“Can you mix oil and acrylic paint” is a common question people ask when completing a range of home improvement or art projects. Often, it’s because there are characteristics in each paint they’d like to capture, making the idea of mixing the acrylic and oil paints attractive. But that doesn’t mean it’s wise.
Mixing oil and acrylic paint isn’t recommended. Since acrylic isn’t oil-based, the two paints won’t combine effectively. Additionally, the different drying times and other characteristics can lead to undesirable results as the paint dries, including cracking and peeling.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t use oil and acrylic together or make acrylic act more like oil paint. So if you’re asking yourself, “Can you mix oil and acrylic” and would like to learn more, here’s what you need to know.
Can You Mix Oil and Acrylic Paint?
Whether you can mix any two paints is usually dependent on their bases. When the bases match, mixing the two paints is typically possible. If the bases vary, they won’t combine correctly.
Generally speaking, acrylic paint is considered water-based, though some also refer to it as chemical-based; oil paint is oil-based.
Since the bases of the two paints differ, mixing them effectively isn’t possible, even if you have a paint mixing machine. Oil is hydrophobic, so it won’t dissolve in water regardless of how much you stir or swirl the paints together.
While you may disperse oil paint in acrylic paint, they won’t combine since their core compositions vary. Additionally, even if the dispersal is initially even, it won’t stay that way indefinitely. Instead, the two paints will typically separate over time, creating a layer of oil paint and a layer of acrylic within the container.
The only exception is with water-soluble oil paints. That specific version is designed to mix with water, so it can potentially combine with acrylic. However, you may want to conduct tests before painting a large surface or adding it to an art piece.
What Happens If You Mix Oil and Acrylic Paint?
If you try to mix oil and acrylic paint, the best you can achieve is a relatively even dispersal of the two paints within a container, as they won’t combine. If you attempt to paint with the mixture, issues often arise.
Since the two paint types have different drying times, you may see odd dripping or spreading patterns. Bubbling, cracking, flaking, peeling, and streaking are all also possibilities, though the problems may not be immediately apparent. In some cases, issues will show as the paint starts to dry. In others, it will cause the painted surface to degrade over time.
Some artists use the resulting problems to their advantage. They may strategically apply an oil and acrylic mix to achieve a cracked or flaking look in part or all of a painting. Then, once they get their desired result, they seal the surface to prevent the issue from spreading.
Can You Paint Oil Over Acrylic?
Yes, you can paint oil over acrylic, even though the two aren’t mixable. Oil paint can stick to a surface covered in acrylic paint without issue. However, the underlying acrylic has to be dry. In most cases, acrylic dries in anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, so this typically isn’t too much of a hindrance.
The same applies to sealants. You can put an oil-based sealant over acrylic paint, as it will adhere to the acrylic surface. The only issue is that some oil-based varnishes and polyurethanes can have a yellow tint or may discolor over time, altering the look of the original work.
Can You Paint Acrylic Over Oil Paint?
While you can paint oil over acrylic, you can’t paint acrylic over oil paint. Even if the oil paint is dry, acrylic won’t stick properly to the surface. As a result, any applied paint can drip, streak, flake, crack, or experience similar issues during the application process, as it dries or ages.
In most cases, you won’t want to use a water-based sealer over oil paint. It won’t stick properly unless you prepare the surface correctly, such as deglossing the surface.
Many deglossing steps aren’t ideal for artistic works, as they can alter the color and texture of the underlying paint. Additionally, some of the deglossing approaches may be too harsh or difficult to paint on canvases.
However, without deglossing, bubbling, cracking, peeling, or other similar issues can occur. As a result, if you don’t want to degloss, it’s better not to apply water-based sealers over oil paint.
How to Make Acrylic Look and Behave Like Oil Paint
Many artists favor oils because of the final look and how they act as they’re applied. Oils can offer a rich color depth you don’t easily get with acrylics. Additionally, the slower drying times can make mixing and blending oil paints can create opportunities that are hard to capture otherwise.
However, since oil paint requires harsh solvents to clean up and takes far longer to dry than acrylics, many people turn to acrylic. Additionally, they often want to determine how to figure out how to make acrylic look and behave like oil.
