The Advantages of Watercolor Paints vs. Oils or Acrylics

When it comes to paints, watercolors sometimes get a bad rap. They have the reputation of being unforgiving and unpredictable.

It’s true that it can be difficult to correct mistakes with watercolors, and you sometimes have to be willing to go with the flow and let the paints do their own thing. However, the results of these “happy accidents” (to quote Bob Ross) are often breathtaking.

When I decided to find a new creative outlet, I spent a lot of time considering which type of paint I wanted to use. After weighing the pros and cons of each, I decided on watercolors. There were several key advantages that swayed my decision. Here are few of the biggest benefits of watercolors versus oils or acrylics.

  • Easy Clean Up It is practically impossible to ruin your brushes with watercolor paints. If you forget to wash them, it is not a big deal. You can just rinse them out before you start painting the next time. There is no need to worry about dried paint hardening and ruining your brush. Also, if you get paint on your clothes, furniture or skin, it is easy to clean up with water.
  • Less Wasted Paint If you are using watercolor in tubes and squeeze out too much paint, you don’t have to worry about the excess going to waste. Instead, just let the leftover paint dry on your palette and add water to it the next time you paint.
  • No Harsh Chemicals One of my favorite things about watercolors is that they are completely odor-free and they don’t involve the use of any harsh chemicals. You don’t have to worry about filling your house with toxic solvents or chemicals.Granted, watercolor paints aren’t completely without danger since some pigments can pose health risks (namely cadmium, cobalt and several others) but for the most part they are non-toxic. They don’t give off any fumes and don’t require ventilation. If you get them on your skin or in your eyes, you generally don’t have to worry about any harmful side effects.
  • Relatively Inexpensive For budding artists, one of the biggest advantages of watercolors is that they don’t require a lot of expensive equipment or supplies to get started. All you need is a good set of brushes, a set of watercolor paints and some watercolor paper. There is no need for expensive paint mediums, cleaning tools, solvents, canvases or other painting surfaces.In terms of the paints themselves, student grade watercolors can give excellent results when you are just beginning. This makes it really low risk to experiment while you are learning. You can try out lots of new ideas without wasting a lot of money. Later, as you get more advanced, you can buy more expensive artist grade paints.
  • Transparency From a purely visual standpoint, watercolor paint has an inner brilliance and clarity of color that is often lacking in other types of paint. This is largely due to the fact that it is transparent. Most paints reflect color directly off the surface of the paint.Watercolors, on the other hand, get their color as a result of light bouncing off the white paper and reflecting back up through the paint. As a result, the paintings almost look as if they are lit from within.This transparency also makes watercolors extremely versatile. A single tube or pan of watercolor paint can give you countless different shades of the same color simply by adding more or less water. You can build colors to add richness, or mix colors on the paper by layering one color over another.

Hopefully this gives you a few good reasons to try your hand at watercolors. Although they can be difficult to master, they are a lot of fun to work with.



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3 Comments

  1. totally agree! i first started with colour pencils, tried acrylic, moved to oil and finally ended up with watercolours. beautiful paints (they are like poetry in literature), practical & compact – not much preparation or after clean up, less chemicals into the environment-home and absolutely no smell, no need of special equipment or extra room, but the best of all, for me at least, is the ability to express my inspiration/imagination within minutes or might take 1-2 hours max for a whole painting. i simply let the watercolours do their work and any happy accidents, left out spaces are on ‘purpose there’ for the viewer’s imagination 🙂

  2. thank you for sharing this. but still it doesn’t matter if what medium you use. and paint style you do. as long it expresses what you feel and want to see.

    • I totally agree…art is all about having fun and finding a way to express yourself, regardless of the tools and materials that you use to make it happen 🙂

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