Paint-by-numbers enjoys lockdown popularity boost - on online apps

They were first invented in the 1950s and have been popular with adults and children alike as an attractive cross between a colouring book and a canvas.
Painting by numbers as a way of spending leisure time has been popular since the 1950s.Painting by numbers as a way of spending leisure time has been popular since the 1950s.
Painting by numbers as a way of spending leisure time has been popular since the 1950s.

Now an online version of the traditional paint-by-numbers craft kit has been named as one of the winners of lockdown - as demand for apps offering the artistic game has soared amid a scrabble for activities which can calm stressed households.

Demand for the product, along with calming yoga and recipe apps, has risen by over 150 per cent, according to a report from

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Meanwhile, reading and audiobook apps such as Kindle and Audible saw their use rise among four in ten consumers, while usage of language-learning apps like Duolingo increased by over a quarter, and meditation apps such as Headspace and Calm grew by a third.

Paint-by-numbers was invented by a designer, Dan Robbins, in the 1950s, inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s teaching system of numbering sections of his canvases for apprentices to complete.

Rehan Ali, mobiles expert at, said: “Lockdown turned our routine on its head, affecting the way we work, socialise and the apps we use every day. For the millions of people who had more free time, many turned to cooking, yoga or stimulating our creativity with paint-by-numbers apps to tackle the stress and anxiety that some people are feeling while being confined to our homes.

“A lot of people used the lockdown to learn new skills, with more mobile users on language-learning apps. Others spent their time listening to audiobooks and relaxing with meditation apps.”

With gyms being closed, a third of mobile users used fitness apps, such as Strava, more frequently for exercise motivation.

Consumers also turned to food delivery apps after restaurants shut their doors because of the pandemic, with searches for Deliveroo increasing 113 per cent since the lockdown began. Closed high street shops resulted in a 270 per cent surge in people searching for the online greeting card service Moonpig and a 257 per cent increase in interest in FreePrints, the photo printing app.

TV and film streaming, such as the new Disney Plus channel, which cashed in on the timing of its launch with introductory offers, also rocketed in popularity, while social media apps such as TikTok, which allows users to record and share dance videos, also saw a rise in useage.

Meanwhile, mobile users turned their backs on many of the apps they used regularly before lockdown. Travel, hotel booking, mobile parking, airline and restaurant apps saw the biggest drop in usage. Interest in accommodation booking app Airbnb fell 72 per cent since before lockdown, and airline apps became the most frequently deleted apps from people’s phones as consumers stay home.

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Fantasy football apps also slumped in popularity as football leagues cancelled games throughout the world.

Ali added: “Regardless of what your interests are, there is almost certainly an app for that, but choosing the right one can sometimes seem overwhelming. Browse the relevant app stores, compare what’s available, decide how much you’re willing to pay, and take the time to read up on reviews before taking the plunge.”

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