Paint Your Numbers

20 Paint-by-Number Tips for Beginners

For good results, beginners should invest in a quality paint-by-numbers kit. It’s also important to keep the work area tidy, prime canvas with clear gesso, paint accurately, get color values right, use a variety of brushes, color the background first, clean brushes before switching colors, and more.

Looking for ways to make your paint-by-numbers experience better and create beautiful paintings? You’re in the right place!

Paint-by-numbers kits are designed to help people (including those with little or zero painting knowledge) produce painting masterpieces. However, that is not always the case, as many beginners struggle to achieve great results.

This article will discuss the top 20 paint-by-numbers tips to make beginners create breathtaking art pieces. By applying these tips, many paint-by-numbers beginners have been able to enjoy the craft better and create excellent art pieces. 

These tips include what you should do before painting and during the painting process. The top 20 paint-by-numbers tips for beginners are:

1. Invest in a good-quality paint-by-number set

An essential step to succeeding in any project is to invest in high-quality materials so to create your own paint-by-number masterpiece, get a good-quality paint-by-number set.

The quality of the elements of a paint-by-number kit can make or mar your painting experience.

The canvas 

Good paint-by-number kits come with canvases made of high-quality linen. This makes it easier for the canvas to receive the paint. When not pre-framed, the canvas is neatly rolled or folded, making it easy to remove wrinkles.

However, poor-quality canvases in average kits either do not receive paint well or soak up too much paint, frustrating your experience. Also, wrinkles are difficult to remove from average canvasses.

The paint brushes 

Good paint-by-number kits come with different-sized brushes, including small brushes that let you paint small sections and fine details. Quality brushes also do not fall apart easily.

However, average kits may come with only two brushes, and you’ll have to invest in additional brushes to paint fine details. Poor brushes also fall apart easily, with bristles pulling out and smearing paint everywhere.

The paint 

Good paint-by-number kits feature high-quality acrylic paints that’ll make your work look like an oil painting and become waterproof after drying. Quality paints are also easy to clean off the brushes.

However, poor paint will not give your painting the vibrant oil painting look. It also dries too fast when you open the paint pots. Lastly, it gets stuck in the brushes and is harder to clean off.

So, to have a great painting experience and final outcome, invest in the best paint-by-numbers set with quality canvas, acrylic paint, and paint brushes. Paint Your Numbers is your answer to quality canvas paper that is easy to follow, as well as quality paint and brushes.

Quality paint and brushes

2. Buy a pre-framed paint-by-numbers kit

Buying a pre-framed paint-by-numbers kit is good for beginners for three reasons. First, you’ll not struggle to keep your canvas tight and in place. Secondly, you’ll not be bothered with removing creases on the canvas before you paint. Third, there’s no risk of damaging the canvas when framing.

  • No creases: Most DIY paint-by-number kits come with folded canvasses. This results in creases that make painting more difficult and make the final work look ugly. One way to avoid the issue of creases and the trouble of removing them is to buy a pre-framed paint-by-number kit.
  • Keeps canvas tight: Pre-framed canvases are already pulled snugly over a wooden frame. The solid frame ensures the canvas is tight and in place while you paint. 
  • No risk of damaging the canvas: Since framing enhances the appearance of a paint-by-number art piece and makes it easier to hang, most people frame their works anyways. Unfortunately, it is possible to damage the canvas in the process. Getting a pre-framed kit eliminates this risk.

However, if buying a pre-framed set is too much for you, you can buy the regular options. The How to frame paint-by-numbers guide will help you frame your piece without damaging it.

3. Keep your work area clean and tidy

A clean work area helps you focus on your work. So, keep your work area tidy and clean.

True, paint-by-number crafts are less messy than traditional painting. However, there is the risk of paint dropping on the floor or knocking over a paint pot and splashing paint everywhere.

You will not want to mess up the whole place when enjoying your painting hobby. So, paint drops and splashes would be distracting. With a tidy work area, you can neatly lay out the paint pots and easily reach each one, reducing the risk of splashes and stains.

