by Dave

Couple on a Date doing a Paint by Numbers Picture
I think just about all of us have done a paint-by-numbers at some point, but if you haven't, you’re really missing out! Invented in the 1950’s, this fun pastime gives you plenty to talk about with your date while spending time creating a masterpiece together.

Paint-by-number kits generally provide a light blue outline of a painting or photograph with numbered sections that you will paint with the designated color, and can be purchased from just about any superstore or arts & crafts store. Try buying a large one to work on together, each getting a small one for yourselves, or both picking out a small one and having the other person paint and give it to you as a gift. (don’t forget to sign your work!)

This is a light, fun date and if you haven't been going out long then a standard paint-by-numbers from Target is probably the best bet. On the other hand, if you have been together a while take the time to customize the experience by making a paint-by-numbers picture from a photo of you two together. You can do this the easy way by sending a photo to one of the sites listed in the Links section, or do-it-yourself if you're familiar with Photoshop or a similar program. I’ve included instructions for creating a custom paint-by-numbers picture using Photoshop, any users who know how to do it in another program, feel free to add instructions to the Suggestions section below. When choosing a photo, you'll probably want to pick one that's fairly close up, otherwise details will be lost in the conversion. I wouldn't recommend photos from a further distance than the sample I've included.

  1. Open the photo(s) in Adobe Photoshop.
  2. From the top menu, select Image -> Image Size and resize your photo so that the widest side is either 8” or 10.5”. This will make it suitable to print out on an 8 1/2” x 11” sheet of paper.
  3. From the top menu, select Filter -> Artistic -> Cutout. This will open the cutout screen where you will decide how simple or complex you want the final painting to be. Tweak the Number of Levels, Edge Simplicity, and Fidelity until you see a result in the preview box that you like. Remember, more detail means more tracing and painting. If the result looks flat, try adding contrast to the image.
  4. Select OK and print the photo in color if possible. If not, print it in black & white and note the colors for each of the different areas.
  5. Take the printout to your local arts and crafts store and select acrylic paints for each color in the photo, along with brushes, graphite tracing paper or wax-free transfer paper (larger than 8 1/2” x 11”), and an art board or canvas panel (also larger than 8 1/2” x 11”).
  6. Write a numbered list of the paints you bought, this will be your key. Write these numbers on the paint containers.
  7. Tape the tracing paper to the art board. Make sure the side that will transfer your tracing is facing down.
  8. Tape the printout on top of the tracing paper.
  9. Using a pencil, trace all of the colored areas on the photo. You may want to work together on this as it can take some time.
  10. Remove everything from the art board and write the numbers of the colors in the proper areas.
  11. The prep work's done, now take it somewhere nice and have fun!

Painting is best done at a quiet, scenic location like a local meadow, park, or wooded area. The beach makes a nice spot too, but blowing sand can ruin the paints and painting. Make an afternoon of it by bringing along a picnic!

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$10-$15 for a standard kit
$50+ for a custom kit online


Custom Paint-by-Numbers Kits

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