Watercolor Vs Acrylic Paint [Extensive Comparison Guide]

People often get confused and compare watercolor and acrylic paints. To solve their confusion, we have created this article “watercolor vs acrylic paint” where we are going to discuss each type of paint and the comparisons and differences between the two.

A Brief Summary: To erase or thin a watercolor or acrylic painting, simply add water to the paint. These paints are safer and less expensive because they don’t contain dangerous ingredients. However, the paints are created and used in different ways.

A few examples include landscape paintings and still lifes that use watercolor as their primary medium of choice. Because of the paint’s transparency, you can add layers of color as you go along, allowing for a different method of painting than with acrylics.

Acrylic dries rapidly and is opaque, providing excellent coverage and allowing you to work with colors from dark to light. This is why acrylics are frequently used in decorative painting techniques or imitation finishes.

They’re excellent for canvas, but they can also be used on a wide range of other fabrics for craft projects. A watercolor painting’s lifespan is considerably less than that of an acrylic painting.

Unlike other materials, acrylics can last for decades. Nevertheless, factors such as exposure to light, humidity, temperature, and the type of paint used all have an impact on how long the paint will last. So, let’s start with the comparison of watercolor vs acrylic paint in the elaborated part.

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What Is Watercolor Paint

It is a natural Arabic gum that contains the pigments in watercolor paintings. Glycerin and preservatives, for example, can have an effect on the color pigment and viscosity of the paint. However, synthesized glycol can also be used as a binder in watercolors.

Ingredients Of Watercolor

The binder and pigment are the two essential components of watercolor paint, which is made up of a few simple materials. Additives in watercolor paint can change the appearance of paint and how it works, as well as help it last longer on the shelf.

Color pigments are the first thing you’ll notice when you open a paint container. Artists’ watercolor paint contains approximately a hundred different pigments. Natural or synthetic, these can be used.

Because some natural pigments are more difficult to come by, the price of some hues has gone up. A paint’s quality and grade both influence the amount of pigment it contains.

Watercolor paints come in professional and student grades from most manufacturers. The cost of student-grade paint is reduced because some of the more expensive pigments are substituted with less expensive substitutes. Pigment content in the paint can range anywhere from 10% to 20%.

It’s common for synthetic binders to dry quickly. Color and gum-arabic watercolors dry into a solid block. As a result, watercolor paint contains both a plasticizer and moisturizer to help it last longer while also softening and simplifying the dissolving process.

These additives also prevent quick-drying, making it easier to apply watercolor washes. In most cases, the moisturizer is glucose or even honey!

Glycerin is the most common plasticizer, although it only takes up around 20% of the paint. Watercolor paint can be brightened with a tiny bit of brightener.

Transparent or white crystals are commonly used to enrich the color of the pigment or to alter the sheen of the paint after drying.

Other fillers have a positive impact on the paint’s performance or look. Colorless fillers are essential for improving texture and creating an easy-to-handle consistency, so they must be included.

As a result, additional layers of paint won’t lift off the surface since they alter how pigment adheres to the paper. Fillers may be added to paint in order to lessen the amount of expensive pigment in it.

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Benefits Of Watercolor

Watercolor is an entirely different medium, unlike acrylic, oil, and gouache. Each of these several paint mediums necessitates a distinct set of skills and knowledge.

If you’re using watercolors, the pigments stay in the wet paper until the water has evaporated and the paper has dried. The artist must make quick selections in many cases since water dries quickly. Because of this, some individuals find watercolors challenging to work with.

While oil and acrylic are harder to work with, watercolor doesn’t have to be. There are multiple fixed mistakes under the finished painting. You’ll definitely need another paper if you’re using watercolors, but that’s about it.

  • Watercolors, in our opinion, are a joy to use because of their fluid and translucent features, as well as their occasionally unexpected effects. Consider the following advantages:
  • Watercolors create a lesser mess like oils or acrylics as they are water-based.
  • The fragrance of watercolors is mild.
  • You can move on to the next phase in your project more quickly because they dry quickly. Hairdryers are frequently employed by artists in order to expedite the drying process.
  • One of the easiest mediums to work with is watercolor.
  • You can easily transport watercolors because of their small size and low weight.
  • Soap and water are all you need to clean your paintbrushes.
  • Almost no trash. Your palette will dry up if you have any leftover paint in it. However, you may easily re-use the paint by just adding water the next time around.

