Each tutorial for coloring and painting mention a Material tab, that icon never shows on my screen. How do I get to this option?
Select an object and make it active. Either click on it in the 3D View, or select it from the Outliner
If nothing is selected, or if the active selected object doesn't support materials (for example a lamp, empty or camera etc) no material tab will be displayed.
Hover your mouse over the tab list and scroll up or down with the mouse wheel. This will slide hidden tabs into view.
Alternatively you can just make that whole panel wider by dragging the edge of it to the left which will expose the materials tab. The farthest right is a Physics tab that looks like a bouncing ball.