How to Choose the Right Art Medium

Article about How to Choose the Right Art Medium

Published by

Eliyahu Mirlis activities: Other, , Other, , Founder

Mar 16, 2021

When you first decide to paint, it can be difficult to decide on what is the best painting medium to use if you are a beginner. Below, American painter Eliyahu Mirlis goes over the options for each paint and the other things to think about before choosing your medium. This roundup includes lists of pros and cons for the most comment painting mediums. In addition to those listed below, paintings can be made with many other mediums such as gouache, oil pastel, ink, pencil, markers, spray paint and silkscreen among others.

Watercolor, acrylic or oil?

To choose one or another paint medium, look at the works of some artists. You may be inspired by the specific use of a type of paint. Some artists use a variety of mediums and techniques, while others use the same one for all their paintings. The choice is made based on factors such as drying time, ease of use, and the size of the painting. If you are interested in a work with a specific feel, identify what technique was used to create it.


Pros and cons for choosing your art medium



Watercolors are diluted with water, which makes them easy to use and clean. They re-thin even after drying, so new colors can be added to an already dry color. You can use transparencies to quickly cover large areas.


  • They are relatively cheap.
  • They dry very fast.
  • They give the possibility of creating expressive paintings with techniques such as glazes, drips and splashes.


  • It is difficult to master watercolor techniques.
  • It is difficult to correct mistakes.
  • Fragile: A single drop of water can spoil the entire work.



Acrylics mix advantages of both oils and watercolors. They dry fast and can therefore be layered in a short time. They can be mixed with water, so there is no need to worry about paint thinners or cleaning products.



  • Thick coats or thin glazes can be applied.
  • They dry in minutes.
  • Useful on various materials, such as canvas, paper, plastic or metal.


  • Quick drying means you have to work quickly to mix colors.
  • Colors darken when drying.
  • It is difficult to make large uniform areas.

For absolute beginners, New Jersey artist Eliyahu Mirlis recommends acrylic because is the easiest medium to gain confidence. The paint is opaque, meaning you can paint over mistakes – great when you’re starting out.

Oil paints

Oil paints have a great tradition and popularity thanks to their rich color palette. They confer a thick and structural quality. With techniques such as glazing, filling and layering, everything from abstract works to hyper-realistic images can be created.


  • They are more flexible thanks to a longer drying time.
  • The colors blend very well.
  • You can create textures with thick layers.


  • Canvases should be well primed if possible using a traditional technique.
  • They require solvents such as white spirit.
  • Difficult to create clean lines due to long drying time.


A watercolor can contain different techniques, from delicate glazes to clean lines and clear highlights. With acrylic you can build vibrant layers of color and add depth with bright hues. With oil you can use soft colors or not and achieve filling qualities that acrylic or watercolor will not give you.

Choosing an art medium can be challenging, especially when you are new to the arts. As Eliyahu Mirlis explains, there are plenty of strategies, tips, and proven methods for choosing an art medium. But at the end of the day, this is your choice, and it will be up to your own feelings, thoughts, and conclusions about different art styles to ultimately help you decide on a medium.

Articles authored by Eliyahu Mirlis