Can You Paint Acrylic Over Oil | All You Need to Know

Both acrylic and oil painting medium have their unique properties.  Acrylics quickly dry, whereas oil paints dry much slower, giving you enough time to continue detailing soft edges and creating smooth blends.

But some drawbacks of oil paints are their unavailability, sloppy handling, and awful smell. Besides, they release gases like volatile organic solvents (VOCs), which can cause harm. But is it the right decision to switch the whole painting process from oil-based to water?

Suppose you’re an artist and wish to overcome this difficulty. In that case, you can find your solution in this article, ‘Can you paint acrylic over oil,’ where I have discussed in detail how you can paint with acrylic-latex paint over oil paint, along with a few frequently asked questions. 

So without any further ado, let’s get started.

Can You Paint Acrylic Over Oil

Why Should You Use Acrylic on Top of Oil-based Paint?

Oil paints are quite expensive. You have to spend almost 1000$ to buy good quality 1-liter oil paint. So, if we use acrylic over oil paint, we can get both oil and acrylic paints at a minimum cost. 

Again, oil paint can damage anytime as it dries completely. So, if a layer of acrylic paint stays over the oil paint, it will protect the oil paint layer from any damage and give you glossy surfaces.

Difference Between Acrylic Paints and Oil Paints

As we know, oil and water never mix. If we mix two or more elements, we must make them the same. So, let’s find the difference between acrylic and oil paints.

Medium

Linseed oil is the most common and widely used medium for oil paints. The medium is used to make the paint thin. You should use a medium to get quickly dry and thinner paintings. But if you require good quality painting, you shouldn’t use any medium.

Acrylic paints are water-based and can be used with any water-based medium. For example, we can use water and different grades of color to make the paint thin.

Compatibility

The oil paint is compatible with mineral spirits, linseed oil, turpentine, or other paint thinners to get the desired consistency of your color. But you can’t mix them with water because oil paints are incompatible with water.

Similarly, acrylic paint is compatible with different brands of paints, colors, grades, rubbing alcohol, etc. You can mix them with water for up to 20%. Otherwise, it may reduce the opacity of the color.

Durability

Oil paintings can last around 30-100 years. The longevity depends on the condition under which the paintings are stored. Temperature and light may damage your paintings.

So, what about acrylic paintings? Acrylic paintings can last more than ten years under good conditions because moisture and temperature may damage the shelf life of the paintings.

Expense

Generally, oil paintings are so much expensive. A liter of oil paint may cost around $200 to $1100, depending on the grades and quality of the colors.

If we compare acrylic paints with oil paint, you will find that acrylic paints are far less expensive than oil paints. Usually, you can buy a gallon of acrylic paints may cost only $25 to $50.

Drying time

Primarily, oil paintings are oil-based. So, they will take 8 to 18 hours to dry and will need at least 24 hours to touch the paintings.

The average acrylic painting will take 10 to 30 minutes, and the thick acrylics dry in an hour or two under adequate ventilation.

Can You Paint Acrylic Over Oil?

So, what will we get from the differences between acrylic paint and oil paint? We can easily understand that applying acrylic over oil paint is way more complicated. Because acrylic paints are water-based and oil paints are oil-based. And the simple thing is that water and oil won’t mix.

If we paint acrylic over oil paint, the acrylic paint will not cling to the oil paint. This may cause peeling. And when the acrylic paints dry, peeling may occur. This is one of the main reasons we shouldn’t use acrylic paint over oil.

But you can apply oil paints over acrylic paints. It is recommended. But applying acrylic paints over oil is not recommended. 

If you still want to apply acrylic paints over oil, then you need to follow the following process.

Techniques of Using Acrylic Pints over Oil

Suppose you apply acrylic or latex over oil-based paints on a surface. As you already know, applying latex or acrylic over oil is bad. Then, how will you complete it? Let’s find out how to do it properly.

Step 1: Prepare the Surface for Painting

First of all, you need to prepare the room or wall where you intend to do the painting. You need to clean the surface first and paint oils over the surface.

Step 2: Apply the First Coat of Acrylic

After drying a little, you can apply acrylic paint over the oil-painted surface. As we already know, they will create the problem of peeling or cracking because the acrylic paint will not cling to the oil paint perfectly. So, cracking may occur, resulting in surface imperfections.

