New students wanting to learn how to paint are faced with deciding which medium to choose to paint with. This can be really confusing, so I want to give you a synopsis of the differences between the three types of paints most commonly used - acrylic paint, watercolour paint and oil paint.
All paint is made of two things - pigment (the colour - a dry powder) and a binder (this is what holds the dry pigment together and let's you apply it on a support like paper, canvas, wood etc.).
The three paints we are discussing use different binders - so each type of paint will dry differently, move differently across the paper or canvas, create different transparencies, and reflect colour differently. It is the type of binder used in each type of paint that makes the paint handle in these different ways. An artist is able to do different things which each type of paint and paint quite different paintings depending on his or her choice of medium.
Certain painting techniques work better with certain paints and, certainly, an oil painting does not look like a watercolour. However, every paint produces extraordinary work and the choice will depend mostly on your personality, and your style of art.
If you can, try all three paint mediums before you invest heavily in one type of paint. Everybody is different and your personality will likely respond more to one type of paint more that another. If you can't find classes in your area to do that, start with a limited colour palette first - just a few tubes of colour and a couple of brushes to try each medium.
Here are some pros and cons of each type of paint to help you choose what to begin with.
But seriously, they are all amazing, every medium creates beautiful art.
(The photos provided of each medium do not speak to the range that each medium can achieve, but I have tried to select pieces that represent the medium and well-known artists that worked in each specific paint type.)
For inspiration and to see what acrylic paint can do visit the National Acrylic Painter's Association
A Wreck, Possibly Related to 'Longships Lighthouse, Land's End' c.1834 - Tate Museum
Joseph Mallord William Turner
338 x 491 mm - Watercolour on Paper
For inspiration and to see what watercolour paint can do visit the Royal Watercolour Society
For inspiration and to see what oil paint can do visit the Royal Institute of Oil Painters
8/29/2018 08:12:40 pm
So, you might find this entertaining, but I hadn't realized that there were different types of paint. I only knew about watercolor painting and I thought that all the oil paintings that are in the museums were just really saturated watercolors. Maybe it would be fun to learn more about the different paints by going to a painting workshop.
8/30/2018 09:40:05 pm
Thanks for helping me understand that acrylic would make a stable solid paint film when they are dried out. I guess that will result in a unique piece of art that I want to buy for myself to decorate my new house. So I hope to find a scenic New Mexico acrylic painting for sale, since it is where I came from.
8/2/2022 04:35:58 pm
You are very welcome Mia! I hope you find the painting you are looking for 😊
1/10/2023 01:42:21 pm
Thanks for sharing this article ! it's really useful
2/14/2023 11:01:45 am
I like that you talked about how oil painting would be a medium of the masters, because they would have extraordinary glazing effects, lights, and colors. I would love to find a Blue Ribbon oil artist because of that, because it seems like it means that the design will come out as high-quality. It will be the perfect piece for my living room so that I can be proud of it when guests come over.
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Artist and Art Instructor living in Ottawa, Canada.