Q: What are the differences in the paint types?

A: The difference is the type of binder that is used to carry the pigments and dyes. A binder is the substance that the pigment or dye is mixed into to create paint. A binder is also known as the medium or vehicle.

Binders can also be natural or synthetic. Natural binders include linseed oil and gum arabic. One synthetic binder is acrylic polymer emulsion, which is used to make acrylic paint. Pigments or dyes are mixed with a binder to create a workable paint that will adhere to a support, or substrate, like a canvas or wood surface. As the binder loses moisture into the air through evaporation, it becomes more rigid and stabilizes the pigment onto the support surface.


The most common artists’ oil paints are made by mixing pigments or dyes with linseed oil. This is obtained by pressing linseed’s to capture the oil. Linseed oil is one of the oldest binders for paint that is still widely used today. Other oils may be used to create artists’ oil paint, like walnut oil.


Watercolor paint is made by mixing pigments or dyes with gum arabic. Gum arabic is tree sap that is obtained from the acacia tree from Africa. It is watersoluble and is also used to size artists’ paint brushes in order to protect and shape the bristles. For more information on gum arabic go to Wikipedia’s Gum Arabic page.


Acrylic paint is made by mixing pigments or dyes into an acrylic polymer emulsion. An emulsion is a liquid dispersed into another liquid that is incapable of mixing. In acrylic polymer emulsion, water is dispersed into the acrylic polymer. The water molecules do not allow the acrylic polymer molecules to bind tightly to one another. As the water evaporates, the polymer molecules form tight bonds with one another to produce a very flexible and durable film.

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