A Beginner's Guide to Diamond Painting

Painting with diamonds is one of the fastest-growing trends in crafting, but what is diamond painting, exactly? Perhaps you have purchased or been given your very first diamond painting kit and you are wondering where to begin. 

This beginner’s guide to diamond painting will help explain the terms and the basic diamond painting techniques that will spirit you on your way to completing your very first paint-with-diamonds art piece, so read on to learn more about this exciting new hobby that is taking the crafting world by storm. With any luck, you will pick up a few diamond painting tips that will help you as you create your first diamond art piece. 

First, let’s get acquainted with the various diamond painting tools as well as some of the common terminology used in the art and craft of diamond painting. 

What is Diamond Painting, Anyway? 

Diamond painting, also called diamond embroidery or diamond cross-stitch, is the art of taking small, colorful resin diamonds and placing them on an adhesive canvas that is coded by color and symbol. Each diamond dot corresponds to a code on the canvas, so you use the diamond applicator tool or super-sharp tweezers to fix the diamond to its assigned spot on the canvas. 

Many DIYers compare diamond painting to cross-stitch or a paint-by-numbers kit, only instead of embroidery floss or acrylic paint, crafters use the glittering, synthetic diamonds to create their art piece. A completed diamond painting resembles a finished piece of embroidery or an elaborate mosaic, only with eye-catching, multi-faceted bling that shimmers in the light. 

Not a Blank Canvas

Each diamond painting kit includes an adhesive canvas, and there are canvases available in a variety of themes, color schemes, and sizes. With canvas sizes that range from 20x20 centimeters (8x8 inches) to some as wide as 90 centimeters (36 inches), you can choose exactly the right size for your space. 

Perhaps you love wolves, or you are a huge fan of all things Disney. Inspirational quotes may be more your thing, or maybe you are tempted by the vibrant colors in so many of the striking nature or fantasy scenes. If none of the available canvases strike your fancy, consider making your own custom image for a one-of-a-kind diamond painting. A diamond art canvas can be created from that first birthday cake picture, a photo of your grandmother laughing in the rain, or the snap of that sunset over the ocean that always takes you back to your honeymoon.

No matter what size or image you choose for your diamond painting art kit, the canvas will be patterned with symbols that correspond to the individually labeled bags of diamonds that are included with each diamond painting kit.

Canvases from high-quality retailers like VizuArts are heavy-duty, weather-resistant, and waterproof. The quality of the canvas is important in the prevention of creasing and wrinkling, and the heavy-duty nature of the canvas also ensures that your finished diamond art masterpiece will be durable regardless of extreme temperatures. A good canvas ensures that your completed diamond art piece is suitable for framing. 

Full Drill Canvas: All Bling, All the Time

Diamonds are also referred to as drills, and almost all of VizuArts’ diamond painting kits come with a full drill canvas. Full drill simply means that every bit of space on the canvas is coded so that it can be covered with diamonds. You can find more about the various types of diamonds and other names for them later in this post.

A diamond painting of the Little Mermaid. 

Partial Drill Canvas: Mostly Bling, But Still Cute

A partial drill canvas is one that has part of the background already colored in, so there is a portion of the canvas that will not be coded for, and therefore not covered by, diamonds. The majority of available diamond painting kits are full drill, but partial drill diamond painting kits may be a good option for younger crafters or those who are new to the art of diamond painting. 

Diamonds, Rhinestones, and Drills, Oh My!

Okay, so diamond painting does not use literal diamonds, but rather deeply pigmented, synthetic stones. Each diamond is flat on one side, and this flatness helps the diamond stick to the canvas, while the sparkly, faceted side of the diamond faces outward and gives the painting its characteristic depth and dimension. 

Diamonds are also called drills, and you will see that the diamond painting community uses terms like full drill, square drill, round drill, and drill pen when they are talking about diamonds. Drills, crystals, rhinestones, beads, tiles, dots, and all of the myriad terms for diamonds are often used interchangeably in the diamond painting community. No matter what you call them, they come in round or square shapes, as well as in multiple facets. Below are some descriptions of the available options for diamonds. 

