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Paint By Numbers Expert Tips And Tricks

December 07, 2019

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Here are my best paint by numbers tips and tricks to help you achieve the most beautiful results from your kit.

Even if you've never tried painting by numbers before you can get professional results.

Pinky promise!

Paint By Number How To Get Expert Results text over paint pots

Every year, just as the holidays roll around, I tell myself that this year, I'm going to take it slow.

I'm going to relax my way through the season.

Enjoy every carol, every moment of twinkle, and rather than get caught up in the hustle and bustle, focus on the peace of December days.

I'm happy to report in recent years, it's actually become a little easier to do. The kids are older, so all that running around has slowed considerably.

I've had more time to watch movies, bake, see concerts and visit with friends.

And best of all, craft.

So, this Christmas season, I have decided to spend some of my free time tackling another paint by numbers kit.

They've become my newest obsession.

I was a little intimidated when I started my first adult paint by numbers kit this summer, those gorgeous ballerinas, but it was super simple to do.  

And I love looking at that lovely piece of art on the wall in my room.

Adult Paint By Numbers Rolled Canvas Kit on table

So today, it's out of the tube and I'm ready to go.

However, before I get started, I wanted to answer a few of the questions I receive on a regular basis since I posted my first step by step paint by number tutorial.

And share my best tips and a few expert tricks to help you get the most professional looking results.

Paint By Numbers Tips, Tricks And FAQs

1. What do you paint on...canvas or a board?

Paint By Numbers Canvas rolled up on table

Well, I get most of my paint by number kits from Winnie's Picks.

They come in a tube and inside you will find a rolled canvas. It's a beautiful, sturdy quality.

It does not need to be stretched, prepped or ironed. It's ready to go right away.

I have seen some kits where the canvases are folded and needed to be sprayed and ironed before painting. I don't have time for that.

Plus, I've heard that those fold lines rarely come out 100%.

There are some great kits that contain boards, but I only recommend those for kids. The canvas gives you a much more professional looking result.

Tip: Whatever kit you choose, I would read the fine print carefully to see what you're getting.

2. How do you stretch your canvas to paint on it?

So. I don't.

You certainly can get a wooden frame and stretch and staple your canvas to it, but I never plan to display them that way. I prefer to frame them behind glass.

So it's a step I would need to undo when finished.

And having stretched canvases in the past, I could never get them as taut as they really needed to be. Therefore, it's just a waste of my time.

What I do instead is buy a larger pre-stretched canvas and tape the paint by numbers canvas to it with blue painter's tape.

While I have seen people lay them flat on a table or tape them to cardboard, I prefer the angle of an easel and for that you need the support a wooden frame provides.

Taping my kit canvas to one that's pre-stretched is the easiest way to get there.

It also ensures there are no wrinkles or bumps to disrupt my brush work.

That's the most important note here...make sure your painting surface is taut. 

I have a video showing the process on Facebook if you want to peek.  

Tip: Get a canvas a tiny bit larger than your paint by number kit so you have plenty of room tape it on without blocking any numbers.

3. Do I need an easel for paint by numbers?

Mini Tabletop Easel on a table top at Christmas time with tree in background

As I said, I use this small table top easel and it's worked out very well. 

It's cheap, easy to store and positions the canvas at the perfect angle for painting like a pro.

I also like the fact that I can move it around from room to room, or even take my painting outside. 

However, it's not a necessary accessory, but it is one of the paint by number supplies I find helpful.

4. Do you need to buy extra paint?

Numbered paint pots on table

No. I always have so much leftover. No matter what kit I have tried. I've never needed more paint.

Even in the containers of lighter colors, where I needed to give the number spot several coats, the containers were still more than half full at completion.

Also here's my tip for covering numbers on your paint by number kits.

Tip: If you do have spaces where the numbers or lines are peeking through light colored paint, wait until your paint is fully dry and then revisit those spots with the tiniest brush over the numbers only.

It will give you a more uniform look instead of big blobs of heavier paint in certain areas.

5. What if my paint dries up?

If you close your paint tubs up tight when you're done painting, you should not have this issue. However, if your paint is thick, then you can add a bit of warm water, just a drop or two, and stir.

If that still doesn't work you can add a bit of flow improver to the pots. 

Of course, if the paint is rock hard, then it's time to contact the company and ask for new, but honestly, this has never happened to me.

Tip: Snap them shut and store your paints pots in a ziploc bag when not it use for longer periods.

6. Do you need to buy extra brushes?

Brushes, paint pots and rolled canvas on table

Possibly? I think that's a personal choice. I did, the first time around.

I wanted to make sure I was totally prepared.

However, I can honestly say that after using the brushes included in the several brand kits I've tried, I'm good. They know what they're doing...they worked the best.

Tip: More important than extra brushes, purchase some fine tip q-tips to clean up any areas where you might have painted outside the line.

7. What if you have never painted before. Will it really look that good? 

In my opinion, yes.

