Paint by Numbers: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners

Last Updated on March 20, 2024 by Masha Eretnova

Paint by numbers for adults is an accessible art form that allows beginners to create impressive paintings without prior experience.

Tour Eiffel or portraits without years of practice – how cool is that?

This painting technique divides a picture into shapes or patterns, each marked with a specific number corresponding to a particular color.

With a provided canvas, outlined and labeled design, acrylic paints, and brushes, paint by numbers kits offer everything you need to create your masterpiece.

Even as a beginner, you can achieve professional-looking results by following the expert tips in this guide.

Let’s jump in!

Paint by Numbers

Choosing the Right Paint by Numbers Kit

Each paint by number kits has different level of difficulty and theme, quality of included supplies, size of canvas, and can come rolled or framed.

For beginners, start with a simple and smaller paint-by-numbers kit for adults to gain confidence and get used to the process.

Look for basic designs with fewer colors initially.

Professional paint by numbers suppliers offer 3 levels of difficulty:

  • Easy,
  • Intermediate and
  • Advanced. 

A size of 16×20 inches works well for beginners.

Later on, you will be able to pick larger kits, ranging from 20”x26” up to 36”x47”.

Also, consider where you’ll display the painting at home; smaller ones are easier to showcase and cheaper to frame.

Deciding Between Rolled or Framed Kits

Rolled Canvas Kits for Easy StorageAlready Framed Kits for Effortless Presentation
Save space as these kits are easier to store and require less room for display.Paint right away with a pre-stretched canvas, conveniently framed with wood.
Create grand and impactful large-scale artworks, without any size limits.Enhance your artwork with a polished and professional appearance.
Personalize your artwork with a variety of frame options, ranging from traditional stretching to modern floating frames, to perfectly match your decor. You need to buy the frame and frame the work yourself.Effortlessly display your finished masterpiece on your walls using the included hanging hardware, no additional supplies required.
  • Animals and pets
  • City
  • Portraits
  • Copies of the famous paintings
  • Pop art and posters (can be easy to start with)
  • Travel
  • Nudity
  • Landscapes
  • Flowers and plants
  • Sea and beach
  • Romantic (for perfect painting date night) and many more

Where to Buy Paint by Numbers (PBN) Kits

You can find paint by numbers for adults easily at local art stores and hobby shops.

Depending on your location, there are several brands available from locally produced to international brands.

Additionally, you have the option to purchase from online retailers that offer worldwide shipping.

When choosing a design, consider what interests you the most. You’ll have plenty of options, such as landscapes, animals, famous artworks, and even custom portraits.

I personally prefer ordering online in the official store as the choice will be always ten times better there. No local art shop will store the whole product range of every brand.

I also often see discounts or special offers when you buy directly from the brand’s site. You can get 2 for 1 or some first-time discounts.

How to do a paint by numbers?

Painting by numbers is quite easy and suitable for all levels.

To start you need to buy or make a paint by number canvas with numbers marking the colors, get paints set, paper towels, some water, and brushes.

In most cases a kit will already include all you need.

Let’s see how to successfully paint by numbers.

Setting Up Your Painting Space and Essential Tools

To fully enjoy a peaceful painting experience, it’s important to create a comfortable and well-lit environment, free from distractions.

How to do a paint by numbers

Adequate lighting reduces eye strain and allows you to see colors and canvas numbers clearly.

Choose a supportive chair with a good backrest for long painting sessions to avoid back or neck strain. And I’m very serious about it – the process takes over but in 1 hour you will notice that your shoulder are tight!

Keeping your workspace organized by arranging all your materials before you start will help you stay focused and create a good flow while painting.

Make sure you have the following paint by numbers essential tools:

  • canvas
  • acrylic paint
  • brushes (normally round and flat)
  • water jar
  • mixing palette


  • Before buying a paint by numbers kit, make sure that the canvas in the kit is rolled and not folded. Check for any creases and flatten the canvas by laying it under heavy books or using a warm iron under a towel on the back (the side without a print).

To be noted that the most popular paint by numbers companies offer 3 canvas options: rolled without frame, rolled + a DIY frame (which is easy to set up), and the most convenient “already framed canvas”. 

  • Secure your canvas on a stable surface or easel by taping the corners or edges to the surface. Use plastic or newspaper to protect the painting surface from spills.
  • Capture a photo of your canvas with a camera or phone to have a reference guide in case you make a mistake and need to check the original number under the paint. You can also import your photo into your computer or tablet so you can zoom in or print a larger copy for clearer visibility, especially if the numbers are too small to read due to visual impairment.
  • Add a layer of gesso or thin white paint to make it easier to cover the lines and numbers as you apply your paint colors later.

Acrylic Paints

  • If your kit doesn’t include pre-labeled paints or stickers, label the paint pots for easy reference using sticky notes or a marker.
  • Swatch paints on the blank white margin around the canvas or on scrap paper with numbers written to determine the number of coats needed to cover the numbers on the canvas. Don’t worry if lighter colors require 2-3 coats for full coverage; it’s normal. 
  • Close paint pot lids tightly to prevent drying out.

Paint Brushes

  • Use different brush sizes to cover larger areas and add fine details.
  • Before using a brush, check for any stray hairs and remove them to avoid unwanted marks on your painting.
  • Prevent paint from drying on the bristles overnight by washing them after each use. Avoid leaving them in water to prevent damage and maintain their shape.

