You remember those paint-by-number kits? Just put the right paint on the right number and you were supposed to end up with a great painting?
Paint-by-number kits were first developed in 1950 by an artist named Dan Robbins, who pitched the idea to his boss, Max S. Klein, owner of the Palmer Paint Company in Michigan, according to Segmation.com. Klein marketed and promoted them and the company sold 12 million kits by proclaiming that ANYONE could be an artist.
The kits were derided as kitschy art for the uncreative. But, in fact, at least 30 top-notch artists, including Robbins, worked on the original paintings on which paint-by-number (PBN) works were based. And the paintings weren’t bad. They forged their own style since, with a limited color palette, they tended to have a kind of blocky look. Today, there are people who collect PBNs from attics and garage sales everywhere. There is even a PBN museum.
Before you poo-poo paint by number, remember the actual first inventors: Michaelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci both are thought to have numbered canvases so their assistants could fill in the blanks with color.
The all-new PBN is big
After a run of a couple decades, the old PBN mostly faded away, but today, it’s back and it has changed.
The technology has changed, for one thing.
Today, you can get a photo of your grandkids changed into paint by number by many companies, including paintbynumberartist.com. Or a photo of anything. Your favorite scene or person. A landscape you actually like.
No talent, no experience, no help needed. It’s a totally DIY adventure in which you get a canvas, a set of paints and different-sized brushes, all in a complete set. Prices range from $24 to $100, depending on canvas size.
The subjects and range of artistic styles has changed, too.
Masterpiece By Numbers offers brilliant kits for paintings of animals (mallards, leopards, hummingbirds), places (Arc De Triomphe, London, 1950s car garages) and landscapes (trains, rivers, mills, ocean).
You’ll find many kits in the styles of your favorite artists, or even an actual paint-by-number reproduction of a famous print. Paint like Picasso!
It’s not only a pastime for you, it can be a fantastic gift as a kit or finished product.
Tips for doing a great paint-by-number
Here are eight tips from Segmation on how to make your painting turn out great.
1. Select a flat area and clear a lot of space around it. Get a cup of water and paper towels to clean brushes.
2. If your blank canvas arrives with wrinkles, spray a light mist of water on it and then iron on a low setting (back side).
3. Look over your canvas and match colors to number by eye, noting whether some areas have double numbers.
4. If your canvas has double numbers in some places, that means you need to mix the colors. You’ll need a disposable plate or something flat to mix on.
5. Work from top to bottom.
6. Start with either the lightest colors or the darkest.
7. Paint with one color at a time.
8. Don’t hesitate to buy a brush you think will work better. You can find many at craft stores.