Features Of Watercolor

Types

Watercolor paints are available in tubes and pans. You’re ready to start painting as soon as you open a watercolor pan. It’s better to use watercolor tubes for broad areas or washes because the paint is more saturated. It’s also possible to reactivate acrylic paint that has dried by simply adding a small amount of water to the container.

Curing Time And Clean-Up

The drying time for watercolor paints is between 5 and 15 minutes. You don’t have to worry about it because you can quickly re-wet the dry paint on the palette.

Variations in humidity and used water can affect how long it takes for a product to dry. Watercolors are a common choice for artists who prefer to travel and paint because of their quick drying period.

Because it’s water-based, cleanup is a breeze. Brushes clean off quickly, and if any paint gets on your clothes, a moist cloth will take care of it.

Transparency

Various degrees of transparency are available in watercolors, from ultra-transparent to semi-transparent to opaque. With these varying levels of transparency, you can experiment with the brilliance that results.

Costs

In contrast to acrylics, watercolors can be re-used multiple times because they are water-soluble. For a fraction of the price, the paint will be more durable.

Despite the fact that watercolors are less expensive, you will have to compare several sizes, brands, and types to choose which is the best.

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For Lighter Shades

You don’t need white paint to brighten watercolors in most circumstances. Making your watercolors more opaque by adding white is a bad idea.

The employment of white paint, such as for highlighting or other effects, can achieve this impression. As a result, the decision is entirely up to you. But the easiest way to lighten watercolors is to increase the water content.

Sun-Resistance

Paints that are “lightfast” can withstand exposure to direct sunshine for an extended period of time while maintaining their color. Depending on the metric used, a person’s lightfastness can be rated as great, good, or bad.

Watercolors are less lightfast than acrylics, and if left out in the sun without adequate protection, they will fade over time. Furthermore, the paper can grow brittle with time.

Surfaces

In order for watercolors to work, they must be applied to a specific surface. This necessitates the use of a particular type of watercolor paper. This paper is specifically designed for watercolors, and it does a great job of absorbing the paint.

Varied watercolor papers have different thicknesses, and that determines how much paint the paper can handle. On conventional paper, watercolors bleed and warp, and weaken if the water content is more than required. The watercolor paper does not need to be pre-primed.

Approaches Of Watercolor

The most effective way to begin a watercolor painting is with lighter colors. Your painting progresses from light to dark. Due to the difficulty in removing dark hues, this is the case.

Lighter colors will not show through if they are coated by darker paints, as watercolors are translucent. Another option is to leave some white spaces on the paper for them to pass through.

The finished painting in watercolor art is the result of a lot of layering and careful management of the paint. This makes painting with watercolor more complicated than using acrylics.

The easiest way to store your finished artwork is in a glass frame away from direct sunlight. To thicken your watercolors or achieve different effects, you can experiment with different paint media.

What Is Acrylic Paint?

A suspension of acrylic emulation holds pigments in acrylic paint. Even though it’s water-soluble, the dried paint is impervious to moisture. Colors can be applied in layers with this fast-drying paint, which is opaque.

Acrylics, in contrast to other kinds of paint, are incredibly adaptable. The paint can be made to look like watercolors or oils by adding water or by modifying it with gels or media. In addition, it may be used on a variety of surfaces, from canvas to metal to plastic to glass. You might also find our comparison guide on acrylic vs latex paint.

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Characteristics Of Acrylic

Acrylic paint is a very adaptable media that also happens to be non-toxic. Once dry, it forms a flexible and resilient surface that may be used to apply additional layers of paint without damaging the previous ones.

Regular acrylic paint’s drying time is one of its most prominent features. Because it dries so quickly, an artist may build up layers upon layers of color without having to worry about muddying them up.

A spray bottle is a must-have for both the painting and palette to keep things from drying out too quickly. As an alternative, there are acrylic mediums that can slow the drying period and allow you to paint wet if you don’t like this.

It is possible to get acrylic paint in tubes, jars, and squeeze bottles. A wide range of thicknesses is available, the thickest of which is in tube form and are the most similar to oil paint in texture.

Regardless of the container you use, it is critical to ensure that the paint is well sealed in order to prevent it from drying out.

With the addition of water and other materials, acrylic paint is possible to be utilized like watercolor. Acrylic paint may break down and disperse if you use too much water, leaving tiny specks of color in the finished paint.

To get the most fluid effect, use liquid acrylic ink. You can also use specialty mediums, such as flow mediums, for glazing and thinning. Thinner paint can be achieved by adding this to it. Because it is comprised of a plastic polymer similar to the paint, you can use it as much as you like.

