DIY Paint By Number

I dreamt this project up in the spring, when visions of super fun “summer school” projects danced in my head.  Honestly, I feared that this one might be a bit too ambitious and it would forever live in the “wouldn’t if be cool if…” file inside my brain.  Guys, not only did we do it, but it was WAY easier than I expected!  So please, I beg you, forge ahead and do this with your kids.  We all learned so much, had tons of fun, and are all super proud of our collaborative effort.

***One disclaimer – this project will require a few moments of making freestyle, creative decisions.  If you’re the type of person that likes to cook exactly by the recipe, this might not be for you.  But I promise it does not actually require you to be an artist.  You can do it!***

Ready? Let’s do this…

Step one: Open your photo in Photoshop. (I’m sure you can do this in other programs, but I’ve got three kids to homeschool and I can’t go look them all up right now.)

Step two: Select “Filter” from the top menu and then “Filter Gallery” from the drop down.  Find “Cutout” under “Artistic”.  You’ll get this.  Play around with those three sliders on this side until you get a look that you like.  (Try setting the “Number of Levels” at the highest number and then slide around the other two.)

Step three: Here’s the version we ended up working with for ours. If you haven’t already procured a canvas, do so now.  Choose whatever size you want.  Then have your final image printed in that exact size.  Here’s the thing… DON’T have it printed on photo paper.  The next step involves tracing and carbon paper, so a heavy weight paper is just going to make your life harder.  We live in Asia, so I took mine to a place that prints giant light weight menu banners, but I’m sure Staples or Office Max has a suitable option.  It can even be black and white if you want.  You just need something to trace.

Step four: I didn’t take pictures of the actual tracing because I really didn’t expect it to work so well.  At this point in the project, I still kind of expected to toss the whole idea out the window.  But all I did was lay sheets of carbon paper (that blue stuff that transfers it’s ink when you press on it) down all over the canvas, then lay my printed (non-photo paper) image on top of the carbon paper and tape it at the edges to keep it all from moving.

Then I took a ball point pen and started tracing.  Again, I expected it to be super tedious and hard and STILL thought I might throw in the towel.  But I plunged ahead and it really went pretty quickly.  Just put on your favorite Pandora station and have a cold beverage or some chocolate nearby.

The whole time, I was sure that the weight of my hand was smudging blue ink everywhere or that I wasn’t pressing hard enough.  But you can’t really lift it to check until you’re done.  So I pressed on and then held my breath when I took it all off.  IT WORKED!!!! It worked perfectly!

Step five: Start painting!  I knew upfront that I wanted to give my kids free reign in some areas, so I bought a bunch of fun colors and decided we’d start with the “grass” area.  This way I could learn what they were good at and what was more of a challenge for them without feeling too stressed about everything being just right.

Step six: Here’s where the freestyle creative decisions come in.  This isn’t an exact science.  There are probably going to be some lines that look a little wonky or areas where it’s just too fussy to figure out exactly what three shades of blue are going on.  So I’m going to give you my official permission… Those lines you traced? You may paint over them.  Those colors in your original image? You may change them.  It’s really going to be ok.  And guess what?  If you hate it, you can paint over it again later.  We did.  More than once.

I cannot encourage you to do this project enough.  The kids (ages 7, 7, & 4) are SO PROUD of the work they did.  They each got to work on it for about 15 minutes at a time during our summer school days and it took us about a month.  I spent a few evenings working on the sections that involved small and important details in order to make us recognizable, but honestly, they did a lot of the work themselves and the longer we worked on it, the more capable I realized they were with the right instruction.

They enjoyed it so much that this fall we’re going to do self-portraits!  They’re excited to get a canvas of their own this time and I’m excited to have such an amazing time capsule of this season of life.

Now get your Hobby Lobby coupon and GO!

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How to turn any photo into a DIY paint by number canvas - awesome tutorial!!!

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2 thoughts on “DIY Paint By Number

  1. Tonya Delborne says:

    This was so easy and so fun! My 12 year old made one for her sister for the holidays and we are so excited to give it to her. I would TOTALLY recommend this project for anyone. I would love to share a picture with you but we couldn’t figure out a way to do that. Is there a way? This was an awesome project thank you for sharing!

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