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Ultimate Guide to Paint by Numbers

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Most people can agree that they have an art lover somewhere inside of them, and at the very least, an appreciation for beautiful things. It’s a lot rarer though, to find people who can actually create art themselves, no matter how great their passion or creativity is. Therefore, most of us are merely spectators with no real way to experience the joy of painting a picture for ourselves.  The Ultimate Guide To Paint By Numbers will you will explain everything you want to know about paint by numbers.

Paint by numbers was invented with this very concept in mind and marketed as a way to allow everyday people to become artists. The original slogan for the brand that started it all promised that one of their painting kits could make “every man a Rembrandt” and that’s precisely what it achieved.

Now almost 70 years since its original invention, paint by numbers has evolved greatly. Millions of people around the globe can say they’ve made their own paintings and with it, experienced the many benefits that art has to offer us.

This guide will look back at the history of paint by numbers to find out how it got to where it is today. We’ll show you how this methodical approach to creating art works, why it’s so popular, and exactly what you need to become a Rembrandt for yourself. Paint by numbers has revolutionized the way we look at and create art, and there’s a whole lot to learn about this amazing process.

What Exactly is Paint by Numbers?


Paint by numbers has a pretty self-explanatory title, but there’s a bit more to it than simply painting in order of a numerical system. Paint by numbers is a form of art kit or design that has a blank page or canvas with an outline of a picture in it. Within the page and picture are many different shapes of varying sizes, and each has been categorized with a number.

These numbers represent different colors, and when looking at the page as a whole, it will show you an entire unfinished picture. It’s the painter’s job to paint those shapes according to their numbers, with the end result being a complete and colorful work of art. Once complete, you’ll see a range of colors, shades, and tints that you helped to create, and it will all come together to look like a professional masterpiece.

People often describe the paint by numbers approach as methodical or simple, and while it certainly can be, that doesn’t mean it’s all that it has to offer. This unique style of painting has helped so many learn the basics of the art form, as well as many other benefits, including improved mental health and a satisfying and educational way to pass the time.

The end result of a paint by numbers kit can astound people as it looks as though a masterful painter has created the entire thing. People often hang their work at home or the office or even gift them as friends. When compared to a traditional painting done by scratch, it really is difficult to tell the difference.

The History of This Unique Art System

Dan Robbins was working as a package designer at Palmer Paint Co. in Detroit when he came up with a genius idea that would change the world of art as we know it. Remembering that he had heard about famed artist Leonardo Di Vinci and a method he used to teach his students, Robbins realized that he could get others to learn how to paint just by making the process easier to follow.

Just as Di Vinci used to draw shapes and numbered patterns to help his apprentices follow along and learn, so too would Robbins create a painting kit that allowed others to do the same. He made a prototype and shared it with his boss who loved the idea, but thought the picture should be replaced with something other than his own face.

The duo launched Craft Masters who would become the original creators of the paint by number system. After some trial and error, the idea spread through the United States like wildfire and by the end of the 1950s, everybody had one of these art pieces of their own creation hanging in their home.

Craft Masters didn’t hold a patent on the design and so many other brands flooded the market. Although it was wildly popular for everyday hobbyists and art lovers, critics in the art scene blasted it for being too simple and taking the creativity out of the whole process. These criticisms bothered nobody though, and today it’s a much-loved pastime for people of all ages and its popularity has spread around the world.

Paint By Numbers in the Modern Age


Today, paint by numbers follows much the same approach as it did when those very first Craft Master sets were launched. The difference is the wider range that’s now available with many different images and challenging styles to paint, as well as how many benefits we now realize it to have.

Paint by numbers is a great tool for anyone learning how to paint or studying art in general, and it’s the first step towards creating your own masterpieces. For hobbyist painters, spending some time each day on one of these kits can reduce stress levels, give you something satisfying and rewarding to do, and offer a major boost of self-confidence.

Today, there are even online formats of paint by numbers and many famous tutorials and website dedicated to this special art process. The digital age has once again changed the landscape for paint by numbers and other art forms, and it’s getting another wave of popularity with the younger generations.

In addition to the new changes to these painting kits, paint by numbers also remains a huge collector’s item. People collect vintage paint by numbers sets from the 1950s and forward, and there have been numerous historical displays and even a dedicated Paint By Numbers online museum for people to visit.

