Paint-by-number kits were first developed in 1950 by an artist named Dan Robbins, who pitched the idea to his boss, Max S. Klein, owner of the Palmer Paint Company in Michigan, according to Segmation.com. Klein marketed and promoted them and the company sold 12 million kits by proclaiming that anyone could be an artist.
The kits were derided back then as kitschy art for the uncreative. But, in fact, at least 30 top-notch artists, including Robbins, worked on the original paintings on which paint-by-number (PBN) works were based. The paintings actually forged something of their own style since limited colors created a sort of blocky art. But today people collect the best specimens, some of which still lurk in garages and attics.
After a run of a couple decades, the old PBN mostly faded away, but today, it’s back big and it has changed.
The technology has changed, for one thing. Today, you can get a photo of your grandkids changed into paint by number. Or a photo of anything.
Interest in the craft has soared during lockdowns for COVID-19. Hundreds of new designs are available in all sorts of themes.†