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Paint by Numbers Oil or Acrylic Techniques: What Are the Similarities and Differences Between Oil and Acrylic When Painting by Numbers?

paint by numbers oil or acrylic

Should you use paint by numbers oil or acrylic paints? That’s arguably the biggest decision you will have to make, especially if you’re just learning how to paint by numbers.

Although they look similar, acrylic and oil have fundamental differences, starting with how they are constructed. Oil paints are made by suspending pigments in oil (typically linseed oil).

That’s very important because in addition to giving them the title “oil paints”, it also makes them incompatible with water. To clean or thin your paint, you’ll need to use a different liquid like white spirit or turpentine.

Neither of those is usually included in a paint by numbers kit. And that means you’ll have to budget for it separately. Check this out if you want to know what’s included in a Ledgebay kit.

Nonetheless, oil is a classic in the world of art. So don’t be surprised when a kit that has oil paint sets you back a bit more than an acrylic one.

Speaking of acrylic, you’d be right to call it oil’s younger sibling. While the latter has been around since at least the 12th century, acrylic painting became a thing in the 1945s.

Acrylics are made by suspending pigment in an acrylic polymer emulsion. Unlike oil paints, acrylics can be thinned with water. They are quite affordable too.

But does that make the case for acrylics in our paint by numbers oil or acrylic review? Probably not. You’ll need more for a proper comparison; so here’s more.

acrylics in our paint by numbers

The Key Differences Between Acrylic and Oil

This is the part that you want to read carefully because different oils can have varying results. So, let’s get to it, shall we?

Drying Time

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When of the biggest differences between these two paints is the time they take to dry. And it may influence your decision when choosing paint by numbers oil or acrylic kits.

Acrylic paints are water-based and so they dry very fast. They only take minutes, or hours tops, to dry. You can shorten that time some more by blowing warm air on the paint by numbers canvas (using a hair dryer).

The short drying time means that you can quickly add a layer of paint on an already existing one. For example, if you painted a wrong color, simply give it a few minutes to dry and then add a layer of the right color over the wrong one.

The only problem with that correction technique is that if the underlying color is darker than the overlaying one, then it might still be visible. That’s because acrylic paints don’t blend as smoothly as oils.

Speaking of oil paints, they take longer than acrylics to dry. The exact time varies from a few days to months. For that reason, painting by numbers using oil is ideal for you if you like to work slowly.

And you just might enjoy blending colors whenever you paint a wrong color in a spot. The way oil paints blend smoothly, mixing them might actually surprise you. But of course you shouldn’t do that intentionally, otherwise you risk spoiling the intended piece of art.

There’s a lot more to know about blending colors in painting. If you’re feeling curious, the good people at Will Kemp Art School have additional info that might help.

Type of Bristle

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Virtually all paint by numbers oil or acrylic kits come with brushes in the package. Most of the time you won’t have to find your own, unless the ones in the number kit are damaged.

Anyway, for the sake of “what if”, let’s say you have to buy your own brushes. Which type of bristles should you buy for oil paint and which ones should you get for acrylic?

First off, there are two types of bristles: synthetic and natural. The latter are made from animal fur, contrary to synthetic ones which are made of polyester and nylon.

While natural bristles are excellent for oil paint, synthetics are ideal for acrylic. That’s because synthetic bristles don’t absorb water. Remember I mentioned that acrylic paint is water-based? Great, you don’t want your brush to keep absorbing that water because then you’ll have to keep thinning the paint.

Natural bristles, on the other hand, are a perfect match with oil paint. They are soft, and that’s good when you’re carrying oil paint. It will help you to paint within the lines.

If it does come to the point where you need to shop for brushes, you can get exciting deals at LedgeBay. Check this page out to see which brush works for your paint by numbers oil or acrylic design.


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Lightfastness refers to how fast a color fades when exposed to light. Why is it important in paint by numbers oil or acrylic techniques? Because your final painting will be exposed to light most of the time, particularly if you’re planning to hang it.

Now, acrylic paint has an excellent lightfastness. Finish painting by numbers using acrylic, frame your art, hang it and forget about it.

Well, maybe not completely. You have to dust it once on a while. Many years to come, that piece of art will still look the same.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for oil. Oils respond completely differently to lightfastness. They start to fade over time and appear yellowish after many years have passed.

That’s down to how oil is constructed. Its pigment becomes dull over time, allowing the oil binder to show through. If extreme durability is a concern when choosing a paint by numbers oil or acrylic kit, you may want to go for the latter.

Size of Your Working Space

Good as they are to the eye, oil paints are not exactly friends of the nose. Their thinners, specifically white spirit and turpentine, have a strong and irritating smell. Those fumes can be overwhelming when you’re working in a small space.

Acrylic paints do not have that problem. You can bury yourself in a painting by numbers project for hours and you won’t get so much as a headache. With oil you’ll probably need a large, well-ventilated room if you want to work for hours on end.

