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A Brief History of Paint

When the time comes to repaint the walls of your home, you probably take today’s broad paint selection for granted. However, it wasn’t always possible to choose expertly mixed paint with various finishes in every color under the sun. This brief history of paint will help you appreciate just how far the technology has come.

Prehistoric Paintings
Back up 40,000 years to the days of primitive humans. They may have lived in caves, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t decorate! Cave paintings are the earliest evidence of mankind adorning a living space with art. Back then, paint was made from black soot, colored earth, and organic materials mixed with animal fat and blood.

Egyptian Hieroglyphs
The advanced Egyptian civilization dating back 2,000 years still used some of the same materials as ancient humans to devise paint colors, including soil and animal blood. They also used ground-up glass and semiprecious stones to create previously unavailable hues such as green and blue to adorn their homes, palaces and tombs.

Early House Painting
The house painting profession dates back to at least the 1200s. English house painters created guilds to help preserve their paint mixing and application techniques as well as ensure everyone in the industry was held to a certain standard of practice.

The house painting craze didn’t instantly transfer over to the American colonies. Most Puritans considered the practice to be an immoral display of wealth and vanity. In fact, in the 1600s, a Charleston preacher was charged with sacrilege for painting the interior of his home.

However, despite objections from the Puritan population, the demand for interior house paint grew. Oil and water became the base for mixing ground seashells, copper oxide, rice, eggs, coffee, berries and lead. These paints were thick and much more difficult to apply than modern paint.

The Dawn of the Modern Painting Era
Everything changed in 1718 with the invention of the “Machine for the Grinding of Colours.” This spurred the inception of paint mills, where pigment materials could be ground efficiently and mass produced for cheaper public use.

More changes occurred in the 1800s. First was the discovery that linseed oil made a more affordable binding agent. Then, ready-to-use paint started being manufactured by some of today’s most well-known paint companies, including Benjamin Moore, which began operations in 1883. This brand greatly emphasized paint chemistry and improving color mixing and production. Benjamin Moore also designed the first computer-based color-matching system in 1982.

With knowledge of this brief history of paint, now you won’t take high-quality paint and endless color varieties for granted. If you need help selecting the right Benjamin Moore paint color and finish for your next interior or exterior painting project, please visit the Paint Centers website for inspiration or stop by one of our Michigan locations to stock up on home painting supplies.