3. Acrylics allow you to paint anywhere
You’ve probably heard stories about artists who are so committed to painting that they used their bedroom as their studio. But one of the most costly aspects—for both your finances and your health—is that oil paints require a ventilated area. Oil-based paints carry many hazardous health concerns, and if there’s no ventilation, solvents like mineral spirits and turpentine fill the air with fumes.
So, if your budget is too tight for a ventilated studio space, or if you simply want to paint in your kitchen or living room, acrylics are a great option. Since they’re water-based, “there’s not as much in there that gives off gases, and you don’t have to use solvents with them,” explained Tauchid. While you might rush to scrub oil paints off of your hands in fear of irritation, acrylics are easier on the skin. Along with cost, their safeness is another reason acrylic paints are so commonly used in schools.
4. Acrylics dry fast, so you can layer colors quickly
One of the reasons Hockney was so attracted to acrylic paints was because of how quickly they dry—you can put down a layer of acrylic paint, and in a few hours, it’s dry enough to put down another layer. For his flat depictions of arid landscapes, Hockney exclusively used acrylics, because their matte quality and fast drying time allowed him to rapidly layer bright hues, without muddying his colors.
Since you can pile colors on top of one another so quickly, you can even complete a technique called glazing with great speed. “You can create beautiful glazed surfaces where the color and the texture is built up over subsequent layers; you can get the effect of something like an
painting in the fraction of the time that it would take to do that with oil paints,” said Tauchid. If you’d like to try this technique, thin out your acrylics with a glazing medium (which is made with liquid polymer resins) to give your paint more transparency and fluidity.
5. Your paintings can become sculptural
Another malleable aspect of acrylics is their ability to take on three-dimensional form. “An oil paint, watercolor, or wax-based paint’s purpose is to be stuck to a surface and remain on that surface,” explained Tauchid, “whereas an acrylic can be peeled off of a non-stick surface and used as a soft sculpture material, so it surpasses the realm of paint and goes into the realm of sculpture and collage.”
Although the idea of paint becoming a sculpture may seem far-fetched, there are many artists who specifically use acrylics to build large amounts of sculptural texture on their surfaces. The late
even collaged bits of acrylics onto his canvases, taking into consideration their reflectiveness, transparency, and color. Whitten, like many other artists, saw in the medium a tried and true benefit: “They’re more versatile than any other paint medium, and not just oils,” Tauchid explained.