Colour Ranges

Apr 25th, 2011 | | Colour Ranges | Paint Technical | 4 Comments

Parsons’ Decorative Finishes (1) – The Book

The recent analysis of the original decorative schemes of London’s Cafe Royal proved the worth of my many years specialist-book-collecting. It is always good to be able to demonstrate to my long-suffering wife that the 1,400 works on architecture, paint and colour that fill so many shelves in the house are truly esential to my work. However it is even better to be able to take one of these precious volumes to a site meeting to illustrate several of the colours and finishes found during the analysis.

My post on Thomas Parsons’ Tint Book of Historical Colours had reminded me of the wonderful books published by that firm in the early years of the twentieth century, several of which I own. Certainly one of the most useful, when looking at painted schemes of the 1930s is Parsons’ Decorative Finishes.

My edition is undated, although the colours within suggest the 1930s. The address on the cover is 315-317 Oxford Street, which they left on the outbreak of War in 1939.

During a series of posts I intend to show pages from this work and to use them to illustrate not only a typical palette of colours of the 1930s, but also to look at some of the techniques used in decoration at that time. I hope to touch on the difference between Enamel and Gloss paints; Water Paints and Distemper; Scumbling and Graining and look at funnies such as Anti-Condensation and Bituminous paints. It will also allow me to make a number of much-needed comments concerning modern paint.

The colours that will be shown are all available (at short notice) from my colleagues at Papers and Paints. Until now there has not been a wide source of accurate paint colours from the 1930s.

The range of paints being produced was remarkable, with eight different forms of gloss or semi-gloss alone. Many of these were also produced in “Outside Quality” as well. The following list gives an indication of the variety on offer:

As I write up the various sections links will be provided here:
a) Imitation Stone Paint;
b) Permanent Greens;
c) Gloss Enamel Finishes;
d) Gloss Finishes;
e) Antimonic Paint;
f) Concrete Floor Paint;
g) Flat Finishes;
h) Water Paint;
i) Scumble Glaze;
j) Graining;
k) Bituminous Paints;
l) Metallic Paints;
m) Plastic Paints, and
n) Cellulose Lacquer.

1930s Paint Colours
Should anyone want to use any of the paint colours shown on these colour cards Papers and Paints will be able to match them in most conventional finishes. They also have a range of 1930s colours.

Papers and Paints can be found here for 1930s colours:

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Comments (4)

Graham CroxsonNo Gravatar » 29. Aug, 2015

I worked at Parsons Paints for a couple of years from when I left school until they went out of business and looked at this site after an old friend asked me about names of people who worked there. This led me to remember a couple of real oddities they made. A paint for taxi roof interiors which was heavily loaded with cork and a sealant for…” paints and bleeding colours ” I worked in the production laboratory testing for quality so I often spent the day watching paint dry and so wish I still had my little book of formulations for your collection.

PatrickNo Gravatar » 29. Aug, 2015

How wonderful. Thanks for getting in touch, Graham. I met one of the last surviving directors of Parsons many years ago. She encouraged us to keep the name alive.

Jennifer RaapNo Gravatar » 30. Dec, 2019


I found a book on the street in portugal, from Guilherme Graham junios & Ca. Who apparantly brought the Parsons brand over to Portugal, Its an old one from 1934 about the English paints brand Parsons.
Made for architects and builders.

Not sure what to do with it or what its worth
Just thought id share

PatrickNo Gravatar » 30. Dec, 2019

How interesting. I imagine that it would have a value, but you would need to contact a book dealer.