The Free Trick for How to Turn a Photo into Paint by Numbers

July 13, 2017 separator DIY Tutorial

Learn how to create a custom paint by number template and transfer it to canvas to make your own paint by numbers DIY wall art!

The Free Trick for How to Turn a Photo into Paint by Numbers

Remember my paint by number pillows?

When I made those many of you wanted to know how to turn a photo into paint by numbers. I used Photoshop and Illustrator for that. It worked fine, but it took me a really, really long time and a lot of fine-tuning by hand. Plus, most of you probably don’t have access to that software.

Fortunately, I found a free paint by number tool online!

So today I’m going to show you how you can create your own paint by numbers with your favorite image featuring DecoArt Americana Premium acrylics.

How to Turn a Photo into Paint by Numbers - Final Painting

How to Turn a Photo into Paint by Numbers

Paint by Numbers Original Photo

1. Start with a photo that’s as simple as possible and has good contrast. I used this pretty flower from Jeon Sang but changed it from lavender to more of a pink coral. Upload it to PBNify.

How to Turn a Photo into Paint by Numbers With PBNify 1

2. Click around with your mouse to select different colors.

The more colors you pick, the more detail your paint by numbers template will have. But each click is a new color you have to paint, so find a happy medium.

How to Turn a Photo into Paint by Numbers With PBNify

3. Click the PBNify button, and wait awhile for it to convert your image.

Once it’s converted, you can click back and forth between “filled” and “outline” to see what the template looks like.

Free Printable Paint By Numbers Template - How to Turn a Photo into Paint by Numbers With PBNify - Outline

4. Click “save” to save a copy of the filled version (for reference), the outline, and the palette. Definitely don’t skip the palette because you’ll use it later to mix your paint colors!

How to Make Paint by Number Canvas Art

Supplies

How to Turn a Photo into Paint by Numbers - Supplies

Instructions

1. If you’re using my painting instead of creating your own from a photo, download and print your free template. If you’re painting directly on the paper, print it on a nice, thick paper, and move on to Step 3.

Otherwise, you can print it on any old paper; trim the edges; and move on to Step 2.

How to Turn a Photo into Paint by Numbers - Step 1

2. If you’re going to paint on canvas, brush a thin coat of matte medium all over the canvas, and carefully apply your printout, beginning at one corner and working toward the opposite corner, smoothing out any wrinkles and bubbles as you go.

Once it dries, paint over it with another coat of matte medium, and let it dry thoroughly before moving onto Step 3.

How to Turn a Photo into Paint by Numbers - Step 2

3. Now it’s time to mix your first color. For my template, print out this color palette.

If you’re using your own photo, use the palette you generated with PBNify as a guide.

Tip: Mixing one color at a time to keep others from drying out while you paint a section. You can mix them in a lidded container to keep them from drying out as you work. That way, you’re not having to try to remix a matching color because it has dried out.

Tip: Save a little extra of each color in your jars until the very end. It’s super easy to miss a section, so be sure to leave yourself at least a dab to go back and fill in any spots you missed.

4. Paint all sections of your first color before moving on.

How to Turn a Photo into Paint by Numbers - Step 3

5. Continue by mixing one color at a time and painting that entire section, until you’ve finished the whole thing.

Tip: Start with the lightest colors and the largest areas of each color. If you accidentally paint outside the lines, it’s much easier to cover up light paint with dark paint than vice versa.

How to Turn a Photo into Paint by Numbers - Step 4The Free Trick for How to Turn a Photo into Paint by Numbers Wall ArtThe Free Trick for How to Turn a Photo into Paint by Numbers Wall Art

This project and post were created in partnership with DecoArt, but all opinions, ideas and photography are my original creations. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that help me keep Shrimp Salad Circus up and running!

52 comments

  1. would we be a process of doing this after its finished to take it somewhere to have the painting duplicated so it could be sold in bulk……..

  2. Thank you for sharring how to do this. How do we mix the proper colors. There is no ratio or ‘recipe’ shown for each color.