In many aspects, acrylic paint may be utilized in the same manner as oil paint. Acrylics are recognized for their vivid hues, but many of the pigments are identical to those found in oil paints so that they can be utilized in the same way.

The paint can be treated in a similar way to oil paint with media that thicken and delay the slowing time. You might also love to read our guide on using acrylic paint on skin.

Surfaces

It’s possible to paint on a variety of surfaces with acrylic paint. Acrylic paint can be applied to wood, paper, canvas, masonite, fabric, brick, concrete, and anything else that isn’t too shiny or oily.

There is no need to prep the surface before painting because you don’t need to worry about paint leaking oil onto the surface and harming it.

However, water will be absorbed into porous surfaces; therefore, priming the surface with a primer before painting will help the paint glide on more easily.

It is also a good idea to prime any nonporous surfaces, such as metal or glass, before applying any finish.

Types Of Acrylic Paints

Acrylic paints come in various thicknesses, which we define as different sorts of acrylic paints. In contrast, the paint’s consistency has nothing to do with the quality of pigmentation.

The acrylic binders are used to make a difference. Gloss, semigloss, and matte are the three options available. When a gloss binder is applied, the paint appears translucent. When the paint is applied, matte and semigloss finishes seem translucent and milky.

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Reasons For Acrylic’s Popularity

The popularity of acrylic paints has skyrocketed in the last 70 years since painters first used them. You may be wondering what acrylic is utilized for at this point in time.

They can be used in a variety of ways, which we’ll go over in further detail in the sections that follow. These and other advantages of acrylic paint may be familiar to you.

  • Because acrylic paints dry so quickly, they have become a favorite choice for artists. Within five minutes, thin applications dry. Greater thickness takes longer to dry, but should be done in an hour or less for thinner applications.
  • They are simple and easy to use paints. The pigment, binder, and “vehicle” are the only components of acrylic paint. We’ll go into more detail about these elements in a second.
  • The ingredients in acrylic paint allow it to be both flexible and elastic. When a result, the paint will be able to expand and contract without cracking or flaking as temperatures rise and decrease naturally. In spite of the fact that the paint will have dried completely, it will still be flexible.
  • Once acrylic paint has dried, it is irreversible. In addition, it is what is referred to be lightfast. For example, if you use artist-grade acrylics, the colors won’t fade or change over time.
  • Acrylic paint, unlike other painting and drawing materials, may be used on virtually any surface as long as it is clean and free of wax or oil. Acrylics can be used to paint on surfaces other than paper, canvas, and card, including glass, plastic, metal, stone, and cloth.
  • It’s possible to wash your brushes, palette, and hands in soapy water if you’re using acrylic paint. Using paint thinners to clean up is unnecessary. It is also waterproof when the paint has dried.
  • There are no hazardous or flammable vapors from acrylic paints. In other words, they are not dangerous for children or pets to use.

Watercolor Vs Acrylic Paint Detailed Comparison

There are several additional distinctions between watercolor vs acrylic paint owing to the methods in which they’re produced and utilized.

When you know the differences between the paints and where their strengths and weaknesses lie, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about which one to use on your project.

Paint Ingredients

Natural pigments are commonly used in watercolors. A synthetic binder can be found in some watercolors. The proportions of the various components differ slightly.

Color pigment is mixed with a binder, such as synthetic glycol or gum arabic, to create watercolor paints. Their “preservatives” are also used to alter the hue of the pigments, as well as the viscosity and hiding power.

Humans manufacture acrylics. Resin, pigment, and binder are used to create them. Water-soluble paints include acrylic and watercolor.

Types

Tubes and pans are two common packaging options for watercolors. On the other hand, acrylic is packaged in several ways, including tubes, jars, and bottles.

Forms of Acrylic includes:

  • You can buy acrylic paint in the conventional form.
  • Acrylic paint in a fluid form.
  • Slower drying is more durable and lasts for a longer period of time. The drying durations of common paints differ even within the same brand. There are many, though, who want their clothes to dry for longer periods of time.
  • Paints that can be reworked.
  • Acrylic paints with a thick, hefty body. If you’re a fan of working with a palette knife and painting impasto, these are for you.

Surface

Watercolors can only be applied on paper while using them. Watercolor paper is also recommended because of its ability to absorb the paints effectively.

Even though watercolor papers exist in various forms and thicknesses, and surface conditions and are temperature-pressed, this does not mean they are all the same.

Paper, canvas, wood, and more can all be used with acrylics. Many people like to utilize them on canvas, though.

