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How to Become a Painter

By Ajoke Aminu

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If you’ve got a creative streak and an eye for color, becoming a painter could be your calling! However, it’s challenging to get paid for your passion, and build your career; helping to paint client’s dream homes and buildings. With this article, you’ll know how to become a professional painter in no time—break into the creative industry, develop a niche, and scale!

Career Summary

Painter Salary

Painter Salary

On average, the annual salary for a painter is around US$46,000. Not too shabby, right? But here’s the kicker: experienced and skilled painters can make upwards of US$60,000 a year. Essentially, here is an overview of how much painters make:

  • Entry Salary (US$38k)
  • Median Salary (US$46k)
  • Executive Salary (US$57k)

Compared to the general average income of US citizens, the painter salary falls somewhere slightly below.

What does a Painter do?

A painter is a skilled professional who applies paint and coatings to buildings, including the interior and exterior parts like the ceilings and walls, creating aesthetically pleasing finishes and providing protection. They also apply them to various other surfaces, such as cars, bridges, gates, equipment, and machinery.

Painter Career Progression

  • Apprentice Painter: A beginner in the painting trade, typically working under the guidance of more experienced painters. They learn the fundamental skills of surface preparation, paint application, and basic tool handling.
  • Junior Painter: A junior painter would have gained some experience and proficiency in painting techniques. They can handle simple tasks independently and may assist senior partners with more complex projects.
  • Painter: A skilled professional with considerable experience in the field. They can handle a wide range of painting projects, from residential to commercial, and have a good understanding of different paint types and application methods.
  • Lead Painter: A senior-level position, responsible for overseeing a team of painters and coordinating projects. They manage project timelines, ensure quality workmanship, and communicate with clients and supervisors.
  • Painter Supervisor: In charge of multiple painting teams and crews. They plan and organize painting projects, allocate resources, and ensure that work is completed efficiently and according to specifications.
  • Painting Contractor/Owner: Operates their own painting business—they are responsible for managing all aspects of the company, including client relationships, estimating projects, hiring painters, and ensuring the overall success of the business.
Painter Career Progression

Pros:

  • Creativity in applying different painting techniques and finishes.
  • Opportunities to work on diverse projects, from residential homes to large commercial properties.
  • Seeing the tangible results of their work and contributing to transforming spaces.
  • Flexibility in working as a freelance painter or for various employers.

Cons:

  • Exposure to potentially hazardous fumes and chemicals.
  • Physically demanding work, including standing for extended periods and working in various weather conditions.
  • Risk of repetitive strain injuries from constant painting motions.
  • Inconsistent workload, depending on seasonal and economic factors.

Useful Skills to Have as a Painter

  • Painting techniques and proficiency with different tools.
  • Attention to detail and precision in achieving clean finishes.
  • Physical stamina and dexterity for extended painting tasks.
  • Time management and project planning abilities.
  • Knowledge of safety protocols and proper use of protective equipment.

Popular Painter Specialties

  • Residential and Commercial Painting
  • Industrial Coatings
  • Decorative and Faux Finishes
  • Historic Restoration
  • Automotive, Aerospace, and Marine Painting

How to become a Painter

Painter 5 Steps to Career

As a painter, you’ll be responsible for transforming dull, lifeless walls into vibrant works of art. You’ll have the opportunity to use your creativity and skill to bring joy to homeowners and add value to properties. Along with carpenters, painters are another example of heroes in the construction world. So, if you’re ready to turn your passion for painting into a profession, grab your paintbrushes and read this article to the end! It will set you on the path towards a colorful and rewarding career.

Essential Education and Training for a Professional Painter

Are you ready to transform the world one brushstroke at a time? Your job is not just to add a fresh coat of paint to a client’s walls, but to transform a space as they imagined—making it feel like home. To truly succeed in this profession, it’s essential to have the right education and training under your belt.

From learning the different types of paint and color theory to mastering the art of preparation and finishing techniques, there’s so much to know. With the right mindset and the information in this article, you can take on any challenge and create beautiful spaces that your clients will love. Discover new skills, niches to learn and explore the world of painting here!

Educational Qualifications for a Painter

You do not necessarily need a formal degree to become a painter. Painting is a skilled trade, and although a degree can be helpful in certain aspects, it is not a strict requirement to enter the field. That being said, some companies may require certification or some level of training in their painter job description before hiring you.

