Alkyd vs. Acrylic Paint: What Is The Difference?

Painting can bring a lot of dilemmas to painters and artists in terms of types of paints. Sometimes, it isn’t easy to choose what kind of paint to use for your artwork, especially when paints have similar features, like alkyd and acrylic paints. So, what exactly is the difference between alkyd and acrylic paint?

Paint is made of three main components – thinner, binder, and pigment. Both alkyd and acrylic paints use chemicals as binders and thinners. However, alkyd paints are oil-based, and they dry slowly. On the other hand, acrylics are water-based, and they dry quite quickly since water evaporates faster.

The former is mainly exterior paint, interior paint and wall paint, as well as oil based paint for smaller formats, while the latter is mainly used for artistic endevours, although there are some water based acrylics that could be used for exteriors.

If you have wondered about the properties of alkyd and acrylic paints, and you want to know more about their differences, you have come to the right place. I will explain how they are different and on what occasions one might be more appropriate than the other. This article is particularly focused on these two types of paints, so you could understand their features and be sure when you should use them. 

Alkyd vs. Acrylic Paint: What Are The Differences

Alkyd Paint 

Alkyd paint is one of the oldest types of paint, and it is also known as oil-based paint. When you hear oil, you might actually consider that it is really oil inside the structure of this paint. However, even though it is referred to as oil-based paint, alkyd does not really contain oil.

Firstly, you must learn the components of paint, and that way, take note of the main difference between different kinds of paint. The paint is made of thinner, binder, and pigment, and those are the three main components. So, alkyd paints consist of binders and thinners made of chemicals, which is why they are referred to as oil-based paints. 

However, unlike acrylics, the thinners of alkyd paint are made of alcohol or some mineral spirits. The thinner is the component that dictates the behavior of paint, i.e., how quickly it will dry and how much the paint will flow. On the other hand, the binder is responsible for the ability of the paint texture to adhere to a particular surface, which in alkyds, it is usually made of synthetic resin. 

Advantages Of Alkyds


Alkyds are quite popular because of their known versatility. You can easily apply them to different surfaces, and they will give an amazing effect with vivid colors. Once you apply them, you will get a brilliant gloss of your artwork that will last long since these types of paints are resistant to corrosion


This feature makes the alkyd paints resistant to water and humidity. This means that once you make a painting with alkyds, you will not worry about fading of the paint because the colors will stay vivid longer than any other paint type. Also, you can be sure that the paint will not start decomposing once it dries up. 

Compatibility With Oils

As I mentioned before, even though alkyds are oil-based paints, that does not mean that they are made of pure oil. However, they can be mixed with oils since they are characterized by high compatibility. This means that if you want to use different types of paint in your paintings and works, you can and get the colors to pop out. 

It is proven that laying oil paints over alkyds is safe. However, it is not recommended to do that vise versa. If you lay alkyds over oils, it might crack because the former have less flexible film. Alkyds consist of oil-modified resin, which makes the paint dry faster. 

Drawbacks Of Alkyds

Even though alkyds are characterized by high resistance to water and corrosion, and they contribute to the vividness of the painting, they still have some drawbacks that need to be taken into consideration. 

Firstly, it is important to consider the toxicity of the alkyds towards the environment. Secondly, they can spatter easily compared to other types of paint, meaning that you have to be particularly careful when using them. Therefore, they might not be the best option. However, they can be useful when needed. 

Use Of Alkyd Paint 

Since alkyds are known for their high resistance to corrosion and water, they are highly used in traffic or homes. So, you can freely use them for painting the kitchen or the bathroom and not worry about moisture. Since its endurance is longer than other paints, people like to paint the areas where children play. 

They are quite easily applied, and you can paint with alkyds over unfinished wood or even latex paint. If you need paint that needs no particular preparation, then the alkyd one is your best choice. 

Acrylic Paint 

Acrylics are one of the most versatile and commonly used paints among artists. They are also the least toxic among the paints both for people and the environment. Once they are applied on a surface and dried up, they are characterized by great water resistance, durability, and flexibility. 

You can easily add layers over the acrylics since their structure allows it without any disturbances. Your paintings will have amazing vividness, as well as endurance for a long period of time. 

What is great about acrylic paint is its ability to be applied on different surfaces, meaning that you can use it on canvas, paper, wood, masonite, concrete, brick, or cloth. In other words, you can use any surface as long as it is not too greasy or too glossy. 

Because of the versatility of the acrylics, this paint is suitable for different kinds of projects, such as collages, crafts, and mixed media works. The acrylics will ensure durability and low toxicity of the used colors, and the ease of the application.

Advantages Of Acrylics


You can use acrylics on many surfaces and for many purposes. Since they are less toxic, they can be used anywhere. They are made of plastic polymer, meaning that they dry quickly, and they become flexible and durable colors that are common for their vividness. 

