Acrylic vs Oil Paint – Are They Really Different?


Home improvements have really seen a resurgence in recent years, due in part to lockdown restrictions and the stay-at-home messages. 

People were painting, decorating, and renovating because they had time to do it.  Painting that bedroom after all those years was finally being sorted. 

What people failed to realise was that choosing the colour was only part of the process.  The type of paint was the part people were totally unaware of. 

Paint isn’t just paint, an oil or acrylic based paint needed equal consideration. 

Still none the wiser? Check out the following article to help make an informed choice in the future.

Aren’t they just the same?

Not really no, there aren’t many similarities with these paint types at all, but they are worth mentioning to help in the paint choosing process. 

Regardless of the type of paint you choose, both can be moved around easily by brushes. 

Also, the range of colours available is broadly the same but they do vary depending on the manufacturer. 

A further similarity is the can size of both acrylic and oil-based. The variety in size for both types of paint match each other. 

One thing that is often forgotten is to check the walls before you head out to the store.  This is important because painting over an old coat can be problematic. 

Although it is unlikely to find oil-based paint on the walls, it is important to check.  Oil on top of acrylic will lead to peeling paint and a lot of repainting. 

Once you know what you are dealing with, head to the store to purchase your paint. 

From here on in, both paint types offer pros and cons compared to each other.    


A very popular choice for interior paint works and are easier to clean than oil bases. 

If speed is what you need then acrylic is the choice for you as this paint dries incredibly quickly. Also, acrylic can be used on pretty much any surface although it doesn’t adhere well on top of oil-based paint

Another plus with acrylic-based paint is the lack of colour fading that occurs. Because acrylic paints are largely water-based, cleaning up a spillage is fairly straightforward as long as it is not left for too long or the paint will begin to dry.

Although fast drying paint is a plus for some people, it can become a huge problem if you are called away from the painting area for any length of time. 

The paint will dry quickly and could leave drips that you would have dealt with as you painted.  Answering a phone call or someone knocking on the door is all it would take to ruin your hard work. 

‘Acrylics are more popular indoors but not for larger areas or areas where paints need to be blended. Squirting some water where the blending needs to happen can aid this,’ advised Louise Little, a highly respected Home Improvement blogger at Write My Dissertation.

Read more: Acrylic vs. Latex Paint: Which One Should You Use?


Oil-based paints are great in hard-wearing areas like windowsills and skirting boards. 

They are also easy to wipe clean if they become stained. 

Due to the oil content, these paints have a lovely shine once dry.  The dry time is longer which allows for brushing up missed areas and drips.  It is also much easier to blend colours together unlike the acrylic versions.

Dry time is longer which can be a negative to people wanting a quick finish.  A drawback of oil paint is the smell

Due to the oil content, there is a strong ‘terps’ smell which the paint dries.  A well-ventilated area eliminates this, but it can become overpowering.   

That being said, there are oil-based paints which have been developed to have little to no smell at all. 

If you have chosen oil-based paint, you must be aware of what to do if there is an accidental knocking over.  Oil based paint are a nightmare to clean up.

Acrylic vs Oil Paint: WHICH IS BETTER?

The million-dollar question and your answer will depend on what your end goal is.  It is worth mentioning primers at this point. 

Walls that have already been painted need to be sanded and primed to allow the new paint to stick correctly and not lead to length repainting jobs. 

For larger areas choose an oil-based paint.  If you require a speedy dry time, acrylic-based is best for you. 

After reading this article you will be in a much better place in choosing the correct type of paint for the job. 

Colour selection can only be done successfully once the type of paint has been chosen.  

Emily Henry is an outspoken and opinionated writer in the home improvement niche.  Her articles are open, honest and full of straight-talking comments.