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Discuss all areas of historical miniature painting and painting preparation.
Oils versus acrylics for painting figures
Maryland, United States
Joined: April 18, 2006
KitMaker: 1,794 posts
Historicus Forma: 4 posts
Posted: Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - 12:14 PM UTC
I know this generally depends on one's preference but, for a beginner, which medium would yield best results? I've seen magnificent work here and elsewhere from those who use both but I have to say that oils seem a little easier to work with.


United States
Joined: September 22, 2010
KitMaker: 102 posts
Historicus Forma: 100 posts
Posted: Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - 01:57 PM UTC
I would have to say 'oils' also since that waa how I began...oils have the 'advantage' of a longer working time and are easier to blend/feather than the rather quickly drying acrylics...I first began by using the old Imrie/Risley enamels...which were fine on 54 mm figures but as I graduated to larger scale figures I found I needed the longer drying times and larger color palette afforded by oils...I experimented with the acrylics of the day (mid 70s but found them drying too quickly...of course, oils have their DIS-advantages also...certain colors are extremely transparent and/or take very long to dry...I'm seriously considering the use of acrylics for blues, reds & yellows to solve the transparency dilemna...but for the short term will use the old undercoating method...double the work, I know...but it's what I know...

CB in FL
Staff MemberAssociate Editor
Warszawa, Poland
Joined: April 23, 2003
KitMaker: 1,923 posts
Historicus Forma: 628 posts
Posted: Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - 08:02 PM UTC
At the beggining I was using enamels (humbrol and Model Master). Then I switched to acrylics with little help of articles I found in the net (also here).
I tried oils once but I was complete failure and I'm using them to weather tanks.
Scotland, United Kingdom
Joined: February 15, 2013
KitMaker: 1,273 posts
Historicus Forma: 36 posts
Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2014 - 12:48 AM UTC
I use both, depends how I feel at the time and how much time I have to spend on a build.
Oils are great as stated for longer drying times so great for blending colours together and feathering.....but longer drying times means waiting for them to dry to move to another stage in the build.
Acrylics are harder to blend and feather, you need to get a base coat down, then mix a darker colour of the base for low lites and I then give the model a coat of the base colour but thinned really pale, this lifts the low lites a little but also blends the base with the low lites. I then give a high lite and do the same again with the thinned base colour. It is pretty effective and doesn't take too long to do, especially on 1/35 figures. And you can get a face painted pretty quick this way.
As I say I use both mediums, and really have no particular preference.
Hope this helps.

Utah, United States
Joined: May 27, 2003
KitMaker: 1,026 posts
Historicus Forma: 21 posts
Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2014 - 02:16 PM UTC
Hi Rob,
I just started using oils a few years ago. I began with applying them as a wash over a layer of acrylic (Future Floor Wax), graduated on to airbrushing with them using Japan Drier, and recently tried my hand with John Pradarelli's "Painting a Face: Oils over Acrylic" method http://www.armorama.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=Sections&file=index&req=printpage&artid=1993

The key to trying any new technique is to just jump in! Get whatever materials are needed, and then try them out on an old kit or spare sprue or sumthin' that is styrene plastic.

Let us know how it goes.

Gauteng, South Africa
Joined: July 03, 2014
KitMaker: 82 posts
Historicus Forma: 1 posts
Posted: Monday, August 25, 2014 - 05:20 PM UTC
It really comes down to personal preference. I use acrylics for most base coats on figures followed by oils. No other type of paint has the general flexibility and blending ability of oil's. The only real drawback remains the drying time, but you can use various accelerators to speed up the process. Practice is the key. Learning to use oil's takes time but the end results are well worth the effort.
England - North West, United Kingdom
Joined: September 03, 2011
KitMaker: 608 posts
Historicus Forma: 98 posts
Posted: Thursday, August 28, 2014 - 08:40 PM UTC
I've seen this debate go on and on over many years. Wen I began painting it waswith enamels until the stink of the thinners annoyed everyone too much and I was asked to find a hobby without the smell of turpentine !
At first the debate was enamels Vs oils, then enamels and oils vs acrylics and now it's acrylics vs oils.
In the meantime, there has also been the introduction of water based oils (alkyds).
If the debate still goes on, after 40 years then there can be by definition no one answer guys.
My technique of painting Acrylics from a darker under coat through to final highlights in glazes gives me all the range of tone and shade required, I can paint anywhere any time and continue where I left off at any point.
If a lot of people cannot tell I'm painting with acrylics then what's the point in worrying. Use the limitations of the medium to your advantage if it's an opaque colour apply it in layers over a darker foundation and build up the intensity. The resultt is a lovely soft transition of tone.
Teqhnique is more important than the medium, have fun and practise plenty,see my gallery for examples of finished figures and give some feedback please
Regards paul