How to Become a Painter

Painter Careers & Degrees
Education1-2 Years

Do you have a deep desire to create beautiful pieces of art? If so, you might like to become a painter.

A painter is an artist who specializes in creating beautiful artworks of paint on canvas or other surfaces.

They might use oil or water color paints, as well as many other mixed mediums.

When you become a painter you can look forward to a very stimulating career where you get to express your creativity every day and make works that other people enjoy.

It’s a pretty good job, perhaps that’s why it’s also very difficult to become successful in this field.

However, if you have talent and plenty of perseverance, then anyone can become a painter.

Education Requirements to Become a Painter

There is not set educational pathway to become a painter.

The journey you take is up to you.

Some painters go to a fine art college after they graduate from high school, or complete an undergraduate college degree in art.

At school you’ll learn the proper techniques used by artists.

You’ll learn how to use color and perspective.

Most courses will also include a great deal of art history which will help you to create your own works and style.

The best way to learn to become a painter is simply to paint a lot.

Practice as much as you can and keep a strong portfolio.

When you feel you’re ready, you can start marketing your works.

You might like to approach art dealers to see if they are interested in selling your work.

It helps to have been featured in a few exhibits so as to have good credibility beforehand.

Of course, there are other ways to sell your work.

You could have a booth at a local craft market, or you could also sell your works online through a website.

Unless you’re interested in illustration, animation, or graphic design, it’s pretty hard to get a full time gig as a painter.

Most artists make their money by selling their works, or simply support their craft with another part-time job.

Painter Job Description

The first part of your role when you become a painter is simply to paint.

Create your works of art.

Most painters work for a few hours each day, and may spend other time looking for ideas and inspirations.

Sometimes a painter may finish a work in just a few days, other times they may spend weeks or even months on the same piece of work.

The second part of your job is to market yourself.

There are lots of ways you could do this.

You could have your work included in galleries and exhibitions for viewing and for sale, or you might sell works online or from your own home.

Entering an art competition is a great way to attract attention, and you may even win some prize money.

Self-promotion is also important.

While you might be able to hire someone to do your public relations later on, but in the beginning you will need to do a lot for yourself.

You might like to write articles and have them published in art journals, or you could also promote any galleries or exhibitions that you are a part of.

Painter Salary and Career Path

Your career path when you become a painter could be varied.

Some painters earn a good degree of success early on and make a good living form their craft.

Others battle on for years and struggle to make ends meet.

Some don’t even become well known until after their death.

Many painters support themselves with another job.

They may complete artwork for a publishing company or advertising agency.

Some may work as graphic artists.

Some work part-time in completely different industries.

Some artists do get salaried jobs.

In this instance the median salary is around $42,000 a year.

Self-employed artists earnings vary considerably, as they are paid per job.

Here are some similar jobs to that of artist you may be interested in:

  • Artist
  • Art Historian
  • Sculptor
  • Glass blower
  • Author
  • Art teacher
  • Animator
  • Graphic designer

If you are passionate about painting and creating beautiful works, then you might like to become an artist.

It’s a challenging career path, but very rewarding if you’re one of the few that become successful.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama- NA -
Hawaii- NA -
Montana- NA -
New Hampshire$55,800
New Jersey$70,910
New Mexico$32,880
New York$97,360
North Carolina$38,650
South Carolina$24,010
Puerto Rico$32,610

The top earning state in the field is New York, where the average salary is $97,360.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

New York - $97,360
California - $94,000
Connecticut - $77,530
New Jersey - $70,910
Washington - $60,120
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Fine Artists, Including Painters, Sculptors, and Illustrators, OCC Code 27-1013, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat does a painter do?

A painter applies various decorative finishes (paint, coatings, wallpaper…) to the exterior and interior surfaces.

The job of a painter is to not only decorate but to also prepare the surface for painting and protect the final result by using different solutions.

Some of the tasks include examining the building surfaces in order to decide on the right procedures and techniques and to determine the quantity of the chosen materials; repairing surfaces wherever it is necessary; applying paint and other materials using various tools; cleaning up during and after the project; analyzing and calculating data and preparing invoices and tenders.

QuestionHow much do painters make?

The average salary of a painter is around 1.2 times higher than the median wage of the country.

Painters are expected to earn around $40.000 per year.

Those that are just getting started can apply for an entry-level position, where painters can make about $28.000 annually.

Professionals who have years of experience can earn $57.000 per year or even more.

On average, painters earn around $21 per hour.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a painter?

You don’t need a formal degree to become a painter.

You can actually gain the necessary experience while working with the professionals.

However, to be able to find clients on your own, you would want to apply for a license.

The cost of a license will vary a lot depending on where you come from.

Typically, it will cost you around $300.

However, in case you are doing small house painting jobs (under $2.000 or $5.000 – the number varies depending on the state), you wouldn’t need a license.

QuestionWhat is the demand for painters?

According to BLS (the Bureau of Labor Statistics), there will be a 7% growth in demand for painters from 2014 to 2024.

That is pretty much the average overall job growth throughout the country.

The great news for painters is that house paint has a relatively short life, that’s why landlords need to renew it from time to time.

Moreover, the trends for different colors and techniques change quite often and a lot of clients tend to follow the trends.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a painter?

A painter is the type of job that does not require formal education.

You will find everything you need to know online and the skills can be easily picked up during short classes.

You might want to begin as a painter’s helper to get more insight knowledge about the job and acquire the necessary experience.

In case you want to become a licensed painter, you can join an apprenticeship program that typically lasts for 3-4 years.

Each year, you will be completing around 100 hours of classroom training and you will have the opportunity to work full-time assisting professionals.

Depending on the state, the license requirements will vary.

In some states, you need to have at least 2 years of experience behind your shoulders.

Still wondering which career path is right for you? take this free career interests test to find out.

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