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Do oil paintings really have more "depth" than acrylic paintings like I've heard?
Do oil paintings really have more "depth" than acrylic paintings like I've heard? I want to learn to paint.
No. Acrylic is more clear as a base paint. Most people don’t paint with acrylic this way because traditionally it was used by artists who liked its abiity to be applied thick in thick abstract manor. To get acrilics to have depth like oil, I would use a medium that dries slower and spray with airbrush or use soft brush to apply in layers. Its easier because it’s less toxic. With oil you can cover and come back later to re adjust. Water base you just go over in a short period with multiple thin coats. Water base vs oil base doesn’t make it easier necessarily.

If I were you I would get used to acrilic first. It’s cheaper easier get deals on, way less toxic, unless you have a working studio with ventilation. Some oil paints are group 1 carcinogens, I find oil hard to work with because I’m always worried about the toxic effects. Besides it’s better to have a faster drying paint so you can make thousands of paintings instead of hundreds. By the time you learn how to paint with oils they will be banned from the earth. So as far as depth, it’s easier to get depth in one layer of oil compared to acrylic water base, but you can apply many coats of water base acrylic in a day. Some will start with acrylics then go over with a layer of alkyd oil paint when it’s dry, to get a look of traditional painters from the past.

I like to apply a layer of phosphorescent, or a layer of graphite, even gold leaf to create depth. What this does is makes light brighter on the base coat reflecting through to create a light from within the painting. Long after the painting dries I apply multiple coats of varnish to seal in layers of paint only professional painters can tell if it’s oil or acrilic at this point due to the bright colors as opposed to the ambered colors the oil paint produces.

Learning how to paint is different than just learning depth, it’s just one element of painting you can master. I would find a university that would offer classes in oil painting if you’re serious. I started with water colors as a child. It teaches the basics like brush work and can be done anywhere. Really it’s just best to begin with charcoal like almost all successful art painters I have known in my life. Use news print and smudge with fingers creating depth. It’s like a warm up before you dive in. To me I would think of depth as a multiple layered heavily worked piece as opposed to a fresh abstract splash painted acrylic. To me it’s just one element of painting you cannot achieve unless you learn all the techniques first.
I started painting when I was a teenager with oils. Obviously, not being trained and being the ’70s, not very many technical information were so handy as we have now with internet. Result was that I was making A LOT of technical mistakes. With time of course I learned and improved.

About 20 years ago, I started using acrylics and being used to oils, I struggled a lot with this new media. Even using Liquitex and Golden I was still struggling being used to a long drying of oils. I had to change method and ended up painting with multiple layers. I remember that in one painting I used one dozen of layers! Result was good and the convenience of using acrylics cannot be beaten. The “depth” was there with all those layers, and many people mistook my works for oils, except for when they were sticking their nose near the canvas..LOL. No linseed oil smell…

However, I was never 100% satisfied with acrylics so I am back to oils. I accept the slow drying time, although with Liquin (by W&N) or equivalent product you can shorten the time considerably.

Now I am a bit stuck because on one hand I like oils but don’t like potential health hazard although I almost do not use solvent and only washing my brushes with soap but Liquin for example is a strong stuff to use…

On other hand I would like to go back with the convenience and practicality of acrylics but I struggle to forget the lack of luster they have.

I think depends on what kind of paintings you make. If you are into non-figurative I would guess stay with acrylics. If you prefer realistic I think oil is still better. Just my thoughts…
Edited: Giovanni Siano - 08.02.2019 16:05:57
Not any longer. There are so many new products that increase your ability to paint with acrylics by changing the flow, drying time (this used to be the biggest drawback for acrylics), density, etc. And acrylics can be made to last longer than oils. There are also more colors available and possibilities for changing the ground and using mixed media. The great drawback of oils is that they take so long to dry which makes glazing and varnishing harder, not to mention the long term effects of turpentine and cadmium. That’s not to say that you can get exactly the same glow effects with acrylics as with oil but you can get very close. If you wish to paint in oils, you could underpaint with acrylics and do the final in oils. The reverse is not true.
In my humble opinion, each medium has the potential to create a captivating piece. Watercolor is very forgiving and numerous techniques are at your disposal to manifest the finest details of a landscape. Acrylics have more depth in regards to color and they dry quickly. This enables the artist to effectively layer the paint and make errors less noticeable. Oil paints require a more delicate approach; they dry slowly and have an entirely different array of chemical properties then water based paints. This contributes to blending abilities that are unparalleled. Thus, when compared to acrylic and watercolor paintings, the oil based painting will appear more captivating.
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Thus, when compared to acrylic and watercolor paintings, the oil based painting will appear more captivating.
How captivating depends on the artist, not the medium. Besides it is possible to paint with acrylics in a way that is hard to distinguish from oils. A way oilpaint differ from watercolour and acrylics, which are both water based, is that the drying time is much slower. It makes it easier to make smooth blends, and you can scrape of and rework patches until you are satisfied.
Edited: Peter Sass - 08.02.2019 18:40:59
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Thus, when compared to acrylic and watercolor paintings, the oil based painting will appear more captivating.
I don’t think that is true. It all depends on the quality of the work and not the medium. A child’s colour crayon scribble of his cat can be on a par with a highly finished oil/acrylic work by a competent artist but it all depends on the viewer.

Art truly only exists when seen and every viewer appreciates different aspects of the work. Deciding what is best or worst is, ultimately, only at a personal level.
By “depth” I’m assuming that they are talking about “seeing into” the paint layers when layers of translucent glazes are used in oil painting. Oil paint also becomes more transparent when it ages which also increases that effect in old paintings.

Glazing can also be used in acrylic painting, but it’s much more difficult to get an even, streak free layer because acrylic dries so fast. However, I think it’s possible to get a similar effect of depth.

The majority of painters today don’t use the glazing technique and use paint opaquely, so their paintings don’t have that effect of depth no matter what they use.
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