In other words, examine your working space before choosing a paint by numbers oil or acrylic kit.

Acrylic vs. Oil: The Key Similarities

It’s not all differences when it comes to paint by numbers oil or acrylic. They do have a few things in common. For starters, both options result in great art as long as you follow the design.

If you embark on two simultaneous projects, one oil and the other acrylic, the acrylic painting will dry faster. And it will look amazing on any wall. The oil painting will take longer to dry but once it does, you’ll want it on the wall even more.

So, it’s (arguably) a win-win for oil and acrylic in terms of their ability to produce quality art. But what else do they have in common?


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Both types of paints have their sets of ideal mediums. In case you’re wondering, a medium is something that changes the property of a paint.

For example, if you add linseed to oil paint, it takes longer to dry. That’s a good strategy if you like taking your time when painting by numbers. You can correct edges, lines and corners before the paint dries.

If you want to work faster, you can speed up oil’s drying time by adding alkyd gel. And if you just want a glossy painting, consider adding poppy oil to your paint. The final art will look all shiny and glossy like the masterpiece that it should be.

Acrylic has its mediums too, but you may want to know that they are not essential to good art. If you’re a beginner, you definitely don’t need them. They’re more like add-ons.


The best paint by numbers kits usually have sealed containers (airtight) to preserve the paint. But just in case you want an extra method of storage, both acrylic and oil paints last longer when stored in the fridge.

Feel free to mix the colors if you have some leftover paint after completing a project. Only mix acrylic with acrylic and oil with oil. You can then use the mixed colors for any other art and craft projects that may pick your interest.

Mixing colors can produce a neutral color, which you can use as a base color for other projects. That’s just as idea in case you’re exploring the idea of doing more than paint by numbers.

Acrylic vs. Oil Paint: Which One Should You Choose?

It’s usually a paint by numbers oil OR acrylic kit; not oil and acrylic. So, you kinda have to choose one. From the comparison and contrast above, which one do you feel suits you best?

As you ponder on that, there’s a general belief that acrylic paints are good for beginners. Oils, on the other hand, are usually fronted as ideal for people who have experience in paint by numbers.

Personally I don’t think that’s the case. It’s more about what you prefer between oil and acrylic. I could say budget is a factor but the cost difference between an oil kit and acrylic kit is too small and mostly negligible.

Still, below is a general recommendation if you need one. It may come in handy if you have never tried paint by numbers and have no idea what to expect from both of these paints:

When to Choose Acrylic Paint by Numbers

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  • Acrylic is great if your paint by numbers design has very small shapes. I’m talking about the type of small shapes that you can’t paint without going outside the borders.

When to Choose Oil Paint by Numbers

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  • Oil is a great option if you like taking your time to complete a paint by numbers project. The fact that it takes longer to dry can be a good thing. It gives you time to evaluate your painting as you move slowly. Therefore, oil is an ideal choice for those who are deliberately cautious.
  • Don’t forget that oil paints have a strong smell. It becomes even stronger when combined with a thinner. But you won’t feel the effects so much if you are working from a large and well-ventilated room. That’s to say, if your working space is small, go with acrylic. Otherwise, oil is as good an option as acrylic.
  • Finally, oil brings that traditional painting style and feeling, which can be good for your motivation. It wouldn’t hurt to feel like Leonardo or Picasso just for a day or two.

Comparing the Pros and Cons of Acrylic and Oil Paint by Numbers


Oil Acrylic
· Takes time to dry, which makes the paint pliable for long · Dries quickly. You can finish your project faster with acrylic
· No color shift; i.e. color doesn’t change when the painting dries · Easy to achieve crisp edge. Great pick for detailed designs
· Easier to manipulate with medium · Lightfast. Doesn’t fade in time
· Has a traditional, classy touch to it · Doesn’t fade with time
· Leads to great paint by numbers art · Easier


Oil Acrylic
· Takes longer to dry

Solution: gently blow warm air evenly on painting

· Dries too quickly

Solution: add a retarder or palette to keep the paint wet for longer

· Yellowing

Solution: none. Oil paintings just fade quicker

· Might change color when it dries

Solution: use high-quality paint by numbers kits

· Strong odor

Solution: use oil paint in a large, well-ventilated room

· Painting wet over dry acrylic can cause color bleed

Solution: none, not much you can do here

Final Thoughts

So, paint by numbers oil or acrylic? If you’ve made it this far then you probably have your answer. Both are great options, just a few differences here and there.

In case you’re looking for a flexible paint that dries quickly and doesn’t have an odor then acrylic is your best pick. But if you want a more traditional paint that takes longer to dry and is therefore pliable, consider going with an oil paint by numbers kit.

Don’t be shy to submit your finished painting to Ledgebay. You’ll get a lot of support and inspiration from other DIY painters, which may just be what you need to fully unleash the artist in you.

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