Granted, I've painted before, it was my focus in high school and my first - ahem - major in college.

I do belong to many paint by numbers groups on Facebook though, and there are tons of beginners and I haven't seen a bad painting yet.

And remember, even though it's a kit, it's still art. You can make it your own.

It takes some getting used to and you do have to experiment with your style to find the best painting technique for your design. 

Some people use actual brush strokes, others dab, blot or pounce and still others (like me) use a combination of brush motions to achieve their desired look.

And realistically, many times, the size of your space will determine how you're going to fill it in. Some of them are huge and others are literally pin drops where only a quick dab will work.

The best part is, there's no right or wrong. If you can color in the lines, you can do this.

My only tip here is to lean into it, relax and have fun! After all, that's the point.

8. Do you paint all the same colors at one time?

Paint By Numbers canvas with brush applying green paint

No. Some people do, I don't.

I pick an area that interests me and work on that area. Yes, while I'm focused on that spot, I do paint color by color.

And here's why...if I started with color #1 and spend time painting every #1 on the canvas, I would get so bored, so fast.

I like to see progress...and when I paint by area instead of by color, I get to see it all come to life.

Tip: Think about your proposed movement, you don't want to rest your painting hand on a wet area.

9. Are you supposed to do paint by numbers in order?

Again the answer is no. There is not right or wrong way to start painting.

As I said, the most important consideration is finding a method that brings you joy.

And one that won't find you resting your hand on a spot that's wet. Smudged paint does not look good.

10. Why do they give you a paper with the numbers printed out as well?

Paint By Number Guide Sheet

Honestly, I don't know, but I can tell you how I've used it.

I've found that there are times - for whatever reason - I needed to go back and see what color I painted a certain spot, but obviously it had been painted so I couldn't.

That's when I referred to the sheet.

Or sometimes, my paint ran into a spot or I lost my place or I used a color erroneously and needed to correct it. Or the number on the canvas was so small, I peeked at the paper for confirmation.

It came in handy. I would hold on to it for reference.

11. Do you use a magnifying glass?

I have on occasion. Depending on the kit and the painting, some of those spaces can be super teeny tiny. 

A lightweight bookmark magnifier can be very helpful if you don't wear readers. 

Tip: A book light or craft light comes in very handy as well.

12. How are the custom kits?

I have not tried a custom paint by number kit yet, personally, it's on the list. I have seen them in the Facebook groups and they're outstanding.

They look like photographs. It's truly amazing...If anyone has one to share, email me.

I'd love to show it.

13. How long does it take to complete a painting?

Well, that's up to you. The first one took me about a month. I was addicted and tried to get to it every day, but it was summer.

I was outside. A lot.

This one will go much quicker because it's snowing now and I hate snow.

That means I'll be inside, at my easel, next to those twinkling lights, listening to Doris Day and Mel Tormé crooning about the holidays.

Brush in hand.


How delightful.

Brushes Paint By Numbers Expert Tips words overlay on paint pots, brushes and canvas

Kim Signature

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  1. Hi Kim,
    I ordered one of these for my daughter of her sweet dog. She is loving painting hers. Have a great weekend.

    1. ’ve seen the custom ones painted by friends, Kris, and they are really amazing. I’m glad your daughter is enjoying hers! I’m having fun painting my flowers inside with snow outside.

  2. I haven't heard about these kits, they sound quite a step up from the ones of my childhood but they were so much fun. And then I started painting when I was an adult, but only when I was pregnant. With 4 kids I did a lot of paintings!

    You've really done a comprehensive and fine job here answering questions, Kim. Did I miss a post earlier where you showed the completed first picture you painted? These sound like really nice Christmas gifts.

    1. Hi Dewena! I did post about my ballerinas during the summer. They were so much fun to paint. I too hadn't painted in years and this was an easy way to get back into it...without having to come up with a composition and invest in the paints, etc. My only fear is that I'm going to run out of wall space before my interest in this hobby quits! Ha!!

  3. I loved paint by number kits when I was younger. You made me want to try them again. Thanks for all of the information and helpful tips.

    1. Thanks for peeking at them Briana! I have to say I wasn't quite sure what I was getting myself into, but I was very, very pleasantly surprised!

