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The Ultimate Paint by Number Guide for Beginners

The Ultimate Paint by Number Guide

Step-by-Step Paint by Number Instructions and Everything You Need to Know to Get Started!

Looking for step-by-step paint by number instructions and helpful hints, tips, and tricks? Do you need to use gesso before painting? Is it better to stretch your canvasbefore orafter you have painted? How do you remove wrinkles? There are lots of options for PBN kits. We have answered the most common questions and highlighted everything you need to know to get started on your new hobby!

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~Before Starting your Kit~

  1. Find a comfortable and well-lit room in which to paint. The more detailed the kit, the tinier the numbers and spaces may be. For the particularly small spaces, a magnifying glass and lamp can be very helpful. Our customers swear by this Magnifying Headlamp!
  2. Get a comfortable desk or table in which to paint. Being hunched over for long periods of time can be bad for your neck and back, so try to make sure you are comfortable and change positions frequently. Switching between painting on a flat surface and a tabletop easel usually helps!
  3. Clear a space of anything that should not get wet or dirty! As careful as we think we will be, the paint always seems to find its way onto something other than canvas!
  4. Take a digital picture of your canvas with your phone! This will give you a permanent reference sheet that you can never misplace, spill paint on, tear, burn, crumple, or shred! You can also zoom in on any small numbers or spaces. Now it's time to ditch that magnifying glass!Digital picture of the canvas
  5. Get a small cup of water and a few paper towels. Keeping the brush moist, but not too saturated, is very important throughout the painting process. We highly recommend going 1 color/number at a time as it will ensure your paints stay moist and fresh for the entire kit!. To keep your brush moist and clean, dip the brush in water and dry off any excess with your paper towel. Make sure to clean it well when switching colors/numbers!

Paper Towels, cup of water, brushes

~Preparing your canvas~

There are lots of options for preparing your canvas. Do you need to use gesso before painting? Is it better to frame your canvas before or after you have painted? We have answered the most common canvas prep questions and have outlined the many options for preparing a canvas below.

Gesso

Quick Summary: Gesso is not necessary for acrylic paintings!

Question 1: What exactly is gesso, and why is it used?

Answer 1: Gesso is a primer that makes paint go on more smoothly and makes the canvas more absorbent. HOWEVER, gesso is not nearly as necessary when painting with acrylic paints versus painting with oil paints.

Traditional gesso for oil paints contains a glue that helps bind the paint to the canvas and prevents the paint from corroding; however,all ofMy Paint by Number's 700+ kits use ACRYLIC paints. Acrylic paints do not corrode like oil paints, which make gesso a lot less important.

Question 2: Should I use gesso?

Answer 2: Totally up to you! We do not recommend it for our acrylic paint by number kits!

Gesso for acrylic paints will make the canvas a little bit smoother and a little more absorbent, but may smudge your numbers and lines and will make it more likely to run out of paint for your paint by number kit!

Question 3: Should I use clear gesso or white gesso?

Answer 3: Only use CLEAR GESSO for paint by number kits! If you use white gesso or any other color, it will cover up the numbers and spaces you need for your paint by number kit!

Question 4:Are you interested in learning more about gesso?

Answer 4:Check out this video from Dina herself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShETJURbxzQ

Stretching and Framing

Quick Summary: Stretching a canvas is not necessary for these kits!

Question 1:Should I stretch my canvas? Should I do it before or after I paint?

Answer 1: It is totally up to you! You really cannot go wrong, but we do not recommend stretching your canvas for beginners or first timers. However, if you do want to stretch your canvas, we recommend doing so beforepainting!

Question 2: How do I stretch a paint by number canvas?

Answer 2: Stretching paint by number kits can be a little more difficult than stretching a regular canvas because you need to line up the border of the canvas with the DIY frame. It may take a few tries, but it is totally doable. You can click on the following link to check out our thorough how-to guide on how to stretch and frame a canvas

Question 3: What are the benefits to stretching a paint by number canvas?

Answer 3: Stretching a canvas makes the canvas a bit more portable. We usually recommend it if you have an easel and you want to take your kit outside to paint. (Painting on a beach was one of the most relaxing painting experience we have ever had.)

