Can I Paint Acrylic Over Oil?

Painting acrylic over oil can be a challenging process due to their different properties. While it is generally recommended to avoid applying acrylic paint directly over oil paint without proper preparation, there are ways to achieve successful results. One method involves creating a barrier between the oil and acrylic layers, such as applying an acrylic medium or using a specific primer. Another option is to fully remove the oil paint or apply a base layer of acrylic gesso before applying the acrylic paint. Proper surface preparation and compatibility testing are crucial for a successful outcome.

can i paint acrylic over oil

Acrylic over Oil: Is It Possible?

Artists often experiment with different mediums and techniques to create unique and intriguing artworks. One common question that arises is whether it is possible to paint acrylic over oil. In this section, we will explore this topic and discuss the feasibility and challenges of using acrylic paint over an oil base.

Acrylic paint and oil paint are two distinct mediums with different properties. Acrylic paint is water-based and dries quickly, while oil paint is oil-based and takes a longer time to dry. The fundamental difference lies in the binder used in each type of paint. Acrylic paint uses a synthetic polymer binder, while oil paint uses linseed oil or another type of drying oil.

Given these differences, it is generally advised not to paint acrylic over oil directly. The primary reason for this is that oil paint takes a considerable amount of time to dry, often several days or even weeks. If one were to apply acrylic paint on top of wet oil paint, the drying process of the oil paint would be hindered, leading to cracking, peeling, or other undesirable effects.

However, there are certain methods and precautions that can be taken to safely apply acrylic paint over oil. One approach is to wait for the oil paint to fully dry before applying a layer of isolation coat or barrier between the two types of paint. The isolation coat acts as a protective layer, allowing the acrylic paint to adhere properly without interfering with the drying process of the underlying oil paint.

Another technique is to use a mixed media approach by incorporating both acrylic and oil paint in the same artwork. This involves using acrylic paint as the base layer and allowing it to dry completely before adding layers of oil paint on top. This method ensures that the drying time of the oil paint is not compromised and eliminates the risk of cracking or peeling.

It is important to note that even with these precautions, there may still be some risks involved when using acrylic over oil. The longevity and stability of the artwork may be compromised, as the two types of paint have different aging properties. Additionally, it is essential to thoroughly clean and prepare the surface before applying the acrylic paint to ensure proper adhesion.

In summary, while it is generally not recommended to paint acrylic over oil directly, it is possible to do so with the proper precautions. Waiting for the oil paint to dry completely, applying an isolation coat, or using a mixed media approach are some strategies to ensure the compatibility of the two mediums. However, it is crucial to consider the potential risks and limitations associated with combining acrylic and oil paints.

Tips for Painting Acrylic over Oil

If you are an artist who loves to experiment with different mediums, you may have wondered if it is possible to paint acrylic over oil. While it is generally not recommended to paint acrylic directly over oil, there are some techniques and tips that can help you achieve successful results. In this section, we will explore these tips and guide you on how to paint acrylic over oil in a way that ensures longevity and quality in your artwork.

1. Surface Preparation

The key to painting acrylic over oil is to properly prepare the surface. Begin by making sure the oil paint layer is completely dry and cured. This may take several weeks or even months, depending on the thickness of the oil paint layers. To test if the oil paint is dry, gently press your finger on the surface. If it feels tacky or leaves a mark, it is not yet dry. Wait until it feels completely dry before proceeding.

Once the oil paint is dry, lightly sand the surface using fine-grit sandpaper. This will create a rough texture that allows the acrylic paint to adhere better. Be careful not to sand too vigorously, as this can damage the underlying layers of paint. After sanding, remove any dust or debris from the surface using a clean, dry cloth.

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2. Use a Primer

To improve the adhesion of acrylic paint over oil, it is recommended to apply a layer of acrylic gesso or primer to the surface. This acts as a barrier between the oil paint and acrylic paint, preventing any chemical reactions or peeling. Apply the gesso or primer using a brush or roller, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Allow it to dry completely before proceeding with the acrylic paint.

3. Thin Layers and Build-Up

When painting acrylic over oil, it is best to start with thin layers and gradually build up the paint. This allows each layer to dry thoroughly and minimizes the risk of cracking or lifting. Apply the acrylic paint using a soft brush or palette knife, blending it carefully with the underlying oil paint layers. Avoid applying thick impasto layers, as they may not adhere well and can crack over time.

4. Acrylic Mediums

Using acrylic mediums can also help improve the adhesion of acrylic paint over oil. Acrylic mediums such as glazing mediums or gel mediums not only enhance the flow and texture of the paint but also provide a better bond between the two different mediums. Mix the acrylic paint with the desired medium according to the instructions on the packaging, and apply it to the surface.

5. Varnish for Protection

Once you have finished painting acrylic over oil and the artwork is completely dry, it is essential to protect it with a varnish. Varnishing helps seal the paint layers, enhances color vibrancy, and protects the artwork from dust, UV rays, and moisture. Choose a varnish specifically designed for acrylic paintings and apply it using a soft brush, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Allow the varnish to dry completely before handling or displaying the artwork.

