If you are a type-A soul who loves fairly mindless, precision-based activities (like adult coloring books or knitting) PaintGem kits just might be your new favorite thing. There’s a good chance this “gem painting” craft — or something like it — has popped up in your Instagram ads, and you may be wondering: Is it worth the buy? Overall, I would answer that question with a resounding yes.
The premise behind these kits is fairly straightforward. You take the included pen tool, poke its hollow tip into the included wax — which comes in an adorable macaron-shaped container — and then using it to put tiny, plastic gems onto tiny, corresponding boxes printed on a sticky canvas, paint-by-numbers style.
It doesn’t take long to master the art of PaintGem, but, if you find yourself struggling with a specific aspect of the project, there are tons of helpful tutorials on YouTube.
The kit really is all-inclusive and has a lot of details to help make the PaintGemming process painless. It even comes with tweezers for straightening out gems that you’ve already placed, and the tray features a funneled top, so you can easily store the gems in (included) ziplock baggies when you want to take a break or need to switch colors.
One thing to know about PaintGem projects: They take a LONG time. A very, very long time. Like, PaintGem estimates that a first-time Gemmer will need about 15 hours to complete the smallest size (an 8- by 12-inch canvas). I worked on mine for at least 6 hours and still wasn’t halfway done. So, on that note, I would definitely recommend getting the small size, unless you are really looking to kill some time, which, to be fair, many of us are at this point.
It’s also important to note that the pattern you choose impacts your PaintGem experience. The company offers a wide variety of pre-made patterns, or you can upload your own image and have it turned into a PaintGem project — an awesome gift idea, btw. We tried out two: A premade design called “Majestic” (pictured, top) and a custom PaintGem of the Pop Insider logo. Here’s a comparison of the PaintGem canvas and the image we provided.
Working on both, I noticed a stark difference in the experiences, because one had huge blocks of color, while the other did not. I would definitely recommend choosing your pattern based on this distinction — Blocks of color are far more tedious, but also much easier to do without focusing. They’re great if you hope to have a show playing in the background and actually want to pay some attention to the plot. Designs without blocks of color require a bit more focus but also make the project more engaging. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference.
Also, as someone who has worked on these kits, I will give you two bits of advice. First, only pull off the plastic covering from the canvas adhesive a bit at a time, as you work on different parts of the image. If you pull off the whole thing and leave yourself with a fully sticky canvas, it’s likely to get dust and other debris stuck to it. Second, be very cautious if you have pets! You’re bound to spill the gems at least once.
These kits are a bit of an investment ($40 for a small kit, $50 for medium, etc.) and you’ll have to wait a little while for them to arrive. And if you want to display the finished masterpiece as very cool home decor, you’ll also have to purchase a frame.
If you are a crafty person who will take on a project like this and definitely see it through, the PaintGem kit is well worth the investment — especially when you break it down by hours of entertainment.
Overall, if you need a creative way to eat up the hours at home, this certainly fits the bill. The sets are well made, the available designs are diverse and fun (a cat with laser eyes eating pizza while riding a llamacorn in space with a rainbow, for example), and you may never feel more proud about finishing something, ever.