Can You Mix Acrylic and Oil Paint?

by Charlie
Can You Mix Acrylic and Oil Paint

There are many different kinds of paints available these days, and trying to figure out which you need for what application can be confusing. Some kinds of paints can be mixed, others can’t, and you might be feeling confused about what will and won’t work for your latest DIY project. It’s important to understand before you pick up your brush!

If you mix the wrong kinds of paints, you’ll end up with paint that bubbles and fails to stick, which could ruin the entire painting project. You therefore need to know what you’re doing. Acrylics and oils are both popular kinds of paint, and you might be wondering whether you can mix them together to get the best of both worlds.

Can you mix acrylic and oil paint? Acrylics and oils cannot be mixed, although sometimes people do use both within a project – on separate layers, with the proper drying time in between coats. Trying to mix the two together in the palette will not work well, because acrylics are water-based and won’t blend with the oils in the oil paint.

Why Won’t Acrylics Mix with Oil Paints?

These two paints won’t mix for the same reason you cannot use water with your oil paints. Oil repels water and will not mix with it, no matter what you do. The two will constantly separate, and trying to paint with both of them together will create a very disappointing effect, no matter how you approach it.

If you put oil and acrylic together in your palette and try to use your brush to mix them together, you may be able to see them distorting as they split and move apart from each other. In some cases, this won’t be visible, but even if it looks like they are mixing, the pigments are not blending, and will not stay mixed.

If you put them on your canvas (or another surface) like this, you are liable to ruin the painting, and you will probably find that neither paint sticks well. Because they are trying to move away from the other paint, they won’t get a good grip on the surface. They may not dry at the same speed, which could lead to cracking.

You might also get drips, spreading patterns, streaking, and bubbling. These may appear when the paint is first applied and still wet, or might only start to show when it begins to dry. In many cases, the paint simply won’t stick once it has dried, and you’ll find that it flakes off whenever you touch it.

Even if the paint does stick, it will not give you a lasting appearance, and after a few weeks, months, or years, your painting will be ruined. The paints are not designed to work together.

You should therefore not mix oil and acrylic paint – but you can use both in a project if you apply them separately. We’ll cover this next.

How Do You Use Both Acrylic and Oil Paint?

If you want to use the two paints in one project, you can do so by applying the acrylic first and allowing it to completely dry. When it is dry, you can add your oil paint on top. This is because the oil can sit on top of the acrylic, but the acrylic cannot sit on top of the oil.

If you reverse the order and try to add acrylic to dried oil paint, you’ll find that it doesn’t stay in place, and it moves around and peels off. It cannot stick to the greasy layer of the oils, and you won’t get your project to look good. The paint will flake off, either straight away, or over the next few weeks.

It might even take a few months, but it will happen. Acrylics do not adhere to oil paints, and you’ll be wasting both your time and your materials if you try to apply them in this way.

Adding the oil to the dried acrylic should work, however, and many artists do this. It lets them enjoy the properties offered by the acrylic and creates a great surface for the oil paint to be applied to.

If you’re adding art to your walls, you might want to try this. Acrylic paint can be used to paint walls, and you can then add the oil on top to give the wall depth and texture. As long as the acrylic is completely dry before you put the oil on it, this should work well.

What About Water-Soluble Oil Paints?

If you have water-soluble oil paints, you might be able to mix them with acrylic, as these paints are specifically designed to handle the wetness in the other medium. However, you should still carefully test this before you start using it for important artwork. It might not behave predictably.

Test how the paints behave when you mix them, and figure out their drying times. See whether they repel each other, or whether you get flaking and peeling if you paint one over the other. This should give you a better sense of how they behave and whether you can use them together.

However, bear in mind that some paint problems can take a few months or even longer to show up, and you may not immediately know if your water-soluble oil paint is working with the acrylic paint. If possible, wait for a few months before designating this mix as a “safe” painting medium.

It’s therefore generally better not to mix even these two, and to stick with adding acrylic paints first and oil paints after, unless your water-soluble oil paint specifically says that it will work well when mixed with acrylic.

Final Thoughts

Although acrylic paints and oil paints are both fantastic mediums and a lot of people love how they look, they don’t do well when they are used together. Acrylics will be repelled by the oils in the other paint, and will probably peel and flake away from the canvas, or may spread and blotch in unpredictable ways. You should therefore avoid using both paints together.

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