The Classic History of Paint by Numbers

Do you, as an adult, buy Paint by Numbers because you feel nostalgic of good old times when you felt you’ll end up as Michelangelo when you would grow 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 being one of his students if you are painting by numbers for whatever reason.

Paint by Numbers Art

While Michelangelo, of course, did not end up with making a kit of paint by number, it was Dan Robbin who liked the idea so much that in 1949, he introduced paint by numbers kit. The man was no ordinary artist himself, he has a record of the most exhibited artist of the world!

Paint by Numbers Kits

How Did It Happen:

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

People were not willing to start a new hobby and therefore, at first, the company was not happy to go for it. But even then, Dan Robbin was not willing to give up and thus he came up with brilliant marketing strategies which did the trick. One of the cleverest one was stocking the kits at Macy’s by promising the toy shop owner to take back all the unsold kits. Company then awarded $250 to all the employees and requested them to ask their friends, family, and relatives to buy the kit for just $2.50! During 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!

Not only that, but a huge 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 too. The result was like a dream come true because, by 1954, the company was making $20 million just by a sale of 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 was never so simpler and thus it made everyone felt like an artist. While all of this happened because of a marketing stunt, what is precious to observe from the history of this great art activity is that it revived the classic exercise to de-stress - that is the art of Painting.

Paint by numbers kit


Valuable Feedback

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

Jenny  Apr 5, 2019

It is really interesting to read how did it all start. 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 but I didn't know about its history. Thanks to Dan Robbins for giving us such a great hobby.

Barbara Neal  May 16, 2019

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

Rachel Harmon  Aug 15, 2019

Dan Robbins truly created a wonderful 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 are 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 a part of my life these paintings are and how important it is for me to sit down with the paintings every time I am feeling anxious. As someone who has struggled with General Anxiety Disorder, it has extremely calming to paint in on the canvases provided. Not only is it distracting but it is very calming to paint the pictures. Moreover, it is super satisfying for oneself when they look at the canvas after having finished 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 coping strategies.

Tom  Mar 15, 2020

I love little history stories about normal things like this, I love hearing about how things startup and where they are now. It is really encouraging at times to see how things can grow and how there is hope for things to blossom into something which you never thought of before. Good luck to paints by number in the future, I hope they grow bigger and better than what they already are now.

Bill  Mar 16, 2020

So this was the guy who was responsible for it all huh. I hope the dude got a chance to see 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 which he has invested so much time in. I genuinely hope others try some of the paints in the future, in order 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 time with my family in a way that I would have never imagined before. We all like to sit down and color different parts of the picture while we have some music playing in the background. The weekends are when we usually do this unless we have some free time on weekdays. I wish you all the best sir, it has been wonderful spending time finishing your creations with my family. This really is priceless time which i would not have traded for the world.

Phil  Mar 29, 2020

I have been painting by number for almost one year and i didn't have so much information about this painting technique and its history.

Michael Duke  Sep 2, 2020

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.