REVIEW: Paint By Numbers Software
A while back we wrote about the phenomenon of Paint By Number sets - kits that permitted even the non-artist to create a facsimile of some famous piece of art. In the 1950's Paint By Numbers were a tremendous fad, and you can still get the sets today. Back in their heyday, one firm allowed you to mail in a photo and they would create a custom PBN kit for you, but the product was far too labor intensive to create and was quickly discontinued.
Well it may have taken forty years, but Paint By Numbers 2005 finally makes it possible for you to create your own Paint By Number using your PC. You load in a 1 megapixel or greater photo, and tweak the level of detail you want in the finished painting. Higher levels of detail mean that you'll have smaller areas to paint, and ultimately need more custom-mixed paint.
After adjusting the color palette, the software provides a list of the paints that you will need - you can even chose while manufacturer's paint that you prefer. If you don't want to buy tons of paint for the project, there is a chart showing you how to mix the colors that you'll need.
Once everything is set, you print out the familiar numbered template for your painting. If your canvas is larger than a standard sheet of paper, Paint By Number prints across multiple sheets. What follows is the same process that the original PBN makers did - you trace the pattern onto your canvas (usually by tracing over the lines through a sheet of carbon paper onto your painting surface. Copy the numbers to your canvas, and you're ready to get painting.
There are a few more things that you can do in the software. There is a preview image that roughly resembles what your finished Paint By Number will look like, and you can try out different style frames for it. Your chosen frame is added to a shopping list that the software generates itemizing the paints you'll need, canvas, varnish, and other supplies.
The software is published be a company that has created a lot of other resources for artists, so the pedigree of this title is good. I was especially impressed by the shopping list and the chart for mixing custom colors for your project - no use buying a lot of tubes of paint if you only need a few dabs.
I wish that the software had a way to set up regions where you wanted more detail. One of my tests had a woodgrain background. Getting the detail level high enough to reproduce the subject's face also meant tons of superfluous background detail. If the user were able to delineate areas of a photo to maintain high levels of detail while simplifying others, you'd have the perfect combination. Of course you could prepare the photo in such a way in Photoshop, but that defeats the attractive all-in-one nature of this software.
The main thing to note is that this is not an "insty" kind of kit. This is a real art project that will take some time to complete. Imagine the feeling of transforming your own photo into a painting over the course of a few evenings. If you did the preliminary work to get the numbered outlines onto canvas, just add in a basic paint kit and you'd have a perfect personalized gift for the holidays.