PBN Printables and Canvas: A Side-to-side Comparison

The Paint by Numbers we all know and love today often comes in a canvas where you can paint a real painting. People of all sorts love these painting kits because they’re relaxing, stress-relieving, almost mindless, and fool-proof. Just by following a single instruction, everyone can create a masterpiece. The phenomena started in the 1950s when a man named Dan Robbins, an employee at a painting company created the first version of these beloved kits. The original version of Paint by Numbers was called Craft Master that has the tagline “every man a Rembrandt.” The popularity of these kits started to get higher each year and by 1954, the Palmer Show Card Paint Company, the company behind these kits, sold over $20 million worth of Craft Master kits alone!

A photo of petaled multi colored flower on a white paper with paint brushes and a color palette on a white platform

So, many people have asked if these kits can teach you how to paint. Despite its popularity at the time it was created, some “real” artists and painters questioned the validity of the finished Paint by Numbers canvas as real art. For them, it’s uncreative, methodical, and repetitive. However, this whole idea of using numbers to correlate with colors goes way back in history. At the time of the golden age of art: the Renaissance. According to Dan Robbins’ autobiography, he borrowed the idea from Leonardo da Vinci’s teaching system (some argued it was Michaelangelo’s).

Robbins recalled in his autobiography, “He would hand out numbered patterns indicating where certain colors should be used in specific projects such as underpainting, preliminary background colors or some lesser works that did not require his immediate attention.” The point of the matter is that Paint by Numbers can teach you how to paint because it’s a stepping stone due to the several artistic concepts that you can learn from the kit. 

A green and pink petalled flower painting
Years have passed and the craze has never seemed to die down. This humble idea gave hope to many aspiring artists that they can paint by themselves. Several gimmicks have been made, too. The kits made spin-offs such as color-by-number coloring books, online Paint by Numbers (where you can “paint” on your gadget, and finally, Paint by Numbers printables. Today, we will be comparing two of the most famous versions of these kits: Paint by Numbers printables and the original canvas version. Let’s take a look.


Which is Better: Paint by Numbers Printables or the Original Version?


Original Version:

  • You paint on a real canvas that can hold the viscosity of acrylic paint.
  • You don’t need to worry about the painting surface breaking.
  • Long-lasting, as long as it’s well taken care of.
  • The canvas that comes in the kit is already primed with gesso for better paint medium adherence.
  • The canvas size which is usually 40 x 50 cm may be quite overwhelming for beginners.

Paint by Numbers Printables:

  • Usually, a paper that’s not thick enough to hold acrylic paint.
  • Easy to tear.
  • Printing on a canvas is an option, but several preparations need to be done such as cutting off the canvas the size your printer can hold, priming the canvas, etc.
  • Numbers might be too small and hard to see because you’re working on a smaller surface.
  • A smaller surface may be an advantage to beginners because it’s less overwhelming to look at.

A photograph of a blank sketchbook and paintbrushes on a wooden platform


Original Version:

  • Kits come with complete materials–the canvas with pre-printed contours and marked numbers that correspond to the colors; a set of acrylic paints (basic kits come with 24 colors and depending on the required difficulty level, the paint set can have up to 48 colors); and 3 to 4 basic brushes. 
  • Materials are high quality, that is, if you buy from trusted Paint by Numbers companies like Best Paint by Numbers.
  • Ready to use. There’s no downtime in preparing the materials for the acrylic paints as they are already premixed and the canvas is already primed.
  • Excess paint and paintbrushes can be used on other art projects once you complete painting the canvas.

 Paint by Numbers Printables:

  • You need to buy the materials separately which can be costly if you want the materials to be high-end and of good quality.
  • Takes a lot of time to find the colors that suit the painting’s numbers and result.
  • You may need to buy more materials.
  • Using colored pencils could be an option, but it’s like doing a color by numbers coloring book instead of painting.

A photo a variety of a various colors soft tube on a white textile material


 Original Version:

  • Depending on the type of kit and design, most paints by numbers kits cost $30.00 and above. If you want to save money, Best Paint by Numbers offers the best quality paint by numbers kits that start at $28.95 plus FREE SHIPPING anywhere around the world.

As a promo, the site also offers FREE PAINT BY NUMBERS KITS! All you have to do is pay for the shipping at checkout. Check out the selection of the free BPBN kits here

  • More cost-effective since you’re buying a set.

 Paint by Numbers Printables:

  • The design itself is “free,” but some sites may cost a fee, too.
  • You need to purchase your materials which may cost you more money, not to mention the shipping fee/s if you’re buying online.
  • Most free printables available online have poor designs and low-quality imagery which can affect the overall aesthetic of your painting.

A selective focus photography of assorted colored paintbrushes

Painting Experience

Original Version:

  • Stress-free and relaxing.
  • Fool-proof as long as you follow the one simple instruction given.
  • It gives you a full artistic experience and you learn painting concepts along the way.

Paint by Numbers Printables:

  • Could be a little frustrating if the print isn’t as good as expected.
  • Still fun but not as fun with painting on an actual canvas.

A photo a woman in a red and white floral dress painting

The Final Decision

In the end, the decision is still up to you, depending on your preferences. We hope that this side-to-side comparison between Paint by Numbers printables and canvas helped you decide which to purchase and to pursue as an art project. If you’re still uncertain about which to purchase, try Best Paint by Numbers’ FREE Paint by Numbers kits and try a free printable and do a comparison by yourself, first-hand.

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