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Everything You Need to Know About Paint-by-Number

December 5, 2017 Jessica 0 Comments

When was the first time you were introduced to the term “paint-by-number”? Maybe you were a child, or perhaps it was more recently. In case you haven’t heard of it, paint-by-number is a painting system that delineates a picture into shapes, and marks each individual shape with a number that corresponds with a paint color. Aspiring artists fill in each shape with the called-for paint color until all spaces are filled and a picture has emerged. (Cue the how-did-I-do-that response.) Painting-by-number is truly as easy as it sounds, which is precisely why it gained incredible popularity several decades ago, and continues to be a favorite pastime.

The History of Paint-by-Number

Paint-by-number kits were first developed in 1950 by Max S. Klein, an engineer at and owner of the Palmer Paint Company in Michigan. These kits were co-created with commercial artist Dan Dobbins. Wikipedia stated, “In 1951 Palmer Paint introduced the Craft Master brand which sold over 12 million kits. This public response induced other companies to produce their own versions of paint by number.”

Paint-by-number kits had mass appeal, and for good reason: they gave everyone the chance to create something beautiful. Although many art critics detested these kits, the public loved them. While they are not as popular as they used to be, paint-by-number kits are an American trademark and are still well-loved by people all over the world.

Who Should Be Credited with the Creation of Paint-by-Number: Michelangelo or Leonardo Da Vinci?

Some people dismiss paint-by-number as an elementary, formulaic painting system. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but it’s worth mentioning that Leonardo Da Vinci is rumored to have created the first painting-by-number system. In his book Math and the Mona Lisa: The Art and Science of Leonardo Da Vinci, Bülent Atalay wrote,

“Painting by number may not be as egregious a pursuit as one might imagine. Leonardo himself invented a form of it, assigning assistants to paint areas on a work that he had already sketched out and numbered.”

Other sources suggest that Michelangelo should be credited with the invention of the painting system. Either way, paint-by-number had anything but humble beginnings.


Related Reading: Did Michelangelo Invent Paint-by-Number?

Tips for Painting-by-Number Like a Pro

The beauty of painting-by-number is that one doesn’t have to be an artist, or even be artistic, to make the system work. When executed as the directions command, a beautiful piece of art will result. A love for art and a somewhat steady hand are the only prerequisites to painting-by-number successfully.

While the paint-by-number system is extremely straightforward, there are certain tips that will make the experience better and the product lovelier. Here are a few tips to make your creation outstanding:

  1. Before you begin, clear a flat area. Have a cup of water and paper towel handy to clean brushes.
  2. Clean brushes when they start to get all gunked up. Make sure the tops are completely closed when you’re done with them to prevent drying.
  3. Try working from top to bottom.
  4. Paint with the lightest OR darkest colors first. ThoughtCo. said, “Start with either the darkest color and end with the lightest or the other way around, leaving any segments that have a mixed color (double number) till last. The reason I recommend doing the colors in sequence from dark to light (or the other way around) is that this helps you learn a little about the tone and chroma of colors.”
  5. If you don’t want to work with the brushes paint-by-number kits come with, you may want to buy your own at a craft store. In particular, you may want to have a larger brush on hand, not just the very small ones offered in the kits.  
  6. Some canvases come wrinkled. Spray a light mist of water on the canvas and iron on a low setting on the back side to press out any wrinkles before you begin painting.
  7. Paint with just one color at a time, beginning with the largest areas meant for the color.
  8. “You’ll notice some shapes have two numbers in them, not just one,” stated ThoughtCo. “This indicates that you need to mix two colors together. Equal proportions should give you a suitable color, but don’t dip your brush from one paint container into the next as you’ll contaminate the colors.”

The Benefits of Painting-by-Number

Paint-by-number isn’t just a fun pastime. It is also one rich with benefits. A few include…

  • Increased hand-eye coordination — Painting-by-number will maximize your hand-eye coordination. This is important because, according to LIVESTRONG,  “Developing hand-eye coordination may result in better reaction times, as well as enhanced agility and athleticism. It may also improve your typing skills, which can help you become more productive at work.”


  • Decreased stress — There is probably not a person alive who would not benefit from a lower stress level. A trendy way for adults to lower stress is by coloring. Could it be that painting-by-number would have the same effects as coloring? The Huffington Post stated, “(Adult coloring) generates wellness, quietness and also stimulates brain areas related to motor skills, the senses and creativity.” Like coloring, painting-by-number requires a good bit of focus, stirs creativity, and calms the senses. In fact, “Stress Less Paint-by-Number” is a modern brand of paint-by-number kit sold by Wal Mart and Amazon. If you’re feeling stressed, painting-by-number might help you unwind.  


  • Encourages other artistic endeavors — It’s possible that some artists started out painting-by-number. Maybe paint-by-number was their first-ever experience with art. This painting technique could reveal a love for art that you were previously unaware of. Don’t be surprised if painting-by-number leads to engaging in more serious artistic endeavors. At the very least, it will be fun and offer you a creative outlet.

What is Segmation SegPlay PC (Digital Paint-by-Number)? www.segmation.com

Paint-by-number is perfect just how it is. However, a 21st Century version of paint-by-number is  Segmation SegPlay PC, a digital paint-by-number game compatible with Windows PC. Segmation SegPlay PC is the coolest, newest way to paint-by-number (www.segmation.com). Request a FREE 10-day trial of SegPlay PC today. Don’t forget to peruse our SegPlay PC pattern sets. One of our most popular sets this time of year is “Christmas Time.”

If you fall in love with Segmation SegPlay PC, be sure to get your FREE download of SegPlay mobile. SegPlay Mobile allows you to “paint” away on your mobile devices. Check out dozens of SegPlay Mobile pattern sets here.

Paint-by-number is a beautiful thing. It has a rich history and, thanks to technology, a bright future. Do you have any pressing questions about paint-by-number? If so, share them with us in the “comments” section below. We will do our best to get them answered.

Read more Segmation blog posts about paint-by-number:

Fall in Love with Paint-by-Number All Over Again, or For the Very First Time

How Paint-by-Numbers United a Community

Musicians Use Interactive Paint-by-Numbers to Connect with Fans

Be an Artist in 2 minutes with Segmation SegPlay® PC (see more details here)


SegPlay® Mobile available for Amazon Fire, iPhone, iPad, Android


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