Monday, December 10, 2012

Paint By Numbers Canvas DIY

Today nine fantastic bloggers are each sharing a handmade Christmas gift idea and I am excited to be one of them! I've decided to share a paint-by-numbers canvas DIY which is such a fun project, both for the recipient and the sender! And of course, all of these other projects by other amazing bloggers look fantastic too...


To me, Christmas is always so much more special with handmade, meaningful gifts. So this year I am trying to handmake or buy my gifts locally. Not only is it the perfect way to avoid the Christmas rush,  it is so much more special to receive something crafted with love rather than put together with a machine.

So without further ado, I bring to you...

Paint By Numbers Canvas DIY 

For this project you will need:
  • A canvas (any dimensions will do)
  • A computer and a photo to print
  • A printer
  • Printer paper
  • Photo paper (optional)
  • Any photo editing software (optional)
  • Carbon paper
  • A lead pencil
  • Eraser (optional)
  • Stickytape (optional)
  • Plastic paint pots 
  • A selection of paints
  • A black marker
  • A cutter and cutting mat or a pair of scissors
Please note: This method uses carbon paper to transfer a photo to canvas. Of course if you don't have carbon paper available you could always draw something freehand or use a grid to enlarge a photo.

Step 1 – Choose your photo

In other words, probably the hardest step, choosing what you would like your paint-by-numbers to be of. It took me a very long time to decide and I nearly went with a picture of some flowers before choosing the picture of my sister. I chose this picture because it has meaning and because it has a range of colours, which is good for the purpose.

Step 2 – Edit your photo

Firstly, crop your photo to the size of your canvas. If your canvas is still packaged, the packaging should contain the dimensions but you can easily whip out a ruler and measure the sides yourself. My canvas was 30 x 60 cm so it needed to be chopped to that size.

I used Photoshop to edit the photo so that the areas of the photo were more distinguishable and separate. For this I used the cut-out effect, which can be found under the Image menu.

Alternatively,  Picasa (which is a photo editing program that can be downloaded for free from the internet) has a range of effects that can be combined to create something similar.

Step 3 – Print your photo

Enough said. The photo should be printed to the dimensions of your canvas and can be printed on normal printer paper. If you're like me and have a canvas with weird dimensions, this step may require a bit more work to trim and join the photo.


Step 4 – Attach your photo to the canvas

This is a really important step so that the photo (which you will have to trace) stays in one spot. Don't forget to put the carbon paper underneath the printed photo (the right way up, might I add), before sticky taping the photo to the canvas. The sticky tape gives a nice strong, yet temporary hold. I first used blutak but it did not work at all. It didn't stick to the canvas and also meant that the surface was uneven. Okay, just use stickytape guys.

Step 5 – Trace your photo onto the canvas

I used a lead pencil to trace over all the lines and features on the photo. I'm sure any sort of pen or pencil would work though just as long as you can notice where you have already traced and it doesn't pierce the paper. Make sure there is carbon paper (up the right way, personal experience, guys) underneath all the photo and don't forget to be be careful because carbon cannot be erased!

Step 6 - Peel off the photo and fix up any lines

This is a great step - to see what all this seemingly useless tracing was for! When the photo is taken off it's great to see what the outline looks like.

In case there were any parts of the photo that were too close to the edge or missed having some carbon paper underneath them, they can easily be fixed up freehand with a lead pencil. Be sure that all of the lines make areas that can be painted in portions.

Step 7 - Number the areas on the canvas

A little bit more brain work is needed for this step... assigning a colour to the certain areas of the picture. Use your printed photo to help choose which areas are painted which colour. The hardest part is limiting the amount of colours used! If there are large areas or skinny areas make sure you number the area more than once so that the painter doesn't get confused about which colour to use. The numbers can the written onto the canvas with a lead pencil. Oh and don't forget to write down the numbers you chose for each colour!


Step 8 - Get the paints ready

There are many different ways to go about this step. You could buy pre-mixed paints or like me... mix your own paints. I ended up deciding on 14 different colours so the process was a bit long.

For the containers I used plastic containers meant to hold chocolate mousse kindly given to us by the school canteen lady. Hey, when it's over an hour drive to your nearest Spotlight you have got to use what you've got to use.

I put a dab of each paint on the container lid and once that had dried, labelled the containers with their corresponding numbers.

Step 9 - Add the finishing touches

Now, all of the parts of the gift should come together to make the perfect present for anyone! It will be fun for the recipient to paint it and then so nice to have it hanging in their home. Of course, add some paintbrushes (tied with ribbon for extra glam) and optionally you can include a neat little instructions card (not pictured here) and a small photo of what the painting should look like once complete as a guide.

I'm not sure who I am going to give my gift to just quite yet. After putting it all together and now finally seeing the finished product it sort of makes me want to be the one to paint it! So it might just be a present for me :)

Tell me, are you buying or making gifts this year? Maybe a bit of both (like me?) ...
and don't forget if you do try out the project, I'd absolutely love to see how yours turns out.

P.S. I have a few guest bloggers dropping by this week at Sophie At Home... check back later today/ tomorrow for more information!

P.P.S. Want to know a secret? I was originally going to make a personalized matching game (just like Tamsyn's!) When Tamsyn told me she had already started doing that as her project, I was a bit disappointed and it took me a while to think of a new idea. When I did however, I was so happy to have done this project because I think it's even better (shhh!)

*Still stuck? I've done an updated FAQ post here!*


  1. Wow! That is an amazing gift! I absolutely love it!

  2. Oh my goodness! I am blown away at your creativity, this is such a great idea! It would be a really fun gift for my older niece, she would get such a kick out of it :)

    1. Thank-you Tamsyn! The great thing is you can make it as detailed or as simple as you like so it could be a great gift for both a kid or an adult!

  3. This is such a creative idea! I too would be torn between giving it away and keeping it for myself :)

    1. Thanks Jen! I'm still undecided but nudging a bit towards me :)

  4. wow! what an amazing idea! I am sure who ever receives this gift will be super excited.

    1. Thankyou Julia! I hope they will be :) I am already excited!

  5. Wow- this is so awesome, and so much work. Totally worth it though it's brilliant. I hope we get to see it all painted! I really want to make one of these someday. Love it!

    1. Thanks Melanie! I know... when I saw my tutorial compared to all the others I though it was a bit of work... But really, it doesn't seem that hard or take that long at all! You should really make one! And when you do don't forget to show me :) I will definitely give you an update when it has been painted. S x

  6. Oh My Goodness!! This project is amazing and so very creative! Please show us how it turns out once painted!! Paint by numbers is so fun but even better since it is so personal! LOVE IT!

    1. Thank-you Laura! You're so nice :) I will most definitely show you all a pic when it has been updated!

  7. That is one wonderful idea there. It would be a good gift for someone. Pretty interesting.

    Discount Canvas Prints

  8. Thank you for this great tutorial!
    I love that you picked a picture of your really is such a cool gift!


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