26 August 2011

chasing after deer // a tutorial

one of the first things i'm going to do in my new place is set up a display wall for my paint by number collection. i have a modest start to a nicely varied collection, but i wanted to add something witty, vibrant, and a bit modern.
i'm a huge fan of trey speegle's paint by number art (i seriously want this pillow) and i was completely inspired by elsie's tutorial a few weeks ago, so when i came across a blank PBN canvas on etsy, i placed my order without skipping a beat. the fact that the canvas came without its paint set or any listing of its original colors did not faze me. the seller kindly linked to the paint by number museum, where i could see a completed canvas for reference.
if you ever come across a blank PBN canvas and want to give this project a whirl, here's what i used:
- ruler
- paintbrushes (use brushes with very fine tips - there are approximately three gazillion small areas to mess up!)
- toothpicks (for filling in extremely small spaces and details)
- water to clean your brushes (not pictured)
- paper towels to blot your brushes (not pictured)
- graphite paper
- pencil (not pictured)
- printout of words/lyrics/quotes sized according to your canvas (not pictured)
- paint tray
- acrylic paint* (be prepared to spend a fair bit of time at the craft store picking out suitable colors if you do not have a color reference chart or picture. even with a picture to reference, it took almost an hour to choose and sort 22 colors in my mind and in my cart)

*i chose acrylic paint instead of oil or enamel (model) paint because it was much more affordable for the amount i needed. it does cover in a matte finish, which i actually prefer, but you can always use a coat of protective gloss finish at the end. also? it takes a few coats for a full coverage, so patience and time are key!
on a flat surface, place your graphite paper over the canvas where you'd like your words to go. place your printed words on top of the graphite paper and use a small piece of low tack tape to secure it in place. i used a ruler to center my words because i'm a bit obsessive, but if you can eyeball it, awesome. with your pencil, trace an outline of the words. you can lift up the corner of the paper and graphite paper to check for correct pressure and placement.
now you should have your words on the canvas! i should have used a sharper pencil as my outlines were a bit thick, but it works. now the fun part: start painting! be sure to have access to hours and hours of movie and tv marathon goodness. trust me.

(gah! please excuse the oddly-angled gif here. i'm a dunce and didn't realize it wouldn't rotate. durrr.)

i read up a bit on painting PBNs and a few tips i picked up were to start with either the lightest or darkest color and work to the opposite end of the spectrum. did i do this? uh, no, but it's a good thought in theory. also remember to lightly dip your brushes into the paint - you need very little paint with each stroke. a big glob results in a big blob (like what i did there?).
this is what the original finished piece would have looked like had i bought it completed or used the original colors.
and here's my finished custom paint by number. to say i'm in love would be an understatement.
i still have that post-project glow where all i want to do is stare my creation with all its foibles and imperfections. is this normal? it sounds terribly narcissistic. 
i seriously toyed with the idea of using a very fine-tip sharpie to outline the words for a bigger visual pop, but in the end, i kind of like that it takes a minute to register what's going on. it also helps that at the very end, i changed the color of what is now the lightest green. before, it was a khaki almost identical to the canvas color and the words were completely lost.
i almost forgot to share my inspiration for the words! i love, love, love midlake, especially their album the trials of van occupanther. the whole album is exceptional and it is definitely my go-to music for fall and winter. i could probably listen to all the songs on repeat, but one in particular will always be my favorite: chasing after deer.

perfect for this paint by number.


  1. Wow! This is really clever ... What a great job you did.
    I'm a new follower to your blog & have enjoyed reading your tales of working at the library. Reminds me of when I use to work at a customer service desk at Kmart but funnier.
    Take care ...

  2. I love it! It is a clever idea and makes it all the more special. I like how you amped up the fall foliage colors. They really pop out!

  3. nice, megan! i think i would go cross eyed trying to fill all those tiny spots!

  4. This is amazing. And you did a wonderful job with the colors; I like them a lot more than what the original scheme was. :)

  5. i love projects like this! great colors.