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why choose acrylics rather than oils for faces and other vital blending areas ?

Discussion in 'Painting Techniques' started by DBenz, Aug 9, 2019.

  1. DBenz Member

    I am interested to know why, given oils ability to be blended to the most superb can't see where one colour ends and the other begins transition, that almost all modellers, and certainly 99% of articles and videos on the internet, are going with acrylics, and I see anything but the transition just described in acrylics shadows to midtones and highlights to midtones. Its as if I expect when asking a modeller why use acrylics, they reply well others do so, or I go to shows and all I can see for sale are acrylics, other reasons seen on forums are I like to lick the brush, I want it to dry quick., or even I see only acrylic tutorials so need to use acrylics. Licking brushes and dry time are no reason to ditch what gives the best realistic blending of all.
    To achieve a superb correctly blended transition from one colour to another with acrylics requires skills amounting to high stress and a white knuckle ride whilst doing so, when someone using oils could do the same transition with half the stress or even less.
    Darren_Han manages to achieve oil paint perfection with acrylics with https://www.puttyandpaint.com/projects/21853 also see his Monty and the heads, but that is the exception to most of what I am seeing, an average modeller could achieve such blending with oils far better than acrylics so why go the hard route, why dismiss oils ?
    To advise a newcomer on what to use I find myself saying oils as acrylics will see something far less blended for your first few figures if not more, resulting in the usual acrylic look with tide marks between colours. I also dont understand the over exaggerated contrasts between highlights midtones and shadows, a caricature rather than realism and flesh colour with little yellow in it, the very pink look, or looking greyish and desaturated as if the subject of the model is on the mortuary table ! Heavily tanned shadow areas under cheek bones and on foreheads yet with bleached out noses etc as if factor 50 is applied to the latter. Anything but flesh colour when compared to a caucasian. If placed in a real scene would it look real, some would, thats realism, but many wouldnt.

  2. Viking Bob PlanetFigure Supporter

    I have tried to paint skin tones in acrylic's but I have now gone back to oil's. I find it much easier to blend and if I make a mistake, it's easier to correct. At least with oil your not tempted to lick the brush.
    Geoff Charman, Jed and Nap like this.
  3. valiant A Fixture

    Im certainly no expert with using acrylics and I am still learning, but painting with acrylics is a completely different technique and discipline to using oils. When I made the transition from enamels to acrylics, I attempted to use the same style, but quickly found that it doesnt work. Comparing oils to acrylics is like comparing apples to oranges!(y)
  4. JasonB A Fixture

    The only thing I think that could be considered an advantage is fast drying time allows you to work faster, though the slow drying time is oils advantage when it comes to blending and smooth transitions. Maybe the cost of paint? Though a $20 tube of oil paint will last me the rest of my life at my pace of painting... Otherwise, I have never really understood the attraction. Maybe its the existence of specifics colors and people not having the ability or knowledge of how to mix different tones. I repeatedly see people ask for the mix of this tone or that. In my method, its always a little of this mixed with a little of that until it looks right. Not ratios of one specific color with another. Maybe that's what is difficult for folks to master about oils?

    As far as the exaggerated highlights, etc, I have said it before. In the beginning, true masters of acrylic painting could almost match the results of oils. As more and more people tried it, and achieved...lesser results, it actually became a style and "accepted", for the want of a better term, to have harsh contrasts and less blended tones. As in most things, once it becomes widespread and accepted, it becomes the norm. That's not to say there aren't some people that have truly mastered the art of acrylics for skin tones, but it just seems like using a fork to eat cereal. It can be done, and if practiced, is probably not too messy, but so much less effective than a spoon...:hungry:
  5. DBenz Member

    Valiant, why did you go over to using acrylics ?
  6. valiant A Fixture

    I used to use Humbrol enamels, but latterly, they became inconsistent. Poor coverage, patchy drying, generally poor quality and a shadow of what they used to be. I dont have much modelling time and it used to take too long to wait between coats and jobs took inordinate amounts of time to complete. I binned all the Humbrols, I had and bought a set of Vallejo and started to learn how to use them and still am!

    Ive used oils for painting on canvas, but never got on with them for painting figures, due to excessive drying times and poor durability when handling whilst painting and basing. Im sure there are those out there who may say try this, or try that, but Im happy with what I use now - and acrylics dont smell!!(y)
  7. Kimmo Active Member

    I don't use oils because I simply don't have anywhere to put them while they dry, and if I did have space, I wouldn't like waiting several hours to apply another layer. I appreciate you can blend far more readily with oils, but it's not like you can't blend with acrylics. It's just a matter of technique and each to their own.