  3. I have a couple of questions for you regarding this technique. Can you please contact me. I won’t take up too much of your time. Thank you, MIKE KEMMLER

  4. Thanks a ton for your lovely post… I have been trying frantically to do some painting by numbers..than will be realistic… & i came to see you post… Can you tell me just one thing?? can this pbnify work in android phones?? just a query.. even if it does not.. then also its ok… I am too grateful to you for this wonderful idea… :)

    1. Hi Sayoni, I’m honestly not sure. I imagine it would work, but I think it would be much easier to do on a larger computer screen or tablet if you have one available so that you could see the colors more closely.

  5. Is it possible to create something to be painted with colored pencils? Can I find some templates to download and paint at home? Thank…

    1. Hi Max! You could use colored pencils for any paint by numbers template. You can use the ones I have on my blog, or you can even try Googling “free printable paint by numbers template.” Best of luck!

  6. When transferring the picture to the canvas. Can you use any a paper? I’m doing something for kids and I was going to make copies of a regular paint by number picture..maybe from a coloring book. Does it matter if you use regular copy paper? Could modge podge be an alternative to the Matte?

    1. I used regular printer paper! You only need heavyweight paper if you’re not mounting it on canvas. And Mod Podge Matte would work, but I wouldn’t use the glossy.

  7. thanks for sharing this photo tip. So a pic of my grandsons would be too busy to recreate then? I would certainly try it on a photo of flowers I took to experiment on. thanks again!

    1. Hi Susie! You could give it a try for sure, and you’ll be able to tell right away as you create it whether it’s going to be too complicated. It might work if you don’t mind using a lot of colors and spending quite awhile painting. I just definitely knew I wanted to keep mine a bit simpler.

      The flower would probably be a good starting place just to give you a better feel for the PBNify program. Happy crafting!!!

  8. Is there another generator that gives the picture more detail? I am trying to do a portrait with this method.

    1. Hi Ashley! This would work the same way as any other program you might find. I didn’t recommend it for portraits simply because the more detail you have, the more complex the painting and color palette will become. If you want to give it a try, though, any program would work the same way on a portrait — you just have to keep clicking to add more colors to get a higher level of detail. Best of luck!

    1. Hi Mariyam, I haven’t done a large one before, but you could try taking your design to somewhere like Staples or Office Depot and having them create a large format or engineer print!

  9. Thank you for sharing this, I can’t wait to try it out. Could you elaborate more on how to get the image transferred onto canvas, please?

    Thank you

    1. No problem, Amie. Glad to hear you’re going to try it! That part is explained in Step 2 under Instructions. Did you have a specific question about it? Thanks!!

      1. Do you take the paper off after matte over it? If so, how. And if not, does this effect the canvas look?

        1. No, you’re essentially gluing the paper to the canvas, and then you paint directly onto the paper. If you look closely at the finished picture, you might end up with a few wrinkles from the paper from getting it wet with the matte medium, but you could maybe avoid that if you were super careful and didn’t get it very saturated.

    1. Hi Corine, you definitely can! :) Check out the “How to Turn a Photo into Paint by Numbers” section in the post for instructions.

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  11. Thanks for sharing this! Great way to PBN your own creations. I was previously using Photoshop, but this is so much easier!

  12. I really love this. You did a beautiful job. I was wondering though, do I see wrinkles in the paper over the canvas? If so, is there a way to eliminate that?

    1. Thanks, DeeDee! Yes, there are a few wrinkles, which is an unfortunate effect of getting paper wet. The best way to minimize that would be to use as little of the matte medium as possible.

  13. Woah that is so cool! I had no idea there was a site you could do that! And such a clever way to adhere the paint by number to the canvas. Pinning this now!

  14. Love this, thank you for sharing. This is even a good way to help you see the colors in a photograph that you would like to paint.

  15. THIS IS AMAZING! I love love the floral art you made and the colors are so gorgeous!! I can not wait to give this a try myself. Pinned for sure.

  16. Is there a chance you could show us how to convert a photo to paint by numbers in Photoshop? This way is cool, but I try to learn new things about Photoshop and it would be great to learn a new skill.

    1. Hi Paulina! Thanks so much for your interest. I actually use Illustrator and then Photoshop when creating these from scratch, so it’s a pretty elaborate process. I will certainly try to get a tutorial together one day soon, but probably not before my baby is due next month. Stay tuned! :)

  17. Aahhhhh I’ve always wondered how you did that! I have definitely wanted to create my own paint-by-numbers, thank you for sharing your method! The result is just gorgeous!

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