Why is Oil on Canvas Popular?

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Oil is probably the most popular medium used by all painters. The world’s famous paintings Sunflower (Van Gogh), Mona Lisa (Leonardo da

Vinci) and Impressions Sunrise (Monet), are all painted with oils.

These drying oils, typically made from linseeds, are durable and especially user-friendly for painters. They are also good for creating

aesthetic textures for each work of art.

Contrary to popular belief that Europeans were pioneers in adapting oils for art, the world’s earliest oil paintings of Buddhist images were

discovered in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan caves. These religious expressions date back to 650 AD, nearly 800 years before Renaissance in Europe.

Acrylic and Oil, what’s the difference?

While oil and acrylic paintings seem similar to an amateur eye, they hold very different properties for painters.

Time to Dry

Oil is a traditional, centuries-old medium which is much respected. They take a longer time than acrylic to dry, therefore may be more

suitable for certain painting techniques. As acrylic is water-based, the fast evaporation of water allows it to dry more rapidly.

For painters who prefer to work faster, he may choose acrylic over oils. Beginners may prefer oils with longer time for consideration and

correction before drying.


Toxicity of oil also sets it apart from acrylic. The use of solvents such as turpentine in oil increases its toxicity. Hence, it is best to

work in a well-ventilated room whenever using oil.


Acrylic colours tend towards a shade darker when dried. While experts have added that it is less appealing than oil, contemporary artists

are fast becoming fans of acrylic. Its versatility allows the use of pastel, charcoal and pen on top of the dried acrylic surface, great for

creating mix-media art works. Blending other bodies into acrylic such as sand, metal and paper are also possible.


Whether acrylic can last longer than oils, it remains debatable. Given acrylic’s 50 year-history, it is still early to say that it can

outlast its counterpart. Oil, however may crack and discolour over time.

The author, Shannon, runs Artyii, an online platform assisting emerging artists gain gallery representation. He has come across
href="http://www.artyii.com/">wall paintings
and other Asian art done on a variety of


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