Oil Versus Acrylic: Which is Better for Fine Art in My Home?

A beautiful oil painting... but is it dry yet?

A beautiful oil painting... but is it dry yet?

The argument has raged on since people had couches to hang paintings behind: should we buy oil paintings or acrylic artwork to hang in our homes? There's technically no right or wrong answer, but there are plenty of misconceptions.

The Myth That Great Artists Don't Work in Acrylics

To begin, many people labor under the misconception that the best artists (like the greats of centuries past) only work in oil paints. While this may have been true 400 years ago before you could go to Lowe's for color matching, today's fine artists very frequently work in acrylics. So, to dispel one myth, never discount the quality, authenticity, or professionalism when it comes to works of art done in acrylic paint.

Oil Paintings Take Longer to Dry

Acrylics can stand the test of time as well and sometimes better than oil paintings, depending on a few things. Oil paintings take forever to dry, and if they are not properly finished by the artist, they can literally smudge months after the piece of art has been completed. In this sense, artwork done in oil paint is not the most advantageous for the home, especially if you want something done on commission to your specifications and you want it as soon as possible. On the other hand, if you have found an artist who works in oils whose work truly wows you, it's well worth the wait — but that means more patience on your part.

Commissioned Art: Oil May Be the Better Option For the Artist

If you have paid an artist to do a portrait of your family or to paint a near-identical likeness to a photo of a landscape, oil may be the best choice for the artist to work with. The reason for this is that because the paint takes so long to dry, the painter can work with it to create the look they want, and "mistakes" can be more easily corrected on the canvas. However, blending agents for acrylic paints that have only been around for a few decades allow for acrylic paints to form a sort of gel, which makes them stay wet a little longer so the artist can work his or her magic — that said, even this acrylic blending gel does not stay wet as long as oil paint does.

There is a Difference in Canvas Quality, and It Does Matter

Whether the painter is utilizing acrylic or oil paint, the quality of the canvas matters. Oftentimes, store-bought canvases or those that are hand-stretched using low grade canvas will not do justice to the finest artwork done on them. So, if you plan on paying your artist for the canvas your oil or acrylic painting will be done on, make sure to go the extra mile for the finest canvas as well as the best stretcher bars. When you do this, both oil and acrylic paintings look their best and last a lifetime.