Paint has been around for a very long time. From the earliest cave paintings to today’s high performance industrial coatings, paint have played a vital role in the history of humankind. Some of the earliest examples of paint were put in use by the ancient Egyptians, who developed a blue pigment by grinding glass into powder.
Iron oxides, lead and pigments derived from the soil were used as colorants and dyes for thousands of years. Living creatures were often used to make colors. The royal purple developed by the Romans was made from a type of shellfish, the Murex mollusk. Cochineal red came from the cochineal beetle.
Until the middle of the Nineteenth Century, only naturally occurring substances were used for pigments, which restricted available colors to a relatively narrow range. Synthetic color manufacture opened new horizons for paint manufacturers, and gave them the ability to produce rich ultra-saturated paints.
Binding agents in early paints used varied from water to pressed oils. Egg tempera was used, as well as various types of glue. Eventually, linseed oil became the favored binder for paints. However, the paint had to be mixed in small batches. When Sherwin-Williams developed a method of maintaining pigment suspension in linseed oil in 1880, the first modern paints as used in the commercial painting industry were born.
Over time, linseed oil gave way to binders based on petroleum products and solvents. Today, paint can be custom manufactured, with the exact performance characteristics dialed in using highly specialized chemicals and additives.