You also don’t want to be burdened with paint cleaning when you’re done. So, it would help if you used old newspapers to cover the floors and nearby areas.

4. Use clear gesso

Gesso is a primer that gets your canvas ready for painting. It gets the canvas’ surface slightly textured, making it accept acrylic paint better and the colors more vibrant.

Gesso is made from paint pigment, chalk, and binder. Using gesso on the canvas gives you a matte finish and adds a tooth-like texture to the surface.

The added texture provides paint adhesion, allowing the paint to grab onto the surface better. In turn, the colors are more vibrant, making your painting look better.

Experts have a high concentration level and would have no problem getting the relatively slippery surfaces of canvasses to absorb acrylic paints properly. However, beginners may find getting acrylic paints on canvases challenging and would need to use gesso to increase absorbency.

So, when you get your paint-by-numbers kit, use clear gesso on the canvas before painting. Clear gesso does not cover the printed numbers on the canvas. So you’ll be able to follow the sections to create your paint-by-numbers art.

5. Try to paint accurately

Painting accurately helps you avoid getting paint across the line to a section for another color. It also helps prevent paint from bleeding through the canvas or having a rough texture.

Follow these do’s and don’ts:

  • Outline borders with a thin brush before painting the inner area. This helps you avoid spilling over the line and getting the wrong color into the neighboring section.
  • Use the correct amount of paint. Don’t drown your brush in a paint pool. Using too much paint to color a particular area will produce a rough texture. It could also cause excess paint to flow into neighboring sections.
  • Don’t apply too much pressure. Applying too much pressure to the brush can cause the paint to bleed through the canvas. Use a light hand and gentle brush stroke when working on your paint-by-numbers canvas.

6. Invest in a variety of brushes 

Working with various brush sizes makes detailing easier, faster, and more enjoyable.

Paint brushes are not made equal. Thin brushes are suitable for painting narrow and intricate sections, while thick brushes are better for painting large spaces. 

For example, using a thick brush to paint a narrow section increases the risk of crossing the line and adding color where you shouldn’t. Also, a thin brush to paint a large section can be time-consuming and frustrating.

So, having brushes of different sizes properly equips you with the right tools to color details. Detailing becomes easier and faster, and you achieve a more polished result.

Unfortunately, paint-by-numbers kits come with only a couple of brushes. Many kits in the market have two, but Paint Your Numbers kits come with three different-sized brushes. 

7. Make sure you get the color values right

When painting a picture using a paint-by-numbers kit, the correct number equals the correct color. Getting the values right is important because the numbers help you get the color scheme.

The numbers on the canvas and the paint cups make painting pictures easy. By following the numbers, you can put the right paint color in the right places on the canvas to produce a beautiful piece, even if it is your first paint-by-number painting.

So, when painting by numbers, don’t mistake the numbers, such as using the color “11” to paint section “17” on the canvas. Any mistake with the numbers will result in a painting that is off.

If your paint cups are not labeled, label them using the provided color guide and number labels. While doing this, ensure that the right numbers go to the right paint colors.

To ensure you get your colors right when painting, you should swatch your colors on the side of your canvas or behind it. This helps you understand how each color will turn out on the canvas when it dries. It also helps you know the texture of each color.

Swatch the colors on the sides or back of the canvas to see how they look and understand their texture

8. Use a magnifying glass

A magnifying glass enlarges numbered sections on the canvas, helping you see small details.

Some paint-by-numbers canvases come with small details (especially those for intermediate and expert skill levels).

Tiny numbers on small sections may be unreadable, while small details may be challenging to follow with the naked eye.

The magnifying glass enlarges small details. This lets you see number indicators clearly so you paint with the right colors. 

9. Color the background first

Painting the background first gives you an outline for your picture and reduces the risk of messing up your foreground objects. 

Some people choose to color the background first, while others start with the foreground images. However, as a beginner, there are many advantages to painting the background first.

