Is acrylic paint the poor cousin of oil?

Hi there, I’m really just curious - while looking at the stats on this website I noticed that oil painting out sell acrylic 2 to 1. So it looks like acrylic paintings have half the appeal of oils. I have seem some fantastic paintings, both oil and acrylic in the real world, and was wondering why the ratio is so great. Is oil seen as platinum and acrylic as silver?
Is it a historical thing, with oil being used to paint early masterpieces, and acrylic being the new kid on the block? Therefore could it be that the perception of oil is better, and there for more desirable?

You will have guessed by now that I paint with acrylics. I have spent the last 3 years, or so, trying to paint in a manner similar to artists that I admire, Carol Marine being one of them. Every single one of them use oil paint. Is this telling me something, that oil is the way to go to achieve great work? Well not really, as a lot of the artists I admire painted between 1890 and 1940 (a rough time scale).

I have a small flat with very limited space, so this is why I chose acrylic (most brands…mostly Golden these days) so you can see why I chose this medium…and the fast drying is appealling (I hated the drying time at first).

As I mentioned, I’m really just curious why oil paintings are out selling acrylic with such an extreme ratio.

On a side note I think my paintings are getting closer to where I want to go as an artist. And I managed to move towards Carol’s style using acrylic.
If your interested you can see one of Carol’s tutorials I followed on my Instagram account…you can get the link at my entry for this months ‘The Low Key Challenge’.
Happy painting…whatever medium you use.
Cheers, Ken

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Nothing to snub acrylics about. I’ve seen outrageously beautiful paintings in oils, in acrylics, in watercolors, even in pastels! I used to paint in oils but am now in a much smaller home than I once had so I’ve switched to acrylics. I don’t need them sitting around drying out for weeks or even months. Acrylics have allowed me to go on painting :slight_smile:


You are right. Acrylic is the poor cousin, but what does that make my favorite medium - watercolor? I guess maybe the sad stepchild.

It is all in perception and tradition and wrong ideas in the art buying public. It will probably not change much in my lifetime. Oil painting is real painting! Watercolor is for retired ladies to play around with and it is always pale and watery looking.

I like all the mediums, but watercolor is the only one that doesn’t ruin my brushes, because I’m too much of a lazy bum to clean them properly.

Good discussion, thanks!
I especially appreciate the comment about the perception of the art buying public.
I painted with oil a very long time ago, and then switched to acrylic. Then I went to paint with a group of Europeans for 4 years ( :slight_smile: long story) They DEFINITELY talked the hierarchy of paints! (and I couldn’t even speak their language very well!!)
While working with that group, I switched back to oils, because what I learned was that my painting style evolved to where I could say what I wanted to better and easier in oils.
And shouldn’t that be the reason for choosing what to use, rather than what others think of it? IknowIknow, then the public perception and $ gets involved…

There are acrylic paintings that are better than oil paintings. I’ve sold acrylic when having my oil paintings displayed along side of them. However, I prefer oil and prefer oil paintings. There is a glow to oil paintings not found in acrylics, they blend very well and your brush strokes can really stand out depending on how much you apply. They were used by the masters. Some famous artists paint their studies on sight with watercolor and paint oils in the studio. Oil painting takes up no more room than acrylics in my mind’s eye. You can use medium to accelerate drying time. Painting outside causes them to dry out quickly. Also you don’t have to use a lot of different mediums and there are water soluble oils now so brushes don’t need to be cleaned with mineral spirits.I personally don’t like acrylic because it is so difficult to create soft edges, as well as dries darker. I use it for other purposes than 2d art. But in answer to your question, I have always heard that the order of value is oil, acrylic then watercolor.

I have very much noticed that there is an old school attitude with the public (and some artists) about oil paintings being superior just because they are oil.
Let’s all continue to paint with heart in the medium we love, whatever that it!!!

No. But it is the (relatively) new, young, upstart cousin. It wasn’t invented in the Renaissance, basically. David Hockney paints in acrylics (as well as other media) e.g. Mr & Mrs Clark and Percy, A Bigger Splash and he is not a poor cousin of anything.