Question 4: What are the detriments to stretching a paint by number canvas?

Answer 4: Stretching a paint by number canvas takes a lot of patience. It may also be hard to stretch it very tautly without the proper tools, so you may find it easier to paint with a flat hard surface behind an unstretched canvas as a backing.

Question 5: Where is the best place to paint--on a table or on an easel?

Answer 5:Spending too many hours painting with an easel hurts our necks and our arms. Painting for too many hours on a flat surface makes just our necks sore. Switching between the two can help ease some of that soreness! We ranked our 3 favorite options by level of ease:

  1. EASY - Lay your canvas on a flat surface and securely tape it using masking tape. We are addicted to paint by numbers ourselves and found this to be the simplest and most pleasant way of painting. It is also very easy to pick up and move to a different space!
  2. MEDIUM – Tape, tack, or binder clip your canvas to a piece of foam board or cardboard. This method gives you a strong and hard back for your canvas and also makes your project very portable! You can still put your canvas on a flat surface, or stand it up on an easel.
  3. DIFFICULT – Stretching your canvas is the most difficult. We have a separate how-to guide on doing that; however, it makes your canvas less portable and you will no longer have that hard backing, which usually makes painting the canvas a bit more challenging. A stretched kit is also a little harder to frame after you are finished--but it definitely does not hurt to try!

 

~Starting your kit~

Easy Paint by Number Instructions

  1. Unpack your paint by number kit and lay out the canvas, paints, and brushes on a flat surface.
  2. Unroll the canvas and carefully iron it on high to remove any wrinkles or creases.
  3. Tape the canvas to the flat surface. We recommend masking tape to mitigate any residue that may be left on the flat surface or canvas.
  4. Fill up a small cup of water and lay out a few paper towels. (Do not forget the paper towels, they are very important for cleaning your brushes when changing colors!)
  5. *BONUS STEP* - Take a digital picture of your canvas with your phone! This trick will give you a permanent reference sheet that you can never misplace, spill paint on, tear, burn, crumple, or shred! You can also zoom in on any small numbers or spaces with ease--no more magnifying glasses!
  6. Match each of the numbered paint pots with the pre-numbered area on the canvas. We highly recommend going one number at a time to prevent the paints from drying.
  7. Start with the darker colors first, then go lighter. Go from top to bottom. For right-handed individuals, go from left to right as your make your way from the top to the bottom of your canvas. For left-handed individuals, go from right to left as your make your way from the top to the bottom of your canvas.Dark to light, top to bottom, left to right
  8. Dip the tip of your paintbrush and begin painting! Using just the tip will increase the precision of your strokes and help you stay within the lines. It also prevents paint from drying up in the bristles closer to the handle, which may damage your brush. Using just the tip will also conserve paint so you will have plenty leftover for touch-ups and free-hand kits for fun once you are done!Dip the tip of the brushes

 

 

~Expert Tips~

From Novice to NICE!

  1. Acrylic paints dry quickly. Make sure to paint 1 number at a time and close the lids whenever you are not painting to prevent them from drying out! Only open 1 paint pot at a time! Check out our guide for fixing dry paints here!
  2. A paint pod with no number or a gray dot will correspond with the gray or blank area on the canvas.
  3. Always iron your canvas before beginning to paint to get out any creases or wrinkles!
  4. If you want to hang your painting, but do not want to put holes in your wall or all the hassle of framing your canvas, you can use double-sided tape, glue dots, or reusable adhesive tabs! Quick, easy, and a cheap way of displaying your artwork!
  5. Make sure to clean your brushes thoroughly between colors. It helps to dip the brush into your water, then wipe it against the paper towel, and repeating until there is hardly any color left in the brush.
  6. Moisten your brush before putting it in the paint. We recommend dipping the brush in a cup of water and then drying the excess water off on a paper towel before dipping the tip of your brush into the paint pod.
  7. Dip the tip! To make the most precise strokes, conserve paint, and prevent your brushes from getting dried up and hard, just use the tip of your brush! It makes it much easier to paint the fine details in these kits!
  8. Use white out or a white colored pencil to cover the numbers and spaces and ensure they do no show through the paint.
  9. Save any extra paint you have after your kit for future touch ups, or even a masterpiece of your own!
  10. All our paints are acrylic and water soluble. Sometimes paint dry up if they were not sealed well after use. If you find that a paint pod has dried up or a little too thick, add a drop or 2 of warm water to bring it back to life!
  11. Is your paint thicker than you would like? Add 1 part flow improver or flow aid to 20 parts water in your water cup. This will make the paint flow more smoothly off your brush compared to dipping in regular water!
  12. Tiny spaces too small for even your tiniest professional paint brushes? Try using a toothpick!Toothpicks for tiny spaces in painting
  13. Having trouble getting paint off? Try a cotton ball and nail polish remover!


