What Makes an Oil Painting so Unique


Creating art with oil paints is a concept that’s been around for centuries. However, there’s a reason that there are so many oil paintings that you can browse when you click here. It’s because oil paintings stand out by nature for a variety of reasons. 

A Rich History Behind Oil Painting

One of the things that make oil paintings so unique is the fact that they have such a long and rich history behind them. While this is true for many forms of art, it also gives the medium an additional level of depth and has given artists, as a broad collective, a lot of time to learn, improve upon, and even perfect different techniques to create different effects and appearances. 

Oil painting can be traced back to ancient practices. Some of the oldest signs are found in Southern Europe where there was evidence revealed that early humans created their own oil paints - the first of their kind - from a mix of earth and stain alongside animal fats. 

Even later on, there were still innovations not only in how oil painting techniques were developed but how the paint itself was made as well. For example, by the 15th century, a Belgian painter named Jan van Eyck innovated on oil paints once again by relying on linseed oil and the oil from nuts to create a diverse range of his own oil paints. This also offered a wider range of colors than was available before thanks to this method with more pigment options from the nut oil. 

As for the advocation of oil painting as a medium for artists, there have been many movements that pushed oil painting beyond what was previously thought possible. Especially in Europe, artists have made a push over the centuries to test the limits of what oil paintings can achieve. 

Popularity Among Well-Known Artists

Another aspect that has pushed forward the innovations surrounding oil paint and oil paintings is the number of masters that have claimed the medium. There are plenty of masterpieces that art critics and the average art fan alike have considered some of the best pieces of all time. This includes pieces such as Mona Lisa, The Starry Night, and Girl with a Pearl Earring, just to name a few. 

This has also put a high monetary value on oil paintings, at least ones that are deemed high-quality. 

On top of that, this has also made oil paintings highly recognizable. Due to the fact that there are so many oil paintings on display in museums and even recovered in archaeological finds, it’s a highly studied medium. Because many viewers are fairly familiar with oil paintings, even if they haven’t studied oil paintings specifically or intensively. This recognition of this medium as a popular one has led to more people knowing about it and the intricacies that make it stand out. 

How Oil Paints Compare to Acrylic Paints

When it comes to types of paint, there are plenty of different options. Two options that are often compared, though, include oil paints and acrylic paints. These differences work to further highlight how unique oil paintings can be. 

The primary difference is that oil paints take longer to dry than acrylic paints. For one, this allows the artist to work on a painting over time rather than having to finish it all at once like acrylic paintings often call for. 

In addition to that, this makes it much easier to blend colors when you’re using oil paints. This makes oil paintings a great medium for painters who want to achieve realistic results. This is thanks to the ability to move the paints around and mix them, even after they’ve been sitting on the canvas for a while. 

How Oil Paint Fades

There is also a unique quality in how oil paint fades over time. As oil paintings get older, you might notice that they have a yellow hue. This is because, due to a painting’s age, a dual set of effects occur. For one, the pigment starts to dull. At the same time, the binder in the paint starts to come through, giving the painting a yellow tone. 

This makes older and antique oil paintings very recognizable for the medium of oil paint as they age. Comparatively, a medium such as acrylic paint doesn’t do this over time thanks to the composition of the paint itself. This means that as oil paintings age, their appearance becomes even more distinct. 


From the way oil paint has been constructed and improved upon over the centuries to the techniques used to create certain effects, it remains one of the most recognizable and unique mediums in art to this day. It has specific traits that make it a great choice for a variety of movements and help them to stand out.

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