Behind the Tints: History of Paint By Numbers

Your Friends at Opalberry Behind the Tints Dan Robbins history history of paint by numbers paint by numbers paint by numbers for adults Palmer Show Card Paint Company pbn

Ever wonder how your go-to hobby came to be? A favorite among kids and kids at heart, adult paint by number kits started as a strategy to help a paint company sell more paints. 

After soaring in popularity, paint by numbers has become a staple in art stores and have even been used as tools in teaching basic painting techniques. Read on and see the bigger picture on how paint by numbers became one of the most sought-after art kits today.

How Paint By Numbers Kits Started

Crafted by Palmer Show Card Paint Company founder, Max Klein, and commercial illustrator, Dan Robbins, paint by numbers kits were developed in the 1950s to help the company sell more paint. The plan was simple:  introduce a hobby that would generate more income for the Palmer Show Card Paint Company. 

Upon its launch, the kits were such a hit and made painting accessible to everyone, regardless of age and skill set. Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s teaching strategy of handing out numbered canvases to his art students, Robbins’ background on basic art composition and techniques allowed him to simplify the painting process for everyone to try. 

Developing Paint By Numbers Kit

A commercial artist by profession, Robbins first painted original artworks. Upon drying, he placed a plastic sheet over the painting and outlined its parts. He then numbered the parts and assigned a specific color to each number. 

Abstract No. 1, the first Paint-by-Numbers artwork designed by Dan Robbins, photo courtesy of the Paint By Number Museum

Robbins’ very first paint by numbers kit was an original abstract piece aptly named, “Abstract No. One”. The piece unfortunately received lukewarm response from the public, prompting Robbins and Klein to hire a new team of artists to create more landscape and still life designs. 

How the Public Responded

While paint by numbers kits were enjoying commercial success and received positive feedback from the public, the art world thought otherwise. Art experts commented on how the kits were oversimplifying the art process and diminishing the value of art in general.

Proud of his achievement in not only generating income for his company, but for also making art available for everyone to try, Robbins said: 

“I never claim that painting by number is art. It is the experience of art, and it brings that experience to the individual who would normally not pick up a brush, not dip it in paint. What it does.” 


Several years later, artists and adult paint by numbers kits manufacturers found a middle ground and launched collaborations showcasing artists’ original pieces. From captured beauty of everyday life, to incredibly detailed pieces, take home a piece of art and make it uniquely yours with Opalberry Paint by Numbers kits

Have fun creating!  

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