The History of Paints

Every one of us love a bit of colour in our lives. Whether it’s in the clothes you wear or the colour of your bedroom walls. These colours we have today come from a long journey of innovation and human creativity.

Cave Paintings

Paints and painting have been dated all the way back to the Stone Age.

Researchers have found painting in caves across Europe, Australia and Indonesia that show pigment made from sap, berry juices, dried plants roots, charcoal, blood and many different minerals.

Iron Oxide pigments were seen to be highly valued as they create long-lasting paint. Pre-historic mining trails show that people have travelled many miles to get their hands on this mineral. Early artists also mixed these pigments with water, saliva, urine or animal fats to create a liquid paint.


In the Egyptian era, painters started painting on plaster which resulted in them using binding agents like egg, resin and beeswax to help the pain adhere to the plaster. Tombs made of limestone were also covered in plaster and there were six colours used to decorate them: charcoal black, red ochre, yellow orpiment, brown ochre, blue azurite and green malachite.

Greeks & Romans

The Greeks then developed lead white paint, which was the most popular white paint until the 18th century when artists started using titanium dioxide instead. Lead-based paints have a history of causing health issues for painters.

The Romans used similar painting methods to Greeks and Egyptians but had the added colour of vermillion red which was mined from Spain.


Dyes made from plants were widely used in the Mediterranean region. Madder is used to create red, saffron, turmeric and pomegranate rind for yellow and indigo for dark blue. Other colours were created by mixing these primary colours.

Middle Ages

A new colour was introduced in the middle ages: Ultramarine which means ‘from beyond the seas’. It was derived from the Lapis Lazuli gemstone found in Afghanistan. It was as expensive as buying gold leaf.

15th Century

Oil painting was invented in the 15th century, when oil substituted egg as a binding agent in paint. This allowed for paint that dried slower, allowing artists to create more detailed work.

Trade, Industrialisation & Non-Toxic Paint  

Once trade routes opened in the 1600s, traders brought dyes and pigments from across the world. Creating more colours and learning more about different paint pigments. Following on from that, as science and chemistry developed, chemists discovered how to create artificial colours. Chemical processes allowed for the development of a whole range of colours.

In the 19th century almost any colour was easily accessible by the public and available for purchase at a relatively low price. And then in the 20th century, chemists developed non-toxic paint

Modern Day

Paint colours continue to grow, and we keep seeing new and different ways of incorporating paint into our lives. We now have glow in the dark paint and iridescent paint. Plus, there are many more safer options readily available.

T Fisher Painting is proud to say we are using non-toxic, environmentally friendly paint in all of our work. And we are more than happy to spread the joy of having art and colour on the walls of your home.