33 Responses

Dean Jubas
Dean Jubas

November 29, 2020

what are the best least complicated paint by numbers if im buying for someone with alzheimers?

Sally
Sally

November 29, 2020

Halfway through my first painting wish I’d visited your site first as will have to buy more brushes, should have laid them flat , I just left them in water, yep no longer straight !
Too much water also as mixed in an ice cube tray should have just used the tip and dip method bring on the next canvas

Stephanie Havenstein
Stephanie Havenstein

November 29, 2020

This was so incredibly helpful. I have just received my very first PBN – having not worked on one since I was a child (I am now 68!). I’m so glad I found this site. Simple, easy to follow tips and instructions. Really looking forward to starting my new “project”! THANK YOU!

Irene Niessen
Irene Niessen

November 29, 2020

I see you have the guide for free, I would like you to send one my way. Thank you

Kathleen Moravec
Kathleen Moravec

November 29, 2020

Do you ever “rank” your paintings from easiet to hardest? I chose to get a small one at first. I haven’t painted by numbers since I was a kid.

Marry Evans
Marry Evans

November 29, 2020

I was just leaving for the book store, when I turned on my e-mail, so gald I did. Your instruction gave me the peace of mind to start painting.
Thank you.
Marry

Mary nickel
Mary nickel

November 29, 2020

Great guide still in sure but will be buying soon I hope I have one coming and I want to try before I buy thanks anyway

Tina
Tina

November 29, 2020

Should you keep your paints in refrigerator

Audrey Brunsvold
Audrey Brunsvold

November 29, 2020

i,M SO HAPPY WITH MY NEW HOBBYRather consumed by it. Your Suggestions were wonderful.I started with canvas laying flat, then I goy my easel. Your suggestion to switch once in a while I will certainly consider. Also I have done 6 paintings and never dipped the brush in water, THANK YOU FOR THAT SUGGESTION. LOVE IT LOVE IT. yES mUSIC IS WONDERFUL.
AUDREY j. brunsvold

Anna
Anna

November 29, 2020

This is awesome! Thank you for the help and advice

Harriet
Harriet

November 29, 2020

Thank you, very helpful

Darryl Collingwood
Darryl Collingwood

November 29, 2020

I picked up a small paint by numbers from a variety outlet.
But when I opened it it shows that some of the areas require 2 Colors and shown as 24/67.
Have you any suggestions as to handle this dilemma.
I have looked at your painting instructions and appreciate your professionalism in helping amateur artists take on this great pastime.

Grace
Grace

November 29, 2020

do you have paint by number with extra large number for elder persons ??
thxs

Joyce Addleston
Joyce Addleston

November 29, 2020

age 82 – I did a few PBN when in my 20’s and just re-discovered them, What an improvement and even more fun than I remembered. On a couple of orders there was paper copy of the art work with outline and numbers to follow, I found this most helpful . sometimes I dont agree with the colorr choices and have discovered I can change or alter them If I wish.
thank you for the hours of enjoyment

Robin Wood
Robin Wood

June 22, 2020

Thank you for your instructions! I’m doing one for the first time since I was probably 10 years old (I’m 63) and I was a bit nervous over ruining it because I didn’t know what to do first! I am so confident after visiting your site, and I can’t wait to start painting!!! Thank you so much!!

