What is a Paint by Number Kit?

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  • Written By: Dana Hinders
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2019
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A paint by number kit helps take the pressure out of painting by providing a detailed framework for the aspiring artist. The kit contains a pre-printed design that should be filled in using the included paint set and brushes. Some paint by number kits can be completed in less than one hour, while others are much more extensive projects.

The principle of a paint by number kit is similar to a child’s coloring book and was first introduced in the 1950s by Max Klein, who designed it for the Palmer Paint Company. However, the idea itself may be much older. There is evidence to suggest that Michelangelo assigned numbers to specific areas on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel to allow his assistants to more easily fill in the design.

Paint by number kits are available for children as well as adults. Kits for children typically require fewer colors and less detail work than paintings that are intended for adult artists. Paint by number kits for children are also smaller in size than an adult paint by number kit and tend to use lower quality pigments in the paint.


Animals and landscapes are the most popular design options for this type of art project, but you can find a paint by number kit to suit almost any taste. Some kits produce paintings with a very lifelike appearance, while others have designs that are more abstract in nature. There are also a number of seasonal paint by number kits that are heavily advertised as great Christmas gift ideas.

The most popular type of paint by number kit uses acrylic paint, although oil painting and watercolor kits are also available. However, a watercolor paint by number kit typically does not have the numbers printed directly on the design. Since watercolors are transparent, the painter must follow the directions printed on a separate booklet in order to complete the picture.

Although most paint by number kits use a printed art board for the design, canvas kits are becoming more popular. A canvas paint by number kit allows you to create affordable wall art for any room in your home. Instead of painting on a flat board, you’re completing a design on a stretched canvas that can easily be displayed when finished.

Paint by number kits can be purchased from most larger craft stores, as well as from a variety of online retailers. Many toy stores also carry a small selection of paint by number kits for children. The price for a paint by number kit will vary depending on the size of the finished painting, the complexity of the design, and the quality of the materials included.


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Post 3

@MrsPramm - There are ways for kids to express themselves within a preset frame as long as that's not the only thing they do. Like when you get them to trace around their own hands and color the tracing in, or when you get them to each help paint a big mural together.

I think there's a time and a place for coloring in and sometimes it can be the appropriate thing to do. A lot of creativity can go into playing with different colors.

Post 2

@Ana1234 - I think the solution to that is to become less judgmental about composition, rather than resorting to a paint by numbers canvas. I particularly dislike it when kids are given that kind of thing by well-meaning adults.

Art is supposed to be about exploring and challenging yourself and others. Using a kit like that you might as well just be using a coloring in book. It doesn't teach you anything.

Just take away all expectations and don't worry about what other people think of the final product either. Have fun with it. And if it looks a little bit wonky, that's OK. At least it's a genuine expression of yourself.

Post 1

Paint by number sets are a great way to get the feel for painting and mixing colors without needing to come up with a good composition the first time. If you want to paint as a hobby, the last thing you'd want is for it to become a chore or to feel like a failure if you didn't manage to get both the eyes in your portrait the same size.

You can always paint outside the lines once you become more confident.

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