Maybe the ratio of oil sales to acrylic sales on DPW reflects the ratio of media offered for sale?

If not, then I guess it is the perception of some buyers that painting in oils is an ancient, mysterious and arcane art with a whiff of the Renaissance about it!

Also, sales in the art market that hit the headlines because of the eye-watering sums involved, are usually in oil. So perhaps people think a painting in oil has a likelihood of a higher value. This doesn’t explain Hockney, or Warhol or Lichtenstein, but there you go.

Finally, I think there is a perception that painting in oils is harder than other media and therefore of more value because of its perceived technical challenge. This may have been true when you had to gather your own pigments and grind them with oil etc etc, but now I think the opposite is true.
I paint in oil because it is easier to get half-decent results than with acrylic, and miles easier than watercolour, which I think is super hard to do well.


Yes, Karen is absolutely right about the ratio of media offered for sale: I just checked the numbers, and among currently available works there are 53 372 oil paintings and 21 336 acrylic ones.


I love my acrylics, Ken! One day I may eventually take on oils as well, but, I am just having too much fun with acrylics to stop anytime soon! In recent years I have been heavily into portrait and figurative work and have learned a lot about using Old Masters techniques but in acrylics… So awesome and fun! Personally, I think acrylics can do pretty much anything that oils can, and also a lot that water colour paint can too, and some special stuff of its own. I know acrylics are the new kid on the block, but, they have actually been around for 70+ years and I read a long winded article the other day that seemed to be suggesting that although acrylic longevity in paintings has not been tested like oil has, there is science behind the theory that an acrylic painting could last for 1,000 years. And, as others say, each to their own and if a medium clicks, for you, stick with it and enjoy! Just don’t do it just because the ‘in crowd’ approves of it, that’s all! :grin:

I used to work with acrylics when I first started painting. I now paint in oils. Acrylic is actually a polymer - a plastic. The look is different than oils. Oils have a richer, deeper look in my opinion. Acrylics tend to have harder edges and when dry tend to look like plastic, not as rich. They have many mediums to help acrylics look more like oils by slowing the drying time, giving more time for blending soft edges, etc. but I still feel oil looks better. Just my personal opinion. Usually I can spot an acrylic painting pretty quickly as colors tend to be more harsh, harder edges, less rich and more plastic looking. Some people can manipulate it to avoid these things somewhat but it seems like more work. Anyhow, I paint w/ acrylic sometimes too. But the quick drying time and the fact that the color dries a darker value than when it is wet is frustrating to me.

Well said Becky. Some of our very well known and wonderful artists in South Africa, use Acrylics for health reasons. One of them is JOHN MEYER. His paintings are exquisite. You can find him on the Net. Then there is ALVARO CASTENET, who paints in Watercolour. He is famous and his paintings are Fantastic!! So I think that it is not the medium one uses, but the way it is executed that counts. Have fun and enjoy what you do, that is important!!!

I love all 3 mediums; It’s the artwork itself that appeals to me…not the medium usually.
I’ve experimented with all 3…prefer acrylics:

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I think there definitely is a perceived idea in the art world and in general that oil is ‘better’ than acrylic.
Acrylic is plastic after all, whereas oil paints are oil and pigment.

Perception is a hard thing to get over. Oil paints are traditional and acrylics are the young upstart.
I could go on and on for example about people’s perception of a ‘great wine’, but that’s for another forum and another thread…:wink:

Personally I couldn’t get along with acrylics. My paintings just looked somehow fake and cheap and the colors always dulled and lost depth on drying. But I know a lot of artists that paint wonderfully with acrylics and I’d have their paintings on my wall in a heartbeat. I think it’s about really getting to know your medium and what works for you.

What sells best and people’s perception is unfortunately beyond our control.


