come a Long Way, written by an anonymous guest blogger.

For many painters there will never be a subtitute for oil painting. The qualities of the paint, such as it’s handling and elasticity, the pigment intensity and it’s overall finish (due to the use of oil), have attracted image makers to use this medium as the preferred vehicle to create representational works of art. Acrylics, synthetic paints, have been around since the 1940s but had been met with criticisms due to their chemical nature. The colors did not have the natural look that was admired in oil paints, water solubility left paint layers looking flat, and the control that came from mixing colors from raw pigments and employing the use of a variety of additive “fillers” for effects, left acrylics at a disadvantage versus the standard.

Despite this, acrylics have made an impressive climb and some say they now rival oil paints in quality and control. Acrylic pigments can now be acquired raw, and mixed with a large array of mediums to produce a huge range of paint viscosity, textures and lightfastness. Polymer, Fluid Matte and Matte mediums can be added to extend colors, decrease gloss (that “plastic” look) and create flexible thin color layers. Water will dilute acrylics for extension, but mediums can produce thin layers of paint, “glazes,” mimicking how linseed oil and solvents thin out oil paints.

Roy Kinzer "Pinicate Hires"

Drying times are a major difference between oils and acrylics. The quick drying times for acrylics mixed with or without mediums are an attractive feature for those who seek to work fast. Water soluble paints dry faster and for this feature are considered unequal to oils due to the preference of some artists to create glazes and layers over time. If you prefer longer drying times, “acrylic retarders,” generally glycol or glycerin-based additives, have been developed to slow down the evaporation of water from regular acrylic paint.

Drying times and elasticity now conquered, modern acrylic paints have also made a strong argument with their versatility. Acrylics are more useful in mixed media projects. A dry acrylic surface can withstand layers of a variety of pastels, charcoal, pens, inks, and more, to safely interact and bond with the acrylic base. Acrylics can accept the mixing of non-traditional additives such as sand, rice, even pasta. Oil paints require the use solvents such as mineral spirits or turpentine, for thinning and clean up, which add a level of toxicity. These materials break down foreign elements in oil paints, as well as the oil itself, an organic material, which over time will rot and interact with anything organically included in the painting; including the canvas itself, if not properly sized or primed.

Conclusion: Acrylics defeat all these problems, as water soluble synthetics that stay fast, protect canvas linens, trap foreign materials, work well with mixed media and have a longer lifespan than oil paints.

Contact us to learn how to feature some of your acrylic paintings on our online gallery. Happy painting!

Painting: Compliments of Roy Kinzer – “Pinicate Hires” (2004) 48” x 96”

7 thoughts on “Painting Clinic: Why Acrylic Paints Have Come a Long Way

      • Acrylics do dry a little darker, not a lot but as you get used to them you can mostly avoid these issues. If they do dry darker than you want its easy to paint or glaze over those parts drying quickly for you too.

  1. Three of my paintings were submerged in a mix of sewage, heating oil and river water for two weeks after Hurricane Sandy. They were acrylic. They survived.
    One was sold recently. Long live (literally) acrylics.

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