Paint Your Numbers

Do You Start with Dark or Light Colors When Painting by Numbers?

Paint by numbers kits are a popular way for people of all ages to engage in painting, providing a straightforward approach to creating beautiful art. One of the questions that often arises for beginners is whether to start with dark or light colors. While there isn't a strict rule, there are several reasons and benefits to consider when deciding which approach is for you.

Advantages of Starting with Dark Colors

  1. Structure and Depth: Beginning with the darkest colors allows you to lay down the shadows and the most profound parts of the painting first. This method can help define the structure and depth of the image from the outset, making it easier to understand the composition and volume of the scene.
  2. Mistake Correction: Darker colors can more easily cover up any accidental overlaps or mistakes. This makes it less stressful for beginners, as they don’t have to worry about perfect precision from the start.
  3. Enhanced Contrast: By painting the darker areas first, you create a stark contrast early on. This contrast can be visually satisfying and can also serve as a guide when filling in lighter colors, which will need to blend or stand out against these darker backdrops.

Technique Tips:

When using dark colors, work carefully around the edges. Use a smaller brush if necessary to ensure that the borders are clean and that the dark colors do not overpower the lighter sections they border.

Regularly clean your brush when switching between dark and extreme light shades to avoid unintentional color mixing.

Advantages of Starting with Light Colors 

  1. Subtle Mistakes: Light colors are more forgiving in terms of visible mistakes. Errors made with lighter paints are easier to cover up with subsequent darker layers.
  2. Progressive Intensity: Starting with lighter colors can allow for a gradual buildup in the painting’s intensity. This can be particularly useful in portraits or landscapes where light plays a significant role in the mood and atmosphere.
  3. Visual Clarity: Applying light colors first helps maintain the brightness and purity of these hues, which can be dulled if darker colors bleed into them accidentally.

Technique Tips:

Pay attention to the number of paint layers. Light colors may require multiple coats to achieve an opaque appearance, especially if the canvas is dark or stained.

As with dark colors, ensure your brush is clean before dipping into new light colors to maintain their true color.

Best Practices for Any Starting Point

No matter which approach you choose, here are a few tips to optimize your painting experience:

Plan Your Approach: Take a moment to review your canvas and plan your sequence. Whether starting dark or light, having a strategy can help streamline the process.

Regular Cleaning: Keep a cup of water or paint thinner handy to clean your brush thoroughly between colors. This step is crucial to prevent muddying your beautiful artwork.

Patience: Allow colors to dry between layers, particularly when transitioning between dark and light areas. This patience will pay off with a clean, professional-looking finish.

In conclusion, whether you start with dark or light colors depends on your personal preference and the specific requirements of the image you are painting. Both approaches have their advantages, and experimenting with both can be a valuable part of becoming more experienced with paint by numbers. Ultimately, the best method is the one that makes the painting process enjoyable and satisfying for you.