Quick Paint by Number Guide for Beginners

Looking for step-by-step paint by number instructions and helpful hints, tips, and tricks? Do you need to use gesso before painting? Is it better to stretch your canvas before or after you have painted? How do you remove wrinkles? There are lots of options for PBN kits. We have answered the most common questions and highlighted everything you need to know to get started on your new hobby!

Paint by number in its popular form was created by the Palmer Show Card Paint Company. The owner of the company approached employee Dan Robbins with the idea for the project. After several iterations of the product, the company in 1951 introduced the Craft Master brand, which went on to sell over 12 million kits. This public response induced other companies to produce their own versions of paint by number. The Craft Master paint kit box tops proclaimed, “A BEAUTIFUL OIL PAINTING THE FIRST TIME YOU TRY.”

Following the death of Max Klein in 1993, his daughter, Jacquelyn Schiffman, donated the Palmer Paint Co. archives to the Smithsonian Museum of American History. The archival materials have been placed in the museum’s Archives Center where they have been designated collection, the “Paint by Number Collection”.

In May 2011, Dan Robbins and Palmer Paint Products, Inc., together developed and brought to market a new 60th-anniversary paint by number set. This collectors’ set was created in memory of the survivors and those who had lost their lives on September 11, 2001, and depicts the Twin Towers standing in spirit across the Manhattan skyline.

Sales of paint-by-number kits took off on the West Coast in 1951. In this San Francisco scene, one clerk replenishes sales stock, while another demonstrates the by-the-numbers technique for a crowd of curious onlookers.

~Before Starting your Kit~

  1. Find a comfortable and well-lit room in which to paint. The more detailed the kit, the tinier the numbers and spaces may be. For particularly small spaces, a magnifying glass and lamp can be very helpful. Our customers swear by this Magnifying Headlamp!
  2. Get a comfortable desk or table in which to paint. Being hunched over for long periods of time can be bad for your neck and back, so try to make sure you are comfortable and change positions frequently. Switching between painting on a flat surface and a tabletop easel usually helps!
  3. Clear a space of anything that should not get wet or dirty! As careful as we think we will be, the paint always seems to find its way onto something other than canvas!
  4. Take a digital picture of your canvas with your phone! This will give you a permanent reference sheet that you can never misplace, spill paint on, tear, burn, crumple, or shred! You can also zoom in on any small numbers or spaces. Now it’s time to ditch that magnifying glass!

~Preparing your canvas~

There are lots of options for preparing your canvas. Do you need to use gesso before painting? Is it better to frame your canvas before or after you have painted? We have answered the most common canvas prep questions and have outlined the many options for preparing a canvas below.



Question 1: What exactly is gesso, and why is it used?

Answer 1: Gesso is a primer that makes the paint go on more smoothly and makes the canvas more absorbent. HOWEVER, gesso is not nearly as necessary when painting with acrylic paints versus painting with oil paints.

Traditional gesso for oil paints contains a glue that helps bind the paint to the canvas and prevents the paint from corroding; however, all of Personalize Everything uses ACRYLIC paints. Acrylic paints do not corrode like oil paints, which make gesso a lot less important.

Question 2: Should I use gesso?

Answer 2: Totally up to you! We do not recommend it for our acrylic paint by number kits!

Gesso for acrylic paints will make the canvas a little bit smoother and a little more absorbent, but may smudge your numbers and lines and will make it more likely to run out of paint for your paint by number kit!

Question 3: Should I use clear gesso or white gesso?

Answer 3: Only use CLEAR GESSO for paint by number kits! If you use white gesso or any other color, it will cover up the numbers and spaces you need for your paint by number kit!

Question 4: Are you interested in learning more about gesso?

Answer 4: Check out this video from Dina herself:

The pleasure of creating a stunning work of art needs no description. Painting by numbers will let you set aside your worries, relax and decrease stress while strengthening the painting talent.

You don’t have to have any art related skills. Just follow the simple instruction provided and create magnificent art pieces.

What can be more satisfying than decorating your home or workplace with your own art?

It is proven that any task you do with your loved ones strengthens the relationship. Paint with the kit with your better half or your siblings and let the magic of colors bond you for the better.

When it comes to gifts, we often get confused because it is not that easy to find the right present. Paint By Numbers kit (or even your own finished masterpiece) is the ideal solution!

This kit helps kids to have better concentration, boosts thinking, learn to be patient and attentive to details. In addition, it brings up an aesthetic taste.

Bring your favorite photo back to life with custom paint by number. You might want to paint a family picture, a loved one, or your own pet. Whatever you prefer, it is a unique and personal way to preserve your memories.

It is the perfect first step for beginners to enjoy the art of painting You can easily paint your own wall art, even if you have zero artistic ability. Besides, it can be also framed to be an excellent decoration for your home.

A personalized painting by numbers will also make an amazing gift. Just imagine receiving a hand-painted artwork from someone you love!

Stretching and Framing


Question 1: Should I stretch my canvas? Should I do it before or after I paint?

Answer 1: It is totally up to you! You really cannot go wrong, but we do not recommend stretching your canvas for beginners or first-timers. However, if you do want to stretch your canvas, we recommend doing so before painting!

Question 2: How do I stretch paint by number canvas?

Answer 2: Stretching paint by number kits can be a little more difficult than stretching a regular canvas because you need to line up the border of the canvas with the DIY frame. It may take a few tries, but it is totally doable. You can click on the following link to check out our thorough how-to guide on how to stretch and frame a canvas

Question 3: What are the benefits of stretching a paint by number canvas?

Answer 3: Stretching a canvas makes the canvas a bit more portable. We usually recommend it if you have an easel and you want to take your kit outside to paint. (Painting on a beach was one of the most relaxing painting experience we have ever had.)

Question 4: What are the detriments to stretching a paint by number canvas?

Answer 4: Stretching a paint by number canvas takes a lot of patience. It may also be hard to stretch it very tautly without the proper tools, so you may find it easier to paint with a flat hard surface behind an unstretched canvas as a backing.

Question 5: Where is the best place to paint–on a table or on an easel?

Answer 5: Spending too many hours painting with an easel hurts our necks and our arms. Painting for too many hours on a flat surface makes just our necks sore. Switching between the two can help ease some of that soreness! We ranked our 3 favorite options by the level of ease:

  1. EASY – Lay your canvas on a flat surface and securely tape it using masking tape. We are addicted to paint by numbers ourselves and found this to be the simplest and most pleasant way of painting. It is also very easy to pick up and move to a different space!
  2. MEDIUM – tape, tack, or binder clip your canvas to a piece of foam board or cardboard. This method gives you strong and hardback for your canvas and also makes your project very portable! You can still put your canvas on a flat surface, or stand it up on an easel.
  3. DIFFICULT – Stretching your canvas is the most difficult. We have a separate how-to guide on doing that; however, it makes your canvas less portable and you will no longer have that hard backing, which usually makes painting the canvas a bit more challenging. A stretched kit is also a little harder to frame after you are finished–but it definitely does not hurt to try!