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a house painter holding a paintbrush and leaning on a stepladder Painters and interior decorators apply paint, stain, varnish, and other finishes to buildings and structures to make them attractive or protect against erosion.  They first prepare the surface for painting by sanding, brushing, burning, or blasting off any old paint in addition to filling holes and cracks and washing.  In addition to surface preparation and painting, painters also mix paint and match colors.

The tools used by a painter depend on the surface being painted and the type of painting being done.  Paint applicators used for decorative purposes include simple bristle brushes, dips or fountain pressure rollers, and paint sprayers.  Decorative painting techniques include applying one or more colors in broken layers to produce a textured effect, as well as sponging, rag-rolling, stippling, sheen striping, dragging, distressing, color blocking, marbling, and faux finishes.

Some painters specialize in painting industrial structures to prevent deterioration, most commonly utilizing an easy to apply waterborne acrylic solvent.  They may coat oil rigs, steel bridges, storage tanks, plant buildings, lockers, piping, structural steel, and ships.  Industrial painters must take safety precautions as determined by the project, which may include full-body protective suits.  Painters working on buildings use scaffolding or a swing-like bosun's chair.

Most painters work 40 hours per week or less and must stand for long periods of time or work from ladders or scaffolding.  They do a lot of climbing, bending, kneeling, and stretching, and must have good stamina for working long periods with arms raised overhead.  They often work outdoors in warm, dry weather.

Painters typically learn their trade on the job, but some choose to complete an apprenticeship program.  Apprenticeship programs consist of two to four years of paid on the job training in addition to at least 144 hours of classroom instruction in color harmony, tools, surface preparation, application techniques, paint mixing and matching, finishing characteristics, blueprint reading, wood finishing, and safety.  Workers may also gain skills by attending one year programs at technical or vocational schools prior to employment.  Painters may advance to supervisory or estimating positions, especially if they are able to communicate in both English and Spanish.

Employment of painters and decorators is expected to grow as fast as the national average.  Please visit the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades websites for more information about painting and decorating careers and training opportunities.  For training and certification information about industrial painting careers, visit the National Association of Corrosion Engineers website.

Painting Contractors in each State and the District of Columbia

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About Painters' Job Responsibilities, Educational Requirements, and Working Conditions