Fast Drying Time 

As I mentioned above, acrylics dry fast, even faster than alkyds. That means that the artist who works with acrylics can easily add more layers without worrying about muddying. 

However, sometimes and for some people, this can be inconvenient. Therefore you can always spray some water to slow down the drying. A small amount of water will not disturb the quality of colors, and it will not mess up their texture. 

Comes In A Variety Of Forms

Some artists prefer colors in jars, others in tubes, and some even in plastic squeeze bottles. Luckily, when it comes to acrylic paint, you can purchase it in your preferred form. Sometimes, even the thickness differentiates; for instance, the acrylics in tubes are usually thick and quite similar to oil paint. 

Whatever form you choose to buy and use, make sure that you store your paint well-sealed because leaving it without a good cover will quickly dry out. 

Ability For Dilution 

If you seem to find your acrylics too thick for a project you are working on, you can always thin them down with water. Dilution with water is a safe process for making the acrylics thinner in texture, so you can apply them better to a particular surface and make the colors pop out. 

However, it would help if you always were careful to do the dilution process according to the given ratios, so you will not destroy the quality of colors. Usually, the acrylic ink colors are recommended for thinning down, so if you decide to try this process, make sure that you use acrylic ink paint. 

Drawbacks Of Acrylics 

As well as the alkyds, acrylic paint also has some drawbacks that some people cannot overcome. These drawbacks are not anything serious, taking into account that acrylics are widely used all the time.

Therefore, you should expect that acrylic paint will become darker once it is dried up. Also, as I mentioned before, they dry quickly, but sometimes that can be a disadvantage, meaning that you will have to paint and work quickly, so the color will not go to waste. Lastly, it contains many chemicals that are not easily removed from nails and clothing, meaning that you can ruin a lot of your attire if you are not careful. 

Use Of Acrylics

The popularity of acrylics is not without reason. They are widely used and on a lot of surfaces. As I discussed before, the versatility of acrylics allows them to be applied on surfaces such as canvas, paper, wood, and so on. However, you can also use acrylic paint on glass or metal. 

That means that you can paint objects and make different kinds of crafts since the paint is absorbent and lightweight. If you like making different kinds of things and projects, acrylic paint would be the best option. 

Main Differences Between Alkyd And Acrylic Paint 

Although they seem quite similar in structure and features, alkyd and acrylic paint still have some differences. In some situations, these differences can result in quite distinguished outcomes. Therefore, you need to know which features they differentiate, so you could know which of them would be the best option considering different circumstances. 

Firstly, it is important to note that alkyd paints are oil-based, while acrylics are water-based. Generally, acrylics dry faster than alkyds, even though both of them are characterized by fast drying up. However, other features make differences between these two kinds of paint. 

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Surface Preparations 

Since acrylics are water-based paints, they require a more solid surface, i.e., not greasy and glossy. If you apply them on an inadequate surface, the surface will absorb the water of the paint, and the paint will fade into it or disappear in some cases. 

On the other hand, the alkyds are thicker, so they can be applied to any surface, even on top of layers of latex or unfurnished wood. However, they can spatter a lot, meaning that you will have to be very careful when painting since they can be absorbed by the surface really quickly and destroy it. 

Film Build

Alkyds usually have a volume of 55%, while acrylics have about 40%. This means that alkyd paint provides quite thicker film than acrylics. This is because alkyd paint is oil-based, meaning that it has a more solid texture.

When To Choose Alkyds And When Acrylics? 

Now that you have familiarized yourself with the features of each type of paint, you will be able to estimate which of them will be needed for your projects and works. If you really pay attention to the paints you use, you are aware that this is an important choice for the success of your work. Depending on the surface you will paint and the effect you want to achieve, you will know exactly what kind of paint to pick. 

When To Choose Alkyds? 

Since alkyds are oil-based paints, they will be appropriate for surfaces that are intended to last long. Usually, these surfaces are hard and solid, so oil-based paint is exactly what you need to choose for them. 

Alkyds are most appropriate for wood surfaces. So, you can use them to paint your doors or cabinets, especially in the kitchen. They are resistant to moisture, so that they will be convenient for this purpose. 

When To Choose Acrylics?

Acrylics are water-based. Therefore, they are suitable for many surfaces. You can use them on furniture, but you can also use them in paintings. Most artists choose acrylic paint or ink for canvas since it can be diluted with water and adjusted to your needs. 

Even though alkyds and acrylics have quite similar features, they still have differences in texture important for your artworks. That is why it is essential to choose carefully, so you can achieve the effect you need. 


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Ines is a self-taught artist based in the UK. Originally from Caracas, she has dabbled in the world of arts and crafts in a diversity of ways participating in city intervention projects, sustainable practices’ open exhibitions, and her illustrations being featured in anniversary editions of literary magazines.

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