Paint by Numbers Sets: Brief History
Now that we are living in the modern age of technology, trends spread quicker and everyone seems to know the trends as long as they’re up-to-date on the internet. One of the trends that never seems to die off is the Paint by Numbers paint sets. We see it everywhere on the internet, from the news, to social media posts of our friends and relatives, advertisements, etc. You might be wondering what makes those kits so popular and how it started.
You probably became familiar with the concept of paint by numbers during childhood when your parents introduced you to coloring by number books. Paint by Numbers is much known due to its simplicity and idea that anyone can be an artist. Ever since it became a trend, the craze never seems to die off; fans and aspiring artists can’t get enough of it.
In this article, we will talk at the brief history of Paint by Numbers paint sets and how it became a cultural phenomena. Without further ado, let’s get started.
How it all started:
It all started in 1949, when a commercial artist based in Detroit named Dan Robbins started working at the Palmer Show Card Paint Company. Originally, his main job was to illustrate children’s books but the company’s founder, Max Klein, assigned him to sell more paint products.
To do so, he created a hobby kit targeted at the masses. To create each kit, Robbins painted an original artwork, and then outlined it per hue and shade. Each shape was given a number that corresponded to a color. After several trials and errors, the Paint by Numbers paint sets were born.
The paint by numbers system wasn’t entirely original according to Robbins. In his book “Whatever Happened to Paint by Numbers?”, he recalled that the idea was inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s teaching method to his students wherein “[da Vinci] would hand out numbered patterns indicating where certain colors should be used in specific projects such as underpainting, preliminary background colors or some lesser works that did not require his immediate attention.”
Leonardo da Vinci
How Paint by Numbers paint sets took the world by storm:
The very first Paint by Numbers kit was called “Abstract no. one,” a vibrant abstract painting that paid tribute to the Abstract Expressionists during the time. Marketing the kits was a risky move, especially when people weren’t open to art projects as a hobby, knowing that it required technical skills. The company wasn’t open to Robbins’ idea either but Robbins didn’t give up just yet.
The company owner, Max Klein developed a very clever idea to demonstrate the kits in Macy’s, while the company workers were given $250 to hand it out to anyone that would be willing to buy their kits at Macy’s.
The trick worked and the “customers” flooded in, without being able to distinguish the real customers from those who were just paid to go in the store. Regardless, the sales skyrocketed. By 1954, the Paint by Numbers paint sets were making $20 million USD and by 1955, over 12 million kits were sold.
The Palmer Show Card Paint Company was renamed to Craft Master, increasing the number of workers to 800 in order to keep up with the demand of creating 50,000 paint sets per day.
What made Paint by Numbers popular?
Marketed to the public in the 1950s, during the postwar era where conformity won over creativity, Paint by Numbers paint sets introduced the idea to people that everyone can paint a beautiful picture, regardless of skill level. Because of increased leisure time, painting by numbers became a favorite pastime in the 1950s. With the tagline, “Every man a Rembrandt”, the original paint sets included two brushes and premixed and numbered paints designed to be applied on a pre-drawn canvas marked with numbers. Popular images include landscapes, seascapes, portraits and animals.
Despite the growing popularity of Paint by Numbers, the paint sets still receive negative backlash from art critics. Nonetheless, that hasn’t stopped the trend from becoming popular all over the United States because it has encouraged people who had never held a paintbrush to go into the world of art and creativity.
Now that you’ve gained an overview of Paint by Numbers paint sets’ history, it’s time for you to take up your paint and brushes and enter the world of creativity and imagination. Through Painting by Numbers, everyone can experience the joy of painting. The kits made painting so simple and thus, they made everyone feel like an artist. You sure don’t want to miss out so click here to browse our collection and purchase your own Paint by Numbers kit today!