3D and 5D Diamonds Both Lead to Sparkle City

Diamonds that are 3D have three facets on each side, while 5D diamonds have five facets on each side. Similar to the way real diamonds reflect and refract light more brilliantly when they are more mulit-faceted, 5D diamonds are known for their brilliant glittering quality. 5D diamonds tend to pop off the canvas a bit more than their slightly more muted 3D counterparts, and most of the DIY diamond painting kits you will find in today’s marketplace use 5D diamonds. 

Experienced diamond painters may even combine 3D and 5D diamonds to add a little extra sparkle in certain sections with the use of 5D drills, or they may use 3D diamonds for a little less glitter in the background sections of the painting. In the end, though, it comes down to the personal preference of the painter, although most crafters prefer 5D diamonds as their medium of choice for this newest trend in DIY home decor. 

Two Standard Diamond Shapes

Though the diamond painting community is dominated by 5D, full drill options, the other choice that the would-be diamond painter must make is between round diamonds and square diamonds. You have heard that you cannot put a square peg in a round hole, and the same concept holds true in diamond art. Canvases are designed to be covered with round diamonds or with square diamonds, but not with both. Most experienced diamond artists will tell you to avoid mixing round and square diamonds on the same canvas as this produces an inconsistent, mismatched effect. 

Round Diamonds, Like a Princess Cut

Round drills are a little easier to pick up with the applicator tool, and most people find that the round diamonds are simpler to apply correctly to the canvas because they have no sides. The roundness of the stone gives the hobbyist a little wiggle room when placing the diamond on its corresponding symbol on the adhesive canvas. Those who are new to diamond painting may want to start with a smaller canvas that uses round diamonds as they develop the hand-eye coordination and focus necessary for creating a full drill diamond painting. 

The end result of a canvas covered with round diamonds can best be compared to embroidery or cross-stitch, so the effect is at once homey and modern. You can see the tiny gaps between the stones, but the overall effect is still luminous. Plus, round stones are shinier than square ones!

Square Diamonds, Because It’s Hip to Be Square

Square diamonds are frequently the diamond shape of choice for the more experienced crafter. With their straight sides, they are a little less forgiving when placed on the canvas. When affixing square diamonds to the canvas, the crafter must make sure that each of the stones line up perfectly. Any stone that is placed at an angle that is even slightly “off” can draw the eye of the viewer to the mistake. Nonetheless, the finished diamond painting made with square drills is a polished, seamless mosaic with a consistent depth of color and pattern. 

Oh, and one other bonus of square diamonds -- as you complete your diamond painting, the stones will begin to snap in place. The satisfying pop that comes from placing a stone in just the right place is one of the quiet joys known to diamond painters the world over.

DMC Color Coding Chart, C’est Magnifique!

As you browse diamond painting kit options and online tutorials on the art and craft of diamond painting, you will run across something called DMC coding or a DMC color chart. DMC is a French company that has been making high-quality embroidery floss and other textiles since 1746. Long ago, DMC set the standard for labeling colors and grouping them into color families, and you will see this labeling on almost any project that involves needlework. Diamond painting kits borrow DMC color-coding methodology for labeling canvases as well as the corresponding bags of diamonds.

Applicator Tool, the Choice for Novices and Experts Alike

Also called a drill pen or a stylus, the double-sided applicator tool that is included in every 5D, full drill diamond painting kit is a hollow pen that is used to pick up the diamonds and place them on the canvas with precision. The applicator tool features a comfort grip so that you can use it to pick up the diamond and press it into its assigned place on the canvas with ease and comfort. 

Wax Pad, the Faithful Companion to the Applicator Tool

The wax pad included with every diamond painting kit is used in conjunction with the applicator tool. You dip the applicator tool in the pink wax, pick up a diamond with the waxed applicator tip, and place the diamond on the canvas. 

Not Just Any Pair of Tweezers

Each of VizuArt’s diamond painting kits comes with an applicator tool as well as a pair of super-sharp, stainless steel tweezers. The tweezers can be used to pick up and place the diamonds, though using tweezers rather than the applicator pen requires a bit more finesse and focus. Many crafters find the tweezers useful for doing edge work or completing especially detailed, precise sections of their diamond painting design. You can find more information on the merits of using tweezers versus using the wax pad and  applicator pen here

And Finally, the Tray

Each diamond painting kit comes with a grooved tray to hold and organize the diamond beads. The arrow shape and grooved surface of the tray make it easier to sort and pick up individual diamonds with the applicator tool. You simply pour diamonds of a single color into the tray and give the tray a small shake so that the diamonds settle in the tray with their flat side down. 

