How to Become a Painter

How to Become a Painter: Career Path Guide

The most common way to become a painter is to start your own painting business. If you choose to take this route, you will need to start by getting your basic supplies together. 


You may want to contact suppliers in order to receive contractor pricing. You will also want to setup a proper insurance policy, in the event that you damage a client’s property.


A good way to start getting clients is by running an advertisement in the classified section of your local newspaper. You can also try contacting local real estate offices and introducing your services and prices to them.


Creating a website is a great way to market your services to potential clients, and will provide you with an outlet to display your portfolio of work, as well as the testimonials of your clients.



Education and Training Related to Becoming a Painter

Most painters learn their skills on-the-job from more experienced painters. There are however many vocational and trade schools that offer apprenticeship programs, which provide classroom work combined with on-the-job training. While many employers will look for an applicant who has completed such a program, there is no formal industry requirement to do so.


Students who undergo an apprenticeship program typically learn skills such as how to properly use and care for tools and equipment, surface preparation, application techniques, colour harmony and characteristics of different finishing.


In the United States if a painter is interested in gaining extra credentials, the National Association of Corrosion Engineers offers a Protective Coating Specialist designation. 




Painter Job Description

Painters and decorators apply paint, wall coverings and a variety of other finishes to the interior or exterior surfaces of residential, commercial and industrial buildings. ​Painters must take into consideration the needs and wants of the client, the proper application technique, the characteristics of the surface to be coated as well as the durability and finish of the coating.


Some painters also coat the interior and exterior of equipment such as piping, storage tanks, locks, and structural steel.



Painter Job Duties

  • Apply natural and synthetic wall coverings
  • Apply finishes in a variety of textures, such as sponged, ragged or layered
  • May involve sandblasting and the application of industrial coatings
  • Confer with client to assess needs and wants of project
  • Estimate the quantity of materials required by measuring surfaces or reviewing a work order that the client has submitted
  • Remove old coatings by using techniques such as the application of solvents, heat, wire brushing, pressure washing or sandblasting
  • Prepare surface for covering by cleaning, filling in holes and cracks and sanding rough spots
  • Apply paint using methods such as brushing, rolling or spraying



Painter Salary

The median pay for painter in the United States was $34,280 in 2010. (1)



(1) Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Painters, Construction and Maintenance, (visited February 13, 2013).


The earnings of self-employed painters are difficult to determine; some work as little as 8 hours a week, while others may work up to 80 hours a week. Painters may charge by the room, the hour or the project in its entirety.


The final earnings (before tax) of a self-employed painter are calculated by subtracting all of their overhead expenses from the rate they charge. Typical costs may include supplies, advertising, transportation, legal and accounting services, and others.



Where do Painters Work?

Painters may be self-employed, work for a painting company or work as an assistant to another painter. They may work in a residential, commercial or industrial painting.


Commercial interiors/exteriors – Painting office buildings, strip malls, shopping centers, fitness centres and other similar buildings.


Industrial interiors/exteriors – Painting warehouses, factories, manufacturing facilities and other similar buildings.


Residential interiors/exteriors – Painting partial or full houses, apartments, townhouses and other dwellings.



Painter Career - Work Conditions

The work conditions for a painter may vary greatly, as there are many separate areas of focus within this profession, each with a separate work environment:


Setting: Most of a painter’s time is spent on-site, with some time being spent at their warehouse or office. Some time will be spent visiting suppliers and purchasing goods needed for a project. The painting site may be indoors or outdoors, depending on the project.


Hours: Hours can vary greatly for a painter, typically at the discretion of the client. Some painters may work for 4 hours a day, while others may take on projects that demand an 80 hour work week.


Personnel: A painter might work alone or as part of a team. Painters may liaise with other construction or renovation personnel on site.






Is a Career as a Painter Right for Me?

Just because you enjoy painting your room, doesn’t mean you should make a living at it. Below are a few positive and negative attributes about the job that everyone who’s interested in becoming a painter should consider.


• Painting can be very physically strenuous; stamina and durability are essential

• Even in a commercial setting, painting can be very relaxing

• Good balance is necessary as painters often use ladders and platforms to support themselves

• Painting requires manual dexterity

• Communication skills are needed in order to determine the exact needs and wants of the clients

• Bringing colour and life to a surface can be extremely satisfying, especially if it's just before a tight deadline




Careers Similar to Painter

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Painter, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities:


Advertising Illustrator

Automobile Painter

Cabinet Maker


Graphic Designer




Occupations in Alberta:Painter & Decorator.” (March 29, 2015). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 7, 2020.

Construction & Extraction:Painters, Construction and Maintenance.” (March 30, 2018). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved January 7, 2020.

Craft & Fine Art:How to Become a Painter.” (n.d.). The Art Career Project website. Retrieved January 7, 2020.



Becoming a Painter: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a painter. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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