Plaid Paint by Number Kit – Siberian Tiger
(hmmm… it looks like Amazon swapped this listing’s product – you can still use this link, though, to browse through other paint-by-number kids)
Pros: In the end, it looks great, just like the picture on the box.
Cons: Directions could be better, canisters hard to open, only one brush.
When choosing a paint-by-number kit, if you want it to come out nice (i.e., to end up looking like the picture on the box), there are a number of items you should take into account. The quality of the canvas, the quality of the paints, the clarity of the instructions, and the difficulty of the project all combine to affect the end result.
In this case, I’m going to review the Siberian Tiger Model # 21674 from Plaid. Plaid makes a lot of paint-by-number kits – with pictures ranging from realistic animals and landscapes, to fanciful cartoons. Ordering from their website is a snap, or you can purchase their products from places like Amazon.
The first thing I like to look at is the number of paint colors. Too few usually indicates that the picture will be less detailed, and, perhaps, the kit is geared more to young kids than older kids or adults. In this case, there are 17 different paint colors. For a tiger against a winter background, I think the number of colors is adequate. There are enough variations in the hues to make fur stand out, and to give some depth to the background sky and snow-covered branches.
The paint canisters are numbered clearly. Other brands come with canisters that are not numbered – the first thing you have to do is number them yourself.
What you can’t determine until you start working, is the quality of the paints. Acrylic paints should be thick liquids. Some drying out is normal, but they should be able to thin evenly after adding a few drops of water. When stirred, there should be few air bubbles, and no “chunks”. The paints in this kit were “ok”. Not the best, not the worst. I had some problems with air bubbles, as well with pigment-separation. When the pigment separates you end up with ugly red streaks that can really ruin the look of your painting if you’re not careful to cover them.
The paint canisters were ridiculously hard to open. In fact, I couldn’t open them with my fingers; I ended up jamming a scissor’s blade edge into the plastic groove in order to force the canister to open. No matter how many times I opened a particular canister, it never “loosened”. This would render this kit inappropriate for unsupervised kids – they won’t be able to open the canisters, and I wouldn’t want them to have to rely on using sharp tools.
I would rank the 16″ x 20″ canvas as high quality, and they did a good job with the numbers. Most were clear, easy to read. A few were extremely tiny, but this was necessary due to the level of detail in the picture. I keep a magnifying glass handy for these cases. There is also a paper depiction of the layout. This is very important, and any kit you purchase should include this item. It’s perfect for when you’ve accidentally painted over a number, and now you don’t know what number it was. Or, for when you want to correct an already-painted area.
My kit had 4 errors that I noticed. For whatever reason, errors seem to be a common problem in these kits. An error is when a spot has no number, or has more than one number. For instance, a spot that has a 4 on the right and a 12 on the left. In all of the cases I found, the errors were both on the board, and the paper. So the only way to resolve was to look at the picture on the front of the box, to figure out what number the spot should be.
Note that in a lot of cases, using the “wrong” paint color is no big deal. When painting fur, it doesn’t matter if a spot is a half-shade darker than it was supposed to be. Likewise, in skies, trees, and flowers, a little difference in shade is never going to kill you. However, there are times when using the correct color is vital, so I always try to be as accurate as possible.
Instructions should be clear, and cover all situations. In this case, Plaid did a pretty good job. They tell you how to get started, how to care for the brush, and how to add “special touches” if you are so inclined. However, they fail to explain how thick the paints should be, and how to thin with water, if necessary. They also fail to explain that the object is not to paint “within the lines”, but in fact, covering the lines is desired. Further, they should explain a few techniques for blending two adjacent colors. There are times when a “hard edge” is desired. Other times, it’s best to achieve a soft, hazy blend. The best way to explain this is to think about painting the tiger’s whiskers versus painting the clouds in the sky. While I understand the different techniques, it would be nice if Plaid went into this a little bit in their instructions.
Further, they take the time to explain ‘special touches’ such as sponging, stippling, and feathering, but they don’t provide any illustrations, or give advice as to when it’s appropriate to use these techniques.
Finally, they don’t provide any instruction or suggestion for framing.
They do, however, provide access to their company’s address, website, and phone number. I had occasion to contact them via email, and they responded very quickly with a more-than-satisfactory answer.
This kit contained one paint brush. And while it was a very high-quality, nice, thin brush, I wish they had provided more than one. Perhaps they could have included a second, slightly thicker brush.
As for difficulty of this project, it rates a “medium”. No blending or mixing of colors is required. However, many of the spaces are extremely small, requiring a steady hand. I even used a toothpick to fill in some of the spots, mostly when it came to the whiskers. Kids will have trouble filling the tiny spaces accurately; I would rate this kit as designed for ‘adults with patience’.
In the end, I enjoyed my time with the Siberian Tiger Model # 21674 from Plaid. The finished product looks great – it matches the picture on the box quite well. I would recommend this item to tiger-lovers. As for the Plaid company, they did pretty well on my check-off list of items, but there’s room for improvement.
So, how did mine come out?
Other paint by number kits: