Paint by Numbers Instructions

Written by barbara bean-mellinger
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Paint by Numbers Instructions
Paint-by-number kits let those lacking art skills unleash their creative sides. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Paint by number became a popular hobby in the 1950s. Manufacturers experimented with abstract designs, but research showed people preferred landscapes, animals, children, historical figures and the colour blue. Today manufacturers offer kits easy enough for children to do, to advanced portraits for adult to tackle. Some supplemental tools and techniques can turn your paint by number into a masterpiece good enough to hang.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Paint-by-number kit
  • Extra small paintbrushes
  • Small cups with water
  • Popsicle stick
  • Paper towels
  • Newspaper
  • Old rags
  • Fine marker or coloured pencil (optional)

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  1. 1

    Choose a paint-by-number kit that fits your skill level. More colour variations in the picture and the need to mix colours make the project more difficult. Acrylic and watercolour paints are easier to work with than oil paint.

  2. 2

    Cover your work area with newspapers, or an old sheet. Arrange your painting where there is ample light. Set out your brushes, paint pots and a cup half full with water. Have paper towels and rags handy. Wear old clothes and roll up your sleeves.

  3. 3

    Read the instructions enclosed with your kit to get a general idea of how to proceed. Study the finished picture on the box and the numbers on your canvas or board to decide where to start. It is not necessarily wise to paint in numbered order. Generally, smaller areas should be painted first.

  4. 4

    Open only the first paint you will be using. Stir the paint completely with the Popsicle stick, scraping the bottom of the pot to reach any pigment that may have settled. Scrape both sides of the stick against the paint pot to collect excess paint. Some kits give you just enough paint to complete the picture, and you don't want to run out of a colour.

  5. 5

    Paint all areas numbered with the colour you have chosen. Allow the paint to dry completely. Acrylic and watercolour paints dry fairly quickly; oils take more time to dry.

  6. 6

    Wash your brush after painting with each colour. Wipe the brush on a paper towel to remove excess water and paint. Change the water frequently to keep your colours pure. If you wash your brush thoroughly after painting each colour, you can reuse the brush for different colours.

  7. 7

    Continue painting each colour, washing and wiping your brush each time and allowing the colour to dry. It is best to paint with each individual colour before you mix colours. Follow the directions in your kit if you are mixing colours to see how many parts of each paint colour to use.

  8. 8

    Enhance your painting with these techniques. Apply a wash by diluting a colour until it is almost clear and painting it over another area. The wash should be transparent enough to see through it to the paint underneath. Try drybrushing to blur the edges between two areas. Dip your brush into the lighter colour and wipe the brush on a rag until the brush is almost dry. Place your brush at the edge of the darker colour and blend from light to dark areas. Add details all over with a small paintbrush, marker or coloured pencil -- shadows, windowpanes, veins on leaves -- to add more realism to your painting.

Tips and warnings

  • If you run out of a paint colour you can order more from the manufacturer. Complete the form enclosed with your kit or go to its web site to order the paint.

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