From the Archives: The History of the Metal Paint Tube


yellow paint tube

Our Most Recent Tube Design

We at Winsor & Newton pride ourselves on adapting to progress and instigating change in our industry. In this series, we are highlighting items from our extensive archive to showcase our proudest innovations. First up: we review the evolution of the paint tube.

Artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir is quoted as saying that, "Without paint in tubes there would have been…nothing of what the journalists were later to call Impressionists." Winsor & Newton’s own William Winsor patented a particular iteration of the tube which significantly impacted upon artists’ use of colour. 

These revolutionary artists including Claude Monet headed outside to paint ‘en plein air’ in order to ‘capture the snapshot’, thus celebrating the everyday and changing the art world forever. The portability of paint tubes was integral to such practices.


 The Winsor & Newton Paint Tube 1840-1911

The metal paint tube was first invented by American oil painter John Goffe Rand as a way of transporting paints to use outside. The tubes were in fact syringes which were used to squeeze out paint and preserved the paint for a longer time, allowing artists increased flexibility and the possibility of a larger palette as colours took longer to perish.

Upon hearing of this stunning innovation William Winsor immediately sought the patent as Winsor & Newton were the only colourmen producing moist water colour. Once the patent was secured, William Winsor added one essential improvement to this design: the all-important screw cap. Thusly, the paint tube we know and love was born.

In the photo above, you can track the journey from the traditional bladders to the introduction of the syringe tube in 1840 to the Tube Cap introduced in 1904.