    2. What exactly is this paint by numbers kit called & is it based in Manhattan? I spent $68 in mid April & still haven’t got my order. Assuming now it’s all a scam?! Susan. Ireland ☘️

    3. Hi Susan, I'm so sorry you haven't received your order. That's frustrating. The company is based in Germany and I have never had a problem with delivery. They have been great to work with in my experience and never had a complaint about their products or services. I'm assuming that it's a back up due to the current global situation. However, I would reach out directly to the company for updates. And you can also ask them about it directly in their Facebook group, they moderate it and respond to all questions. I hope that helps and here's a link to the group:

  4. Loved the post Kim, I am planning to try a paint by numbers this winter season.
    I am pinning the post for tips.
    Thank you,

    1. You'll have to let me know how it goes, Carla!!

  5. Kim, I am so anxious to see it done. I really loved the first one. Remember, I started one also. I need to get my glasses changed because I just can't see the lines that well. When taking a magnifier to it I could see how out of the lines I was going so set it aside until?? I really love the look that they give though..Happy Weekend..xxoJudy

    1. Judy, your custom cottage painting always intrigued me, so when I had to the chance to try these, I jumped. I'm glad I did, it's become a favorite pastime, but I hear you. Some of the spots are tiny, tiny. I don't need anything yet, but it's coming...😉

  6. You make it seem so easy. I don't have the patience for that, but I do appreciate yours. Happy Holidays Kim.

    1. Thanks Linda! I’m not usually a sitter…I’m on the go all the time and even when I watching tv I need to be doing something else. So this forces me to relax and focus on one thing. A rarity for sure!

  7. Paint by numbers sure has come a long way. I remember my grandfather painting hem when I was a kid. I'm glad you've found something to get you through the snowy, cold winter. If I run out of projects, I will give it a go.....I feel the same way about winter!

    1. Ugh...and you get more snow than we do! If you ever try one, you'll have to let me know what you think. I was pleasantly surprised.

  8. These are such helpful hints, Kim! I really want to do a floral one!

    1. They're so much fun, Deanna and very relaxing...If you ever try one, you'll have to let me know!

  9. I remember painting these paintings when I was little. What a fun project to work on and all helpful hints.

    1. Thanks Julie! I used to do them when I was small, too. They have a nostalgic quality about them, I think that’s another reason I enjoy them.

      Happy Holidays!!

    2. I did a custom paint by number of my dog a couple of months was so relaxing and fun and turned out beautifully!

    3. Oh, I bet it was Linda! I haven’t done a custom one…yet. I’m hoping to try one soon. I’m waiting for the right picture.

  10. Awesome tips Kim. Thank you so much. I can't wait to try one, which BTW I've been dying to do ever since I saw your first paint by numbers post. I've pinned this because I know I'm going to be coming back time and again

  11. These tips were really helpful! Thank you! I'm almost done with my first paint by numbers and I've really enjoyed the results of it. I didn't stretch my canvas either because I wanted to frame it in the end rather than staple it to a wooden frame like you mentioned, but as I'm approaching finishing my painting I can't figure out how I can frame it. How do you frame yours? Do you put them in a picture like frame with glass, or something else? Thanks!

  12. I took the easy way out, Laura, I bought a frame at Michael's Crafts and just popped it behind glass. It actually looks lovely and there isn't any glare to speak the canvas is a standard size and I had a coupon. I hope that helps!!

  13. Do you do much blurring or blending with PBN or is it better to just go number by number & stay in the lines? How do you know when to blur/blend?

    1. I actually didn't do much blurring. I found that with the ballerina kit, it looked better to keep the lines sharp. I did play around a little bit with blurring in the beginning, but I liked the sharper look best. To blur I just took the brush and gently used the tip to soften the lines. Hope that helps!

  14. Hi! I've been trying to find the best way to display my painting. How did you display yours?


    1. Hi Esta! I always frame mine. I actually just detailed the process last week. Here's the link if you want to take a peek.

  15. Thanks for the tips Kim, I am still working on one and I am sad to say I Have been working on it since Christmas! Shhh... I know, horrible, huh? Oh well, maybe it will be completed by next Christmas! LOL...

  16. My sisters and I (3 of us) have been doing paint by number every week when we get together. It is so relaxing for us and to do it as a sister day is even better. We have done several. We do our paint by number stretched. We bought a big pack of already framed blank canvases and just stretch our paint by number over that new canvas. Bought them on sale which ended up about $2 per stretched canvas. With them stretched, we don't really need a frame. They can hang as they are. This month of December we are painting our own designs on "Dollar Tree" canvas boards. Mostly Christmas pictures. They will be easy to store on the board, 8x10 and 8x8. We just trace the picture on the board and start painting. So much fun. :)

    Also, I am using a clear Gesso on my canvases. Has anyone tried that? Out of the 3 of us (sisters) I am the only one doing it consistently. I personally like the way the paint goes on the Gesso.


    1. It sounds like you have it down to a science, Jean and you've made a party out of your painting! I love that!! I haven't ever used Gesso. I used to use it when I painted with acrylics years ago, but so far, I haven't had the need or desire to try it with the paint by number kits. Although, you make it sound interesting so I may just give it a try this year! Thanks for the tip!!

  17. I just received my first paint by number painting. What are the areas in grey that have no numbers?

    1. Hi there, I'm excited to hear about your first kit, but I've never seen one with grey areas and no numbers. However, I've only ordered from Winnie's Picks and Opalberry. Did you order from one of those companies? If so, they have excellent customer service. I'm eager to hear what they say. Keep us posted.