History of Paints


The history of paints can be traced back as far as 100,000 years ago.

In a cave located in South Africa they found what was classified as a painters kit, which included red and yellow pigments made from ochre which is a soft stone that contains iron oxides, cobble stones for grinding, bone spatulas for mixing and shell containers for the paint. Also found was evidence of charcoal and animal oils being added to the mix.


Painting back than was in the form of cave art with many animals being the favorite thing to paint. Some of the earlier brushes used were sticks, split palm leaves, whale bone and even shavings of wood to apply the paste. There’s evidence of blow pipes made of bird bones being used to spray the paint.

The Egyptians made their paint from oils or animal fat, lead, animal blood, ground glass, semi-precious stones and earth. They had six colors which included blue, green, white, red, yellow and black.

There are paintings today that are more than 2000 years old that look like they were painted recently.

The first records of house painting go back to 1200’s. In England during the 1400’s, house painters organized themselves into 2 professional groups known as the Painters Company and the Stainers Company. To protect their way of living, they were very secretive in their knowledge of paint mixing and application skills to outsiders.

The early American Colonies considered house painting to be immoral and in the early 1600’s, a preacher from Charlestown decorated the interior of his house with paint and was criminally charged with sacrilege.

Homes still to this day in New England called Cape Codder, continue with that style of wood shingled roofs and siding, that are not painted. They just allow the materials to weather a shade of light gray.

As time went on, it became acceptable to use paints and in the mid 1800’s. They began producing paints with linseed oil. Linseed oil paints preserved the wood very well. Problems were less common during the 1800’s and early 1900’s. The paint lasted much longer than the paints we use today.

Lead paint became popular in the early 1900’s because of its durability. The US Department of Commerce and other federal agencies even recommended the use of lead paint.

Lead paint was eventually found to cause serious illness and has not been used since 1978.

The Romans use to add lead to their wines because of its sweet taste. Some historians believe that lead poisoning was the reason for the fall of the Roman Empire.

The first water based paints became available in the 1950”s and have become very popular for their quick drying properties and do not give off the odor that an oil based paint does.

Our modern paints today are made with petroleum products. These paints are inexpensive to make, but do not hold up as well as the linseed oil paints and require you to paint more often.

Interesting Painting Info:

The first company to produce ready to use paint was Sherwin Williams in 1866.

The paint roller was invented in 1940.

The Buddy System was invented in 2012.