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Gumby Colorforms
Creators Harry and Patricia Kislevitz
Manufacturer Colorforms Corporation
Era 1951(?) - Present
Materials vinyl
Country United States

Colorforms, invented by Harry and Patricia Kislevitz, refer to a general type of vinyl adhesive toy set produced under the Colorforms brand.


Colorforms are paper-thin, die-cut vinyl sheet images and shapes that are meant to be applied to a shiny plastic laminated board, much like placing paper dolls against a paper backdrop. The images stick to the background by adhesion, which takes place when two highly polished surfaces come in contact. The Colorforms vinyl pieces can be repositioned to create new designs and scenarios.


Founded in 1951, Colorforms is one of the oldest and best-known brands in the toy industry. It was the very first plastic-based creative toy, and one of the first toys ever advertised on television.[dubious ][citation needed]

The original Colorforms sets were assembled by Harry and Pat Kislevitz, themselves, in their New York city apartment. Boxed sets began appearing in the 1950s and featured basic geometric shapes and bright primary colors. The company used the slogan "It's More Fun To Play The Colorforms Way!" in print ads and television commercials to promote their products.

The defining feature of most Colorforms play sets is their signature plastic ‘Stick-Ons™’that can be placed and repositioned on top of graphic backgrounds to create endless scenes at a child's whim. Over time, the Colorforms line has included imaginative play sets, games and puzzles, interactive books and creative activities for young children.

Since its inception, more than 1 billion Colorforms play sets have been sold.[citation needed] Colorforms has more than 75 toy products in current distribution.

Product timeline[edit]

  • 1951 - Harry and Patricia Kislevitz experiment with new flexibly vinyl material in semi-gloss painted bathroom; this is the beginning of the Colorforms concept.
  • 1957 - Popeye becomes Colorforms' first licensed character applied to its products.
  • 1959 - Paul Rand creates the Colorforms logo.
  • 1962 - Miss Weather, a Colorforms character featuring a wardrobe that changed with the weather, makes her debut.
  • 1981 - Colorforms acquires licensing rights to Shrinky Dinks kits; during its licensing period, Colorforms created and marketed more than 50 different Shrinky Dinks toy activity and creativity kits.
  • 1997 - Toy Biz acquires Colorforms.
  • 1998 - University Games acquires Colorforms from Toy Biz.
  • 2000 - Colorforms listed among the Top 10 Toys of the Century by the Toy Industry of America (TIA).
  • 2011 - Colorforms named one of the Top 100 Toys of All Time by Time magazine.
  • 2014 - Out of the Blue acquires Colorforms


The basic concepts behind Colorforms are the ability to adhere and reposition them on appropriate surfaces. Art students Harry & Patricia Kislevitz discovered the idea when a friend who manufactured pocketbooks gave them a roll of flexible paper-thin vinyl that would stick to the semi-gloss paint in their bathroom and allow them to reposition it at will without affecting either surface. Simply cutting shapes out of the material and sticking them to the wall turned out to be amusing enough that they left extra vinyl with a pair of scissors for guests to add to their creation. The positive reactions they got to the project led them to market it as a product for artistic adults, and started the Colorforms brand after learning it was highly popular with children as well.


Marking its 60th anniversary, University Games, Colorforms' parent company, is introducing a number of new products to the brand line. The new items released by Colorforms, are advertised to promote creative expression, concentration skills, comprehension of spatial relationships and manual dexterity in children.

Licensed characters[edit]

The first licensed character product was released in 1957, featuring Popeye. Since then, Colorforms has continued to expand its licensed character agreements, with dozens of brands connected to Colorforms.

Later Colorforms licensed various properties, producing box sets supporting various cartoons, TV series and movie releases, including Peanuts, Tarzan, The Three Stooges, Doctor Dolittle, Steve Urkel, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. In 2011, the 60th product anniversary year, Colorforms added Green Lantern, My Little Pony, The Gruffalo, Tonka and Transformers, among others.


Colorforms products have expanded beyond the simple "paper doll" concept to more than 75 Colorforms toy products currently in distribution, with more added every year. The Colorforms series later expanded into cartoon character sets such as Popeye and Gumby and original character sets on household themes such as Miss Weather, a girl whose wardrobe changed with the weather, and Miss Cookie's Kitchen, a woman with a variety of kitchen tools and utensils.

Other products[edit]

The Colorforms Corporation also produced Shrinky Dinks, The Outer Space Men (a.k.a. Colorform Aliens) bendy action figures (1968), Dress-Up Sets, and Monster Print Putty. The latter, which was boxed in a skull-shaped plastic shield for a heightened "monster" effect, was a pliable clay-like substance that picked up newspaper-ink images when pressed upon them, similar to Silly Putty, and could then transfer those images onto a special "Monster Print Paper" when applied to it.

Colorforms acquired the rights to license and distribute Shrinky Dinks in 1981, and continued creating and promoting their products until the brand was sold to Milton Bradley in 1989.


In 1997, Colorforms was acquired by Toy Biz. A year later, University Games acquired Colorforms from Toy Biz.


Further reading[edit]