Acrylic Paint vs Oils vs Water Mixable Oils

Author: Rod Moore  Date Posted:22 July 2019 

Oil Paint vs Acrylic vs Water Mixable Oil Paints

Acrylic Paint vs Oils vs Water Mixable Oils


The following article is a guest post by Artist and Art educator Rod Moore - visit Rod's website for information about him - and to check out his Free learn to paint beginner course.



Acrylics are a great medium and extremely versatile for all artists. They are also terrific for beginners to get started with painting.

However those of you who have followed me for some time will know that oil paint is my preferred medium.

For a couple of reasons:

  • I love the thick buttery texture of oils vs acrylics which do not feel the same
  • Oils dry the same colour where as acrylics dry darker making it difficult to colour match.
  • Because oils have a slower drying time they provide more opportunity to work back into them. Even when they are tacky they are good to work back into which means blending is so much easier.
  • When dry oils look better … acrylics tend to go a little flat or dull when dried.

For me there are so many benefits of oils over acrylic. I love oil paint but I stopped using them and started painting with acrylics for the following reasons:

  • Oils and their solvents are more toxic and therefore bad for your health
  • Oils tend to smell out the house so not good for your relationship with your family

  • cleaning up oils ...ergh enough said on that one!

Continuing to work with traditional oils was no longer an option for me.

So I gave them up to work with acrylics. But I was never fully happy with the acrylics for some of the reasons stated above. Yes there have been some tremendous developments with acrylics in recent times like the Atelier Interactive.

Recently though I started to experiment with water mixable oil paints.

And I am excited by the possibilities.

Water mixable oil paints have the same ingredients in the tube as traditional oil paints … ie pigment and linseed oil.

When you squeeze them out of the tube they look and feel so similar to traditional oil paints that most people would not be able to tell the difference. They break down with water in a similar fashion as traditional oils break down in thinner or solvent.

So what is different?

Apparently (and I’m no scientist so don’t quote me on this) … in the lab they have modified some of the molecules in the linseed oil so that it is compatible with water.

No idea how or what etc but who cares.

The point is water mixable oils offer the best of both worlds. They offer the advantages of both traditional oils and acrylics.

They allow you to paint just like you would with traditional oil paints. The paint is thick and buttery and handles beautifully, and stays wet longer so you can manipulate the paint and blend for a lot longer than you could with acrylics.

And they can be thinned with water and they wash up in water like you would with acrylics.

The best of both worlds!

They take a little bit of getting used to.

While you can use the same 3 steps of the Moore Method of Painting there is a few things to learn about using water mixable oils … mostly to do with painting alla prima.

I definitely recommend giving them a try.

I have been using the Winsor & Newton Artisan brand and are quite happy with them. This is not an endorsement of them as such … try and experiment with different brands.

For my mind water mixable oils give the best of both worlds and offer a really workable solution for those of us who want the advantages of both traditional oils and acrylics, without the disadvantages.

Give them a try.


Comments (8)


Thanks for the info, just starting with painting and purchased acrylics. I will try the oils when I get the hang of it.

You're welcome Kirt, that is a great way to start with painting - have fun!

Switching away from oil and Gamsol

Greetings I have something going on in my lungs and I’m very antsy about camisole and oil paint in that they are so smelly and toxic. I am looking for an alternative so I can keep painting and my question is is water mixable oil better or is slow drain acrylic better what do you all recommend??

Hello, thanks for your question! All paint products are made with different components so it just depends on your personal preference. The water-mixable oils are still oil paints, but they can be washed up with soap and water making them more practical, and also you don't need to use solvents. This might be a better option for you, as you can still use your oil painting techniques. Give it a go and see what you think!

Water mixable oils

I have been painting with Acrylic for a few years, and recently had a set of Monte Marte water mixable oils, but to be honest I am a little afraid of them. I am given to believe that canvas preparation is different, how I know not, also all the art shops I have visited, online or otherwise, stock the paints but not the mediums. Most tutorials on it , that I have seen do not go into preparation, other are just way to fast. Do you have any constructive info on them.

Hi there! There is absolutely nothing to be afraid of when working with Water Mixable Oils! The beauty of them is that they look like oils, without the need for harmful solvents. You can use Water Mixable Oil Paints on their own and they can be thinned with water (which is great for beginners). They can also be painted directly onto a primed canvas (The Mont Marte Professional Series Canvas is a great option for this). We are also currently looking into stocking the accompanying mediums. Please don't hesitate to reach out if you have any further questions! :)

Can you mix with oil mediums or solvent?

I’ve been told not to mix water soluble oils with water when painting. Is it ok to mix with non toxic oil mediums or best to only use linseed oil or other water soluble oil mediums? Thank you! Diana

Hi Diana, Thank you for contacting us! Water-soluble oils such as the Monte Marte H20 and Winsor & Newton Artisan Water Mixable Oil Colour ranges are designed to be able to be mixed with water. If you do prefer to not use water they can be mixed with oil paint, linseed based mediums and turpentine. Please feel free to contact our team if you have any further questions!

Beautiful and for a non oil paint user an eye open

I tried the H20 oils and they are just beautiful. I was an acrylic person but I can't afford the better quality paint (Golden) and I use a lot of paint weekly so I am just going to have to do the math. Whole heartedly I endorse them and recommend buying a beginner kit = there was a kit that had a good number of paints plus easle, canva pad and canvass with brushes. A great purchase. My next step is can I use them in mixed media? I will write an update after I try piling on my usual painting method - if anyone is interested in mixed media look at Karen Campbell on YouTube and "the hamburger method'

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