Paint By Numbers Kits – Creativity…or Just Cheating?

paint by number

Your average paint by numbers kit in action

How familiar are you with pain t by number kits? Have you ever bought one, received one as a gift, or been curious about them? And of course, tried one? Do you wonder if they can be a good tool to bypass the learning curve? If so you’re in good hands. I think all of us have tried one of these out at some point or another. yes, myself included.

Before we go any further, paint by number kits have been around the block a long time….now you could probably find all kinds of genres and subject niches, everything from landscapes to celebrities to Harry Potter. I didn’t know people still had interest in these until I went into Etsy out of curiosity one day and typed in “paint by number kits” to see what came up. Returned back to me was over 13K items. Wowza! I guess I stand corrected when I thought these were something antiquated.

For those of you unfamiliar with them, a typical paint by number kit consists of a board with a pre-outlined design all with designated spaces each with a number assigned to them, a set of paints acrylic definitely, in little “pots” each pot having a corresponding number on it, and a brush or two. You simply follow the numbered spaces on the board and match them to the correct color of the paint pots.


Confession time: I have always harbored a lot of disdain for paint by number kits. I see them as – maybe not exactly uncreative, but overly regimented. And tedious. Filling in spaces with color and following guidelines never gave me that euphoria I was after. You know, the reward and pleasure centers in the brain that tell us “You did it!”

It was soothing, but to me, it was just not mentally and emotionally challenging in the way I was after. But that’s just my thoughts, I never want to begrudge others a different way of doing things. You should do what you love, regardless of what formula one person follows.

It could also be that because I’ve had a lengthy amount of art education and to the “classic” fundamentals, it always felt like I was backsliding. I mean, you don’t get a real grasp of blending and mixing colors together if you’re just filling in spaces, right?

paint by number

Your average paint by numbers kit in action

For those reasons I always looked at these kits as more suited for therapeutic reasons – you won’t learn anything new, but they are relaxing to work on. And let’s not kid ourselves, you’ll end up with a beautiful piece of work that you can frame and display later on.

Other offshoots have evolved, you may have heard of diamond painting – which doesn’t actually involve painting per se, but affixing tiny jewels to a background to create a finished design . And let’s not forget adult coloring books – I think they all have the same purpose, to be a form of relaxation and stress relief.

But are they “cheating”. Heck NO. To spend that length of time filling up a board space by space, you know how many hours that takes, I’m looking at it as just a process, and a different one.I don’t see it as taking a shortcut. My hat is off to you if you can commit to that. There are lots of art subjects for genres for you to choose from so if you go into a place like Amazon or Etsy, take your pick.

So what’s the TL:DR of this post? Even though I myself do not like or enjoy paint by number kits, I see their place in the art world , they are great to unwind with at the end of a long day, maybe not to create a masterpiece the way the Old Masters intended, just a different way of coming close to it!


Updated: 09/20/2023 — 10:34 PM

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