Water Cup

Have one cup to rinse your brushes between color changes, and another to dip your brush in clean water before using a new color.


You can use a traditional artist’s palette or a disposable plate to mix colors.

Read also: 20 Best Palettes for Acrylic Paint For Beginners to Paint Like Pros

Optional Tools

  • Easel: Paint with ease and comfort using an easel, making the process more ergonomic.
  • Apron: Stay clean by wearing an apron or using old clothes you don’t mind getting paint on.
  • Magnifying Glass: For intricate details, especially if you have visual impairments, a magnifying glass can be helpful. Some come with an attached LED light to make canvas numbers even clearer.
How to do a paint by numbers

Planning Your Painting Process: Techniques

Choose how you want to approach the painting process to maintain momentum and enjoy continuous progress.

Different options are available to keep you engaged in painting for hours without realizing the time passing, and you can even combine them for variety.

  • Background to Foreground: Begin with the background and move forward using a layering technique for a polished and visually appealing result.
  • Top to Bottom: Work from the top of the canvas downward to avoid smearing or resting your palm on wet spots. If you’re right-handed, start from the upper left corner; if left-handed, begin at the upper right corner.
  • Start with Large or Small Areas: Either paint larger areas first with a large brush to make quick progress or start with small areas for a quicker sense of accomplishment.
  • Light to Dark Colors: Begin with lighter hues and gradually transition to deeper ones. Paint lightly and add layers as needed; it’s easier to adjust than removing excess paint.
  • Paint One Color at a Time: Pick one color and paint all the numbers with that color before changing, so you don’t have to clean the brush often. Let each layer dry completely before moving to the next step. This method is recommended especially for your first paint by numbers.

Creating Your Paint-By-Numbers Artwork

Paint by number kits are designed to offer a simple and accessible entry into painting for adults.

Just dip the brush in the paint pot and fill the numbered space with the matching color.

Caring for Your Brushes

  • Rinse brushes in the first container to remove paint, then gently blot them dry with a paper towel. Dip brushes in the second container with clean water before selecting a new color. 
  • Use a larger brush for broader regions and switch to a smaller brush for finer details.

Adding Personal Touches

  • Use smaller brushes for intricate sections.
  • Don’t be afraid to add your own creative touches.
  • Experiment with color schemes, accents, and tweak details to make the artwork your own.
  • Personalize the painting by choosing your own colors for areas without numbers or creating custom shades.

Drying and Displaying

  • Allow the paint ample time to dry before applying additional layers or starting a new color.
  • Once finished painting, let the canvas dry thoroughly (usually within a few hours for acrylic paints as they’re quick to dry).
  • Avoid touching the paint while it’s drying to prevent smudging.
  • Frame your masterpiece to protect it and add a final touch to its presentation.

Share Your Finished Painting

  • Display your completed artwork proudly in your home or gift it to someone special.
  • Share your masterpiece with the paint by numbers community through online forums, social media groups, or local art meetups and workshops.
  • Engage with fellow enthusiasts to exchange tips, techniques, and find inspiration.

Taking Your Time and Enjoying the Process

  • Take frequent breaks to stretch your back and hands, and to rest your neck and eyes. This will help to avoid straining yourself during painting sessions that could last for hours.
  • Don’t worry about absolute precision; a little texture and imperfection can add character to your painting and make it truly yours.
  • Remember to relax and enjoy the creative process

3 Simple Tricks to Make Your Paint By Numbers Look Professional

Paint Over the Lines

Achieve a polished finish by carefully painting over the lines on the canvas.

This technique gives your artwork a clean and professional look.

Add Texture with Thick Paint

Take your painting to the next level by applying extra paint thickly onto the canvas.

This will add texture and depth to your artwork, making it stand out.

Blend Colors for Smooth Transitions

Create a realistic and seamless result by blending the edges where two colors meet.

Use a clean, damp brush while the paint is wet to achieve smooth transitions between colors.


What are the best painting by numbers?

I find FiguredArt being one of the best painting by numbers kits with different levels of difficulty and high quality of canvas and paint in the kit.

Why is paint by numbers relaxing?

Paint by numbers is relaxing as it is almost a meditative activity that can help to reduce stress and anxiety.
It allows you to focus on one task, remove all distractions, and create something beautiful without the pressure of having to come up with a design or idea from scratch.
It provides a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction as you watch your painting come to life, which can boost your mood and self-esteem.

Can I turn a photo into a paint-by-number?

You can make custom paint-by-number and turn a photo of your family, pet, last trip to Europe in to a beautiful painting that you made. Upload your photo to this website, choose the size and done! You get your own custom paint-by-number kit based on you photo.

Is paint by numbers good for learning?

Paint by numbers can be good for learning and for your brain as it helps to develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. This hobby teaches basic color theory and color mixing as you learn to match the numbered colors to the corresponding areas on the canvas.
It can improve concentration and attention to detail as you work to paint within the lines and fill in small areas with precision.

Paint by Numbers is a fun and creative way to express yourself. Transforming a blank canvas into art can be relaxing and fulfilling. Don’t worry about mistakes; they’re part of learning. Just follow this guide, pick a kit, and start painting!