Painting 101: Different Types of Paint

For many who just started painting, choosing the type of paint to use is one of the most confusing things – what’s the difference between oil and acrylic? Is watercolour better or worse than gouache? But fret not – the below guide will explain what you need to know when it comes to art paints.

Watercolour Paint

“The Blue Boat” (1892) by Winslow Homer

Watercolour paint is one of the oldest paints in history, and the cheapest to use. The thin, transparent quality of the paint makes it more malleable to play around against the plain colour of the painting surface (the paper). Once dried, the colours may look thinner. Be careful when you’re painting with this, as it is harder to correct the colours.


Oil Paint


Oil paint is well-known for its versatility – it can portray a wide range of textures and opacity. The paint dries very slowly, and the colours can change depending on exposure to light. However, once it dries, you can rectify mistakes or overpaint over some colours without ruining the composition.


Acrylic Paint

“Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)” (1972) by David Hockney

Acrylic works well with most surfaces (canvas, paper, woodwork, walls, even leather). It dries fast, and could be used to look like oil paint (thick) or watercolour paint (thin). Once dried, the colours may look darker. Be careful of the fumes – working in a well-ventilated area will be the safest option.


Gouache Paint

“Curvy Brushstrokes” (1995) by Sol LeWitt

It is similar to watercolour, but gouache is thicker and more opaque thanks to the chalk contained in the paint.


Ink Paint

“Pine Trees” by Hasegawa Tōhaku

From calligraphy to general painting, ink is one of the most used tools in the art world. It can evoke both bold and thin strokes.


Encaustics Paint

“Flags” (1955) by Jasper Johns

Being made from wax, encaustics paint is known for its longevity and richness. Like oil paint, encaustics can portray a vast range of textures. However, it can be difficult to use since the paint has to be kept warm with a heat source.


Sources: Artists Inspire Artists, ThoughtCo, AccessArt, Craftsy