6. Storage and Care

If you plan to store or transport your artwork painted with acrylic over oil, it is crucial to take proper care. Place a layer of acid-free glassine paper or parchment paper between the painted surface and any protective coverings to prevent sticking or damage. Store the artwork in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures to avoid any potential issues.

In summary, while it is generally not recommended to paint acrylic directly over oil, by following these tips and techniques, you can achieve successful results. Remember to properly prepare the surface, use a primer, apply thin layers, utilize acrylic mediums, and protect your artwork with a varnish. With careful attention to these steps, you can explore the exciting possibilities of combining acrylic and oil in your artwork.

Potential Challenges of Applying Acrylic over Oil

Applying acrylic paint over oil paint may seem like a convenient option, especially if you have a partially completed oil painting that you want to add some acrylic details to. However, there are several challenges that you may encounter when attempting to apply acrylic over oil. It’s important to be aware of these challenges to ensure the best possible outcome for your artwork.

1. Adhesion Issues

One of the primary challenges of applying acrylic over oil is adhesion. Acrylic paint is a water-based medium, while oil paint is oil-based. These two types of paint have different chemical compositions and drying times, which can lead to poor adhesion between the layers. The acrylic paint may not properly bond with the oil surface, resulting in flaking, cracking, or peeling over time.

To improve adhesion, it is recommended to prepare the oil surface before applying acrylic. This can be done by lightly sanding the surface to create a rough texture and applying a layer of acrylic gesso or primer. The gesso or primer provides a suitable surface for the acrylic paint to adhere to.

2. Drying Time

Another challenge of using acrylic over oil is the difference in drying time between the two paints. Oil paints have a slow drying time, which allows for blending and layering techniques. On the other hand, acrylic paints dry relatively quickly, forming a hard, plastic-like surface.

This difference in drying time can make it difficult to blend or feather the acrylic paint over the oil paint. The fast-drying nature of acrylics can also make it challenging to achieve smooth transitions and gradients in your artwork. To overcome this challenge, it is recommended to work in thin layers and use a retarder medium to extend the drying time of the acrylic paint.

3. Color Shift

When applying acrylic over oil, there is a possibility of color shifting. Acrylic paints can dry darker than their wet state, while oil paints tend to dry lighter. This difference in drying characteristics can result in a noticeable color shift when the acrylic paint dries over the oil layer.

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To minimize the color shift, it is essential to test your colors before applying them to your artwork. Create a small sample area to observe how the acrylic paint interacts with the oil layer and adjust your colors accordingly.

4. Long-Term Stability

Another concern when using acrylic over oil is the long-term stability of the artwork. The different drying times and chemical compositions of the two paints can potentially lead to cracking or delamination of the layers over time.

To improve the long-term stability, it is recommended to apply multiple thin layers of acrylic paint, allowing each layer to fully dry before applying the next. This helps to create a stronger bond between the layers and reduces the risk of cracking or delamination.

5. Cleaning and Maintenance

Lastly, cleaning and maintaining artwork that has been created by layering acrylic over oil can be more challenging. Acrylic paints are water-soluble, while oil paints are not. This means that cleaning the surface of the painting or making any corrections may be more difficult.

It is important to use caution when cleaning the artwork to avoid damaging or dissolving the acrylic layers. Additionally, it is recommended to varnish the artwork with an appropriate varnish to protect the layers and make cleaning and maintenance easier.


Applying acrylic over oil can present several challenges, including adhesion issues, differences in drying time, potential color shifts, long-term stability concerns, and difficulties in cleaning and maintenance. However, with proper preparation, testing, and layering techniques, it is still possible to achieve successful results when combining these two paint mediums. It is important to be aware of these challenges and take appropriate steps to mitigate them for the best outcome of your artwork.

Recommended Techniques for Successfully Using Acrylic over Oil

When it comes to creating art, blending different mediums can lead to stunning results. One popular combination is using acrylic paint over an oil base. However, because oil and acrylic have different properties, it’s important to follow specific techniques to ensure a successful outcome. In this section, we will explore the recommended techniques for using acrylic over oil.

1. Preparing the Surface

Before applying acrylic over oil, it is crucial to properly prepare the surface. Start by making sure the oil paint has fully dried and cured. This usually takes several weeks, depending on the thickness of the oil layers. Once the oil paint is dry, gently clean the surface to remove any dirt or dust particles that may affect the adhesion of the acrylic.

2. Applying a Barrier Layer

To create a barrier between the oil and acrylic layers, it is recommended to apply a thin layer of acrylic medium or gesso. This layer helps to prevent the migration of oil into the acrylic paint, which can cause adhesion issues. Apply the barrier layer evenly with a brush or roller and allow it to dry completely before proceeding.

3. Using Thin Layers of Acrylic

When working with acrylic over oil, it is best to apply thin layers of acrylic paint. This allows for better adhesion and prevents cracking or peeling. Start by applying a thin wash or glaze of acrylic paint, gradually building up layers as needed. Avoid applying thick, heavy coats of acrylic, as they may not adhere properly to the oil base.