Fortunately, you can acquire most certifications online; which will be revealed as we delve deeper. Regardless, the primary qualifications for becoming a painter are based on your skills, training, and portfolio of work.

The Importance of Vocational Training for a Painter

Do you want to turn your passion for painting into a profitable career? Now is the time to consider vocational training to become a painter! Not only will you be able to pick up a paintbrush professionally, but also save thousands by doing the painting yourself for your own home. The importance of getting vocational training as a painter cannot be overstated—it equips you with the necessary skills needed to transform your passion into paychecks. Here is a list of factors to consider:

  • Skill Development: Vocational training provides hands-on experience and technical knowledge that can help painters develop their skills. Proper training allows them to learn different painting techniques, surface preparation, material handling, and safety practices. This expertise is crucial for producing high-quality work and achieving professional results.
  • Industry Knowledge: Vocational training often includes instruction on industry standards, best practices, and the latest advancements in painting technology and materials. Staying updated with industry trends can help painters offer better services and stay competitive in the market.
  • Safety Awareness: Painting involves working with various chemicals, tools, and equipment, which can pose safety hazards if not used correctly. Vocational training educates painters about safety protocols and precautions to minimize accidents and health risks.
  • Professional Credibility: Having formal training and certifications can boost a painter’s credibility and reputation in the eyes of potential clients. Customers often prefer hiring professionals who have undergone specialized training, as it indicates a higher level of expertise and commitment to the craft.
  • Efficiency and Productivity: Proper training helps painters work efficiently and produce high-quality results in a timely manner. Understanding the best techniques and methods can save time and reduce the wastage of materials, leading to improved productivity.
  • Adapting to New Challenges: Through vocational training, painters learn problem-solving skills that help them tackle different challenges they may encounter on the job. They can address unexpected situations effectively and deliver satisfactory outcomes to clients.
  • Networking Opportunities: Vocational training programs often provide opportunities for painters to connect with industry professionals, peers, and potential employers. Networking can lead to job opportunities and collaborations that may not be easily accessible otherwise.
  • Higher Earning Potential: With advanced skills and certifications, painters may be able to command higher rates for their services. Clients are often willing to pay more for skilled and trained professionals who can deliver superior results.
  • Path to Specialization: Vocational training can open up avenues for specialization within the painting industry. Painters can choose to focus on specific areas like decorative painting, industrial coatings, or historical restoration, enhancing their expertise in a particular niche.

How Long Does it Take to Train as a Painter?

The journey to becoming a paint-slinging expert isn’t an overnight trip! During this time, you’ll learn the ins and outs of paint types, color theory, and brush techniques. You’ll also have plenty of chances to show off your artistic flair and put your new skills to the test, and get to work under the guidance of experienced painters, gaining practical skills and knowledge. The exact duration may depend on the specific trade organization or union overseeing the apprenticeship but here is an overview:

  • Vocational or Trade Schools: Vocational schools and trade programs offer structured training in various trades, including painting. These programs can last anywhere from a few months to a year, depending on the level of depth and specialization. Some programs may focus on basic skills and safety, while others may cover advanced techniques and specialized areas of painting.
  • Community College or Technical Institute: Community colleges and technical institutes may offer associate degree programs in painting or related fields. These programs typically last around 2 years and provide a more comprehensive education that includes general education courses alongside specialized painting training.
  • Manufacturer Training: Some paint manufacturers offer training programs for professional painters to learn about their specific products and application techniques. These courses can range from a few days to several weeks, depending on the manufacturer and the depth of the training.
  • Self-Directed Learning: Some individuals may choose to learn painting skills on their own through online tutorials, books, or other resources. The duration in this case will depend on the individual’s commitment, prior experience, and learning speed.

How to Become a Painter Through Online Education

Indeed, you can become a painter through online education. Even though painting is a hands-on skill that requires practice and experience, online resources can be a valuable supplement to your learning journey.

Many websites and platforms offer online painting tutorials and courses. These can cover various aspects of painting, such as different techniques, styles, and mediums. You can find courses for beginners, intermediate learners, and even advanced painters looking to enhance their skills. Online education can offer a wide range of benefits for aspiring painters, including convenience, accessibility, flexibility, and the ability to learn at your own pace.

