She Can Draw may earn a small commission via affiliate links in this post. Check out the disclosure policy here.
When it comes to paints, there are 3 main varieties: oils, acrylic and watercolor. All paints carry pigment but they differ in how they suspend their pigments and gives them their own unique characteristics.
Oil paints have pigments that are usually suspended in an oil (often linseed oil). They take a long time to dry and can still be in the process of drying, even if they feel dry to the touch. This property allows you to continuously work at your painting by blending in more paint to create a lovely effect.
Although oil paints are the most expensive paints, they give the best depth and solidity as light will refract through the layers of oil paint.
Watercolor paints come in blocks or hard pans and their pigments are suspended in gum arabic. If you’re a messy or clumsy painter, watercolors are great as paint stains come out really easily!
These paints dry very quickly and if you have any leftover paint on your palette that has dried, simply add a little water and you’re good to go. In addition, watercolor paints are relatively inexpensive in terms of price and how long they will last. A little really does go a long way.
Adding color depth with watercolors can be tricky due to their transparent nature. Once you master them, you will enjoy their unique brilliance, purity of color and richness when you add one color over the other.
Acrylics, on the other hand, have pigments that are suspended in a water-based plastic polymer resin. This type of paint dries quickly. Unlike watercolors, you cannot revive old, dry acrylic paint with a drop of water.
Blending colors with acrylic paint can be rather difficult as they dry fast and this makes it tricky to rework areas on a canvas.
These paints will give you a shiny, opaque finish and will dry flat at a slightly darker shade.
In terms of price, acrylics are not as expensive as oils, but more costly than watercolors.