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Did Michelangelo Invent Paint-by-Numbers?

by John Painter on August 20, 2018

“Did Michelangelo invent paint-by-numbers?” That’s not a question you hear every day! However, it is an interesting one. Was this mastermind behind the phenomenon that we now know as ‘paint-by-numbers’? The answer is “sort of.”

What Is Paint-by-Numbers?

“Paint by number (or painting by numbers) describes kits having a board on which light blue or gray lines indicate areas to paint, each having a number and a corresponding numbered paint to use.” Paint-by-numbers kits were created in 1950 by Dan Robbins and Max S. Klein, both employees of the Palmer Paint Co. These kits became wildly popular, and to this day have maintained their popularity.

Did Michelangelo Invent Paint-by-Numbers?

While no one questions whether or not Robbins and Klein invented paint-by-numbers, some wonder where these men found their inspiration. The inspiration for paint-by-numbers may have been derived from the artist Michelangelo.

Many people are unaware that Michelangelo should perhaps be credited with inspiring the invention of paint-by-numbers. The article Michelangelo pioneered paint by number, stated, “The artist Michelangelo is credited with inventing what was centuries later marketed as paint by number. He created the system so students could help him finish up commissioned jobs when he became too busy.”

Another interesting source, The History of Paint-by-Numbers, said that Leonardo da Vinci was responsible for the creation of paint-by-numbers: “When Dan Robbins, the 13th employee of Detroit-based Palmer Paint Co., read that da Vinci taught his apprentices the basics of painting by using numbered patterns on a canvas, he suspected the idea might have wider appeal. So he worked to put out a new product that would delight aspiring artists of all ages.”

After reading both articles, which artist do you think inspired paint-by-numbers?


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