Difference Between Watercolor Paint and Acrylic Paint
By Laura Lee - October 18, 2022

Watercolor and acrylic are water-soluble paints that can be thinned or removed with water. Because they do not contain harsh chemicals, the paints are objectively safer and more economical. However, the paints differ in manufacture, use, and many other features.

Table Summary

Mostly natural ingredientsMostly artificial ingredients
Mostly transparent colorsMostly opaque colors
Less simple to useAdvised for use by beginner painters


Watercolor paint contains four main ingredients: a pigment; gum arabic as a binder to keep the pigment suspended; additives such as glycerin, ox gall, honey, and preservatives to change the viscosity, hiding, durability, or color of the pigment and vehicle mixture; and evaporating water as a solvent used to thin or dilute the paint for application. It is one of the oldest painting forms in the world.

Acrylic paint comprises pigment dispersed in an acrylic-polymer emulsion and other additives such as plasticizers, silicone oils, defoamers, stabilizers, and metal soaps. Most acrylic paints are water-based.

Watercolor VS Acrylic

The fundamental distinction between watercolor and acrylic paints is how they are applied. Acrylic paint dries quickly and provides good coverage, but watercolors are transparent, and colors are easily blended with water. Watercolor materials are primarily derived naturally, though some watercolor paints contain a synthetic binder. Acrylic paint is manufactured mainly using artificial materials. Painting using acrylic paints begins with dark colors and progresses to lighter ones. When working with watercolor, begin with light colors blended with a lot of water before moving on to darker ones. As a rule, light acrylic paints dry darker than watercolors. Watercolor backgrounds are restricted to paper (optimally watercolor paper), which does not need priming as a sealant. Acrylic backgrounds need priming and are much more diverse: wood and paper, although canvas is most often used. Canvases are often pre-primed.