A Journey Through Time and Paint! by Diane Marie Kellogg

Diane Marie Kellogg earth day history paint

Just in time for Earth Day, I thought I'd take you on a journey.

Did you ever wonder how we got to the wonderful, colorful paints we use today? It would seem we have the earth to thank for that, along with those who found the way to utilize what the earth provides.

Pre-historic man started our love affair with painting. They used earth pigments such as plants, sands, and soils. Ochers (iron oxides), manganese (a metallic element), hematite, charcoal, berry juices, lard, milkweed sap, and even blood were used to record a visual history.

 Around 3000 BC the Egyptians developed the first synthetic pigments. These were paints made using minerals instead of natural dyes. Coming forward a couple of thousand years, gum arabic was made from the Acacia tree and used as a binder for paint. Lead was also used in paint, treated with wine or vinegar. Ground blue glass was used to make blue paints, known as 'blue frit'.


From about 600 BC to 400 AD, a wide variety of cultures added more to our inventory. The Chinese, the Hebrews, the Romans, and the Greeks all contributed. Oils were used as a varnish. Binders, used to hold pigment together, included gum arabic, lime, chalk, egg albumin and beeswax. Arsenic trisulfide and malachite are used in paints, producing yellows and greens. The middle ages found the addition of resin to oil.


Linseed oil was first used in the 1500s. The 1700s brought us whitewash, a water slaked lime. That time frame also brought us milk paints, not like those used today, as they required refrigeration back then. They were made from a combination of milk, calcium carbonate, and pigments. Watercolors also were developed that used natural pigments, minerals, and a glue-like substance.


The 1800s ushered in paint tubes, made with the above-mentioned linseed oil. Synthetic dyes became popular, along with water-based paints and zinc-based pigments. The industrial era also brought us an alternative to lead-based paints, using a white derivative of zinc oxide.


The 1900s would bring us synthetics made from polyurethane, a polymer, and styrene-butadiene, a fabricated rubber. Spray paint was introduced in the '40s... Artificial resins also made their debut.

Today, we enjoy a wonderful array of painting supplies. Industry leaders in the painting world continue to come up with innovative products.

May we all continue to flourish in all the earth and her people have given to the painting world.

Happy Earth Day!

 Photo Credits

Manganese by MilanoNegro from Pixabay ,Berries by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay ,Acacia Tree by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay ,Gum Arabic by montemari from Pixabay ,Bees Wax by Womby from Pixabay  ,Malachite by Ondřej Synek from Pixabay, Flaxseed Linseed from Manfred Richter from Pixabay ,Iron Oxide by Pavel Bokr from Pixabay ,Water by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay, Milk by pixel2013 from Pixabay,Title photo by Martin Eklund from Pixabay


For more detailed information be sure to check these websites.

www.wikipedia.com         www.psgdover.com               www.scholastic.com

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