Watercolour Painting vs Oil Painting – Which is Better for Beginners

Painting is a great hobby to have. It can improve your concentration, develop your critical thinking skills, and enhance your fine motor skills. It can foster creative growth, build your confidence, promote a positive attitude and nurture emotional growth. Learning how to paint should be more pleasure than pressure. For beginners, watercolour painting and oil painting are common options apart from Acrylic. In this post, we will find the better option between watercolour painting and oil painting for beginners.

Painting as an Extracurricular Activity for High School Students

Painting is a universal language of self-expression that transcends place and time. This is one of the ancient forms of expression. You may as well call it a visual dance of expression. Much before oral language, a painting made thoughts visible. Children used paintings to communicate their ideas, feelings, and knowledge and tried to make sense of their surroundings.

Painting provides a voice to the unspoken. It is an enriching experience that supports the overall growth and development of individuals, providing several benefits to their physical, mental, social, emotional, language and cognitive development. For students, if you wish to improve your job prospects as Art and Design Graduates in UK, then it is high time you consider painting as an option.

Painting is a form of expression which is created with certain aesthetic qualities in a two-dimensional visual language. The various elements used in this language include lines, shapes, colours, tones and textures. In this article, we shall take a tour of two painting techniques – watercolour and oil painting.

Watercolour Painting vs Oil Painting: Comparison

Colours, when put on paper/canvas, use certain elements as their base. Water is used as a base for water colouring and oil forms the base when it comes to oil painting. These are the two most commonly used painting methods. They have their own specialities which set one apart from the other. So, how are they different from each other? Let’s take a look.

Watercolour painting dates back to as early as cave paintings and is considered to be the oldest form of painting. They have been in vogue since Renaissance. They are usually done on paper

Oil painting is comparatively a new form of painting dating back to the 15th century. They normally use canvas as the base.

While using watercolours, the first layer (on paper) is the lightest, followed by the darker and finally the darkest shade. They dry up in a matter of a couple of hours. This is just the opposite when it comes to oil painting. The darkest shade is put on the canvas first, followed by the darker and ending with the lightest shade. They are comparatively thicker and could take days and even weeks to dry.

Watercolours blend in seamlessly. Thus, these paintings do not tend to flake or crack over time. They have a matte finish. Unless stored properly, they are prone to discolouration and fade with time.

Oil paintings are more delicate. They need proper storage and protection. They tend to crack and flake with time. Really old paintings might as well require restoration. They have a glossy finish. These paintings are less prone to discolouration. They age well and last longer.

Watercolour Painting vs Oil Painting: Pros & Cons

  • Mistakes are easily reversible with oil paintings. You can just scrape back the wrong colour with a palette knife. These colours are thicker and opaque. It is easier to paint over mistakes. With watercolours, this is difficult, since these colours seem to bleed into each other.
  • If you are fond of toned down blended shading, then you should opt for watercolours. This is a little difficult with oil paints.
  • However, if you love bright and vibrant colours, then oil painting is just right for you.
  • Want to gift a painting to your guests? Just dive into watercolours. They dry up very fast. This is not happening in the case of oil paints. Oil paintings are suitable if you have an exhibition within a fortnight.
  • You can bring life to your oil paintings by adding brighter highlights and deeper shadows. Because of the transparency in layers, creating depths through underpainting and glazing is far easier. This provides a three-dimensional effect to the end product. Water colouring does not have this provision.
  • As the name suggests, oil paintings have a glossy finish. Watercolours, on the other hand, give a matte finish. Thus, if you are fond of glossy pictures, you should like an oil painting. I personally like matte pictures.
  • Going by pricing, equipment for watercolour is cheaper compared to those for oil painting. For instance, paper is cheaper than canvases.

My Thoughts

Of the little knowledge I have managed to accumulate over these years through first-hand experience and through thorough reading about this form of art, I feel students who are thinking of picking up painting, should opt for water colouring at the very outset. I say this from my personal experience.

Water colouring is easier. For beginners, it is important to have a basic knowledge of colour blending, colour shading and highlighting. Watercolours and other stationery for this purpose are cheaper and easily available. It wouldn’t pinch the pocket if your paintings go wrong several times. Once you are confident that you can seamlessly paint on paper, you can then upgrade to oil painting.

Oil painting, according to me is a little more difficult than water colouring the fact that you need to have a clear conviction of what you are going to display on the canvas. It is basically a test of patience for the fact that the end result takes a lot of time to dry. These paintings are more glamorous. They wear out less and stay with you for life (if stored properly)

Excerpts by Ms Nayana Das Chatterjee, Art / Visual Arts Teacher at Junior DPS Kolkata

Oil Painting vs Watercolor: Views by Nayana Das Chatterjee, Visual Arts Trainer at DPS Ruby, Kolkata

1) What according to you are the basic differences between water colouring and oil painting?

The most basic difference is the difference in medium. The medium for watercolour is water, while for oil painting it is oil. Moreover, water colouring is transparent. Oil painting is opaque. Water colouring is runny – you are unable to check which way the colours will flow till the time they dry up. Oil painting, on the other hand, is sticky. You can control the spillage of oil, as it is a thicker medium.

2) For beginners, what type of colouring should they start with, and why? What are your suggestions?

First of all, beginners can never start with water colouring. What I mean to say here is, that they must first learn pencil shading and pastel colouring/shading. When I feel they are confident about these two, I take them forward with water colouring. They need to learn the basics of shading through water colouring, first. It is comparatively easier for beginners. Bringing out that perfect shading in oil painting is tougher.

3) What would be your suggestions to students who are willing to take up Visual Arts as a subject after formal schooling?

Very high scope in future, because nowadays art has different forms. It has diverse scopes in different fields. Whatever you perceive with your senses, you see art. Every step you take, every packaging you see, every advertisement you see. Art is not just for someone who wishes to study the subject after schooling. Art is all-encompassing. It is for anyone and everyone. Art is Life! Perception varies from one person to another, and so does art.

Those who wish to carry art forward in future, are open to various different forms of art to choose from. It could be textile designing, ceramic art, glass art, interior designing, mandala art and the like. You have to have an artist’s eye, first. You’ve got to perceive art in everything you see. If it interests you, then you know you can go ahead with the subject. You need to understand which form of art appeals to you the most. You can then specialize in that area.

Editor’s Note:

High school is a wonderful time if you make good use of it. Again, your academic performance will always be the prime focus, but that’s not the only focus; every youngster should focus on building themselves up to be a value-adding person to the University ecosystem they want to get into. Not only will all these extracurriculars help you grow as a person, but they will also get you ready for the years to come when you’re in college (in India or Abroad).

Stoodnt is conducting a 3-Week Liberal Arts Summer Program for Grade 8 – 12 Students. The Online program includes Visual Arts, Mass Communication & Journalism, Storytelling, Creative Writing, Graphic Design, Academic Research, Entrepreneurship & Finance, College Essays, Liberal Arts College Admissions Guidance, and Electives around STEM subjects.

Nayana and Sreeparna will teach and mentor students in Visual Arts and Mass Communication & Journalism modules. If you are interested, feel free to Apply Here.

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