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Paint-by-numbers sets, in which a numbered outline of an image comes with correspondingly numbered shades of paint, were first developed as a marketing scheme by a paint company. As legend would have it, Dan Robbins, an employee of the Detroit-based Palmer Show Card Paint Company, was inspired by no less than Leonardo da Vinci, who would number patterns for his apprentices to use. By the mid-1950s, kits were flying off the shelves. Although some have viewed the phenomenon as exemplary of the conformism of the midcentury, Robbins’s kits not only introduced countless amateur artists to the joys of putting brush to canvas (much like Bob Ross would do several decades later) but also brought the possibility of displaying hand-painted artwork to many households that would not have been able to afford it otherwise. The ubiquitous product now is mostly marketed towards adults as a relaxing, mindful activity in the vein of coloring books and mandalas. To embark on your own satisfying paint-by-numbers journey, browse our selection of the best adult sets below.
1. Faber-Castell Museum Series Paint by Numbers
Purveyor of high-quality art materials Faber-Castell makes simple, aggravation-free paint-by-number kits that nevertheless leave you with a satisfying replica of a work by a great master like Georges Seurat or Vincent Van Gogh. The emphasis is on learning painting techniques, and an online video can teach you relevant strokes that will help you get an authentic result. These kits make small works (6 by 8 inches) that can be completed in roughly an hour. The canvas panel features outlines but no annoying numbers to show through the paint; instead, there’s a separate pattern guide. The acrylic paint and paintbrush are artist grade and, as a bonus, Faber-Castell includes a hang tab and a pop-out easel for display.
2. Pink Picasso Sensitive Succulents Kit
For those who like a challenge, Pink Picasso makes photorealistic paint-by-numbers picture that require a deft hand and roughly 12 hours to finish. Once it is completed, however, you’ll have a hyperrealistic painting of bright and fresh succulents that will wow your friends—and likely even surprise you. The kit includes 4 differently sized brushes for filling in even the tiniest sections, and they sell refills of colors separately if you accidentally leave one uncapped.
3. Texture of Dreams Personalized Paint by Numbers Kit
A hand-painted work of art makes a great gift, but what about a hand-painted image of something personal to the recipient? Whether you paint for a loved one or yourself, simply send in a high-res photograph of your pet, a special moment, or whatever you please, and Texture of Dreams will send a printed, stretched canvas and the colors you need to turn a memory into a keepsake. The included set of 3 brushes make easy work of small and large areas alike. Choose from sizes from 12 by 16 inches to 24 by 36 inches.
4. Schipper MNZ Paint by Number Kit
For truly frameable art, this luxe kit from Schipper is as much a pleasure to work with as it is to display when finished. Schipper was the first German manufacturer to make paint-by-numbers, and they continue to uphold the high level of craftsmanship they started out with. This kit helps you recreate a retro illustration of a Marklin model train. The canvas panel (measuring 40 by 80 centimeters) is backed with rigid cardboard and printed with light gray outlines that disappear under the fast-drying acrylic paint.