How Hard Is It to Paint By Numbers?

For those completely new to the process, you might be concerned about whether or not you’ll actually be able to paint. This common fear is what puts most people off from ever trying their hand at art, and they end up missing out on the lifetime of benefits it offers to create your own masterpieces.  The Ultimate Guide To Paint By Numbers was created to simplify the learning curve for everyone.

Paint by numbers was built to quash these very fears and make art and painting accessible for everyone. Even if you know nothing about art and have never even picked up a paintbrush, you will be able to make your very own picture. Just as the original brand promised, these kits really do make everyone a Rembrandt.

The entire process of a paint by numbers kit is laid out easy to understand, with everything from detailed instructions to the paint pots included. It’s near impossible to get it wrong, and there’s also room to get creative with what you make, so the process doesn’t have to be as systematic as critics would have you think.

One of the best things about these paintings is that they can vary so much in difficulty. You might start off with something easy and then work your way up to a more challenging image, or even try the same painting but with a different color scheme. There are no rules in place for how you have to finish them and you can go at your own pace as long as you feel comfortable.

The Steps to Paint by Numbers

There are now so many brands who make paint by numbers kits but most of them follow the same basic approach. If you’ve been wondering about how exactly this process works, this is a step by step look at how you can create your very own masterpiece using this art system.

1. Choose a painting

The key to finishing a painting is choosing one with an image that you actually like. There are thousands of images available and in varying degrees of difficulty, so take some time to pick one that stands out to you.

2. Make your own artist’s space

All good artists have their own space to work in, and now that you have paint by numbers you should too. Look for a flat surface that is hopefully away from others, and place done a plastic sheet or something that will prevent it from getting dirty. Set up all of the supplies you’ll need including a glass of water for washing the brush, the paint from the kit, and somewhere to place your canvas.

3. Read the instructions

Check the instruction on the box and make sure you understand them before you begin. Some may vary in how they code the colors and each kit will come with its own palette to work with.

4. Paint by numbers

Decide what approach you want to take with painting each shape. Some recommend starting from the bottom left corner and working your way up, others suggest beginning with the largest shapes first. Whatever you do, be careful not to smudge and avoid from dragging your hand on wet paint.

5. Finish your piece

Check the entire canvas and make sure you can’t see any blank spaces or read any numbers through the paint. Do a double coat of paint where needed and tidy up any final lines. Mount or hang your canvas, or gift it to a friend, but wait until it has completely dried.

What Kind of Paint Is Used?

Every paint by numbers kit comes with a selected amount of paints, each in their own separate tubs. These tubs have enough paint within the complete the picture, and usually, more to account for any mistakes.

The paints are separated into the most used colors, but there may be a direction to mix them together to make others. If this is the case, the instructions will show you exactly how much is required of each. Beginners might prefer to only use pre-mixed colors so they know they’re correct, but if you’re unsure about mixing you can just try a little on the side to get the combination right.

One way that people take creative control of paint by numbers is to choose their own colors. You can be experimental in what you put where and change the corresponding colors and numbers, but this won’t always turn out looking the best. You might also use other art supplies like glitter or material to add to the final piece, but again it’s simply a matter of experimentation.

The most common type of paint used in a paint by numbers kit is acrylic. This is the preferred type because it’s easier to keep the brushes clean, goes onto the canvas with ease, and dries quickly. There are some oil-based paints but for beginners, acrylic kits are the best place to start.

Paint by numbers kits also come in other formats, like watercolors or pastels. These obviously aren’t “painting” by definition but they follow the same approach, and for people who want to mix things up and try something new, it can be interesting to try another art form.

What Canvas Do You Paint On?

Paint by numbers kits come in two main styles, either printed on a heavy weight paper or on canvas. The most popular surface is canvas because of the many benefits it offers the artists like smoothness, workability with the paintbrush, and a complete finished product that you can easily hang up on your wall.

The quality of the canvas and what materials it’s made from will depend on each kit. The more expensive brands use high-quality canvas-like cotton and linen, but there are cheaper alternatives available. Whichever one you choose, ensure that it’s wrinkle-free and has the capability to be mounted or framed when you’re done.