Here’s how you can utilize online education to supplement your path to becoming a painter:

  • Theory and Concepts: Online courses can help you understand the theoretical aspects of painting, such as color theory, different paint types, surface preparation, and safety guidelines.
  • Techniques and Tips: Many online tutorials and videos cover various painting techniques and tips shared by experienced painters. These can provide valuable insights and improve your approach to painting.
  • Safety and Regulations: Online resources can educate you about safety protocols, the proper use of equipment, and compliance with local regulations related to painting.
  • Business and Marketing: Online courses or resources can help you learn about managing a painting business, pricing jobs, marketing your services, and dealing with clients effectively.
  • Virtual Workshops: Some industry experts and painting organizations conduct virtual workshops where you can learn from experienced painters. These workshops often include live demonstrations, Q&A sessions, and personalized feedback.
  • Certifications: Some online platforms offer certifications related to painting, which can add credibility to your profile and increase your chances of finding work.
Some recognized certifications for professional painters include:
  • Painting Contractors Association: PCA is one of the largest and most recognized trade associations for painting contractors in the USA. They offer various educational resources and certifications for painting professionals.
  • Finishing Contractors Association: FCA offers training programs and certifications related to finishing and painting in commercial and industrial settings.
  • International Union of Painters and Allied Trades: If a painter is part of a union, they may receive training and certifications through organizations like IUPAT, which represents professional painters and allied trades.
  • EPA Lead-Safe Certification: Any painter working on projects that may disturb lead-based paint in homes built before 1978 should be EPA Lead-Safe Certified. This certification ensures proper handling and safety precautions to prevent lead exposure.
  • Local and State-Level Certifications: Some states or local jurisdictions may have their own certifications or licensing requirements for painters.

Additionally, some paint manufacturers offer their own certification programs to ensure that painters are trained in the proper application of their products.

Top Web Resources for Aspiring Painters: Learning Skills and Techniques

Utilize these resources, and who knows–you may be well on your way to becoming the next Picasso of construction painting!

  • The Sherwin-Williams PRO App: Sherwin-Williams offers a dedicated app for professional painters that provides access to product information, color-matching tools, and tips for painting in different environments, including buildings.
  • The Paint Quality Institute: The PQI offers a range of resources on paint technology, surface preparation, and application techniques for building painting.
  • American Painting Contractor: This publication focuses on the needs and interests of painting contractors, including those specializing in building painting. Their website may offer articles and tips relevant to your work.
  • Building Owners and Managers Association: While not specifically for painters, BOMA’s website may contain useful information about building maintenance and painting requirements from the perspective of building owners and managers.
  • Painting Manufacturer Websites: Websites of paint manufacturers like Benjamin Moore, PPG, and Behr often include technical data sheets, product guides, and application instructions for building painting.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): The OSHA website offers safety guidelines and regulations relevant to the painting industry, including building painting.
  • Construction Industry Blogs and Websites: Blogs and websites focusing on the construction industry may cover topics related to building painting, such as new painting techniques, sustainable painting practices, and project management.
  • Manufacturer Training Programs: Check if paint manufacturers offer specialized training programs for building painters. These programs can help you understand their products and recommended application methods.

Gaining Experience and Building Expertise as a Painter

As a painter, gaining experience and building expertise is not just about perfecting your brush strokes. It’s about understanding the subtle nuances of color, texture, and light that can transform a room from drab to dazzling.

Whether you’re just starting out or have been at it for years, learning from other painters, experimenting with new techniques, and taking plenty of risks is key to building your skills. With each stroke of the brush you make, while gaining experience, you’ll gain the confidence and expertise you need to become a true master of your craft.