Some products and approaches can give acrylic oil-like characteristics. First, you want to find highly pigmented acrylic paint. That way, you can get the strength of color that’s usually only available in oil.
While you don’t want to go overboard, ensuring that you’re applying enough paint during each layer also helps. When the paint isn’t overly thin, it won’t dry as quickly, giving you more time for on-the-fly blending.
It’s also wise to choose slow-drying acrylics or the right medium for a traditional acrylic. For example, adding an acrylic gel can give you greater thickness. Plus, it will slow the drying time, all while making the final look glossier.
Introducing a gloss medium or impasto paste can also imbue acrylic with oil-like qualities. The same goes for a high flow medium.
Glazing can give the colors an extra punch and make a painting feel more dynamic. You can use them for the final layer over an entire work or limit it to just a few areas, injecting some extra dimension into the design.
Can You Mix Acrylics with Other Types of Paint?
You can mix acrylics with any other kind of water-based paint. Along with other acrylics, it can combine with watercolors or latex paint, for example.
Additionally, you might be able to combine acrylic with water-soluble oil-based paint. However, you may want to conduct tests to ensure you’ll get a result you will enjoy. The purpose of water-soluble oil-based paint was to create an oil paint product that you can thin with water. Since it wasn’t explicitly designed to combine it with water-based paint like acrylic, a test is wise.
Blending acrylic with another acrylic paint or other water-based paint can take some effort. It doesn’t combine as quickly as two oil-based paints can, so make sure not to rush if you want a consistent mixture.
Further, while you can combine acrylic paints from different brands, it often impacts more than the color of the paint. Every brand can have a unique feel, so keep that in mind to ensure you’re able to adjust your painting approach as needed.
Can You Mix Oils with Other Kinds of Paint?
You can only mix oil paint with oil paint in most cases, as it won’t combine with any other kind. The only exception is water-soluble oil-based paint. In that case, you may be able to combine it with water-based paints like acrylic, latex, and watercolors.
It’s important to note that you can mix different brands of oil-based paint. However, each brand may have slightly different characteristics, causing the mixed version to have a different look or feel than the paints used to create it. By knowing about that possibility, you can adapt your approach as needed.
Is It Better to Use Oil or Acrylic Paint?
Technically, neither acrylic nor oil is a “better” option. Each paint type has different characteristics. As a result, you need to focus on your goals and preferences to determine which paint is best for your situation.
Acrylic paint offers some benefits. One of the biggest is that it’s far easier to clean up than oil. Acrylic also has a fairly short drying time, typically ranging from minutes to a few hours.
In some cases, the quicker drying time is beneficial. However, if you plan to take breaks while working on the project or don’t paint quickly, having the acrylic dry before you are finished could be frustrating. It also means you’ll need to clean your brushes promptly to ensure the paint doesn’t dry on them first.
Additionally, while acrylic paints do come in vibrant hues, they tend to dry darker. As a result, gauging the final shade while working with the paint can be difficult.
Oil paint can offer great color depth, and the hues are truer when wet, making it easier to gauge the final look of the project even before it’s dry. Additionally, combining two oil paints is often easier than trying to mix a pair of acrylics. It’s also incredibly blendable while you’re working.
However, oil paint may discolor over time. Additionally, the drying time is far longer, often taking days or weeks to completely dry. In some cases, the drying time can work in your favor, particularly if you like to take breaks or paint slowly, as the paint will still be wet upon your return in many cases.
If you’re concerned about toxic ingredients, a non-toxic acrylic paint could be a better choice than oil paint. While oil paints don’t typically contain toxins themselves, they require solvents to clean up that can be harmful. Since you can clean acrylic with water, that could make it the right option for you if you are concerned about safe cleanup or have pets or children in the home.
From the cost perspective, using acrylic may be less expensive overall. The paints are reasonably affordable, and you don’t have to invest in specialty solvents, keeping the total cost down. If you’re new to painting projects and don’t want to overinvest or are budget-conscious, that could make acrylic a better bet.
Generally speaking, the answer to “Can you mix oil and acrylic paint” is “no.” Since they don’t have the same bases, they won’t combine properly, leading to issues, such as cracking or peeling. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t use them on the same project or capture the characteristics of oil in acrylic paint.
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