Watching paint dry may be famously boring, but putting on a fresh coat can bring a dull space to life. Painters apply paint and stain to bring a new look and weather protection to surfaces of homes, buildings, and other structures. Painters uncover the original surface, and even out any imperfections before applying primer or sealant. To protect adjacent surfaces, they tape off, or cover them with tarps. Only after careful preparation do they paint— using hand brushes, rollers, or sprayers. Industrial painters work on bridges, oil rigs, and tall buildings. They may operate sand blasters to remove old coatings, and work from scaffolding, or suspended by cables from harnesses. Artisan painters use special techniques to create unique finishes. Helpers haul materials and tools, clean work areas and equipment, and perform other basic tasks as assigned. Painters typically work both indoors and outdoors, spending the day climbing, bending, kneeling, and reaching. They have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. Falls from ladders, muscle strains from lifting, and exposure to irritants such as drywall dust are common risks. Protective eyewear and clothing is worn when needed. Most painters work full time, and many are self-employed. There is no education requirement and most painters learn on the job. Some learn the trade through a 3- or 4-year apprenticeship that combines paid work experience with more formal training.

Painters apply paint, stain, and coatings to walls and ceilings, buildings, bridges, and other structures.

What Do Painters and Wallpaper Installers Do?

Duties

Painters typically do the following:

  • Cover floors, furniture, and trim with drop cloths, tarps, and masking tape to protect surfaces
  • Remove and replace pictures and outlet and switch covers
  • Install scaffolding and raise ladders
  • Fill holes and cracks with putty or plaster
  • Prepare surfaces by scraping, wire brushing, or sanding to a smooth finish
  • Calculate the size of the area to be painted and the amount of paint needed for the area
  • Apply primers or sealers so the paint will stick to the surface
  • Apply paint or other finishes, using hand brushes, rollers, or sprayers

Paints and other sealers protect surfaces from damage caused by weather, sunlight, and pollution.

There are several ways to apply paint to a surface, and painters must choose the correct tool for each job, such as a roller, power sprayer, or brush. Choosing the right tool typically depends on the type of surface to be painted and the characteristics of the paint to be used. Some employers require painters to provide their own equipment.

Painters may wear special safety equipment for a job. For example, painters working in confined spaces, such as the inside of a large storage tank, must wear self-contained suits to avoid inhaling toxic fumes. Some painters wear additional clothing and protective eyewear when operating abrasive blasters to remove old coatings. When painting bridges, ships, tall buildings, or oil rigs, painters may work from scaffolding or harnesses.