The Enchanting History of Paint by Number Kits

There's an artist inside everyone; all you need is a little help to make them come out. This may be why we love paint by numbers kits as much as we did when we were children. But where did this fascinating art form come to be?

Paint by numbers is a mix between painting on a canvas and your regular coloring book. It allows people of all skill sets to create detailed and vivid artworks without any prior painting experience.

The Creation Of Paint By Numbers:

Paint by numbers kits were first introduced in the 1950s by a commercial artist from Detroit. 

Dan Robbins used to work in the art departments for various car manufacturers before he started working with Max Klein, the founder of the Palmer Show Card Paint Company.

Klein asked Robbins to discover a way to sell more paint. Robbins, who used to work as a children's book illustrator before, invented the hobby kit that incorporated simple painting techniques and promoted the sales of their paint products.

The Inspiration For The Idea:

Robbins took inspiration for this concept from Leonardo da Vinci's method of teaching his students. Da Vinci would take small sections of canvas and mark numbers to let his students master their painting techniques.

Robbins stated in his biography that he recalled hearing about Da Vinci's methods to challenge his apprentices with creative projects.

Da Vinci would give them numbered patterns that specified where each color had to go. He employed this method in projects like underpainting, preliminary background colors, or other projects that he designated to his apprentices to complete.

Using the same technique, Robbins used to first paint the original artwork and then make the kit by outlining his design's shapes by placing a plastic sheet over the original painting. Each outline was marked with a number corresponding to a pre-determined color and hue.

The initial development process took a lot of trial and error, but Robbins eventually created the paint by numbers kits we all adore today. The first kits were packaged with the words 'Every man is a Rembrandt' and were launched after the war years.

The First Paint By Number Kits:

Because people had a lot of leisure time post the war, Americans received the first paint by numbers kits reasonably well. The first design was an abstract still life that paid tribute to the abstract artists of the era.

Painting supplies

However, this design lacked wide commercial appeal, so Robbins, Klein, and other artists got together to create portrait and abstract landscape designs for the masses.

After the launch of the kits, the Palmer Show Card Paint Company was renamed Craft Master and expanded to 800 employees to cater to the demand for 50,000 Paint by Number sets each day.

During 1955, more than 20 million of these kits were sold in America, and people would hang their finished artworks around their homes.

President Eisenhower's presidential appointment secretary, Thomas Edwin Stephens, had a particular penchant for them. He curated a gallery of paint-by-number paintings in the White House, all of which were created by administration officials.

If you're looking for a creative activity to get into, paint by numbers kits offer an easy way to explore your artistic abilities. At Personalize Everything, we create custom paint by numbers canvas kits for budding artists. Get in touch on our website to order one online.

  • dylan leo

    I love your blog.

  • Jacob

    Who invented the personalized paint by numbers design?

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