Paint by Numbers instructions

So, you have your paint by numbers kit but you are a bit nervous about starting.

Well, don’t worry, in this article, I will guide you on how to get started and let you know some great tips for making the most of your painting experience.

It doesn’t matter if you have never painted before or if you have done a few of these kits before you can always learn something new.

Whatever your experience (or lack of it) remember that there are no rules. This is your painting and you can do what you like with it. If you want to change things up or do it your own way then go ahead. All that matters is that you enjoy it!

That said there are some great tips that I can share with you.

To start with I am going to give you great paint by numbers instructions on getting started with your kit as it can feel a bit daunting.

Getting started with a paint by numbers

If you think that the paint set you have will be too difficult for your first one, take a look at this beautiful selection of paint by numbers for beginners.

1. Setting up

All you need is a flat surface. If you have an easel and prefer to paint using one then that is great. 

However, all you need is a flat surface and I actually use a large piece of foam board but you could use cardboard or wood. I tape the canvas down using masking tape. The added bonus is that I can easily move it out of the way when I am not painting. Foam board is freely available at craft stores.

If your canvas has any wrinkles in it make sure you remove them before you start. Simply spray a light mist of water on it and iron on a low setting on the back of the canvas, NOTE: This is before you use any paint!

At Winnie's Picks, all canvases are rolled into a strong (and beautiful 😜) tube so you won't have any wrinkled canvases here.

Find a location to paint where you have a good light. If necessary supplement the natural light with a good quality lamp, perhaps a daylight lamp. You may even like to use a lamp with a magnifier to help you see. It is all personal preference but you do need good light.

Get paper towels and a cup of water so that you can clean your brushes as you work. You do not want the paint to dry on your brush. It is best to clean them when you change to a new color but also when they get a bit too full of paint. 

How to clean your brush? Simply dip your brush into the glass of water, stir it around and then wipe it with the paper towel. Work along the bristles of the brush to keep them smooth.

Completing a paint by numbers
Opening a paint pot

2. Starting your painting

Where to begin? That is the first question most people ask. 

The obvious answer is that it is entirely up to you but here are some hints and tips to help you get the best out of your painting.

  • Consider where your arm will lie. I am right-handed so I start at the top left of the picture and work down and right. This stops me from having to lean on areas that I have already painted. However, you may prefer to paint all one number first, from the middle out or from the top to the bottom.
  • It is best to paint light areas first and then dark ones. As you add the darker paints you can go slightly over the lighter areas to make a good finish.
  • Keep your picture of the painting and reference sheet to hand as you may want to check the colors as you go along.

Once you get started there are some great tips for getting the best results.

  • You should cover the area marked and go over the lines. This will ensure there is no gap between areas of the painting.
  • Do not overload your brush with paint. You want to be in control of where the paint goes.
  • Use enough paint to cover the lines and numbers. You can always do 2 coats on any area that needs it.
  • Use all your brushes. It really helps to get a good finish if you use the right-sized brush for the area you are painting.
  • When you need to paint very small areas or thin lines, load your brush with plenty of paint and then hold it loosely. This will help you to get a good line the first time. It can also help to hold your breath!

Care for your paints throughout your project and they will give you an excellent finish. Here are a couple of tips.

  • If your paint starts to get a bit thick then simply add some water or flow improver. I use a cocktail stick or toothpick to stir my paints. It is actually always a good idea to stir your paints when you start to use them anyway.
  • When you are not using the paints make sure that the lids are properly closed so that they do not dry up. When you close them there should be a satisfying click! I also recommend running your fingers around the pots to make sure they have fastened fully all the way around.

Finally, take your time. Painting by number should be enjoyable and relaxing and you really will achieve the best results if you slow down.

Do not get too worried about what your painting looks like close up. No one is ever going to study it like you are when you are painting. Remember your painting is designed to be enjoyed at a distance.

So, enjoy your paint by numbers kit, and remember that you can enter your finished painting into our competition by sending us a picture of your finished art to

This article was brought to you by Christine of If you would like to see her painting by numbers work then you can check it out here.


What do you mean when you say “add a drop of water of some flow improver”?
Do mean just water or add water to a turpentine or solvent??


Is there enough canvas to stretch it and tack it on stretchers? I think painting it that way would be a good way too and it would be ready to frame when done.

Diane Robertson

So excited, can’t wait to get started

Thomas McKinney

Should the paint stay strictly in the lines or should they be blended into adjacent colors? I’m new at this so any help will be appreciated. Thanks.

Christine Ainsworth

Hi. I am really enjoying my very first painting by numbers but realised I have been putting the paint on too thick. Hence I have used too much paint to be able to finish it. Is it possible to buy extra paints please?

Brenda Midgley

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