Watercolor is a medium you need to make friends with and really get to know. There are moods and various degrees of light and dark and mixes you would not believe and they are only possible in watercolor. I was afraid of it until I took a night school course and it opened my eyes. Watercolor can do such wonderous things but not if you try to use them like oils or acrylics…they are a world of their own and deserve our respect :slight_smile:


Hi there, I think there are a number of truths in the many answers to my post - thanks all. I’m sure the general public believe oil to be the best medium to use… I mean, I have never heard the expression, ‘she/he is no acrylic painting’. So oil seems to win hands down with the public.

I think if you like to blend your paint then oil is definitely a good choice. I am not keen on blending, I like to see discrete areas of tone or colour.

When I took up painting again, after many years, I may well have continued painting with oil, but limited space (and a partner with a super human sense of smell…she could work for the police) meant I would have to use acrylics.

Painting with acrylic was really hard when I started and I was getting very frustrated…I even posted my frustration here.

To cut a long story short for some reason I recently started to think that I was disadvantaging myself using acrylic, and ironically at a time when I believe I am beginning to master acrylics…silly I know. When painting with acrylic I have always tried to mimic oil.

Being enthralled with Carol Marine’s painterly brushwork I initially couldn’t approach her look with acrylic. I did get a fairly close match eventually seen here. But a soon realised my own style was always trying to push through…it’s still trying to push through. Simplicity and a touch of abstraction is what I crave.

Okay, so I bought water miscible oil paint to try last weekend, and I hated them…nothing to do with them being water miscible. So now I am thinking do I really want to take the time to learn oils? No not really, I have invested to much time learning acrylic (and I even wonder if water miscible oil is looked down on a tad). So I’m sticking with acrylic paint, I believe they have huge potential for creativity with their quick drying time. And it’s always fun when you add a coat of varnish when finished with a painting, the dark colours deepen and the colours become vibrant.

The bottom line is there just seems to be more artists on this site that paint with oil. Today there are 1196 paintings on this site, opposed to 446 acrylic.

Of course it ultimately boils down to, have you painted a good painting in the end.

I wish everyone to enjoy their medium of choice and please don’t have a wobbly with their confidence like I had. Whatever you are using, push it as far as it can go…and have fun of course.

For me…I’m championing acrylics with new vigour.


Haha, Ken, and look how the general public treated the French Impressionists when they were struggling to do something that was against the traditions of their art world! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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I love acrylic paint. I’ve tried oils. I went back to acrylics. I think that whatever paint you use the most important thing is to love it.


I paint with acrylics because, like has been said here, I only have limited space and I paint in my bedroom. I would not like the smells of solvents permeating where I sleep. I do believe there is a bias toward oil paint and it is a bit frustrating but I try to ignore it. You have to take the playing fields as it is, not as how you think it should be. And, just to make things a bit more difficult, I have been playing with watercolors lately.

It’s easy to get sidetracked with the financial side of the business of making art, but I think it’s a mistake to decide on your medium primarily on that basis. My take on it is do what you love working with because the sparkle of that joy will shine through. Plus I think experimentation to see what works best for your unique approach to making art, whether it’s space, sensitivity to chemicals, a particular kind of style or even level of patience with the process. I know that each medium has its unique qualities and an artist’s medium choice is much like a musician’s genre preference. There are classical musicians, jazz, rock, rap, blues, etc. but their viability in the marketplace is based more on the unique appeal and mastery of their medium than the medium itself. That being said, I personally like that acrylics won’t crack nor turn yellow with age like oils do and their brilliance can be cranked up or toned down. I love the unique luminescence that oils can bring to the canvas. I enjoy the sheer abandon of lush color you can achieve with pastel.The depth and crisp sparkle of watercolor are unmatched in other mediums. Colored pencils can blow you away with the hyperrealism they make possible. . Sometimes, the medium is essential to adequately convey the message. I’m grateful we have so many incredible choices to work with!

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I am a firm believer that each artist should use whatever works for them. It’s a real shame that any medium is ‘looked down on’. Use anything on anything to make the marks that you need to to convey your ideas.