These canvases range in size depending on how large you want the finished product to be. They can be as small as a mini canvas measuring 6” x 8” or up to around 20” x 40” and sometimes larger. Consider the placement of your canvas when it’s done, how much space you’ll need, and how much time you’re willing to dedicate to making the painting.

Included in your paint by numbers kit should be tools and equipment to hang the painting for yourself when it’s done. It’s not common to include a frame but it should have a mounting kit with screws and hooks so you can hang it on the wall, and because it’s already on a canvas border there’s nothing else to do.

What Do You Need For Paint By Numbers?

Making a painting is pretty straightforward once you have all of the supplies, but collecting each individual piece can be time consuming and expensive. This is another major benefit that paint by numbers has over other art forms because it equips with you everything to need from start to finish, including the stuff to hang it on the wall.


A paint by numbers image will have many different shapes and sizes, so you need the right brush to correspond. Depending on the size and difficulty of the painting, it’s standard to have at least three options with a finer brush and wide brush included. Take some time to learn the brushes before you get started and maybe do some practice strokes.



The canvas will be sized in accordance with the painting, and it might also come with a paper sheet of the picture for reference. These might be already mounted and stretched on wooden bars or could be a single roll of canvas that you can choose to present as you wish when you’re done.


You’ll get small pots of paint with each color required to complete the image and a number on each. Most will be pre-mixed and ready to go, whereas others will require you to mix some of the more unique shades. You must always remember to put the lid back on once you’re done dipping the paintbrush in as they can dry out quickly due to their size.


All paint by numbers kits come with detailed instructions about how to complete the piece. You need to study these before you begin and make sure you understand each step otherwise it will be hard to fix a mistake once you’ve started.

Wall mounting kit

Depending on the size of the canvas, your kit might come equipped with various bits and pieces to allow you to mount it on the wall. These include screws and bolts, as well as recommendations for how to hang it.

Most Used Paint By Numbers Motives

There has been far too many paint by numbers kits sold around the world to keep track of, so knowing exactly what the most popular is isn’t easy to do. Throughout the history of this art form, various styles and motives have been more popular than others, but it seems to change as the years do and taste in art develops.

During the initial release of paint by numbers in the 1950s and 1960s, there were some common themes. When they were first made, Dan Robbins and Max Klein focused on simple pieces like landscapes and animals. However, as popular culture would dictate, other themes started to emerge like from popular TV shows or actors of the time.

Religious motives still remain a popular choice for paint by numbers. Palmer still makes just two paint by numbers kits, and one is a depiction of the Last Supper. Even today, the vintage pieces that are up for grabs feature a large number of religious images which shows that they’re still a popular choice.

Today’s paint by numbers are far more detailed and many more options. The most popular sales are those that recreate famous artworks from Monet, Picasso, and Van Gogh, just to name a few. These offer a way to get a realistic looking painting to hang on the wall at home, without having to spend thousands of dollars just for the pleasure.

Tips for Beginners: Ultimate Guide To Paint By Numbers

The best thing about paint by numbers is that you don’t have to feel worried about making a mistake or knowing nothing about art. The process was made with the beginner in mind so it’s very hard to get wrong. Here are some tips you can follow if you’re nervous about starting your very first paint by numbers kit.

  • Give yourself an adequate workspace that’s well lit and has everything you need. This will put you in an artistic mood and give you somewhere to retreat to when you want a break from the world.
  • Try to give each newly painted area 10 minutes to dry. Acrylic paints will dry faster and make for a quicker process.
  • Start with the smallest area of the canvas with the finest details and then work your way out to larger shapes.
  • Whenever you start a new shape, begin in the middle and work your way out. This will ensure you don’t miss a spot and have any blank patches.
  • If you have to blend colors in a kit, start with the lighter shades first and then go dark. Make sure to leave some of the original colors in the pot just in case you need them.
  • To give a really professional finish, consider spraying the canvas with a clear acrylic sealer. This will prevent it from running or fading over time as well.
  • Keep a magnifying glass on reading glasses on hand so you can look closely at the finer details. It might not seem important in the grand scheme of things but the larger picture requires on these fine details to be correct.

