Paint-By-Number DIY

I absolutely adore the look of a paint-by-number picture. When I was a kid, paint-by-number was probably the first exposure that I had to 'real' art. At least it felt like real art at the time. That was before I had an understanding of traditional art methods, when fuzzy black posters and color-your-own stickers were my favorite, albeit only forms of creative expression.

A bit of history: Propelled by postwar prosperity, increased leisure time, and the democratic idea that anyone might paint a picture, paint by number became a popular pastime in the early 1950s. Each paint-by-number kit included two brushes and up to ninety premixed, numbered paints ready to be applied to numbered spaces on an accompanying canvas or board. As the spaces were filled in, the gradual revelation of a picture surprised and delighted.

Even though I am posing this as a DIY for 'paint-by-number' you don't have to look at it that way at is basically a way of transforming your photos into a work of art. I will show you how to transfer a picture onto a painting or drawing surface. Ta-da, instant artist! Your friends will be so jealous of your awesome new art skills. I would love to see your attempts if you decide to try it!!

Recently, I found the cutest $1.00 mini-paint-by-number version at Hobby Lobby and I bought several of them. I studied the way that they were created and realized that I could do the same thing with any simple line drawing. I absolutely love animal pictures, but the ones used in paint-by-number kits aren't always my style. I was inspired to try something new!

1. Take any photograph and print it onto copy paper. I printed a photo from my iPhone. This is me wearing my Avatar 3-D glasses. I decided to do my practice paint-by-number in my coffee table journal/book. ;-)
2. After printing the photo, use lead transfer paper under your photo while you draw over the top of the photo with a pencil, this will transfer your pencil lines onto your painting surface.

NOTE: You could also do this in a larger format by printing your photo onto a transparency and projecting it to a wall or large canvas. I wanted a mini-work-of-art so I just used the transfer paper. If you don't own the transfer paper, you could scribble really hard all over the back of your printed will create a layer of lead, you just have to make sure it is completely covered before you draw over the front so that the lines will transfer. The transfer paper is kind of expensive, but I KNOW I will use it a lot!

Here is what that transfer paper looks is gray and it can 'spread the lead' so be careful where you set it down. (White surfaces, beware) You could use any sort of transfer paper, I only had the graphite kind.

Here is a peak at my drawing!

Since my photo wasn't 8X10, I added some lines along the top and bottom so it would be a full page painting and I would know where to paint.
3. Once you are satisfied with your line drawing, you are ready to paint.
4.  You don't have to use expensive acrylics and you don't have to have tons of colors...In the little mini paint-by-number version from Hobby Lobby, there were only 5 little pans of paint, plus black and white. In order to get different tints and shades, the colors are mixed with either black or white. The only colors I had for my painting were tan, yellow, pink, two shades of brown.

I made up that faux wood grain in the corner...there wasn't really a wood panel there, but it needed some visual interest. I also simplified the pattern on the booth seat. I just went for dots rather than the elaborate pattern that had been there in the first place.

I used the same technique to create a little portrait of Marley, my cat!

I think he approves!

If painting doesn't appeal to you, there is a software called Color By Number 2.5 that you can buy that lets you convert a photo to a paint-by-number pattern. You can also use the Posterize button in Picnik (or a filter in Photoshop) to get sort of the same look. Here is a picture I converted using Picnik, just for fun!
You could even shop on Etsy for some vintage paint by number pictures. (Here is a pretty one.)
Ooh, and here is a really cool needle hook organizer with awesome fabric! Another seller, Doecdoe has some amazing paint-by-number stuff too!! I am going to order these shoes!

I found a whole slew of inspiration on Fickr. Here is a little mosaic of my favorites!

1. paint by number, 2. dots, 3. Paint by number, 4. Tiger, 5. Scenic-PBN, 6. PBN-Deer, 7. PBN-Dancing-Girls, 8. My new file cabinet, 9. Elephant by Number, 10. magnets, 11. Tiny Paint-By-Number Book, 12. Know when to walk away, and know when to run, 13. New Shoesies!, 14. fisher-price-camper, 15. smile deer embroidered hoop, 16. a start..., 17. two custom embroidered hoops, 18. moustached paint by number animals, 19. kennedy's custom hoop, 20. we'll always be home custom hoop, 21. Ship In Full Sail By Stella, 22. doe, 23. fisher-price-mini-bus, 24. paint by number vintage painting, 25. red-bicycle, 26. Super Secret Back Up Support Agent thinks I'm nuts, but I just love my Vintage Paint by Numbers., 27. horse paint by number, 28. bulldog2, 29. LUSH Pillow Back, 30. LUSH Pillow Front, 31. paint by number pilow, 32. Paint-by-Number deer purse, 33. paint by number with embroidered deer pillow, 34. paint by number birds pink for trade, 35. PAINT BY NUMBER PUPPIES, 36. Paint by Number Ironing Board Cover

Well, happy spring everyone! I hope you have found some inspiration here. Check back next Monday to see my progress on my Las Vegas album!! I have mostly gathered all of my trip ephemera, I am just waiting for my prints to arrive...I always get the cheapest shipping possible so I have to wait and wait.


Vera said...

i love your portret, it's very pretty :D
Avatar was amazing & i just love 3D movies! XO.

marci said...

WOW!!! That is a very creative idea! I may have to actually try that. It makes the picture look really cool! Thanks for the great tutorial. :)

AJ said...

well done! Great inspiration too :)

Emily said...

Amazing job, the picture of your kitty cat is adorable.

Unknown said...

awesome job! I love it! I definitely want to try this! :)
I also featured it here:

Unknown said...

very cool idea! Thanks for sharing!


...on the brink of something beautiful said...

oh my gosh- LOVE this!!!!

kate @ undeniable style said...

so cool!