How Was Acrylic Paint Invented?

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Over the last few years, the popularity of acrylic painting has seen exponential growth as more and more people look to to use acrylic paints as a way to be create, relax, and express themselves. For today’s article, we are going to be taking a look at how acrylic paint was invented to try and help satisfy the curiosity of any of our readers who have been reaching out to ask about the history of acrylic paint.

Over the centuries, some form of water based acrylic paint has been a popular option for painting by artists in various forms with products ranging from pigment suspended in water and rudimentary binding agents being used in different formulas for hundreds of years. The modern acrylic paint formula that is in wide spread use today has only been around for 60 years and the formulas developed over the last 5 years are vastly different from the original modern acrylic paint formulas of the 1950’s.

Not only have the various developments and advancements in acrylic paint formulas over the last few decades helped to improve the performance of the paint but it has also helped to bring the costs down. This is why beginners to the acrylic painting space today are able to get their hands on some high quality paint formulas for a fraction of the cost of what they would have had to pay a few decades ago.

What Is The Origin Of Acrylic Paint?

The origin of acrylic paint is based on a similar concept to the various inks and paints such as India ink that were used by cave men for their cave paintings. A simple mixture of ash and water then spiraled into using other substances such as the juice from berries to change the colors that could be achieved with different binders such as animal marrow or fish oil being tried at various points in time.

From there different peoples throughout time experiments with a huge range of different pigment options ranging from different types of dirt to crushed up shells to fruits, berries, and flowers. At different times throughout history, a huge range of potential binding agents have been added and then removed from these early paint formulas depending on how they performed and if they helped or hindered the performance of the paint.

One constant throughout time is that the simple formula of adding some form of pigment to water offers a quick and easy way to apply a pigment to a surface for painting and writing and formed the basis of the modern acrylic paint formulas. As technology improved, the various methods we had available to create the pigments we use today became easier with various synthetic pigments being invented in a number of different ways making cheaper to get some colors that were once rare and expensive to have in your palette and since the 1950’s, the advancements to acrylic paint formulas really has taken off.

When Was Acrylic Paint First Invented?

Throughout the 1950’s a number of different people invented various paint formulas that all helped to develop the modern acrylic paint formula. They all tended to use some form of synthetic resin as a binding agent for their pigments to drastically improve how easy it was to apply your acrylic paints. In addition to this, the various synthetic resins of the time also helped to improve the performance of the acrylic paint once applied to a surface with some preventing paints from flaking or peeling too.

Due to there being a number of different claimants who can all rightfully be credited for making these initial acrylic paint formulas, it is hard to pin point exactly when the first modern acrylic paint was invented to the specific year. This is why most people agree at a decade level of the 1950’s due to all of the major breakthroughs that helped to lead to modern acrylic paint formulas happening within that ten year time period.

Although there have been various leaps and bounds since there helping to improve the performance of the paint formulas, the color retention of the pigments, and to reduce the prices of the paint, they are all based on a variant of these original ideals that were developed in the 1950’s. This is why so many people agree that the modern acrylic paint formula was first invented in the 1950’s although very basic variants of what can be classed as acrylic paints have been used since cave man times.

How Was Acrylic Paint Invented?

The modern acrylic paint formulas were developed due to needing a stronger paint formula that would be easier to apply and bond with a wide range of surfaces while all being drawn from the same tube or tin. Various problems with older paint formulas flaking, peeling, bubbling, and having poor color retention all spurred a demand for a better water based paint formula and where there is demand, there is money to be made.

As we touched on above, pigment suspended in water has been used since cave man times but the area that they struggled to perfect was the binding agent that not only solved the application problems but also opened up better pigment options to be used in the paint too. Although everything from tree sap, to animal bone marrow, to fish oil, to boiled animal skin had been tried and tested, it wasn’t until the development of synthetic binders that acrylic paint formulas really took off.

This was due to these synthetic binders being very easy and cheap to make while also allowing the paint manufacturer to tweak ingredients as required to get the acrylic paint to act slightly differently for specific use cases. These synthetic binding agents were also thick enough to hold heavier pigments that older formulas could not while also having no dramatic effect on the drying time of the paint once applied too. Another advantage of these synthetic acrylic paint binding agents was that they could be products and then left in their paint tub or tin while in storage for years without going bad saving a huge amount of money in wasted paint.

Who Was The First Person To Invent Acrylic Paint?

Although Otto Röhm was the first person to invent acrylic resin back in the 1930’s, it was Leonard Bocour and Sam Golden who are credited for inventing acrylic paint with various other people taking large parts in its development from the acrylic resign of the 1930’s to the acrylic paint of the 1950’s. Since then, a number of people and paint manufactures have tweaked these initial formulas to develop acrylic paint further.

As there were so many small break throughs with the original acrylic resign formula and a number of other synthetic products between the 1930’s and the 1940’s it is difficult to list everyone who contributed to the current acrylic paint formulas that we have. In addition to this, many of the people working on the development of these formulas were working on behalf of a company with the company often taking credit for the work.

Depending on how in-depth you want to go, there are also a number of people who have invented various synthetic pigment options that are commonly used in modern acrylic paint formulas too. Although this is not the actual acrylic paint formulas, some of the most commonly used acrylic paint formulas today use a synthetic pigment for their colouration too.

How Was Acrylic Paint Made?

Although the older paint formulas similar to acrylic paint used water and a color pigment with various types of binding agent, the first modern acrylic paint formula actually used a synthetic binding agent. This simple switch is what pushed the development of acrylic paint forward and allowed the various synthetic pigment options commonly used today to be suspended in the binding agent.

There are still some areas of the world where the older variants of acrylic paints are made using ground-up ash, dirt, fruit, and berries for tribal artwork but for the most part, these are not considered acrylic paint due to the lack of a solid binding agent. That said, some of these formulas do implement some form of a rudimentary binding agent with an animal or plant product offering some assistance for the paint formula.

The majority of the modern acrylic paint formulas are made in a laboratory and then packaged in a factory due to the high number of synthetic substances produced by mixing chemicals. Although some people do like to make their own acrylic paint at home by adding a pigment to something like a clear or white gesso as its medium and binding agent, a store-bought acrylic paint formula will almost always be the better option.


That brings our article going over how acrylic paint was invented to an end. We hope that we have been able to fill in some of the blanks and explain the various major steps that took place to help advance modern arts and crafts by developing modern acrylic paints. If the break through of synthetic binding agents and synthetic pigments were not made, the arts and crafts space really could be a very different place today.