    gothicgeek, Jed, Nap and 2 others like this.
  8. Alex A Fixture

    I use oil on canvas and acrylic on miniatures.
    I did use oil paint in the beginning but found out that for the kind of work I was aiming for, acrylic were giving me a better result :
    - no need for solvant
    - no need to dry the paint in the oven
    - way faster to do freehands with acrylic paint where the fast drying of the paint layer is a real must
    - the thing is that it is not that complicated to obtain perfect transition with acrylic without needing to overthin the paint, it is just a question of practice
    - but the most important point is that imho, obtaining the perfect blending looks artifical to me.. what material out there is perfectly smooth besides a young woman skin ? leather, hair, linen, old metal, wool, etc.. all these materials do not need a perfect smooth paint job.. in fact it is just the opposite and that's why, I think that acrylic paints are such in favor these days.
    Jed, Nap and harrytheheid like this.
  9. Nap A Fixture

    Hi Guys

    A very interesting question from DBenz ( apologies not sure of your name ) on a subject much covered but with good responses here as well

    Personally I use Acrylics and a blending medium along with Water Soluable Oils , mixing to achieve the results I AM happy with

    Have a set of the new Kimera colours so that will be a step learning curve

    It's what ever YOU feel happy using ...all mediums have their positives and negatives of course

    Happy benchtime

    Jed likes this.
  10. DBenz Member

    To me its essential that whatever paint is used, the transition from a highlight to a midtone and midtone to shadow is a well blended airbrushed type effect as in reality. In this video by , so it says, a master painter I expect to see him blending the edges of such colours together at 18 mins but instead he goes onto the helmet, and knowing that its not oils and he wont return to it later on, I see him do what a lot seem to do and leave them with defined edges. How should those edges have then been carefully blended in, a clean brush with retarder perhaps ? Is the midtone too dry to blend into ? Would a damp brush with retarder or thinners eat into the midtone ? All these problems when oils have none, and drying time, why does one want it dry when it needs to be workable for blending ? It can be dried easily enough with a heat box afterwards.

    I also wonder if modellers dont know what colours to mix to get a certain colour so prefer to buy a pot of german uniform green or US army helmet green, also such then allows for replication of the colour. I am uneasy about being able to replicate a colour or even store it for another day with oils, so I could understand that aspect of acrylics. Just need to know how to blend them as well as oils can be perfectly blended. What time scale is there from painting on the midtone to finishing off the colours that need blending in on a face, 5 oclock shadow etc probably being the last colour to go on ? A few hours or is it 30 mins or what ? It seems as if the midtones and shadows are going on as a wet runny paint but onto a dryish midtone , its lost its sheen so seems to have dried out as early as 3m 30 secs so no chance of being melted together with the wet highlights and shadows going on even at 3m 35s and thus no control over the distance of the blend.

    advantages I have seen folk say of drying time and matte finish, matte finish can be added with varnish afterwards and drying time done in a heat box or warm airing cupboard, but need it wet for blending, not dry. Counter productive otherwise. The Rommel painting video is bang on when it says about cloth is matt, leather is sheen, etc, such need applying as varnishes, vital to correct look.

    Tecumsea and Jed like this.
  11. hypertex Active Member

    The biggest advantages acrylics have over oils is 1) drying time; 2) matte finish; 3) drying time.
    I've been experimenting with Gamblin Fast Matte oil paints that dry faster and more matte than regular oils. There are also slow-drying acrylics available from Golden and Atelier. It seems to be that either of these solutions could bridge the gap between oils and acrylics, but I seem to be the only one who is willing to try them--I don't know why.
    Jed likes this.
  12. theBaron A Fixture

    I've heard some folks call it "kabuki" style. I've also heard it said that it photographs well, and since many of the top painters in our hobby also paint box art examples, that helped to spread the style, too. I prefer more natural colors, myself, except when the painter is doing something for an effect.

  13. theBaron A Fixture

    And people use methods and additional products, to tweak those characteristics of acrylics and of oils even further. People use lamps or other sources of gentle heat to accelerate oils' drying time, and media like wax to achieve a better matte finish. And with acrylics, people use retarders to slow their drying time.

  14. MCPWilk A Fixture

    I tend to block in large areas with acrylic and use enamels for shading and oils for all flesh. I find I can get a better finish using oils for white.

  15. samson Well-Known Member

    Just throwing my 2 cents in the ring i still consider myself a beginner by all means . And i did start with acrylics because of the usual fast drying no smells easy clean up etc but i think the biggest reason for me was buying close to the color i wanted for fear of mixing my own colors and buying colors already mixed . I haven’t been in the hobby for a while and that was my view when i stopped the hobby . But hopefully getting back to the hobby reading and watching in my time off I’m gonna give oil painting a try at least for all skin leather and wood for starters. Having this website help me to get over my fear of mixing I think i might even enjoy it LOL . It might be the thought of getting back in the hobby but i think everyone is looking for a quick out myself included it might be time to take a step back and enjoy the whole process including the drying time LOL
    Mike - The Kiwi and Tecumsea like this.
  16. John Ballard Well-Known Member

    There are plenty of reasons why painters choose acrylic or oils. However for me the deciding factor is the translucence of the pigment carrier. Oil is a much more translucent carrier and, in my opinion can better represent the texture of skin. here are a few examples of what I mean. Now artists did not use acrylics way back in the past so I have selected some tempera paintings given that tempera has some of the same features as acrylics. I think eveyone will agree that these examples are all very skillful demonstrations of the painter's art. First we have two females faces.


