Watercolor vs acrylic paint

If you have ever been interested in visual art, there is no doubt that you understand the importance of using the correct medium for your loved art form i.e. painting. choosing which paint type to use for creative paintings can be tricky if you are novice that’s why here we have come up with popular paint type comparison between watercolor vs acrylic paints to help you make the right choice for impressive results from your paintings.

Artists often delight in mixing and experimenting with different kinds of paints, painting tools, and surfaces. Successful results from these experimentations heavily depend on a pre-existing knowledge about the medium and surfaces on which we are painting.

There is never an end when it comes to learning about art, and paying attention to the most obvious of facts and retesting them is an artist’s duty.

Watercolor vs acrylic paint

Starting from the basics, let us look at different paint types and the correct ways to use them, starting from watercolor versus acrylic paint, two of the most common painting mediums. both types of paints are liked by artists for paper mache art and craft work to make them look good.

What are they made up of?

Water colors

Watercolor and acrylic paint are both very popular among artists and both are used for a variety of purposes. But how they behave, comes from what they are made up of. And those both are indeed paints, there is a great difference in their consistencies.

Watercolor paint is basically a colored pigment that is based on a water-soluble binder. This is why watercolor heavily relies on the prior application of water on the surface on which it is being painted. Because the pigment dissolves, spreads, and creates a uniform effect on the surface because of the water base.

Watercolor has actually been used for centuries by artists, originally sugar and hides glue binders. These days many natural to synthetic substances form a part of the watercolor pigment. Therefore, bleeding to the difference in quality and paint types that exist within the genre of watercolor.

Watercolor can exist as complete organic paint as it is often manufactured out of majorly natural pigments. However, this might be the correct place to mention that organic watercolor, though can even be made at home, has a much shorter shelf life.

Acrylic paints

Acrylic paint usually has a very long shelf life. In a well-kept bottle, it can easily last up to 10 years. It  uses a suspension of pigments in its solvent in the form of emulations.

Acrylic paint exists in both water solvent and chemical solvent variations, and the water solvent variety is just as effective while being less toxic to human and environmental health.

This is majorly a product derived from acrylic, a form of engineered plastic. They are usually polymers of acrylic acid or acrylates. Acrylic paints are easier to mix and transform into a variety of shades due to their versatile makeup.

Checkout acrylic vs tempera paint as its similar to water color based paints for better understanding of the colors and paints types to use the appropriate ones for best results.

How to use Watercolor and Acrylic paints?

Watercolor to this date remains a predominantly fine art medium i.e. it is very respected and used by artists who paint on paper and canvases. Also used on textile and sculptures by artists, in such cases, its temporary nature is well understood and often a part of the grand idea.

In opposed to that acrylic paint has found importance in areas that reach far and beyond the realms of fine art. They are used by small businesses, textile producers, jewelry makers, pottery creators, and other artists engaged in a variety of commercial to semi-commercial production.

Acrylic paint is the most versatile of all paint mediums when it comes to the number of surfaces it can paint. From plastic, wood, glass, metal, leather, paper, acrylic nails, and others, there are even variants out there that are specially designed as temporary paint mediums for body parts like nails and the face.

Whichever surface you want to apply your creative hands-on, chances are there is a perfect acrylic painting routine that can get this job done. Acrylic paints usually last on different surfaces through the use of the correct primer and sealant. These form the basis of the proper painting routine, which differs from surface to surface.

Painting styles for Watercolor and Acrylic

Watercolor is a transparent to translucent medium. It is used sparsely on the paper, and the paper itself becomes color and dimension which guides the overall picture to completion.

In fact, painting styles pertaining to watercolors rely heavily on the quality and nature of paper, as how the paper absorbs the watercolor creates great differences in the result.

Watercolor papers can be of high to low quality and have different thicknesses and textures. Artists will often use different textures and grades of quality for different paintings.

Almost every kind of painting style can be adopted using acrylic paint.

Yes, acrylic paint can even be thinned down using water to reach an imitation of the watercolor style itself.

On the other hand, thick layers of acrylic paint are usually used to obtain opaque results. Acrylic paint can further be thickened with the application of a slight amount of white paint or natural glue. You can even use impasto gel to create imitations of oil paint. How acrylic paints perform in different styles does depend on their quality and specific brand.

water color

The tale of the Whites

The importance of white in painting cannot be replaced by any other tone or shade. White, which serves to give the impression of changing shades, as well as light and shadow, is used and applied between watercolors and acrylic paints.

For watercolors, the white is the paper itself. The white on the paper is also used to provide the much-needed change of shades. This is done by leaving out white spaces where light should fall, and applying an even thinner than usual layer of paint in areas that should be lighter in shade.

Applying white itself when it comes to watercolor creates an unnatural and shabby effect. It is often seen that applied white behaves more like a stain or adult shade of grey. White instead in watercolors is used to add opaque highlights or an intended milky effect.

white painting choose

To add an artistic flourish of white, scratching is a method used for watercolors instead.

Acrylic paints on the other hand are encouraged to be painted from dark to light. This is another of the reasons why it is easier to use acrylic paint as a substitute for oils. Even for acrylic paint white can be used to lighten the color or change its intensity and thickness. But typically white is also used to add sharp and brilliant highlights.

