February 17, 2020 8 min read

Back in the 1950s, the most popular artwork to been seen on the walls of an American household wasn't one that had been completed by a famous artist. Instead, the chances are that it would have been a paint-by-number picture completed by the homeowner.

Dan Robbins devised the idea of paint by numbers kits back in the 1940s. He’d discovered that Leonardo da Vinci used numbered backgrounds to help his students learn their craft and decided to replicate the idea. Over time, the kits sold in their millions, but they became seen as something for children rather than adults.

However, move forward sixty years, and you can't help but have seen the enormous growth in popularity of paint by numbers for adults. Inspired by people wanting to take time away from their mobile phones and online devices, it provides a brief escape from a frantic world.

Paint by numbers provides an immediate access point to the world of painting and being creative, no matter what skills or lack of artistic skills, you might have. Even if you dreaded art lessons when you were at school or were told that you had no creative abilities, paint by numbers proves them wrong. Today, more and more people are enjoying and seeing the benefits of this relaxing hobby.

One of the key advantages of this style of art is that you don't need to have the skills of Picasso or Van Gogh. A little practice and passion, and you're soon able to produce amazing artwork.

However, the art of painting is still being developed, because it takes time, passion, and concentration to complete each paint by number design. But what you don't have to have are the drawing skills because that's been done for you. Instead, you can focus on the joy of painting.

So, What Is Paint by Numbers?

Well, you may have some memories from your childhood, but for many adults, they're a bit of a distant recollection. So, as a reminder, paint by number or color by number is where the outline of the picture has already been drawn for you onto the canvas.

Then each section of individual color is marked with a particular number, which then corresponds to a specific color of paint or ink. All you then need to do is paint the right color in each marked up section to begin to see your masterpiece develop. This really is a step by step painting process as you're guided through the process from start to finish.

Fancy some easy painting one evening, and then you can go for big expanses of the same color, if you're looking for something more intricate then you can get into the fine detail of the image.

Paint by Numbers for Adults

So now, with your memory refreshed, don't for one moment think of color by numbers as being as purely for children. We're now seeing some amazing designs as color by numbers for adults. After all, you probably don't want to paint the same things as you did when you were five!

If you're thinking about what to paint, then take a look at the vast range that's now available in paint by number kits. You'll find everything from landscapes, to popular characters from film and television, through to the opportunity to recreate one of the most famous paintings of all time. Anyone fancy their very own version of the Mona Lisa hanging in the living room? You can have it!

You'll also find kits that are designed as the perfect entry point for painting for beginners. With less fine details and larger sections of the same color, you'll soon be perfecting your skills and progressing on to more complex things to paint.

The Benefits of Paint by Numbers for Adults

If you thought painting by numbers is all about having fun, well, it is, but it also has so many other amazing benefits for you.

The interaction between art and health has been of great interest for hundreds of years, even though we still sometimes find ourselves struggling with accepting just how interconnected the two are. Researchers have concluded that the link between art and health both requires and deserves continued attention.

Taking part in creative activities can lead towards a reduction in stress and depression, and it can also serve as a way of alleviating the distress of chronic disease.

Many psychotherapists agree that the art of painting sparks your creativity. When that happens, not only do you find the creative solutions for your artwork, but you may also find answers to the questions being asked within other parts of your life too. Over the past ten years or so, health care professionals have been assessing just how the arts can be utilized in a wide variety of settings. They’ve found that when patients take part in art related activities that they can help heal emotional injuries. They’ve also found that they increase our understanding of ourselves and others. They also consider art to be a way of developing the ability for self-reflection, to reduce symptoms, and to alter our ways of behaving and our thinking patterns.

Studies show that painting by numbers can improve not only your emotional and mental wellbeing but also your physical health. When we think about our own health, we should consider it as being a combination of both physical and psychological wellbeing. There is excellent evidence that engaging in artistic activities can enhance your moods, emotions, and other psychological states as well as having a positive impact on critical physiological abilities.

As we carried out more research into the key benefits of painting by numbers, we were amazed at just how many have been identified and which can be accessed by anybody who gives it a go.

Relieves Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are part of our daily lives; there's no real avoiding it. Whether its family issues, disagreement with friends, or tension from the workplace, it can, at times, seem to be overpowering. And while its thought that a small amount of stress can be helpful to encourage us to make decisions and take action, when it becomes too much, then it can really be debilitating.

