I remember when I wanted to give my try and mix acrylic and oil paint together. Then I didn’t consider myself as an artist and I didn’t know much about different mediums so I mixed the two and painted a giant sunflower.
In the same week, I left for vacation. When I came home a week later, I was horrified at my painting! It had been completely ruined … I was really confused as to what had happened until I did a little research and found that acrylic and oil paints aren’t compatible together.
Mixing Oil and Acrylic Paint – Is It Possible?
Acrylic paint and oil paint should not be mixed together. There are ways to paint using both of them on the same canvas but when you’re putting your paints onto the palette you just need to make sure that the two paints stay separated.
Acrylic paint is water-based. The pigment is suspended in an acrylic polymer emulsion. This makes acrylic paint soluble in water, but hydrophobic compounds like oil will repel the water-based acrylic.
Oil paints are oil-based. The drying oil allows pigments to be suspended in a greasy medium. Water and acrylic polymers cannot mix with the oil binder.
If you try stirring together oil and acrylic paint, you’ll get something resembling a very chunky salad dressing. The oil and water components will try to separate from each other.
What happens when you mix acrylic and oil paint?
If you blend acrylics and oils together on your palette it might appear like all is well at first. In fact, it will appear as if all is well when you’re applying them onto the canvas too. You will not be able to tell that you made a mistake until a little bit later.
The pigments found in the two paints are not compatible and do not blend well, so after some time the pigments will break down and ruin the painting as well as the canvas. Acrylic paint can not stick to oil so as it dries and ages then it will begin to flake off. There is no specific time frame for when you can expect to see flaking.
Sometimes it will happen immediately as the painting dries but with other paintings it can take up to weeks to start seeing the damage. Either way, no matter how long it takes to start seeing the damage, you can know its inevitable.
Here are some problems you may face:
- Uneven drying: Acrylic dries rapidly as water evaporates. Oil paint oxidizes slowly as the oils crosslink. This leads to uneven drying and curing times.
- Loss of adhesion: The acrylic component may form a skin and lift away from the oil underneath. This causes cracking or peeling.
- Muddled colors: Blending produces intermediate hues that lack vibrancy. The paints gray out rather than mixing cleanly.
- Unpredictable textures: Brushstrokes may slide or crawl as the paints separate. You lose control of blending and glazing.
What properties make them incompatible?
The two are very incompatible when it comes to the drying process, textures, aging and also the cleaning methods.
A good reason not to mix the acrylic and oil paint together is that they have very different ways of drying. Acrylics is water-based and is known for fast drying time. When it begins to dry water starts to evaporate from the paint. This will lead to the acrylic paint expanding and flattening onto the canvas.
As for oil paints, it takes longer to dry due to the complex process of the chemical reaction. They absorb the oxygen and expand on the canvas when drying. They dry by what’s called a siccative quality.
When you look closer at texture, Acrylic paint is more permeable and spongier compared to the smooth oil paint. This is main reason why acrylic won’t stick to the oil paints and most certainly going to lead painting to flake.
Aging and cleaning
When you’re painting with acrylics you do not need to be worried about the color dying out. It will stay the way you painted it even as it ages. As for oil paintings, as time continues the colors will not stay as vibrant as when they were first applied to the canvas. They will turn yellowish or brown.
As paintings age, they’ll probably need a good cleaning at one point. To clean an acrylic painting, you can use a little bit of water. Do NOT use water when you’re trying to clean an oil painting, the pigments will come right off. It would be best to use a soft dry brush in order to brush the dust off.
How to Paint With Acrylic and Oil Paint at The Same Time
Even though the two should never be mixed together there is a safe method in which you can use acrylic and oil on the same canvas.
1. Use Acrylics for the Underpainting
Take advantage of acrylic’s quick drying time to lay down an underpainting. This allows you to rapidly block in the composition. Acrylic’s matte finish will also provide good texture and tooth for the oil paint to grip.
Thin layers of acrylic glazes will allow light to reflect through the oils on top. Acrylic gesso also helps protect the canvas from the corrosive qualities of oil paint.
Wash techniques work great for acrylic underpainting. Make sure acrylic layers are fully dry before moving to oils.
2. Apply Oils for Rich Top Layers
Once the acrylic underpainting has dried completely, start working in oils. Oils offer exceptional blendability, luminosity, and depth.
Use oil glazes, scumbling, and impasto techniques to bring life to your painting. The longer drying time of oils allows you to continually remix and refine the work.
Be mindful not to overwork certain areas to avoid muddying. Fat-over-lean painting principles apply.
3. Use Mediums and Varnishes to Transition
To help oils adhere to the acrylic underpainting, consider adding a small amount of oil-based medium to the acrylic wash layers.
Later on, minimal acrylic glazing over the oil paint can be achieved by incorporating acrylic polymer medium. This increases flow and workability.
Finally, apply a clear finishing varnish. This helps unify the oil and acrylic layers into a cohesive work with an even sheen.
EXTRA TIP: When you go to prime your canvas, you want to be sure that the primer you have purchased works well with oil AND acrylic paints.
What happens when you mix oil with acrylic paint?
Mixing oil and acrylic paint together results in poor blending and adhesion. The oil and acrylic separate, creating a lumpy emulsion that doesn’t properly cure. This can lead to cracking, peeling, and uneven sheen when applied to a surface. It’s best to avoid mixing oil and acrylic together wet.
Can oil paint and acrylic paint be mixed together?
No, oil and acrylic paint cannot be successfully mixed together when wet. The oil is hydrophobic and won’t blend with the water-based acrylic polymer. You can paint oils over dried acrylics, but acrylic should not be applied over wet oils. Allow proper drying times between layers when using both.
Can I add olive oil to acrylic paint?
It’s not advisable to add olive oil or other vegetable oils to acrylic paint. The oils will break down the acrylic binder, causing unpredictable changes in viscosity, drying time, and adhesion. Oils may rise to the surface over time, resulting in a lumpy or greasy paint film. Keep olive oil away from your acrylics.
Can you mix acrylic with water based oils?
Yes, acrylics can potentially be mixed with water-soluble oil paints. However, because these oil paints are formulated to be thinned with water, rather than be blended with other water-based paints, it’s best to test compatibility first. Check drying time, texture, and hue shifts on a test surface before mixing acrylics and water-soluble oils.