Top 7 Painter Apprenticeship

Painter apprenticeship options are endless–from interior design to landscapes, and everything in between, the world is your paintbrush. With apprenticeships, you have the opportunity to learn from the best in the business and turn your passion into a career. So pick up your paint cans and brushes, and find a spot in any of these opportunities:

  • Painting Contractor Apprenticeships: Many painting contractors offer formal apprenticeship programs to train aspiring painters. These programs involve a combination of on-the-job training and classroom instruction. Apprentices work alongside experienced painters, learning various techniques, safety protocols, and project management skills.
  • Trade Union Apprenticeships: The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) is a major union that offers apprenticeship programs for aspiring painters. Union apprenticeships often provide comprehensive training, access to benefits, and a structured career path.
  • Trade Association Apprenticeships: Some painting trade associations, such as Painting Contractors Association, collaborate with contractors to offer apprenticeship programs. These associations may have specific requirements for participation and may provide additional resources and networking opportunities.
  • Government-Sponsored Apprenticeships: In some regions, government agencies may provide funding or support for apprenticeship programs in the skilled trades, including painting. Check with local workforce development or labor departments for potential opportunities.
  • Non-Profit Organizations: Certain non-profit organizations or community initiatives may offer apprenticeships or vocational training programs in the painting industry. These opportunities could be targeted at individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds or seeking to learn a trade.
  • Manufacturer Apprenticeships: Some paint manufacturers partner with contractors to provide apprenticeship programs focused on their specific products and application methods. These programs often include training on using the manufacturer’s products effectively.
  • Pre-Apprenticeship Programs: Pre-apprenticeship programs are designed to prepare individuals for formal apprenticeships by providing foundational training in basic painting skills and safety practices.

Compelling Skills You’ll Learn as a Painter

Being a painter is more advanced than wielding a paintbrush. In fact, painting requires a whole set of skills that will come in handy both on and off the job. Perhaps the most essential skill you’ll develop is attention to detail. As a painter, you’ll be responsible for making sure that every inch of a room is smoothly and accurately coated in the paint, which means you need to be eagle-eyed when it comes to spotting blemishes, bumps, and smears. Other skills include:

  • Surface Preparation: Properly preparing surfaces before painting is critical for achieving a smooth and long-lasting finish. You will learn how to clean, sand, fill cracks, and repair imperfections on different surfaces.
  • Paint Application Techniques: Various painting techniques are used to achieve different effects and finishes. These may include brushwork, rolling, spraying, and specialty techniques like faux finishing or texture application.
  • Color Mixing and Matching: Understanding color theory and how to mix and match paint colors accurately is important for achieving the desired shades and hues.
  • Knowledge of Paints and Coatings: You will learn about different types of paints, coatings, and finishes, including latex, oil-based, enamels, varnishes, and stains, as well as their appropriate applications.
  • Use of Painting Equipment and Tools: This includes learning how to use and maintain painting tools such as brushes, rollers, sprayers, and masking equipment.
  • Safety Protocols: Safety is paramount in painting. You will be trained in using personal protective equipment (PPE) and following safety procedures to avoid accidents and exposure to harmful chemicals.
  • Adherence to Regulations: Understanding and complying with environmental regulations, building codes, and health standards related to painting work is crucial.
  • Estimation and Project Management: You may learn how to estimate the amount of paint needed for a project, manage resources efficiently, and plan the timeline for completing painting tasks.
  • Communication Skills: Good communication with clients, contractors, and team members is essential for understanding project requirements and expectations.
  • Problem-Solving Skills: As a painter, you will encounter various challenges, such as dealing with uneven surfaces or selecting the right paint for specific environments. Problem-solving skills will help you overcome these hurdles.
  • Customer Service: If you work directly with clients, developing good customer service skills is crucial for client satisfaction and building a positive reputation.
  • Teamwork and Collaboration: In larger projects, painters often work as part of a team, and collaborating effectively is essential for a smooth workflow.
  • Continuous Learning: Painting techniques, products, and industry standards evolve over time. A willingness to learn and adapt to new trends and technologies will help you stay competitive in the field.
Painter Popular Career Specialties

Career Prospects for Painters

This profession offers a wide range of job opportunities that will put your artistic skills to great use. Whether you’re working on interior or exterior projects, you’ll get to create beautiful spaces that are both functional and visually pleasing. Drive your creativity to new heights by taking on this exciting career path.