4. Allowing Sufficient Drying Time

Unlike oil paint, acrylic dries quickly. However, when using acrylic over oil, it is important to allow sufficient drying time between layers. This ensures that each layer is fully cured and prevents any mixing or smudging of the two mediums. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for drying times, as they may vary depending on the brand and thickness of the paint.

5. Varnishing the Finished Artwork

Once the acrylic paint has fully dried and cured, it is recommended to apply a varnish to protect the artwork. Choose a varnish specifically designed for acrylic paintings and follow the instructions for application. The varnish not only provides protection but also enhances the colors and adds a professional finish to the artwork.

6. Experiment and Practice

Using acrylic over oil is a technique that may require some experimentation and practice. It is important to familiarize yourself with the characteristics and behavior of both mediums. Try different methods, such as layering, glazing, or scumbling, to achieve the desired effects. By experimenting and practicing, you can develop your own unique style and technique.

In summary, successfully using acrylic over oil involves proper surface preparation, applying a barrier layer, using thin layers of acrylic, allowing sufficient drying time, varnishing the finished artwork, and practicing different techniques. By following these recommended techniques, you can create beautiful and long-lasting artworks with the combination of oil and acrylic.

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Considering the Benefits and Drawbacks of Using Acrylic over Oil

When it comes to painting, artists have a wide range of mediums to choose from. Two popular options are acrylic and oil paints. Each medium has its own unique qualities, advantages, and disadvantages. In this section, we will explore the benefits and drawbacks of using acrylic paints over oil paints.

Benefits of Using Acrylic

Acrylic paints offer several advantages that make them a preferred choice for many artists:

  1. Drying Time: One of the biggest advantages of using acrylic paints is their quick drying time. Unlike oil paints, which can take days or even weeks to dry, acrylics dry relatively fast. This allows artists to layer and work on their paintings without waiting for extended periods.
  2. Water-Soluble: Acrylic paints are water-soluble, which means they can easily be thinned and cleaned with water. This makes them convenient to work with, as artists can easily achieve different consistencies and textures by adjusting the paint’s water content.
  3. Versatility: Acrylic paints can be used on a variety of surfaces, including canvas, paper, wood, and even metal. They adhere well to different surfaces and can be used in various techniques, such as glazing, impasto, and washes.
  4. Durability: Acrylic paints are known for their durability. Once they dry, they form a resilient and flexible layer that is less prone to cracking or yellowing over time.
  5. Color Vibrancy: Acrylic paints are known for their intense and vibrant colors. They retain their original hue even after drying, making them ideal for creating bold and eye-catching artworks.

Drawbacks of Using Acrylic

While acrylic paints offer many benefits, there are also some drawbacks to consider:

  1. Quick Drying: Although the fast drying time of acrylic paints can be an advantage, it can also be a disadvantage for artists who prefer working with wet paint for longer periods. The rapid drying time can make blending and achieving smooth transitions more challenging.
  2. Color Shift: Acrylic paints tend to dry slightly darker than their wet appearance. This color shift can make it difficult for artists to accurately predict the final result of their paintings.
  3. Prone to Staining: Acrylic paints can stain brushes, palettes, and other tools if not cleaned immediately after use. This requires artists to be diligent about maintaining their equipment and regularly cleaning them to avoid color contamination.
  4. Less Forgiving: Once acrylic paint dries, it becomes water-resistant and cannot be easily manipulated. Unlike oil paints, which can be reworked and corrected even after drying, acrylics are less forgiving and require more precise brushwork.
  5. Shorter Open Working Time: Acrylic paints have a shorter open working time compared to oil paints. This means that artists need to work quickly, as the paint can start to dry on the palette or canvas, making it challenging to blend and manipulate the colors.

In summary, using acrylic paints offers several benefits, such as quick drying time, versatility, and vibrant colors. However, artists should also consider the drawbacks, such as the quick drying time limiting blending techniques, the color shift during drying, and the need for immediate cleaning of tools to prevent staining. By understanding the advantages and disadvantages of acrylic paints, artists can make an informed decision based on their artistic style, preferences, and project requirements.


Can I paint acrylic over oil?

No, it is not recommended to paint acrylic over oil. Acrylic paints are water-based and will not adhere properly to oil-based paints. It is best to use acrylic over acrylic and oil over oil to ensure the longevity and stability of the painting.


In conclusion, while acrylic paint is versatile and dries quickly, it is not recommended to paint acrylic over oil. The two types of paint have different properties and do not adhere well to each other. Attempting to paint acrylic on top of oil may result in cracking, peeling, or flaking over time.

To ensure a successful painting project, it is best to follow the traditional rule of “fat over lean” by starting with a layer of oil paint and then adding acrylic on top. This will prevent any adhesion issues and provide a stable foundation for your artwork.

Remember to consult reliable resources and test your materials before starting any painting project to achieve the best results.

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