DNAPainter Instructions and Resources

DNAPainter garden

DNAPainter is one of my favorite tools because DNAPainter, just as its name implies, facilitates users painting their matches’ segments on their various chromosomes. It’s genetic art and your ancestors provide the paint!

People use DNAPainter in different ways for various purposes. I utilize DNAPainter to paint matches with whom I’ve identified a common ancestor and therefore know the historical “identity” of the ancestors who contributed that segment.

Those colors in the graphic above are segments identified to different ancestors through DNA matching.

DNAPainter includes:

  • The ability to paint or map your chromosomes with your matching segments as well as your ethnicity segments
  • The ability to upload or create trees and mark individuals you’ve confirmed as your genetic ancestors
  • A number of tools including the Shared cM Tool to show ranges of relationships based on your match level and WATO (what are the odds) tool to statistically predict or estimate various positions in a family based on relationships to other known family members

A Repository

I’ve created this article as a quick-reference instructional repository for the articles I’ve written about DNAPainter. As I write more articles, I’ll add them here as well.

  • The Chromosome Sudoku article introduced DNAPainter and how to use the tool. This is a step-by-step guide for beginners.

DNA Painter – Chromosome Sudoku for Genetic Genealogy Addicts

  • Where do you find those matches to paint? At the vendors such as Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage, 23andMe and GedMatch, of course. The Mining Vendor Matches article explains how.

DNAPainter – Mining Vendor Matches to Paint Your Chromosomes

  • Touring the Chromosome Garden explains how to interpret the results of DNAPainter, and how automatic triangulation just “happens” as you paint. I also discuss ethnicity painting and how to handle questionable ancestors.

DNA Painter – Touring the Chromosome Garden

  • You can prove or disprove a half-sibling relationship using DNAPainter – for you and also for other people in your tree.

Proving or Disproving a Half Sibling Relationship Using DNAPainter

  • Not long after Dana Leeds introduced The Leeds Method of clustering matches into 4 groups representing your 4 grandparents, I adapted her method to DNAPainter.

DNAPainter: Painting the Leeds Method Matches

  • Ethnicity painting is a wonderful tool to help identify Native American or minority ancestry segments by utilizing your estimated ethnicity segments. Minority in this context means minority to you.

Native American and Minority Ancestors Identified Using DNAPainter Plus Ethnicity Segments

  • Creating a tree or uploading a GEDCOM file provides you with Ancestral Trees where you can indicate which people in your tree are genetically confirmed as your ancestors.

DNAPainter: Ancestral Trees

  • Of course, the key to DNA painting is to have as many matches and segments as possible identified to specific ancestors. In order to do that, you need to have your DNA working for you at as many vendors as possible that provide you with matching and a chromosome browser. Ancestry does not have a browser or provide specific paintable segment information, but the other major vendors do, and you can transfer Ancestry results elsewhere.

DNAPainter: Painting “Bucketed” Family Tree DNA Maternal and Paternal Family Finder Matches in One Fell Swoop

  • Family Tree DNA offers the wonderful feature of assigning your matches to either a maternal or paternal bucket if you connect 4th cousins or closer on your tree. Until now, there was no way to paint that information at DNAPainter en masse, only manually one at a time. DNAPainter’s new tool facilitates a mass painting of phased, parentally bucketed matches to the appropriate chromosome – meaning that triangulation groups are automatically formed!

Triangulation in Action at DNAPainter

  • DNAPainter provides the ability to triangulate “automatically” when you paint your segments as long as you know which side, maternal or paternal, the match originates. Looking at the common ancestors of your matches on a specific segments tracks that segment back in time to its origins. Painting matches from all vendors who provide segment information facilitates once single repository for walking your DNA information back in time.

Paint Your Way Up Your Tree with MyHeritage, AutoClusters and DNAPainter – Free Webtember Webinar

  • This webinar is available through Legacy Family Tree Webinars, which you can join, here, and discusses literally how to paint your way back in time using DNAPainter with information from MyHeritage’s tools including SmartMatches, Theories of Family Relativity, and AutoClusters. Discover which ancestors your DNA came from.

Paint LivingDNA Chromosome Segments to DNAPainter

  • LivingDNA added family matching and a chromosome browser which enables your match information to be copied and pasted into DNAPainter.

DNA Transfers

Some vendors don’t require you to test at their company and allow transfers into their systems from other vendors. Those vendors do charge a small fee to unlock their advanced features, but not as much as testing there.

Ancestry and 23andMe DO NOT allow transfers of DNA from other vendors INTO their systems, but they do allow you to download your raw DNA file to transfer TO other vendors.

Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage and GedMatch all 3 accept files uploaded FROM other vendors. Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage also allow you to download your raw data file to transfer TO other vendors.

These articles provide step-by-step instructions how to download your results from the various vendors and how to upload to that vendor, when possible.

Here are some suggestions about DNA testing and a transfer strategy:

Paint and have fun!!!



I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

23 thoughts on “DNAPainter Instructions and Resources

  1. I have been reading and trying to understand the DNAPainter but I have two questions.

    First, I have little cooperation with relatives regarding DNA except on a couple of lines which via DNA and research, are pretty well filled out. If the only DNA tested relatives on a line are fourth cousins, does DNAPainter really help?

    Second, I download chromosome data to an Excel spreadsheet, sort by chromosome, start point, and so forth. I color code known matches to relatives, by family so I can easily see where the families bunch together. What would I gain by using DNAPainter when I already have family lines grouped by color and chromosome?

    • For me it’s visual and much easier. Plus I don’t have to combine data from several sources. And yes, DNAPainter really helps.

  2. Roberta,

    Glad you’re addressing this very important tool.

    But I’m confused as to how paint a match who matches me on my paternal side on one chromosome; and yet also matches me on my maternal side on another chromosome.

    Do I have to enter the match twice?

    • Yes, you enter it twice but you can enter just the paternal segment on the paternal side and then enter the maternal segment on the other side. I have a few that come from different ancestors on the same side. I do the same thing for them too.

      • A further question, if I may…

        When you’re painting a match that has tested at both FTDNA and MyHeritage, and their reading of the segment is somewhat different, which do you choose, and why? Or do you enter them twice and label accordingly?

  3. Hi Bobbi,
    Just want to verify I’m not missing some knowledge on Ancestry.com functionality. I have tested at both Family Tree DNA and now Ancestry.com; I’ve also uploaded to My Heritage and Genesis Gedmatch.

    My question: i can now see “thru lines” and DNA matches on Ancestry.com; however, I cannot find out how to identify the exact chromosome match location with matches on Ancestry. (For example: 81 cm and 4 segments)—but can’t pull that up to see which chromosomes.

    Am I missing something?

    Tom Spradling

  4. Roberta,

    One thing I find very frustrating on the DNA Painter website is the time allowed before you are made to re-log in. And it usually happens after you’ve just tried to save your latest painted match and you suddenly get a text message in red background at the top of the page saying you’ve over-stayed your welcome – your latest “paint” may not have taken, and you must log-in all over again. Grrrr!

    Question? Do you know what the time limit is? And if you ever talk to him, can you please suggest to Jonny Perl (in his next update) to give some small indication on the webpage that our time is up BEFORE we waste time entering the next match? It’s like we’re blind to the time the website is keeping on us. Or is there an indication on the webpage I don’t know about? A thousand pardons if I’ve missed it.

    Many thanks to Jonny for providing this very valuable service, and to you for being our advocate in so many of these little things. 😉

    • I have never had this happen, and I stay logged in for a LONG time. I have a paid account. Do you? Could that be the difference perhaps?

      • Thanks, that’s probably it. I don’t have a paid account.
        Which brings another question. 😉
        You said you do not do mass uploads of your matches to DNA Painter because you prefer to enter them one at a time so as to be able to assign them to paternal or maternal sides. So the prime reason you have a paid account is to be able to have multiple profiles? How do you use your different profiles? Just curious. I’m always wanting to learn how the pros do things.
        Thanks for putting up with all my questions. 😉

        • There’s no point to painting l if you can’t identify where the segment came from. I have a paid account so I can also have my parents profiles there, as well as to experiment for my blog. I also like to support products like this.

          • You said… “I also like to support products like this.”

            OK, I agree – it’s a fantastic product – you talked me into it. I’m gonna support Jonny and get a paid account also.

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  13. Thank you so much for this article (and many others), Roberta! My immediate family and I tested at FTDNA and Ancestry, then uploaded the FTDNA kits to MyHeritage and Gedmatch. Now I’m finally ready to use DNA Painter. Could you please tell me if I’ll get all the needed information for DNA Painter by uploading our data from my existing free accounts at MyHeritage and Gedmatch or do I need a paid subscription to get all of the information? (I uploaded our kits to MH during the time when MH was granting permanent free access to uploaders, but I’ve noticed I can’t see the full trees of some of our matches. With Gedmatch, of course, a paid subscription in needed for access to Tier 1.
    Thanks very much!

    • You don’t upload all of your matches, or at least I don’t. Only the ones I can place. I would suggest trying it and seeing how it goes. I would think you might need access to full trees.

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