In vertebrates, the adult form emerges from the embryo by mobilization of precursors or adult stem cells. What different cell types these precursors give rise to, how many precursors establish the tissue or organ, and how they divide to establish and maintain the adult form remain largely unknown. We use the pigment pattern of the adult zebrafish fin, with a variety of clonal and lineage analyses, to address these issues. Early embryonic labeling with lineage-marker-bearing transposons shows that all classes of fin melanocytes (ontogenetic, regeneration and kit-independent melanocytes) and xanthophores arise from the same melanocyte-producing founding stem cells (mFSCs), whereas iridophores arise from distinct precursors. Additionally, these experiments show that, on average, six and nine mFSCs colonize the caudal and anal fin primordia, and daughters of different mFSCs always intercalate to form the adult pattern. Labeled clones are arrayed along the proximal-distal axis of the fin, and melanocyte time-of-differentiation lineage assays show that although most of the pigment pattern growth is at the distal edge of the fin, significant growth also occurs proximally. This suggests that leading edge melanocyte stem cells (MSCs) divide both asymmetrically to generate new melanocytes, and symmetrically to expand the MSCs and leave quiescent MSCs in their wake. Clonal labeling in adult stages confirms this and reveals different contributions of MSCs and transient melanoblasts during growth. These analyses build a comprehensive picture for how MSCs are established and grow to form the pigment stripes of the adult zebrafish fins.