Pros and Cons of using Watercolor

We have talked in the previous sections about how useful and well-liked the two paints water and acrylic are. But each paint type individually also has some shortcomings which in certain specific circumstances beg the use of the other painting medium instead. In this section let us focus on the plus points and shortcomings of watercolor.

watercolor painting


  • Watercolor paintings dry very easily. Drying and curing are not an issue with this painting medium.
  • Large-scale paintings can easily be made. Once the technique is known, hyper realism, as well as critically acclaimed abstraction both, can be achieved.
  • Watercolor provides natural transparency as a painting medium
  • Watercolor is not particularly expensive.
  • Leftover watercolor can easily be reused.
  • Changes can be made in dried watercolor painting through the application of water once again.
  • Shading is easy in the watercolor medium as it simply requires you to blend the two colors on a water base. You can also keep adding additional water.


  • Watercolor is very light. The application of multiple layers cannot be used to correct a painting.
  • Watercolor can only be correctly painted on paper, and that too paper is specifically made for watercolor.
  • Watercolor paintings are fragile and can easily be damaged by environmental factors.
  • The techniques and styles employed by watercolor artists are difficult to learn and rely on external factors.
  • Rectification of mistakes in watercolor paintings is often virtually impossible to make.

Pros and Cons of using Acrylic Paint

It is now time to look at a similar list of pros and cons when it comes to painting in the acrylic paint medium. Acrylic paint is often considered a paint that is applicable anywhere and everywhere, and yet it still has its own deficiencies.

acrylic paint colors for painting
image courtesy: Anna ; source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/workplace-of-artist-with-paper-drafts-and-paint-tubes-5641889/


  • Acrylic paint is very easy to use for beginners or individuals who are not typically associated with the process of painting.
  • Acrylic paint can be used on almost every surface imaginable and all artistic styles can be incorporated using this medium.
  • Acrylic paint is the perfect medium to paint detail-oriented ideas.
  • Acrylic paint has innumerable paint types, including spray paint and body paint.
  • Acrylic paint usually has a great formula.


  • Acrylic paintings take a lot of time to dry in comparison to watercolor. Atom minimum it takes around 4 hours for acrylic paint to dry. Depending on the surface type acrylic paints can take up to 5 days to a week to completely cure.
  • Dried acrylic paintings cannot be altered and mistakes cannot be changed once it is completed.
  • Acrylic strokes dry out very quickly. So does the paint in the bottle and the palette, and once that happens it needs to be thrown out.
  • Certain kinds of acrylic paint can be very toxic, and should not be used very frequently by patients who suffer from allergies and respiratory problems.

Can you paint Watercolor and Acrylic together?

Mix medium is a growing form of artwork that is being adopted by more and more creators as art gets diversified and de-structured over time. Can artists paint watercolor and acrylic together?

The simple answer is yes, they can be painted together side by side to achieve a striking mixed medium result. But can watercolor and acrylic paint be painted on top of each other? Well, acrylic paint can definitely be painted over watercolor to add detail and vibrancy to the painting.

This can be done once the watercolor has dried. But watercolor being light and transparent, will not produce many results when you paint on top of the thicker and opaque acrylic paint.

Water and Acrylic: Major points of comparison

Shelf life

Typically acrylic paints easily last over and beyond 10 years in their bottles or tubes. Watercolors on the other hand have an average shelf life of about 5 years. But you can still use dried watercolor while you can not use dried-out acrylic paint again.


For one, acrylic paints are durable on each and every surface that they work on. They are often considered permanent paints and when correctly sealed will last very well even through daily use. Therefore acrylic paints are more durable than watercolors, which need proper maintenance to last as paintings of value.

Professional grade

For both watercolor and acrylic paint, it is possible to get professional great versions and quality paints at a costlier price point. Some people might find acrylic colors cheaper than watercolors, however surely both of the variants have equally inexpensive options.

Watercolor brushes can be very expensive since you often need high-quality natural bristles for the best result. On the other hand, professional-grade acrylic will need the addition of other products like primers and sealants.


Watercolor remains a step ahead of acrylic color when it comes to brighteners off the finish. Even though the paint type is transparent the quality of paint is often bright, light, and tinted. For darker paints, acrylics can be more vibrant and opaque. Although summer I like pens if not painted correctly can lose their vibrance over time and become a dull hue.


In water, colors smudging is used to achieve shading, and mixing the two colors is very easy as it only requires the application of water to do so. In acrylic paint, you cannot smudge the painting and whenever a dark shade is applied over a light shade it stays there. Quick broad strokes between the two colors when both are wet can be used to blend and smudge acrylic paints.


The watercolor painting does not need any priming of the paper. The paper only needs to be fresh and clean. Acrylic painting on different surfaces needs priming for durability.


Acrylic paint vs watercolor are bound to have mixed results. Both are important painting mediums and will never be replaced by artists from their respective genres. Pick your preferred painting medium according to your artistic and practical needs.


Which one is better? Acrylic paint or watercolor?

Acrylic paint is easy to use and any mistakes can be fixed easily besides that you can use them on leather also. On the other hand, watercolor can’t be fixed easily and it is difficult to learn.

Can you use acrylic paint as a watercolor?

Yes, you can use acrylic paint as a watercolor by thinning it with water.

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