  • Creates an outline for your picture. Coloring the background first gives your painting an outline, which gives you an idea of the picture you are working on.
  • Reduces the risk of spoiling your objects. If you paint the foreground objects first, you risk getting paint on them when painting the background. So, painting the background first reduces the risk of ruining your subjects.
  • Gives you a good head start. Painting the background is usually less challenging than the smaller areas of foreground objects. So, painting the relatively easier sections gives beginners the motivation to continue.

10. Clean your brushes before switching colors

Cleaning your brushes before you switch colors ensures you do not blend two colors in one section of the painting and distort the final outcome.

Painting by numbers requires painting each numbered section of the canvas with a corresponding numbered paint color. Getting a paint color into a section that is not meant for it will give you a result different from the original.

When you do not clean your brush properly before moving to another color, you bring a tint of the former color into the new section. Thus, instead of a fresh new color, the new section will have “a blend of the supposed new color and the old color,” making your painting different from the reference piece.

For a beautiful and vibrant color scheme, beginners should practice good brush maintenance, especially washing brushes thoroughly before switching colors. Wash in a bowl of water and clean with a paper towel.

11. Approach one color at a time

Working with one color at a time reduces the risk of bringing a tint of one color into the section for another color. It also makes you work faster and clean your brushes fewer times.

When working on a paint-by-numbers project, there is no rule against opening all your paint cups and using every color simultaneously. However, working with one color at a time has many advantages and is best for beginners.

To work with one color at a time, pick a numbered color, then move the canvas around to fill all the areas with that number. With this approach, you’ll not need to clean your brushes frequently. This makes you work faster and reduces the risk of blending paints in one section.

12. Move from lighter to darker shades

Painting lighter colors before darker ones makes it easier to cover mistakes. So, beginners should move from lighter to darker colors.

There is no rule about which color to start with when painting your paint-by-numbers canvas. Some people move from lighter colors to darker ones, while others go the other way. However, beginners should paint lighter colors before darker ones, so it is easier to cover mistakes.

Know that mistakes are inevitable for beginner painters. When working with very small sections or difficult curves, it’s common for beginners to cross the lines and get a particular paint into a section for another color.

If you mistakenly cross a line and get a dark color into a section for a lighter color, it’s more difficult to cover it. However, if you get a lighter color into a darker-colored section, it’s easy to cover it by layering the darker-colored paint over it.

13. Work from top to bottom

There is also no rule on where to begin painting. However, it’s best to start on one end of the canvas and move towards the other, working in a direction that reduces the risk of smearing paint everywhere.

This means working from the top of the canvas to the bottom. Working from top to bottom reduces the risk of laying your hand on wet paint and smearing it.

Working from the left of your canvas to the right is best if you're right-handed. That way, your hand will always be to the left of your brush as you paint, preventing you from resting your hand on undried paint.

For the same reasons, if you’re left-handed, it’s best to work from the right side of the canvas and continue toward the left.

14. Blur shades on lines

Blur shades in between (on lines) so colors transition smoothly into one another instead of having blocks of colors.

The lines on the numbered canvas separate sections of different colors. Painting by numbers requires painting each section with the right paint color. However, that leads to poor color transition, making the painting look blocky instead of smooth and natural.

The simple solution to preventing the unnatural “color blocks” look is blurring the boundary between two colors.

The key to realism is a nice blend of sharp edges. If you’re thinking of how to make paint-by-numbers more realistic, this tip is for you. At boundaries, don’t start with a color just after its neighbor. Instead, let the two colors meet, blurring them together on the line.

However, blurring shades on lines may be tricky for many beginner painters. So, practice this skill first on a piece of paper before attempting it on your paint-by-numbers canvas.

Blur shades in between (on lines) so colors transition smoothly into one another instead of having blocks of colors

15. Cover the numbers

Having the numbers showing in your final painting gives an untidy look. So, you should add one or more layers of paint to the first coat to completely cover the numbers. 

When you paint by numbers from photos, the number indicators tell you what paint color to use on each part of the canvas. Following the numbers makes you produce pro-quality art pieces, even with little or zero painting knowledge.

However, the first coat of paint often does not completely hide the numbers. Moreover, having numbers showing in the final painting makes your work untidy.

