How were paints made prior to the widespread use of factory-made
paint after 1875 [or earlier]? How did they look? The answers
to these questions are provided more to underscore the differences
between early paints and today's paints than for practical
Duplicating the composition and appearance of historic paints,
including the unevenness of color, the irregularity of surface
texture, the depth provided by a glaze top coat, and the directional
lines of application, can be extremely challenging to a contemporary
painter who is using modern materials.
The pigments used in early paints were coarsely and unevenly
ground, and they were dispersed in the paint medium by hand;
thus, there is a subtle unevenness of color across the surface
of many pre-1875 paints. The dry pigments had to be ground
in oil to form a paste and the paste had to be successively
thinned with more oil and turpentine before the paint was
ready for application. The thickness of the oil medium produced
the shiny surface desired in the 18th century.
In combination with the cylindrical (or round) shaped brushes
with wood handles and boar bristles, , it also produced a
paint film with a surface texture of brush strokes.