The Difficulty Levels Explained: Ultimate Guide To Paint By Numbers

When paint by numbers was first introduced, there were stock images that were designed for everyone to do. In today’s market where there are thousands of images to choose from, you can easily pick on that suits the difficulty level you’re after.

Beginners will be able to choose from a huge selection of simple images to start with as they learn the basics. When you feel more confident, you can choose larger sizes, more colors, and finer details to help you hone your craft further.

There are ways you can add a challenge for yourself if you feel bored with the usual approach. You can add your own touches to a piece, make adjustments to the depth, and even come up with your own color combinations. Although the paint by numbers process was designed to be a simple system, that doesn’t mean there’s no room for creativity.

The amount of time spent completing one of these paintings can vary from just a few hours to many full days of work. Some manufacturers will offer a guide on how much time you can expect to spend painting it, but there’s no need to rush. The process is all about having fun and learning the basics of art, so how much of a challenge you make it is up to you.

Benefits of Paint by Numbers For Everyone: Ultimate Guide To Paint By Numbers

When we think about an activity like paint by numbers, it’s usually taken on to provide some entertainment and pass the time. While this is certainly a great benefit and all the reason you need to get yourself a kit, there are many other benefits that you might not have even realized before.

Art training

The first step to becoming a great artist is to understand how the shapes and colors all play in with each other. Paint by numbers teaches this very concept and lets you slow and methodically work your way through the different colors to see how they might react with each other.

Reduces stress

We now know that art forms like coloring books and paint by numbers show huge declines in the stress levels of people who enjoy them. The simple act of taking yourself out of the situation and focusing on a painting can give you an overall sense of relaxation.

Boosts concentration and attention

Our brain can actually benefit from being creative and paint by numbers has been shown to be a natural brain-boosting activity. Spending half an hour a day on your painting can give your attention and concentration abilities a boost as well.

Pain relief

Art therapy has become a respected and recognized method of pain relief for people suffering through various illnesses. A study published by Michigan State University showed art therapy helped reduce the pain of adult cancer patients and showed a reduction in depression for patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Form of mindfulnes

Mindfulness is at the basis of meditation and what better way to focus on the now than with painting? Following the steps and shapes of paint by numbers, you stay in the present moment and will be less likely to drift off with negative thoughts and emotions.

Makes a great gift or décor

Paint by numbers is a unique way to show a loved one you care, whether you gift them with an unused kit or a finishing piece. Better still, you can fill your home with professional looking art pieces that cost just a fraction of the price of the real deal.

Kids Vs Adult Paint By Numbers: Ultimate Guide To Paint By Numbers

Paint by numbers originally started as a product made for adults, but it became obvious quickly that kids would enjoy it as well. When the first demonstration of these kits was done in Macy’s in New York, people of all ages lined up in amazement at how easy it was to make their very own masterpieces.

One of the best things about paint by numbers is that it’s accessible by everyone, and this includes children as well. There are dedicated kids that are just for kids, but there would also be nothing stopping a child who wants to try and recreate one of the larger images intended for adults.

Children’s paint by number kits usually have a few defining features that make them more kid-friendly. They’re easier to complete, feature themes and images that are more appealing to children, and generally, don’t require multiple hours of work just to finish. As their attention span might be smaller than adults and they need more instant gratification, it’s better to shop for a paint by numbers kit made just for kids if it’s their first attempt.

Helping Anyone Become an Artist: Ultimate Guide To Paint By Numbers

When the original founder of paint by numbers launched these kits to American households, his promise that any man could be a Rembrandt turned out to be true. Although coming close to its 70th anniversary, the paint by numbers approach is still loved by millions of people around the world with a range of images and styles only growing.

Although the original intention of these art kits was to help everyday people become artists, it became obvious that they could give us so much more. Whether it’s your mental or physical well being, a fun way to bond with the family, or a making your own home décor, paint by numbers has so many great things to offer.

The best place to start for beginners is to find an image that really speaks to you and begin there. You’ll likely find a lot of joy from the process and being able to keep the finished piece will make it even more meaningful.

Paint by numbers has given so many people the chance to try their hand at art, and not just be an art adorer any more. Despite the criticisms from serious art buffs over the years, anyone who’s tried a paint by numbers kit for themselves will tell you just how enjoyable and satisfying the entire process can be.


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