Artists seldom limit themselves to only one medium. Sure, you’ll have a favorite, but most of us like to play around with different types of art just to keep things fresh and creative. This begs the question… can you mix acrylic and oil paint?
While you can use both of them on the same canvas, you cannot physically mix the paints together – they are simply too different in composition. Acrylic paints are essentially microplastic particles in water, while oil is a thicker suspension of oils, your additives, and pigments. Mixing the two is only going to make a sticky, watery mess.
Today I’ll tell you a little more about that and also how you can use both mediums on canvas if you should desire. You can really do some neat tricks that way, so it’s worth a little experimentation.
Let’s talk about mixing other mediums with your oil paints!
What happens when you mix acrylic and oil paint?
You know the old saying ‘oil and water don’t mix’? Well, it applies with your paints as well. Your acrylic paints, as it turns out, are anywhere between 45% and 55% water and that’s straight out of the tube. If you should mix your oils with that, the oil floats to the surface, creating some interesting rainbow effects but also a recipe for disaster.
You see, aside from that primary incompatibility, acrylics and oils also dry at different rates, with acrylics taking 30 to 45 minutes while oils are significantly longer. So, painting with this mix gets you a colorful goo that won’t dry properly and that’s if it even sticks. Sadly, these two mediums were just not meant to be mixed together, but you CAN definitely incorporate them together on canvas and you can some pretty interesting results with this kind of play (not to mention a delightful weekend).
Let’s move on and I’ll tell you how to get these two to play together without fighting!
Can you use both acrylic and oil paint together?
Yes! If you want to use acrylic and oil paints on the same canvas, then all that you need to do is to follow a very simply rule. You can paint oil over acrylic paints, but never acrylic paints over oil. This is because of that difference in drying times that we mentioned and also in how they bond to the canvas.
When you paint an acrylic layer first and let it dry, the acrylic paint is porous enough that the oil you are painting over it can seep in and get a good hold – basically ‘piggybacking’ on the acrylic.
If you try it the other way around, though, it doesn’t work out that way. While acrylics form a hard semi-plastic, oils dry much differently, undergoing a lot of chemical changes in the process. Not only will they pull moisture from acrylic painted on top of them, but they can’t dry properly when you ‘seal them up’ in plastic. It’s as simple as that.
So, if you want to put the two together, then plan out your layers and put the acrylic down first. Let it dry, and once that happens, then you’ve got a plasticky surface that your oils will cling to nicely and you’re ready to see what these two mediums can work together to produce!
Can I use oil medium with acrylic paint?
Nope. Oil mediums such as linseed oil are not going to be compatible with your acrylics. Acrylics have their own specific mediums and those are what you will need to use and the same goes with your oil paints. Mixing them together anyways is just going to make a mess and possibly some fumes that it will take a while to get out of your art room, so you’ll want to be sure to only mix compatible mediums and to never mix your oil and acrylic paints together.
That said, don’t be afraid to try painting oil over acrylic on your canvas. Just make sure that your acrylics are properly dry before you paint over them and you should be able to apply your oils on top with no issues whatsoever. It gives your composition and interesting look and it’s well-worth playing with!
Some final words
Today I’ve talked a little about why you cannot mix acrylic and oil paint. When you mix acrylic and oil paint, you are basically mixing oil and water – as the classic saying tells us, these two simply don’t mix. Oil floats to the surface of water and that’s what will occur when you put these two mediums together.
Before I go, I’ve got a great 3rd party article that will tell you a little more about using acrylics or watercolors on the same canvas as your oils. You can read it here if I’ve piqued your interest and I think that you are going to love it.
Have a great weekend mixing up mediums on canvas and thanks for reading!