Watercolor vs Acrylic Painting: What's the Difference

Watercolor vs Acrylic Painting: What's the Difference

Painting can be an expressive and creative form of art, but with so many different types of painting mediums to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which is best for you. Watercolor and acrylic paint are among the most popular choices for both experienced and amateur painters, but what distinguishes them from each other?

In this blog post, we’ll review the differences between watercolor vs. acrylic painting so that you can decide which medium is better suited to your project. Read on as we explore topics such as color saturation, vibrancy, permanence, and more – no matter if you’re looking for brilliance or subtlety in your paintings!

What is Watercolor Paint?

Watercolor paint is liquid paint composed of pigments suspended in a water-soluble binder. It is applied to paper or other surfaces using brushes, allowing the colors to blend and create beautiful artwork with soft effects. 

Watercolors can range from opaque to transparent and are known for their vibrant hues and delicate washes of color that create an ethereal, dream-like quality. They are most commonly used for illustration, calligraphy, downscaling artworks, and sketching.

What is Acrylic Paint?

Acrylic paint is a popular medium used by many artists because of its versatility and wide range of colors. It is composed of pigment particles suspended in a synthetic acrylic polymer emulsion. 

Acrylics are known to be thicker than watercolors and more durable, making them ideal for outdoor murals or artworks that require bright, opaque colors. 

They also dry faster than oil paints and can easily be thinned with water or other mediums to create different effects. 

The Differences Between Watercolor and Acrylic Painting


Watercolor and acrylic paint are two popular mediums used by many artists, each offering its unique set of characteristics. Watercolor is a liquid paint consisting of pigments that mix with water to create vibrant colors and gradients. 
It is applied by brush to paper or other surfaces and dries quickly, allowing for delicate details. Acrylic paint is composed of pigment particles suspended in an acrylic polymer emulsion and is thicker than watercolors. It provides opaque coverage with bright colors that are great for outdoor murals or artworks that require more durability. 

Creating Light Colors

While both watercolor and acrylic paints can produce light colors, each one has its own set of characteristics that affects how it can be used to create lighter shades. With watercolor, the pigments mix with water to create rich gradients with vibrant colors. Because of this, it's best suited for delicate details, painting washes, and subtle blends. 
Acrylic paints have thick and opaque coverage, which provides brighter colors that are great for projects that require more durability. Still, they don't layer as easily as watercolors when trying to create lighter shades.


Regarding the cost of watercolor and acrylic paint, both offer different advantages. Watercolors are generally more affordable than acrylics, making them a great choice for beginners and students on a budget. 
Acrylic paints, however, tend to be more expensive but often come in larger tubes which can help save money in the long run. Furthermore, they tend to last longer, and their vibrant colors provide superior coverage, which makes them a great choice for furniture restoration or outdoor murals. 

Drying Times and Clean-up

When comparing watercolors and acrylics, one major difference is the drying time. Watercolor paints dry quickly, making them an ideal choice for quick projects where speed is of the essence. However, they also require special paper to prevent warping when wet. 
Acrylic paints take a while to dry, but their thicker consistency helps protect the work surface from damage due to moisture.


When it comes to transparency, watercolor paints give artists a greater range of options for creating works with layers and subtle effects. This is especially true for layering multiple transparent washes. Acrylic paints contain more pigments than watercolors, making them much less transparent when used in large amounts. 
Watercolor paints offer great options for vibrant and transparent artwork, while acrylics can provide long-lasting pieces with bolder colors.


When it comes to durability, acrylic paint is the clear winner. Once fully dried, acrylic paintings are highly resistant to fading or cracking caused by environmental changes. 
On the other hand, watercolor paints may not last as long due to their water-soluble nature - meaning they can be affected by humidity and moisture in the air. However, properly sealed with good quality varnish or other protective coatings, watercolors can retain their vibrancy for many years. 

Pros and Cons of Watercolor and Acrylic Paint

The pros of watercolor painting are that they provide an array of vibrant and transparent effects. They're also easy to use, and cleanup is simple due to their water-soluble nature. However, a few cons include decreased longevity and susceptibility to fading or cracking from environmental changes. 
Acrylic paints offer great advantages in terms of durability, color vibrancy, and blendability. It's also relatively easy to use for both beginners and professionals alike. On the downside, acrylics tend to be less transparent than watercolors, limiting the types of artwork you can create with them. Additionally, they may require more setup time as they dry quickly but take longer to cure fully.

Buy Professional Personalized Artwork from Memorialize Art

One of the main reasons you may want to learn about the difference between watercolor and acrylic painting is that you are planning to give someone a memorable painted gift. But if you do not have much time, visit Memorialize Art and find different creative options. You will surely appreciate the value our products provide for you. 

watercolor portrait