If you’re thinking about taking up painting or just wanting to experiment and have fun with a new art form, you might be wondering about the difference between painting with oil and painting with watercolor. While both oil and watercolor are popular (not to mention beautiful) paint mediums, they are profoundly different in terms of the techniques and materials used, creative experience, and visual aesthetic.
The Dye that Binds
Whether you’re painting with oils or watercolors, the paint itself starts with a dry pigment that is mixed with a binding liquid to hold the pigment together. Oil paint is created by mixing pigment with a type of oil, such as linseed or walnut oil; whereas watercolor paint uses gum arabic, a type of tree sap from the acacia tree, to bind the pigment.
Every Paint Has a Solution
Because oil does not dissolve in water, thinning or cleaning up oil paint involves the use of chemical solvents, such as turpentine. Painting with watercolor, on the other hand, uses water to control the opacity of the paint and depth of color. Watercolor paint is water-soluble, which offers a more natural and odor-free solution (a plus for children who are eager to paint).
It’s All About Technique
Oil is an opaque medium that can be applied thick or can be thinned out to produce a variety of depths (or even transparency). While a number of surfaces or materials can be used for oil paintings, canvas is the most common. The oil technique generally involves painting the darkest layer first, and then continuing the layers from lighter to lightest. The slow drying time of oil paint makes it a very forgiving medium—mistakes can easily be painted over or scraped off with a palette knife. Watercolor is a transparent medium that is often applied to paper, and is fast-drying. This painting technique is quite different from the oil method—painting watercolors involves starting from the lightest layers first and gradually getting darker. The effects of a watercolor brush stroke are immediate, as the paint bonds with the paper on contact. A great deal of patience and experimentation is needed for understanding the delicate interplay between water, paint, and paper and the best techniques for achieving the desired level of detail and depth of color. Chances are, you will go through many pages of watercolor paper as you discover the effects of blending colors, using different brushes and changing the amount of water. The great thing about painting is that you will find joy and beauty, even in your mistakes!
The differences between oil paintings and watercolor paintings are most evident in the finished product. Texture, colors, and lighting are among the major aesthetic elements that distinguish the two paint mediums. Because oil paint is thicker and contains more pigment than watercolor paint, this medium provides a distinctive richness in color and texture. Oil paintings have a glossy finish and texture that is shaped by the artist’s tools, which offers physical depth and layers to the picture. Because watercolor paint is transparent, light from the paper filters through the colors, making for a brighter, fresher appearance. Watercolor paintings have a matte finish; and, unlike oil paint, watercolor paint does not have any physical texture. The appearance of depth and layers is achieved through the artist’s watercolor technique. The light, delicate aspects of the paint convey a distinctive glow and vibrancy to a watercolor painting.
Both oil painting and watercolor painting offer appealing creative experiences with aesthetically pleasing results. Your choice of painting medium is a matter of personal preference. Do what makes you feel happy and inspired!
Azure Paint Studio offers plenty of creative opportunities for artists of any age or level of experience. Check out the rest of our website to view our calendar of events, to learn about freestyle painting or to book your own private party.