Oil paints have been the de facto standard for painters for centuries. But the costs and learning curve required for painting with oil may be prohibitive.
A better choice for beginning painters is acrylic paint. Acrylic paints are cheaper, easier to work with, easier to clean up, and dry faster than oil paints. I can’t think of any reason why you should choose oil paint over acrylic, other than the oils being a bit more vibrant, and the aura of prestige surrounding oil paintings.
While the paints themselves may be comparable in price, you need fewer expensive accessories to paint with acrylics than with oils. To paint with oil paints, you need to paint on canvas. With acrylics, you can paint on pretty much anything, including plain cheap paper.
Acrylics are water soluble, which means cleanup is easy. Just rinse everything in warm water. Cleanup with oil paints requires powerful solvents like turpentine.
The biggest difference is in drying time. Oil paintings take years to fully dry. Acrylic paintings take minutes.
These features make acrylic paints ideal for beginning painters. All you need to get started is a set of acrylic paints, a set of brushes, and some paper (preferably a heavier paper like cardboard). You can buy all these for about $20.
Here are some acrylic paintings I’ve done
The most cost-effective thing about acrylic paint is that you can paint on plain old paper. The only problem with painting on regular paper is that the paper can get wrinkled up from the water in the paint, as you can see in the first one:
I solved the wrinkling problem somewhat with my alien painting by using thicker paper and laying the paint on thicker (using less water).
Ideally, you want to use cardboard or canvas for your acrylic paintings, as I did with this still-life:
I hadn’t painted in over ten years. My wife was surfing Groupon and found a deal for us to join Paint Nite for our weekly date (this was in 2014). That was my first experience with painting acrylic on canvas:
A few months later, I joined another Paint Nite with my wife. This time we did cherry blossoms: