Watercolor vs. Acrylic: Which is Harder to Learn?

Artistic expression comes in various forms, each with its unique challenges and rewards. Two popular mediums in the world of painting are watercolor and acrylic. Both have their distinct characteristics and techniques, making them suitable for different artistic styles and preferences. In this article, we will delve into the debate of which is harder to learn: watercolor or acrylic.

Watercolor Painting

Watercolor is often considered one of the more challenging mediums to master, primarily due to its unforgiving nature. Here’s why:

  1. Transparency: Watercolors are transparent, meaning that you can’t cover up mistakes easily. Once a color is applied to the paper, it’s challenging to lighten or correct it without damaging the paper.
  2. Unpredictable Behavior: Watercolors have a mind of their own. The pigments can blend in unexpected ways, leading to both happy accidents and frustrating mishaps.
  3. Control: Achieving fine details in watercolor requires a high level of control and precision. It can be challenging to create sharp lines and intricate patterns.
  4. Layering: Creating depth and dimension in watercolor often involves layering washes. This technique requires careful planning and timing to avoid muddying the colors.
  5. Patience: Watercolor painting demands patience, as you must wait for layers to dry before adding more details or correcting mistakes.

Acrylic Painting

On the other hand, acrylic painting has its own set of challenges:

  1. Drying Time: Acrylic paint dries relatively quickly, which can make blending and layering more challenging for beginners.
  2. Versatility: Acrylics can be used in various ways, including thick impasto techniques or diluted to resemble watercolors. This versatility can be overwhelming for newcomers.
  3. Mixing Colors: Achieving the desired color in acrylics can be tricky due to the paint’s quick drying time. Mixing colors on the palette can lead to unexpected changes as they dry on the canvas.
  4. Texture: Acrylics can create texture on the canvas, which may be difficult to control, especially when using impasto techniques.
  5. Clean-Up: Unlike watercolors, acrylics require more effort to clean up brushes and palettes, as they dry quickly and can become difficult to remove when dried.

Which is Harder to Learn?

The answer to whether watercolor or acrylic is harder to learn depends on the individual and their artistic goals. Here are some factors to consider:

  1. Experience Level: Beginners may find watercolor more challenging due to its unforgiving nature, while those with experience in drawing or other painting mediums might adapt more easily.
  2. Patience: Watercolor requires patience and a willingness to embrace mistakes as part of the creative process. Acrylic, with its faster drying time, may be more suitable for those who prefer a quicker pace.
  3. Style and Preferences: Your desired artistic style plays a significant role. If you prefer loose, impressionistic works, watercolor’s unpredictability may work in your favor. If you prefer controlled, realistic details, acrylic might be more appealing.
  4. Learning Curve: Both mediums have learning curves, but acrylics may offer more immediate gratification for beginners, as they can be forgiving of mistakes.
  5. Artistic Goals: Consider what you want to achieve in your artwork. Acrylics are better suited for large-scale works, while watercolor excels in smaller, delicate pieces.


In the debate of watercolor vs. acrylic, neither is inherently harder to learn than the other. Instead, it comes down to your artistic goals, preferences, and willingness to embrace the unique challenges of each medium. Some artists may find the transparency and unpredictability of watercolor daunting, while others might appreciate its delicate beauty. Acrylics offer more versatility and quicker results, making them a suitable choice for different styles and skill levels. Ultimately, the choice between watercolor and acrylic should be guided by your artistic vision and the journey you wish to embark upon in your creative endeavors.