Cactus DIY Paint by Number Pillow + Free Cactus Paint by Numbers Template

November 3, 2015 separator Cactus Crafts

DIY Paint by Numbers Pillow

Today’s project is my first in a little series of posts with SnapBox, and I’m really excited about the DIYs that are going to come out of this fun partnership! In a rare turn of events, this pillow came out exactly like I was picturing it in my head! And believe it or not, I created it from this photo

This pillow, aside from fueling my ongoing cactus obsession*, is a nod to those old school paint-by-numbers kits. I was inspired by this beautiful mural I found on Katie’s Pencil Box literal years ago, and I finally found a way to incorporate it into rental decor until I have a wall I can paint freely!

*Exhibit A, exhibit B, exhibit C, exhibit D

Want More Paint by Numbers Projects? 

Cactus DIY Paint by Numbers Pillow Tutorial

You can paint the whole thing if you want a more finished look, but I personally love the charm of a halfway-painted pillow. It’s fun to be able to see the rest of the outlines and number peeking through, and I think it’ll make for a great conversation piece!

Read on for the tutorial, my tips, and your FREE cactus paint-by-numbers template to download, print, and paint!

P.S. Would you be interested in a tutorial on how to turn a regular photo into a paint-by-numbers template? Let me know in the comments!

Cactus DIY Paint by Numbers Pillow Featuring Mish as Product Tester


  • Cactus paint-by-numbers template* (Sign up for my newsletter to access the free download in my printable library.)
  • 18″x18″ pillow printed with template – just click “Create,” select the “No Template” option, and upload the file I made you.
  • Paint palette
  • Paint brushes
  • Acrylic paint in greens and blues – see guide above Step 2 for colors.
  • Textile medium
  • Permanent marker

*If you want to try it on paper first or just want to create a flat painting, you can take the file to a copy shop and have them print you a test sheet. That way, you’re comfortable with your color palette before you’ve painted on the pillow!


Sign up to Access Your Free Paint by Numbers Templates & More in the Subscriber Library


DIY Paint by Numbers Pillow - Step 1 - Numbering Your Color Palette

1.   Use a permanent marker to mark a number underneath each well on your paint palette. You can wipe this off with alcohol later if it’s a glass or plastic surface, so don’t worry about ruining your palette. A glass or paper plate also works well!

DIY Paint by Numbers Pillow - Color Palette Mixing Guide

2.   Refer to the color palette guide to mix up your first couple colors. I would stick to one or two at a time to prevent them from drying out in between colors.

DIY Paint by Numbers Pillow - Step 2 - Mixing Your Colors

3.   Paint each color onto a piece of plain white paper to test and compare it to the guide. Here, I decided that they were too similar, so as you can see in the next picture, I ended up lightening up the mixture for color seven.

4.   Once you have a color mixed exactly how you want it, add a generous squeeze of textile medium. It’s a milky liquid that comes in a bottle identical to the acrylic paints you’re using. While it’s not essential, I highly recommend it. It thins the paint out a bit and makes it go further, and it goes onto the fabric’s rough surface more easily. It’ll also help it to dry flexible instead of stiff and “crunchy.”

DIY Paint by Numbers Pillow - Step 3 - Filling in One Color at a Time

5.   Begin filling in the numbered sections, one color at a time. Here you can see I started with the darkest color (6), which only had a couple sections, and then I moved onto seven.

DIY Paint by Numbers Pillow - Step 4 - Adding More Colors

6.   When you get through your first couple colors, mix up the next one or two, and keep painting.

DIY Paint by Numbers Pillow - Step 5 - Filling in Color

7.   You can paint the entire pillow so that there’s no fabric left showing, or if you like the paint-by-numbers look, do what I did it and only paint certain parts. If you want to replicate this exact look, I only painted sections 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 9.

As you can see from my palette below, I mixed up a lighter color so that I could lighten up certain spots here and there to make them “pop” and add some variation since I wasn’t going to be painting the whole thing.

DIY Paint by Numbers Pillow - Color Palette

Thanks so much to SnapBox for partnering with me for this wonderfully throwback pillow and helping me do what I love! If you love this project, be sure to follow them on social media so that you’re the first to know when they’re having a sale! 

SnapBox:   Instagram   .   Facebook   .   Twitter   .   Pinterest

Cactus DIY Paint by Numbers Pillow


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  4. Wonderful Idea, Lindsay!! I sent this link to my Cuz who loves to do paint by numbers and hes really good at it! I know he will love making this pillow! Thank you for all your great ideas & tutorials! I love your blog and keep coming back to see what great things you are doing! CJ

    1. Thanks, Brooke – be sure to share with #shrimpsaladcircus if you make it. I love love to see reader projects! <3 And thanks, Mish is the classiest photo bomber ever. ;)

  5. I agree with Laurel! Wow, wow, wow! I love the pillow! And I want you to teach us how to turn one of our pictures into a paint-by-numbers! Thank you! Wonderful!

    1. Aww, thank you, Pat!! I’ll definitely be sharing a tutorial for creating the paint-by-numbers template soon now that I know there’s interest. :)

  6. I love cactus crafts, I love the paint by numbers look and you can never have too many cushions, so think this is awesome. I would love to turn a photo of my dog into a paint by numbers picture, how did you do yours ?

    1. Thank you so much, Claire! I hope I never get tired of all things cactus… lol

      I’ll be sharing a tutorial in the next couple weeks about how I created the photo. I’ll let you know when it’s live!

  7. Such a fun pillow! The idea to print a paint-by-numbers template on a pillow is genius! And of course I love the cacti motif.

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