For a neat and beautiful final painting, you should completely cover the number indicators by adding another layer of paint on the first coat.

Note that this does not mean applying a layer of paint over only the number indicator. For an even texture over, you should add the second paint coat over the entire section indicated by the number. You should add an extra paint coat if the numbers are still visible. 

Paint Your Numbers custom picture kits come with more than enough paint to add extra coatings beyond the first one.

16. Thin the paints with water

Adding drops of water to your paint restores its creamy texture, making it easier to work with and giving you a beautiful end product.

Good quality paint-by-numbers kits come with ready-to-use paints. However, your kit may feature one or more pots with thickened paint. Also, many acrylic paints dry up quickly once you’ve opened the paint pot.

Acrylic paints are water-soluble. So, thinning thickened acrylic paint with a few drops of water improves the paint quality, making it great again. Add a few drops of water, stir with a toothpick, and leave it for some time (while the paint pot is covered).

17. Cover paint cups when not using the color

Always cover your paint cups when not using the color to prevent the paint from drying up.

Acrylic paint dries up quickly when opened. Thickened paints are difficult to work with, resulting in a rough texture and an untidy final outcome.

Whenever you are closing a painting session, cover each paint pot properly. This is one of the paint-by-numbers tips that can make your paints stay workable for 6 - 8 months after purchase.

18. Keep your reference sheet close 

Your reference sheet is exactly what its name is - something you can refer to for guidance as your paint. So, you should have it close as you work.

Beginners often paint sections partially. If the number indicators have been covered in partially painted sections, you may have different unpainted areas missing numbers. This may lead to confusion over the right colors for such areas. 

The reference sheet comes in handy in such circumstances. Looking at the area in the reference sheet will give you an idea of the right colors in such orphan areas missing numbers. 

Know that you can prevent the problem of orphan areas by not leaving sections partially painted. Once you start painting any section, ensure you cover it completely (especially when you’ve painted over the number indicator).

Also, while the reference sheet can guide you if you have orphan areas, it is not a very good guide because many shades are only slightly different. 

Thus, a better way to solve the orphan areas problem is to take some pictures of your canvas before you start, then refer to it if you get lost at any point when painting.

19. Take your time

You make more mistakes when you hurry, and mistakes can ruin your entire painting. Also, painting is more therapeutic if you take your time with your project. So, take your time to finish your work.

Even the professionals take their time to produce the masterpieces we celebrate. So, there is no need to hurry to complete your paint-by-numbers art piece.

Take your time when working. There’s no problem with coloring only a few sections each painting session and having tens of sessions. Patience usually translates to great results.

Also, taking your time when painting makes you calmer, creates better focus, and brings more mindfulness. More thoughtfulness and mindfulness reduce anxiety better. So, taking your time has better therapeutic potential.

20. Allow yourself to make mistakes and have fun

Painting by numbers will be a relaxing activity if you concentrate on having fun.

Focusing on not making mistakes will stress you out. When stressed out, you’ll make more mistakes and miss out on the therapeutic benefits of painting.

To make paint by numbers a fun activity, see your canvas as your judgment-free zone and allow yourself to make mistakes. Interestingly, you’ll make fewer mistakes and have more fun.

Takeaway - follow these paint-by-numbers beginners tips and create stunning art pieces

Never painted before. New to painting. No problems! The 20 paint-by-number tips above will help you create beautiful paintings that will rival even those of professional painters.

The first and one of the most important tips is to invest in a good-quality paint-by-number set. Paint Your Numbers is one of the best paint-by-numbers kits you’ll find. 

Most kits let you paint a generic picture. But Paint Your Numbers is a paint-by-number custom picture kit that lets you paint a picture that has meaning to you.

Paint Your Numbers lets you tailor your order to your skill level. The kits come with high-quality acrylic paints and three different-sized brushes to make detailing easy.

Using a Paint By Numbers kit and following the other tips above, even your beginner's hands can turn lovely photos into amazing art pieces. Order a PaintYourNumbers painting kit today.