    On the left is an oil work by Holbein and on the right a tempera work by Boticelli

    Now a male face


    I don't know the artist for the image on the left in Tempera. On the right is an oil work by Lawrence.

    In these examples I think it is clear that, although each one is a great image, the oil works have a deeper more translucent, flesh-like appearance.

    Each to his own taste I guess.

    MattMcK. likes this.
  17. pkessling Member

    In my opinion, it really doesn’t matter which medium that you use. Just learn how to use it through practice.
    I painted figures in both oils and acrylics, way back when. When I went to shows, I actually had to tell friends which figs were painted in acrylics.
    I only painted a few 54s in acrylics and eventually went back to oils. I had always used oils and I could achieve whatever effect I wa looking for with them. Painting with acrylics was an entirely “new world” for me. Getting the different tonal variations(shadows, highlights) right was difficult for me. Painting with acrylics was a much slower and often times more frustrating process for me. My painting time was limited and I often wasted an entire painting session when painting with acrylics. I went totally back to oils because I enjoyed the techniques involved and they gave me predictable results.
    Jaybo, s.e.charles, clrsgt and 3 others like this.
  18. Richard Baxter Well-Known Member

    Just wanted to add my view, and I emphasise that I am by no means an expert!

    I started in the hobby when I was a student in 1971. About this time Airfix produced their 10th Hussar figure and I discovered Historex. All of the leading Historex modellers were using oils to a greater or lesser extent, and I learned to use them, largely by trial and error and achieved a reasonable level of competence. I also used enamels, Airfix or Humbrol, chiefly for more modern uniforms and equipment. Acrylics weren't really a feature back then, although I recall a brand called Pelikan Plaka which may have been acrylic (PS: have just checked and these were water-soluble casein-based paints. Still made in Hannover and available, but not as popular as they once were as acrylics have superseded them. Would be interested to learn if any modellers use them though). It was the vehicle builders who first went big on acrylics in the late 70s/early 80s with the expansion of Tamiya's range and their suitability for use in airbrushes. So, my techniques are founded in these media and I still use them today in the main. As other comments have said, I always use oils for flesh and horses and agree with previous comments about their blend-ability. I have never been concerned about slow drying time and consider it an advantage for these key features of any figure.

    Since I came back to the hobby following my retirement, I have taken up using acrylics for certain effects and after quite a bit of faffing, cursing, throwing things around and frothing at the mouth, I feel that I have achieved a reasonable level of competence with these paints for clothing and equipment requiring a matt finish. I agree that obtaining a proper gradient between shades of the same colour is a beast to master: what looks smooth in one set of lighting conditions looks rough in another. I try not to over-think this but to work by intuition (but not by sense of smell) and feel my way to a satisfactory finish. Sorry if that sounds a bit wafty and new-age but it's the best way of saying that I make it up as I go along (cringe!). I have, alongside this, experimented with ink washes and again find them an invaluable medium in fine detailing and in toning down some of the more vivid shades.

    All of which is my way of saying that I am not wedded to any one medium but will use different ones subject to what I am trying to achieve. I have learned from experience, reading and from talking to fellow modellers, plus a lot of trial and error. I have a method that works to my satisfaction and some have been kind enough to complement me on my work. I have kept notes on what worked and what didn't. So, my message is, don't rule anything out, don't be afraid to experiment and to rip it up and start again if you don't like it. But above all, enjoy the hobby and your art.

    Must go, time for my medication.
    Jaybo, ometz and Mike - The Kiwi like this.
  19. MCPWilk A Fixture

    I tend to use acrylics for blocking in large areas, enamels and occasionally oils for shading and highlighting, oils for any flesh and over a matt white base for any white clothing.

  20. Mike - The Kiwi A Fixture

    An intriguing conversation I’ve only just caught up on.
    Thanks DBenz for starting, enjoyed reading & learning from others.
    Whilst agree with many points made with my own journey suggest two other factors in why acrylics dominate today.
    Marketing & Fashion ...
    My recollection is Spanish School, including Raul La Torre, Rodriguez Chacon & others began trend in 90s.
    It has accelerated as paint of choice in fantastical fantasy projects & has lapped over as default in to historical projects.
    Oils appear anachronistic to most miniature painters today, with few leading lights to inspire their use by new generation.
    Some light for oils comes from ‘classicists’ like David Lane continuing as one of my personal favourite ‘popular’ oilers, while Sergey Popovichenko plus other Eastern European are helping a mini renaissance for younger artists.
    Still fashion prevails & with marketing machines run by a clique of paint manufacturers acrylics seem unlikely to lose favour soon.
    Random thoughts & observations for your consideration.
    Jaybo, housecarl and Scotty like this.

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