Water-Soluble

Both watercolor and acrylic paints are water-soluble, which makes them similar in many ways. However, they couldn’t be more dissimilar when it comes to water.

Unlike acrylics, watercolors tend to be more watered down. They tend to be more open in their dealings. Water is more prominent in watercolors than in other media in many ways.

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Paint And Style

A watercolor effect can be achieved using acrylic paint. Alternatively, they can be used as a thickener. Impasto acrylic paint is available for purchase. Impasto gel must be added to watercolors in this case. In the case of tubed watercolors, this gell is ideal.

Change Of Shades

In order to paint with acrylic paints, you begin with darker colors and work your way up to the lighter ones. The lighter colors are normally blended with a lot of water first in watercolor, and then you work your way up to the darker ones.

Acrylic paints that are light in color dry with a darker hue. They dry a little bit lighter. When dry, they become virtually undetectable if you apply a very light layer.

Transparency

Depending on the application, watercolors can be opaque, semi-opaque, or transparent. They’re supposed to be transparent. You’re looking for a brilliant, translucent hue with watercolor.

Acrylic paints are more vibrant than watercolors because of the manner they are applied. Transparent, semi-transparent, and opaque versions are available; however, they aren’t intended to be used purely as a transparent medium.

Use Of White

Acrylics require only the addition of a small amount of white acrylic paint. Lighten a color, modify it slightly, or add highlights using this.

To brighten a watercolor, you shouldn’t use white paint because it will increase the transparency of the watercolors. White and colored tones can be achieved by combining transparent paints with paper.

Scratching it in is another technique for achieving white in watercolor. To make the paint appear lighter, you can also remove some of the paint. Gouache can also be used for pure white accents and like.

Priming

It is not necessary to coat the prime paint while painting with watercolors. Acrylic backgrounds are frequently primed. Although pre-primed canvases are common, you have the option of adding your own primer.

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Cost-Effectiveness

People assume that watercolor is more expensive than acrylic by a wide margin. Is this really the case? And what does it matter if you start off at a disadvantage?

It’s nearly impossible to tell because the tubes are all different sizes. The amount of paint in a watercolor tube is much smaller than in an acrylic tube; thus, it’s impossible to tell just by looking at the tube size.

Cost varies widely between stores, brands, and countries, although beginner’s sets of both can be purchased for the same amount. At our local shop, it costs about a tenner. It doesn’t cost a lot of money to embark on a new adventure.

For the most part, acrylics are man-made, which is why they’re usually less expensive. For us, the most significant difference in price is when it comes to purchasing high-quality watercolor brushes.

For the most part, this is the reason they are manufactured from natural or semi-natural materials, although man-made options are also available.

The Durability Of The Art

In general, watercolors don’t survive as long as acrylic paints. This is dependent on a wide range of factors, including light, temperature, humidity, and the quality of the paint itself.

Paints can endure up to a century when used correctly and with a high-quality watercolor. A few years is all it takes for them to fade in poor lighting. How many individuals actually live in museum conditions?

For centuries, acrylic paints can be used. The longevity of both can be affected by the type of paint used. When it comes to lightfastness, some paints are more durable than others.

For this reason, watercolor painting does not command the same high price as acrylic art.

Ease Of Use

Acrylics are easier to work with than watercolors, which are more time-consuming. They are far more forgiving of errors than others. Acrylic fundamentals cover a wide range of topics. You’re good to go with only a little water and a little mixing!

The reputation of watercolor as the most challenging medium to master is well-deserved. Acrylic paint has fewer components to learn and master than watercolor.

In spite of the fact that you can learn to work with, it isn’t a very forgiving environment. The difficulty isn’t a barrier to progress. It’s a one-of-a-kind piece, both visually and tactilely.

Learn it, and you’ll be glad you did it. In our opinion, both watercolor and acrylic talents can be learned if you begin with simple techniques.

Final Verdict

A lot relies on your project when deciding between watercolor vs acrylic paint. Both solutions use professional-grade paint pigments for rich color and are available in professional grades.

Both paints are water-based, yet there are significant variances between them. When deciding which paint or other component is ideal for your project, take into account how you plan to use it. Based on your planning, you can choose the right one according to your needs. All the very best.

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Shelley Stevenson

Shelly Stevenson is the full-time editor responsible for painting, flooring, bathrooms & home climate coverage at StyDomIo. She is a home improvement expert with an eye for design and the skills to get the work done. She knows what turns a house into a home and has the advice and ideas to make upgrades easy and fun.

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