  • Painter: A painter is responsible for applying paint and coatings to surfaces, such as walls, ceilings, furniture, and other structures. They work with various painting techniques and tools to achieve the desired finish.
  • Interior Painter: An interior painter focuses on painting the interior spaces of buildings, such as residential homes, offices, and commercial properties. They apply paint and coatings to walls, ceilings, trim, and other interior surfaces.
  • Exterior Painter: An exterior painter specializes in painting the outer surfaces of buildings and structures. They work on walls, facades, windows, doors, and other exterior elements to protect and enhance the building’s appearance.
  • Painter and Decorator: A painter and decorator is skilled in both painting and decorative finishes. They handle various painting projects, including walls, ceilings, and woodwork, and may specialize in decorative techniques like wallpapering, stenciling, and faux finishes.
  • Residential Painter: Residential painters focus on painting homes, apartments, and other residential properties. They may work for painting companies or as independent contractors.
  • Commercial Painter: Commercial painters handle painting projects in commercial spaces, including offices, retail stores, restaurants, and other business establishments.
  • Industrial Painter: Industrial painters apply specialized coatings to industrial structures, machinery, and equipment, ensuring protection against corrosion and wear.
  • Historic Restoration Painter: These painters specialize in restoring and preserving historic buildings, accurately recreating original paintwork and finishes.
  • Automotive Painter: Automotive painters apply paint and coatings to vehicles, including cars, motorcycles, trucks, and other automotive parts.
  • Aircraft Painter: Aircraft painters work in the aerospace industry, applying coatings to aircraft exteriors and interiors to meet safety and performance standards.
  • Marine Painter: Marine painters are responsible for painting and maintaining ships, boats, and other maritime structures.
  • Painting Estimator: Painting estimators assess painting projects, calculate material and labor costs, and provide quotes to clients.
  • Painting Instructor/Teacher: Painting instructors teach painting techniques and principles to students in schools, workshops, or community classes.
  • Self-Employed Painter/Contractor: Some painters choose to be self-employed and operate their own painting businesses, taking on various projects independently.

Companies & Industries that Need Painters

  • Painting Contractors
  • Construction Companies
  • Property Management Companies
  • Real Estate Developers
  • Facilities Management Companies
  • Retail Stores and Chains
  • Restaurants and Hospitality Industry
  • Entertainment Industry
  • Aerospace Companies
  • Marine Industry
  • Automotive Industry
  • Manufacturing and Industrial Companies
  • Non-Profit Organizations.

How to Balance Work & Life as a Painter

Being a painter, nothing compares to the satisfaction of seeing a wall transform into a beautiful, colorful masterpiece. Nevertheless, what does the daily life of a painter look like? Well, it’s all about striking the perfect balance between work and life, both inside and outside of the house. Painters are known to have flexible schedules, but that doesn’t mean they’re constantly working.

A painter’s typical day is spent prepping surfaces, painting walls, and cleaning up the mess. However, after work, it’s time to unwind and relax. Perhaps it’s picking up a brush and painting a canvas or maybe it’s lounging on the couch catching up on the latest Netflix series. Whatever it is, a painter must know how to balance their passion for their craft with their personal life.

What’s the Career Outlook for Painters?

The overall employment outlook for painting and coating workers shows a modest growth projection of 3% from 2021 to 2031, which is slower compared to the average rate of other occupations. Despite the relatively slower growth rate, the industry is expected to generate approximately 17,900 job openings annually, on average, during the decade.

While the growth rate may be moderate, there will still be ample opportunities for individuals pursuing careers in the painting and coating profession. These openings may arise due to the need for routine maintenance and renovations in various industries, including construction, residential and commercial property management, facilities maintenance, and more.

Moreover, as the existing workforce in this field retires or transitions to other occupations, it will create additional job vacancies, contributing to the number of opportunities available to new entrants.

Should I become a Painter?

If you’re contemplating becoming a painter, there are a few key points you’ll want to consider before dipping your brush into the paint pot. First off, take some time to read up on the subject, wade through the above information, and get a sense of what the job really entails. Keep in mind the different types of painters listed to determine where your passion really lies.

Are you interested in specific jobs like an interior painter, or exterior painter, or tackling larger projects on a grander scale? What are your personal interests, and how well do they align with the skills required to succeed in this field? Don’t be afraid to ask yourself these important questions before making any commitments.

Ultimately, whether you decide to take the plunge and become a painter or not, it’s important to make an informed decision that aligns with your long-term goals. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover a hidden talent and become the next Michelangelo!

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Ajoke Aminu

About the Author

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