Diamond Storage Bags, Because There Are Always Extras 

In addition to the other items included in the standard diamond painting kit, each full drill kit also comes with extra diamond storage bags to keep your diamonds sorted and separated. As you continue working in diamond art, you will find that you begin to accumulate extra diamonds after you complete each diamond painting project. 

A person diamond painting.

Light Pad, or How to See Diamonds in the Dark

A light pad is an optional tool that is not included in your diamond painting kit, but many hobbyists find it to be useful. The light pad can be used to illuminate your canvas and make it a little easier to read the DMC symbols. You place the light pad on a flat surface, plug it into a USB port, and place your diamond painting canvas over the pad. 

The diamond painting light pad available from VizuArts features LED bulbs and has three levels of brightness, so you can adjust it to your liking. The light pad is a great option for those who like to work at night or who have trouble reading the small DMC notations on the canvas. 

Other Options for Organizers and Storage Trays

As with any crafting project, organizing your materials can make the difference between a positive experience and a negative one. Some diamond painting hobbyists find egg cartons to be useful in organizing their diamonds, while others use clean baby food jars or baggies. Jewelry trays or slotted organizing trays are also great choices for storing and organizing your collection. 

At Last, the Basic Steps for Creating Your First Diamond Painting

Now that we have covered the basic diamond painting vocabulary, let’s go through a few simple guidelines that will help you create your very own diamond art masterpiece.

  1. Get your work area ready. You will need a clean, flat surface where you can spread the full canvas out. As with any new craft or art project, an area that is safe from tiny hands and furry paws is best.*NOTE: Do not remove the layer of plastic film that covers the adhesive canvas yet.  
  2. Without removing the plastic film, take a look at your canvas and materials. Do you have everything you need? Just like a chef’s mise en place, all of your materials should be separated and ready for you to begin working. Take a minute to familiarize yourself with the symbols on the canvas that correspond to the colors of the bagged diamonds.
  3. It’s best to start with a single color, preferably a color that is near the edges of the painting. Pour a few diamonds in the small tray that came with your kit. Give the tray a gentle shake so that the diamonds settle with their flat side down. 
  4. Peel back a small section of the plastic film. Since the canvas is covered with adhesive, it is best to only reveal a small working section at a time so that the remaining surface stays clean and appropriately sticky. 
  5. Take the small pink square -- the wax pad -- and peel back the plastic film covering the wax. 
  6. Dip the tip of your applicator pen in the wax. 
  7. Use the applicator pen with its wax-filled tip to pick up a diamond from the tray, then press the flat side of the diamond onto its corresponding symbol on the canvas. 
  8. Repeat this process as needed!

A Few Additional Tips from Successful Diamond Painters

Keep the canvas covered when you are not working on it. After you have finished a diamond painting session, carefully reapply the adhesive film to any part of the canvas that is not yet bejeweled.

A rolling pin can be useful when you are finished with a section. Cover the diamond painting with the film and roll over the bejeweled canvas with consistent pressure to ensure that all of the diamonds are firmly attached to the canvas.  

Remember that you will periodically need to refill your applicator pen with wax if you feel like the pen is no longer gripping the diamonds properly.

Don't panic! If you have messed up, your work is very likely still salvageable. Check out this post on how to avoid common mistakes when diamond painting as well as how to fix them.

Sometimes static builds up and the diamonds stick together. Some crafters find it helpful to cut up dryer sheets and store them in the bag with their diamonds. 

Many diamond painting enthusiasts find it easier to work from the bottom of the painting upwards, while others work in checkerboard patterns (especially useful when using square drills), and still others prefer to work from the outside in. As you progress in your diamond painting journey, you will undoubtedly find the method that works best for you. 

Completed diamond art pieces are suitable for framing. You may want to check out these tips for sealing and framing your artwork.

We hope the tips, tools, and terminology in this beginner’s guide to diamond painting sets you on the right path for exploring this exciting new hobby!