Step 3: Remove the Cracking from the Paint

As you already applied acrylic over the oil painting and cracking occurred, now you need to remove the cracking problem as early as possible before starting the following process.

You can use a knife to peel it away from the previous coat of paint as much as possible.

Step 4: Apply Sand over the Surface

So, we have already removed the old peeling from the paint. Now, we need to sand over the surface. Sanding is applied over the surface before any kind of primer to ensure that the primer sticks to the surface properly.

Sanding is done by using sandpaper to make the surface rough. It doesn’t need to remove the oil paint.  You just need to make the surface rough.

If you can use a high-quality primer like bonding primer that will stick the oil-based paint correctly, you can skip the sanding process.

Step 5: Cleaning the Surface

Cleaning the surface is essential after the sanding process. It is one of the most critical processes. You have to clean the surface after completing the sanding process. Because if the surface remains dusty, the primer will not stick to the surface properly.

The process is straightforward. You can clean the surface using a wet towel or a tack cloth.

Step 6: Apply the Primer

As I said earlier, oil and water will not mix. You can’t apply acrylic over an oil painting. But you can apply acrylic over an oil-based primer.

You can paint the primer on the older oil-based paint surface just like regular paint over the oil painting. The primer will adhere to the surface and prepare the surface for the next acrylic paint.

Before applying the acrylic paints over the surface, you must wait a while to let the primer completely dry and be fully cured.

Final Step: Apply the Acrylic Paint

After drying the primer, now that you have a solid foundation, you can paint acrylics over the oil primer.

You can paint the acrylic over the surface with a paintbrush or roller. You need to apply at least two coats one after another. But you shouldn’t paint the next coat before drying the previous coat of acrylic paint.

So, these are the techniques of applying acrylic over oil-based paints. Even by following these techniques, you may also complete your oil-based house paint.

Problems Due to Paint Acrylic over Oil

The practice of using acrylic over oil paint is considered a no-event and here’s the reason why-

Oils and acrylic will never bond with each other due to their different characteristic. Acrylics are hydrophilic, whereas oil paints are hydrophobic. So, if you mix them with an oil-based primer, oil paints and acrylic paints get cracked.

As oils and water never mix, if there’s leftover grease or oils on the surface that you are going to paint on with acrylic colors, the painting won’t set.

Acrylics are not breathable as they are plastic, essentially made of acrylic polymer emulsion. Oils, on the other hand, release gas, namely VOCs (volatile organic compounds). So, the gases try to escape when you put acrylics over oils. As a result, the acrylic paint layer cracked and flake off.

The flaking off can occur immediately after painting, or it might take several weeks when it’ll start flaking off. There’s no timeframe.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Do You Think that Latex Paints and Acrylic Paint are Similar?

Yes, both of them are similar. Acrylic is water-based, and it contracts and expands better than latex.

Latex is frequently used for painting homes and commercial structures because it takes longer to dry than acrylics. Latex paint is also water-based and contains acrylic resin. It’s easy to clean up. You only need soap and water.

Q: Is It Possible to Mix Oils and Acrylics?

Mixing oils and acrylics before putting them on the canvas is not great. Both paints contain different properties regarding varnish type, drying time, etc. 

But there are specific ways you can enjoy both types of paints together. In the case of acrylic paint over oil based, you can follow the “techniques of using acrylic paints over oil” described in this article. Using oils over acrylics, gesso your canvas first and then start painting with your acrylics. After drying, apply oil paint over it.

Read More: Can You Mix Acrylic and Oil Paint

Q: Is There Any Way of Making Acrylic Paints Act Like an Oil Paint?

Yes, you can convert your acrylic paint into an oil-based paint by adding water mixable Linseed oil gel. This medium is designed for water mixable oil paints, but it’s water-based paints and thus also compatible with acrylics. Mix your gel into the paint, and you’re good to go.

Final Thoughts

For beginners, it can be scary to paint with oils. But the good thing is that even after being a newbie, one can paint with oils and acrylics. Can you paint acrylic over oil?

Painting with oils is not a piece of cake. But that doesn’t mean you won’t use them and switch to a whole new medium of painting. Follow the techniques detailed in this article. And enjoy the taste of both paintings by following a few easy steps.

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Loard Eva

Hi there! I’m Eva, artist, designer, photographer and mom of three little gentlemen altogether. When I’m not playing with my kids, you’ll find me researching and writing for ChooseMarker.

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