The French inventor Stanislas Sorel is well known for his invention of a commercially viable process to protect iron from corrosion using hot dip galvanising. It is less well known that Sorel also engaged in wider paint research, developing quick-drying zinc-white paint as well as a magnesium-based cement and paint. In this article we examine the history of Sorel’s work on zinc-based paints, demonstrating his role as innovator and inventor. During the mid-nineteenth century zinc-white gained widespread use as a safer alternative for house paint which up to then commonly relied on toxic white lead as a pigment. While Edme Jean Leclaire is commonly credited as having been the first to overcome the difficulties of mixing zinc oxide with oil in 1835, the research described in this article demonstrates that Sorel’s original metallic zinc paint preceded, and influenced Leclaire’s paints.