The Evolution of Paint by Numbers: A Historical Perspective

paint pictures by numbers, a popular pastime for decades, has experienced a resurgence in recent years. But do you know the origin of this hobby? Let us take you on a journey through history, from the first paint by numbers kit to modern-day iterations.

The first mass-produced paint by numbers kit was created in the 1950s by Max S. Klein, a man fascinated by a technique called polygonal portrait painting. Klein assigned different numbered areas of a canvas to specific colors, making it simpler for people to paint what they saw. Although the idea was initially rejected by art supply manufacturers, it quickly caught on among the general public. 

As demand grew, more companies began manufacturing paint by numbers kits, and the scope of the hobby expanded. Kits featuring landscapes, animals, and famous paintings emerged, putting art in the reach of ordinary people who may not have otherwise had the confidence to try their hand at it. Paint by numbers became not only a fun pastime but also a means of artistic expression.

The popularity of paint by numbers continued through the 1960s, but began to dip in the 1970s and 1980s as the kits became associated with a lack of artistic ability. The hobby was viewed as something mainly for children or people with little talent for traditional art. However, in recent years, the stigma associated with paint by numbers has diminished, as the kits have become more sophisticated and challenging.

Today’s paint by numbers kits is different from those of generations past. Rather than simple paintings with small, numbered sections, many modern-day kits boast intricate designs and realistic, high-quality images. Some kits include everything from paints to brushes and easels to provide a complete art-building experience.

A new concept has also emerged in recent years: custom paint by numbers. These kits allow customers to upload personal photographs, which are then transformed into paint by numbers canvases, allowing people to paint cherished memories or special moments. Custom paint by numbers has become a popular gift idea for special occasions like weddings, births, and graduations.

Painting has always been a form of relaxation and creative expression. However, not everyone has the skills to create a masterpiece without guidance. That’s where Paint by Numbers comes in. Paint by Numbers is a technique where a picture is divided into shapes, each marked with a number that corresponds to a particular color. Painting a Paint by Numbers picture is an excellent way to learn how to paint, release one’s creativity, and achieve a sense of accomplishment.

The concept of Paint by Numbers has been around for centuries and is believed to have originated in China. However, the modern form of Paint by Numbers that we know and love today has evolved over the years. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the evolution of Paint by Numbers and how it became the popular pastime that it is today.

The first instance of Paint by Numbers can be traced back to the Tang Dynasty in China, where artists would create numbered patterns on silk designs for embroidery. These patterns were then filled in with colored threads. It was a popular pastime among both the rich and the poor and helped develop hand-eye coordination and patience.

Later in the 18th century, French artist Michel Eugène Chevreul developed a system for dividing colors into numbered sections for dyeing and textiles. This system was used not just for textiles but also for coloring maps, atlases, and illustrations.

The concept of Paint by Numbers as we know it today was first patented by Dan Robbins in 1950. Robbins was inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s technique of using numbered patterns to teach his apprentices how to paint. He then used this concept and developed Paint by Numbers kits, which became an instant hit in the United States.

In the early 1950s, the craze for Paint by Numbers swept the United States, with millions of kits sold each year. The craze was so great that it even inspired a song called “The Paint by Numbers Song” by Jerry Livingston and Mack David. The success of Paint by Numbers led to the creation of many other art-related products, such as velvet art posters, peel-and-stick velvet kits, and pencil-by-numbers sets.

Over time, Paint by Numbers has continued to evolve, with new materials and techniques being developed all the time. Today, Paint by Numbers kits come in various sizes, styles, and designs, ranging from simple designs for beginners to complex designs for experts. The paint used in these kits ranges from acrylic to oil-based paints.

Recently, there has been a resurgence of interest in Paint by Numbers, with many people using it as a form of relaxation and mindfulness. Paint by Numbers has become a popular hobby among people of all ages, with many companies offering custom Paint by Numbers kits that allow customers to turn their favorite photos into a painting.


Paint by numbers originated as a way to make art more accessible to people who may not have had the talent or confidence to create it. While the hobby suffered a decline in popularity over the years, it has experienced a resurgence in recent decades, thanks to a combination of new technology and a more receptive attitude toward unconventional ways of making art. Today’s paint by numbers kits are vastly different from those of the past, offering endless opportunities to create beautiful, intricate works of art that reflect the individual’s creativity and personality. We may never know what future iterations of paint by numbers will bring, but we can be sure that they will continue to inspire and delight those who engage in the hobby.

In conclusion, Paint by Numbers has been around for centuries and has evolved over time. From its origins in China to its modern-day popularity, Paint by Numbers has become a beloved pastime that teaches us patience, hand-eye coordination, and creativity. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced painter, there’s a Paint by Numbers kit out there for everyone. So, pick up a kit and start creating your masterpiece today!

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