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The Gifted Artist: DIY Paint by Numbers Kit

I had the honor of meeting Dan Robbins, the creator of the Original Paint by Number Kits, back in 2006. Chartpak had acquired a brand called Craft House then, and this company had taken stewardship over the Original Paint by Numbers that Dan had developed back in 1951 under the Craft Master name. Dan spent several days here, and I learned how he came about creating this concept. Fun fact: it was Leonardo da Vinci who inspired Dan with his technique of teaching his apprentices how to paint by numbering his sketches. Fifty years after Dan came up with the idea to empower anyone to be an artist, his passion for democratizing art had never waned.

Over the next few years, I had enjoyed being part of the development process that turns a painting into a Paint by Number. It looks like a pretty easy thing to do, but it took over 3 months to develop each paint by number piece from painting to outline, to choosing colors and assigning them numbers, and to paint it all back in again. Sadly, Dan passed away this year in April. He was 93 years old.

A few months after Dan's passing, I discovered that my grandfather had done a few of Dan's Original Paint by Numbers in the 1950s; they still hang in his house today. This week’s DIY art kit idea has a lot of personal ties for me, and I’m excited to walk you through a simplified version of how you can make your own Paint by Number to give as a gift to someone special.

Step by Step for DIY Paint by Number

1) Choose the right substrate for your work. For Aquarell Pencil Paint by Number (PBN), we suggest using a mixed media paper. It's texture is great for use with color pencils, and will accept small amounts of liquid without warping or degrading the paper. The Mondeluz pencils can either be used dry, or can be gone over with a wet brush to create a watercolor effect.

2) It's all about line work. Remember the coloring book craze? The first drawing step is to distill your subject to its basic outlined form.

3) Add in more line-work -- this time think about shadow and light. I chose a gemstone for our inspiration example. The facets carved into the stone create distinct areas of shadow and reflection. Areas that have more blended colors that create gradients are will take more time to conceptualize when sketching out areas for your artist to fill in. If you are working with a reference image and have Photoshop, you can cheat a bit if and posterize your image to get areas of solid color. This creates ugly edges and is really suggested as a guide, not a final PBN.

4) Choose your colors. You'll want to limit yourself to the number of pencils in this set, and it goes without saying, the number of colors you choose will dictate the numbers that you will write into your PBN sketch. If you are giving your gift to a beginner, using one solid color instead of layering will be easier for them to work with. Once you choose your colors, create a swatch guide to go with your PBN.

5) Write in your numbers. For areas too small to write in a number, fill in with the intended color.

6) Package it. Make this a one off paint by number, or create a booklet of easy to do works of art that take advantage of our In & Out page feature of our pads and hardcover books. Check out our Instagram post on packaging for more ideas.

Suggested Supplies

• Mondeluz Aquarell Pencil 24 Set

• Koh-I-Noor Mephisto Mechanical Pencil, .5mm

• Grumbacher Mixed Media Paper with In & Out Pages (Pad or Hardcover Book)

• Straight Edge or Ruler

• Grumbacher Goldenedge Round Brushes, sz #00, #4

Where to Buy Supplies to Make this Kit


More on this idea: The inspiration for the subject matter for this kit was from a photo shoot I did for our Progresso Woodless Pencils. I needed to create a lifestyle shot of our graphite pencils at work and drew this diamond to go with the art materials. As I was drawing it out, it made me think of how easy it would be to make this a paint by number picture! I worked with my partner in crime and in-house artist Diana Waldon to turn this into a completed work of art for this project. She created the step by step video shown here, and collaborated on the finished artwork. Thank you Diana!

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