By Lia Horther, Elle Crée Community Education & Outreach

A part of my job at Elle Crée is to test our new paint-by-number designs before they’re released. It’s not just the best part of my job but ends up being the best part of my week. I take our new product home, pull up a very un-cute folding tv dinner tray to my couch, put on a record, and get to painting.

Before I know it a few hours have flown by, the stresses of my day have melted off of me, and I’m left completely refreshed and centered.

— Lia Horther, Elle Crée Community Education & Outreach

It’s not just me that’s found this gratification from paint-by-numbers. An NPR article published in 2020 found that many art therapists have been conducting studies tracking exactly what the effects of artmaking have on our brains. Research has shown that practicing art can improve fine motor skills, activate the reward center in your brain, and lower stress levels.

We have all found ourselves “in the zone”, consumed and totally focused on a task. This “in the zone” feeling is scientifically referred to as being in “the flow”. Frontiers in Psychology, published a study in 2018 which found that being in this flow state shows an increase of activity in our frontal and central areas of the brain. Our frontal brain contains the frontal lobe which is responsible for things like memory, emotions, problem-solving, and motor function. Amazing things happen when you’re in this almost meditative, flow state. Researchers found that due to this activated reward center in our brain, participants showed a faster improvement of hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills and a release of emotion.

What are the benefits of painting in the flow state? When in this highly focused state our activated frontal lobe helps us process and release emotions, leaving you feeling relaxed and happier. Painting while in the zone also helps improve your hand-eye coordination which improves your brush control and technique!

Painting or practicing any form of art is proven to lower cortisol also known as the stress hormone. The Journal of the American Art Therapy Association published a paper in 2016 which measured adult's cortisol levels before and after creating art. They found significantly lowered cortisol or stress levels after just 45 minutes of artistic activity The research participants all had varying levels of experience with art but all showed lowered levels of cortisol. This means no matter how talented of an artist you are, practicing art can lower your stress!

I look forward to the time I give myself every day to work on my [paint-by-number kit]. Just plug in some music or a podcast and escape these hectic times for a bit... It’s literally like gift wrapped therapy in an adorable box!

— Elle Crée Customer

Paint-by-numbers are intended to effortlessly ease the artist into this highly focused flow state. By eliminating most decision-making stressors, the artist can focus on filling each section, focus on each brushstroke and find a sense of creative calm. Our kits are specifically designed to make it even easier to lose yourself, with a limited color palette and simplistic illustrations that only take 3-5 hours to complete.

The most surprising thing I’ve found from all my paint-by-number painting isn’t just how relaxed I feel but how much it’s helped jumpstart my creativity. Whether it’s fighting through writer's block for a new blog post or figuring out ideas for my next drawing, nothing helps boost my brain like an hour with a paint-by-number.

By Lia Horther, Elle Crée Community Education & Outreach

Lia has a background in Art Education and a degree in illustration. Her curiosity has led her to dabble in a multitude of mediums, from needle felting to gouache studies. She’s passionate about sharing her skills and experiences with anyone who’s interested in experiencing the endless possibilities and joys of creating art.