There are lots of options for helping to relieve stress and anxiety, and at times medication can help, but you may also find that there are other activities that can provide a more natural style of relief.

Paint by numbers encourages you to feel relaxed, calm, and happier. It draws all your attention and causes you to focus on the artwork. This then provides you with the opportunity to push aside all the things which have been causing you to feel concerned even if it's only for a short period of time.

Even with its guided style of painting, you still need to focus on ensuring that you fill each shape with the correct color. This then results in giving your brain a break from thinking about the things which have been causing you so much concern.

One of the other great stress relieving factors of paint by numbers is the reward that we can feel from creating something. If you've had a day where you've not thought that you've made any progress in work or maybe it even feels as if you've gone backward, then that can leave you feeling unsatisfied and frustrated. As you work on your paint by numbers, you'll progress as the picture begins to take shape. The sense of actually achieving something can be hugely uplifting and motivating.

Improves Patience and Tolerance -You may not realize it, but by just focusing on small details, you develop your ability to be patient and your tolerance to a sense of frustration. Even though paint by numbers may look simple, there is still a process to be followed to ensure that it's completed correctly. As a step by step painting process, it needs patience and tolerance.

Increases Happiness

Have you heard about flow? It's the state that you can get into when you're totally absorbed in something. It's that situation when you've been busy and then totally lost track of time. It's well known to reduce anxiety, boost your mood, and even slow down your heart rate.

Repetitive creative motions like painting are tasks that create a result. And when you succeed, no matter what it is, your brain becomes flooded with a chemical called dopamine, which in turn gives you that feel-good factor and motivates you even more.

Even if you're not aware of the effects of dopamine, it will encourage and influence you towards doing the same thing again, to get that same result. So, when you reach for your paint by numbers each evening, that's your dopamine encouraging you to feel good!

Makes you Smarter, Really!

Studies have shown that when people complete a task that requires activity in both the left and right-hand side of the brain that connections between the two become stronger.

The left-hand side of the brain is responsible for the motor functions, so that's the physical movement of the brush and applying the paint on the canvas. Meanwhile, the right-hand side of the brain focuses on the artistic, creative part of the task. When the sides of your brain communicate with each other, your cognitive ability improves!

Sharpens Your Motor Skills

The development of our motor skills takes place throughout our whole lives. As such, even in adulthood, we have to practice activities that promote motor development so that we don't lose our skills; the art of painting is a perfect solution.

Painting is just like playing your favorite music instrument. As you handle the painting brush or pencil, you get to learn how to adjust the movements of your hand. Consequently, you develop brain connections linked to this ability, which improves your fine motor skills. Additionally, you'll find that your hand-eye coordination begins to improve as you move to more complex paintings.

Reduces the Impact of Dementia.

Being creative and taking part in activities such as paint by numbers goes beyond just a sense of happiness. It's also been found to be a highly effective treatment for the symptoms of dementia. Research carried out in Switzerland found that art therapy sharpened the senses and allowed individuals to express themselves through the art when speaking was no longer possible. They also felt that concentration and attention were improved, and patients were easier to care for.

Development of Imagination and Creativity skills

The range of subjects now found in paint by number kits is immense. So that means that you're not restricted to landscapes or city scenes. You might choose one of a famous person, a singer or actor and when you do that there will be different skills needed compared to painting a countryside scene.

So now, you can experiment, learn new techniques, and coming up with painting ideas to enhance the finished article. At the same time, you're developing your imagination and creative skills. And though the idea of this style of art is to follow the numbers, there's no reason why you can't change these and come up with your own color scheme. Fields of poppies in fluorescent colors, why not?

Gives you a positive mindset

Creating art encourages you to become more attuned with the world around you. Suddenly you begin to appreciate the aesthetic values of everyday life. You develop a newfound appreciation for the shape and shading of a flower's petal or the texture of the rug lying on the floor as the sun shines through the window.

When we notice and embrace the beauty around us, we begin to develop a more positive outlook of the world.

Self Confidence

Finishing a painting that you feel proud of gives us a massive boost to our self-confidence. When you first looked at the paint by numbers kit, you wondered if perhaps it was too advanced or too complex, but you decided to give it a go anyway. As your skills developed and you began to believe in your abilities, your confidence soared.

Now when selecting your next kit, you aim high, bolstered by your previous success.

Yvonne Chavez
Yvonne Chavez

Yvonne Chavez is a Tennessee-born, New York-based figurative painter. She has a degree in art history and philosophy.


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