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The Gifted Artist: DIY Paint by Number Sets

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 an ink Paint by Number (PBN), we suggest using a watercolor paper. It's sized to accept large applications of liquid color without warping or deteriorating.

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 linework -- 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 may have to pre-mix colors, and it goes without saying, the number of colors you choose will dictate the numbers that you will write into your PBN sketch. Once you choose them, 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. If you've mixed inks or paints, put those mixes into an appropriately sized, leak-proof container. Make sure there is enough material to complete the PBN, a little extra is better than not enough. Check out our Instagram post on packaging for more ideas.

Suggested Supplies

• Higgins Pigmented Inks

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

• Grumbacher Watercolor 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

Jerry's Art-a-Rama:

Dick Blick:



More on this idea: The inspiration for the subject matter for this kit was from a photo shoot I did for our sister brand, Koh-I-Noor. 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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