Nancy Johnson
Nancy Johnson

June 22, 2020

Well done I learned a lot Thankyou

Patricia
Patricia

June 22, 2020

I’m so impressed by the after care service you provide. It’s clear to me that My Paint by numbers (PBN) is not just interested in people buying PBN kits but also in customers getting the best out of them. Bravo!! Thank you for this brilliant guide you’ve put together.

As a newbie, eagerly awaiting the delivery of my PBN kits your guide will prove invaluable to me. Can hardly wait to receive them!!! Once again thank you for the guide.

Lesley
Lesley

June 22, 2020

Taking a photo prior to starting so you can zoom in on the small numbers is a brilliant idea? I will be doing that from now on.

Theocharis Ellinas
Theocharis Ellinas

June 22, 2020

Hi, As i believe im one of the more experienced painters i would like to give A couple of tips to our novice or first timers if u permit me. For our first timers try something simple not too detailed and have a lot of patience. Work on canvas periods at a time taking brakes in between. You make less mistakes when your mind is relaxed. I tend to have some soothing music in the back round whilst im painting U will find it makes painting more enjoyable. Good luck.. Harry…

Debi Lightfoot
Debi Lightfoot

June 22, 2020

Such valuable information! Looking forward to receipt of my first kit. I especially love the tip about taking a picture on your phone in order to ‘zoom’ in. As a lefty, I also like the tips on that. Thanks so much. 😀

Barbara
Barbara

June 22, 2020

Thank you for this information. Now I am ready to begin my 1st painting. The 🐢 turtle!
Let you know how it comes out. Excited especially since we are all housebound.
Be safe & stay home!!!!

Alana
Alana

June 22, 2020

Helpful! Thank you :)

loly
loly

June 22, 2020

This article is awesome LAURA!! So proud of you for your ART being recognized, and promoting ART in the Des Moines area. Your paintings of Des Moines Cityscapes are beautiful. I am so proud to have you as a part of our family.
Love you!
Vickie and TobiThis article is awesome LAURA!! So proud of you for your ART being recognized, and promoting ART in the Des Moines area. Your paintings of Des Moines Cityscapes are beautiful. I am so proud to have you as a part of our family.
Love you!paint by numbers

Toni Barnett
Toni Barnett

March 15, 2020

I just want to thank Harold Matthews for thinking of those in care homes. I encourage My Paint By Numbers to act on his suggestion and offer special kits for the bedridden/impaired.

Linda
Linda

March 15, 2020

Great tips! Thanks!

Bill
Bill

March 03, 2020

Was thinking of starting to paint when I had a few concerns.
I’m sure glad I went to your website and saw your link to the Paint Guide.
As a first time user it made a big difference in my project.

Doreen Dancy
Doreen Dancy

March 03, 2020

This will be a new hobby fo me. What should i start with

Greg Konwinski
Greg Konwinski

March 03, 2020

This information was very helpful. Thank you

Ana Maria Oyola Loaiza
Ana Maria Oyola Loaiza

March 03, 2020

con que podría planchar mi lienzo, con una plancha de ropa?

Harold Matthews
Harold Matthews

March 03, 2020

I have numerous friends and relative’s in nursing homes or with limited mobilities or attention spans. the paint and water and brushes are accidents that happen over and over. I get all of them the best paint pens do you make a kit with unspillable pens, If not what do I do to switch out the colors and with which specific pen please, There is a great need for paint by numbers that are not too small and paint equipment that does not spill. Thank you very much

Patricia
Patricia

March 03, 2020

- is it really necessary to use a white out or a white colored pencil to cover the numbers? The paint itself won’t cover the #s?
Marla Keeth
Marla Keeth

March 03, 2020

“iron on the back of the canvas and a little moisture/steam may help”

Melanie
Melanie

August 11, 2019

Great summary. Please make sure everybody sees this! One small item: no. 7 above shows painting Left to right. But the words say “right to left”. This beautiful new summary should solve a lot of problems, and maybe even prevent unnecessary arguments. Great job.

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