Paint By Number

The Classic History of Paint by Numbers

While Michelangelo

As an adult, do you buy Paint by Numbers because you feel nostalgic for good old times when you thought you’d end up like Michelangelo when you grew up? Well, the reality is this classic art of painting by numbers is, in fact, the invention of the greatest Michelangelo. So, while you might not have grown as an artist, you are one of his students if you paint by numbers for whatever reason.

While Michelangelo

While Michelangelo did not make a paint kit by number, Dan Robbin liked the idea so much that in 1949 he introduced the color a numbers kit. The man was no ordinary artist himself; he has a record of being the most exhibited artist in the world!

How Did It Happen:

As a company worker, Dan Robbin was assigned to develop an idea strong enough to grab everyone’s attention. It was 1950, and the company’s president wanted something original to get him more customers. That is when it clicked for Dan Robbin to start something that could make everyone an artist, but the task was too daunting to be appreciated initially.

People were not willing to start a new hobby; therefore, at first, the company was not happy to go for it. But even then, Dan Robbin was unwilling to give up, and thus, he came up with brilliant marketing strategies that did the trick. One of the cleverest ones was stocking the kits at Macy’s by promising the toy shop owner to take back all the unsold kits. The company then awarded $250 to all the employees and requested them to ask their friends, family, and relatives to buy the equipment for just $2.50! During the holiday season, this idea worked brilliantly as people got curious to see so many customers buying the paint-by-number kits that they started buying, too!

Also, a giant billboard was set up with a print of paint-by-numbers. Each day, a new color was added to the picture while people watched it, intriguing them enough to buy the kits for themselves. The result was like a dream come true because, by 1954, the company was making $20 million just by selling the Craft Master Kit- The Paint by Numbers!

Everyone was happiest with the idea that they could relive their memories from childhood and initiate drawing again. The painting could have been more straightforward, and thus, it made everyone feel like an artist. While all of this happened because of a marketing stunt, what is precious to observe from the history of this excellent art activity is that it revived the classic exercise to de-stress - that is, the art of Painting.


Valuable Feedback

Deeply saddened by the death of beloved Dan Robbins... His legacy lives on!

Jenny,  Apr 5, 2019

It is exciting to read how it all started. Dan Robbins has done a great job. Thanks for sharing.

Denise Parker  Apr 23, 2019

Nice article. Though I'm a big fan of paint-by-numbers art, I learned about its history. Thanks to Dan Robbins for giving us such a great hobby.

Barbara Neal  May 16, 2019

I'm thrilled to read this post. It gave me an insight into the history of paint-by-numbers art.

Rachel Harmon  Aug 15, 2019

Dan Robbins indeed created an incredible art form. He'll live in our hearts forever. R.I.P. Dan Robbins.

Kara Coates  Aug 20, 2019

Can you help me locate an old item? The man in the golden helmet? My husband painted it years ago, but one of his kids gave it away!&@$;?$@@(so upset) Thank you.

Nanci Tousignant  Dec 2, 2019

What size is the canvas, so I know what size frame to order?

Benecca Storey  Mar 1, 2020

Thank you, Mr. Robbins, for what you have created. You may not know how much of a part of my life these paintings are and how important it is to sit down with them whenever I am anxious. As someone who has struggled with General Anxiety Disorder, it is incredibly calming to paint on the canvases provided. Not only is it distracting, but it is very calming to paint the pictures. Moreover, it is super satisfying for one to look at the canvas after finishing the entire painting. I hope others soon realize what a fantastic form of therapy this can be and that people start using it more and more as a coping strategy.

Tom  Mar 15, 2020

I love little history stories about everyday things like this; I love hearing about how things started and where they are now. It is sometimes encouraging to see how things can grow and how there is hope for things to blossom into something you never thought of before. Good luck to paints by number in the future. I hope they grow bigger and better than they are already.

Bill  Mar 16, 2020

So this was the guy who was responsible for it all, huh? I hope the dude saw how big this would become and how many people enjoy doing the paints-by numbers. Is he still alive? I would love to get his contact information and send him an email telling him how much I love the creations in which he has invested so much time. I hope others try some of the paints in the future to see how wonderful they can be as a way to destress.

Arthur  Mar 22, 2020

Dan Robbins has created something so timeless with these paints. He has given me time to spend with my family in a way I would have never imagined. We all like to sit down and color different parts of the picture while playing music in the background. We usually do this on weekends unless we have some free time on weekdays. I wish you all the best, sir; spending time finishing your creations with my family has been excellent. This is a priceless time that I would not have traded for the world.

Phil  Mar 29, 2020

I have been painting by number for almost one year, and I only had so much information about this painting technique and its history.

Michael Duke  Sep 2, 2020

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