Playing with your paints is one of life’s simple joys. If you’ve been wondering can you mix acrylic paint with oil paint then I’ve got a little bad news – you can do it, but you won’t always like the results. That said, you CAN get some interesting effects painting oil over acrylics, just be sure never to paint acrylics over oils. I’ll tell you more about this shortly and we’re also going to discuss a few things like making acrylics look like oils and some of the biggest differences between the two.
They say that oil and water don’t mix… so what about water-based acrylics? Let’s take a closer look and soon you’ll know about it!
What happens when you mix acrylic paint with oil paint?
I mentioned the old ‘oil and water’ adage and it definitely applies here. When you mix water-based acrylics with an oil paint then you get the same effect that you do with just regular oil and water.
You’ll get separation.
With acrylics, the oil is less dense than the water and so it’s going to diffuse your acrylic colors. Just in case you are thinking about giving it a try anyway, you’ve got another pitfall to consider. Oil paint and acrylics have a different drying period. With acrylics, you are looking at a period of 20 to 30 minutes, unless it’s a really thick coat that you’ve applied, in which case you are looking at about an hour.
Oil paints, by contrast, have a much longer drying time, with a very robust 24-hour period required before oil paints will dry. Due to the separation factor of the mixed mediums and the radically different drying times, mixing these two is certainly a fun experiment but it may not be something that you stick with.
It does produce some interesting effects sometimes, though.
How do I make acrylic paint look like oil paint?
If you want to get the appearance of oil paint from your acrylics, there are a couple of ways to do this. One of the easiest methods is mixing in a little acrylic gel with your acrylic paints. This definitely glosses up the look and makes it look a lot more like it was painted with oils.
The other method is to look for slow-drying acrylics. As they take longer to dry, they produce a readily perceivable difference in the end-results that a lot of artists are quite fond of. The trick is really in how you paint it, though, as the slow drying acrylics make it easier to create softer edges and to create subtle blends that emulate oil paints quite nicely. Give it a try and you can see for yourself!
Now, I mentioned painting oil over acrylics. First off, never do it the other way around, as the drying time will get you. Paint with your acrylic first and let it dry, THEN add a few dashes of oil paint to highlight areas and see what you get when it dried. Mixing these two in this manner can produce some very pleasing eye-candy and this is an experiment that you’ll definitely repeat a few times and which you’ll likely want to keep!
What is the difference in oil and acrylic paint?
The biggest difference between these two paints is the base, of course. Oil paints are oil-based, while acrylics are water-based. They have vastly different drying times, as previously discussed, though they often have pigments in common when it comes to the colors that they produce.
Most noticeably with the oils you get much nicer colors and you can make softer, blended edges. This may be achieved with acrylics but it takes that slow-drying hack that we’ve mentioned.
Oil paints are often toxic, which is another consideration, while acrylics are quite the opposite and a great choice for children and for beginners. As far as cost, acrylics are definitely cheaper and I think that this makes them the best to start with.
Oil paints are nice but they can get a little pricey, so it’s better to learn with some acrylics first until you are comfortable taking things to the next level with oil.
Some final words
Today I’ve answered the question ‘can you mix oil paint with acrylic paint’ and the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. While it’s a little ‘experimental’, you can certainly produce some interesting effects but it’s very hit or miss. You can compromise, by painting with a little oil over acrylic, just be sure never to do it the other way around because of the drying-time factor.
You can also make your acrylics look more like oil if you use the slow-drying variety and if you are looking for a ‘starter set’, it’s best to go with acrylics. They are cheaper and thus they give you a chance to learn a few painting basics before you graduate to oil.
If you’d like to learn a little more about painting oil over acrylics, I’ve got a great 3rd party link that you can check out here. It explores the subject in a little more detail and I think that you will like it.
Just remember… oil over acrylic but NEVER acrylic over oil and you should be fine!