The earliest cave paintings used mineral pigments, potentially combined with animal fat as a binder. The minerals used were found in clay, as at that time deep mining was impossible. Charcoal, red ochre and yellow ochre, all materials that could be obtained on or near the surface of the ground, were commonly used.
The ancient Egyptians continued to use ochre; yellow ochre was especially valuable to them, as gold was associated with the eternal and the indestructible. Red ochre was used in lipstick for women. Egyptians had access to more exotic materials, however; in the tome of Tutankhamun, bright pigments made of gypsum (white), hematite (red), malachite (green) and orpiment (whose name literally means gold pigment) were found. As the nation continued to grow in power, more minerals were used as pigment, including lapis lazuli for blue and stibnite for black.
The rarity and colour of some minerals made them extremely valuable. Lapis lazuli was used to create ultramarine, an incredibly vivid blue used in religious paintings of the Virgin Mary by Europeans after the Fall of Rome. They had to complete dangerous trade missions to Afghanistan to obtain the mineral, which was otherwise unavailable; Afghanistan still holds the world’s largest lapis lazuli mines today.
Other pigments were dangerous to mine, which gave rise to synthetic alternatives. Cinnabar, a mineral extracted for the mining of mercury, is used to create vermillion, an exceptionally beautiful red. This process was extremely dangerous, because mercury is quite toxic; ways of synthesizing vermillion were thus invented in the Middle Ages in order to make it cheaper and safer to create.
As time moved on, more and more synthetic pigments have been created; in some cases, like vermillion, this is to reduce the danger and cost of producing pigments. Synthetic pigments are also used for quality control; human-controlled manufacturing by subjecting naturally-occuring minerals to a wide variety of chemical processes allow for specific colours to be created. Extender pigments, usually white, are also used to create the most exact colours possible, as well as to extend the life of the pigment.
Organic pigments are still used to this day, but they too are largely synthesized for quality control. Due to the millenia of experimentation with pigments, interior painters in Winnipeg can paint your rooms any colour you can imagine. All that variety can be overwhelming, so they can help you parse out the perfect colour scheme for your home!