Byron McClintock was born in Klamath Falls, Oregon in 1930, and his family moved to Seattle in 1935. In 1946 McClintock joined the Merchant Marines and sailed throughout the Pacific. He moved to San Francisco in 1949 and attended classes at the California School of Fine Art (now known as the San Francisco Art Institute), where he studied under Edward Corbett, Richard Diebenkorn, and James Budd Dixon. He monitored Dixon's printmaking classes and worked nights at a commercial litho shop making plates and pre-press works.
In 1950, the school awarded him with a scholarship; he was then drafted during the Korean War, where he served as an illustrator and instructor. After the war, McClintock opened and co-owned a photoengraving shop, which he operated until 1980. He continued creating his art, building a studio in San Francisco and, in 1997, one in Portland, Oregon, where he now resides.