There are different methods when creating a painting - it’s not a one size fits all sort of deal. Whichever works for your preference and skill level is your personal choice and style. But for many years, a method for painting has been popular for many, especially for beginners and non-artists seeking a new hobby. This method is called painting by numbers. Sounds familiar, right? Well, this isn’t just a way for kids to learn how to color and count. Thus, it’s more than just a pastime hobby kit that people can use to relieve stress. It is a method introduced by Leonardo da Vinci (although some argued it was Michaelangelo) to teach his students the fundamentals of painting. He would use numbers to indicate which color was for the underpainting, preliminary background, shadow colors, and so forth. This method was reinvented by Dan Robbins, the inventor of the Paint by Numbers kits. Today, we will use this technique in creating your first and actual paint by numbers artwork.
During the peak of the kits’ popularity, many artists did not like the idea behind Paint by Numbers kits. They thought that it undervalued the real creative process of creating artworks. However, those were just opinions that did not change the majority’s perspective towards the kits that we all know and love today. Even acclaimed icons in the art world loved the concept such as Andy Warhol, whose love for simplicity and repetition in the arts is well known.
In order to understand the concept of painting by numbers, you have to at least experience first what it's like to paint a PBN kit. For many people who tried the kit, the process of painting is simplified yet almost fool-proof. By following simple instructions and a couple of tips and tricks, your finished painting is guaranteed to become a masterpiece. As straightforward as it may be, you can actually learn the very basics of painting with simple PBN kits, these basics can be applied in your actual paint by numbers artwork.
Learning how to paint can be a daunting experience, especially without prior knowledge on how it works. That’s why paint by numbers gives hope to aspiring painters that they can learn how to paint by using the kit and then adapting the strategy and principles later on with their own blank canvas.
Strategies when Creating Your Paint by Numbers Artwork:
A Step-by-step Guide
Learn the basics from the humble kit: Surely, you know how painting by numbers works. You simply have to match the color according to the number on the canvas. Despite its simplified creative process, paint by numbers kits have a bunch of concepts that you can use in creating artworks. The following are the highlights of the basic lessons you can learn from the kit:
• How to hold a paint brush.
• How to use acrylic paints.
• How colors interact with each other.
• The viscosity of the acrylic paint and how it affects the drying time of the medium.
• The basics of color theory.
• Blending and blurring.
Remember the importance of following instructions: If there is one thing that Paint by Numbers kits can teach you, it is learning how to follow simple instructions and how following these instructions can affect the outcome of your painting. Pablo Picasso, known as one of the greatest Cubist artists in history, once said, “learn the rules like a pro, and break them like an artist.” This quote applies really well with painting by numbers because all you have to do is to fill the segments with their designated colors. Then, it’s all up to you if you want to experiment a little bit for a better aesthetic quality in your artwork.
Start with a simple subject: To be able to create a masterpiece, you need to first master how to paint simple objects. And by doing such, you’re also learning technical concepts in painting. The goal of painting is not just creativity, but also skill-building where as time goes by, your mastery improves and the difficulty of the subjects that you paint becomes harder and more complex. Don’t urge yourself to create artworks similar to Rembrandt’s or Da Vinci’s, paint according to your skill so that you won’t get demotivated if you don't reach your goal.
Identify the values using the paint by numbers strategy: Now, it’s time to apply what you’ve learned so far so grab your blank canvas, brushes, paint, and a pencil. Find an inspirational photo of a simple and easy subject that you can paint like a flower or a fruit. Then, identify the tonal/color values using numbers. Number “1” would represent the darkest value, then the last number (i.e. number “5”) will represent the lightest value. After learning the values, draw a basic structure on your canvas.
Learn how to mix the tints and shades: There is a difference between a “tint” and a “shade'.” A tint is adding a white pigment to a color to achieve a lighter tone while a shade is adding a black pigment to a color to achieve a darker tone. Prepare the basic colors that you need to use for your painting. Then, on the left side of the palette, put a small amount of the color, then add a bit of the black pigment until the appropriate color you are aiming for. Do the same thing on the right side, but with the white pigment.
Tip: If you’re using acrylic paint which is known for its fast-drying time, keep a spray bottle beside you and sporadically mist the palette to avoid the acrylic paint from drying too fast.
- Paint: Now that you have learned the basic color theory and how light and dark values work together, it’s time for you to paint using all the knowledge that you’ve learned. Remember, blending is the key to achieving a good painting, so it is highly recommended that you study the colors while you paint. Thus, just like doing a paint by numbers artwork, begin at a larger area of one of the darkest values. That way, you will learn the composition of colors and how they impact each other. Don’t forget to practice your blending during this stage!
Paint by numbers teaches beginner artists where to start first when they find the task of canvas painting quite intimidating. The kits can be used as a guide in order to learn and appreciate the basic process of painting. Then, once you are familiar with the basics, use the knowledge you’ve learned, get your own blank canvas, apply the paint by numbers strategy, and experiment. We hope that creating your first paint by numbers artwork is less daunting now that you have this complete and extensive guide. So, the next thing you’ll need to do is go grab those brushes!