Painter Skills List and Examples

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Paint might be literally superficial, but a good paint job (or a bad one!) makes a huge difference in the look, and even the feel, of a building. While many people paint their own interiors, most have to hire a professional if they want a professional-quality job. And hiring professionals is usually a must for painting exteriors.

You don’t need a degree, nor do you need to complete a specialized training program to paint, but in most states you do need a license - and you must know how to paint properly in order to receive your license.

You will also need to get insurance to protect yourself from liability should anything go wrong.

Painting interiors and exteriors are, in many ways, two separate jobs, since the paint types and the required tools are different for each. You can choose to do one or the other, or both.

How to Use Skills Lists

As a painter, you will either work for a contractor or you will work independently. If you choose to apply for a job with a contractor, you can use the skill list below to help craft your resume and cover letter and to prepare for your interview, though you should always read job descriptions carefully, as requirements can vary even between apparently similar positions.

As an independent, self-employed painter, you will be searching for clients, not employers, and will seldom need a resume. However, you can still use the list to help determine whether a career in painting is right for you.

You might also like to review our list of skills listed by job and type of skill.

Top Painter Skills

The following list is not exhaustive, but does explore some of the most important skills you will need as a painter.

Communication Skills
To serve a client’s needs, you must understand what the client wants.

Unfortunately, many people don’t know how to explain what they want clearly, so you will have to be able to either draw out more exact instructions, or use your judgment to fill in the details. Remember that good communication means hearing and respecting what the client wants, not what you think they should want. You can make suggestions, but the owner of the property always has final say.

Aesthetic Sense
Most clients will need you to make at least some judgment calls in your work, and some will directly ask you for advice. You therefore need a strong sense of what looks good. Think of the job site as a work of art.

What makes a good, or even a great paint job lies in the details - crisp, clean edges, even coats, and well-adhered layers. A small error can subtly but meaningfully alter the look of the room.

Familiarity with Required Tools
Painters use a variety of brushes, rollers, scrapers, wire brushes, sanders, and texturing tools in order to create different effects, and you must know which ones to use in each circumstance. You must also know how to use each efficiently and well. Tool choices differ between interior and exterior painting, and different tools might also be required for painting in different styles or textures.

Special treatments and cleanup also require their own equipment and materials. 

Familiarity with Required Materials
Paints vary not just by color, but also by texture, luster, viscosity, drying time, and other factors. Then there are primers, varnishes, sealers, and finishes, which also vary widely. Choose the wrong combination on the wrong surface, and the paint could peel, crack, wash away, or just look bad. 

Physical Dexterity, Strength, and Balance
Obviously, painters need good manual dexterity in order to achieve a good, clean coat. But you also need the strength and ergonomic skills to move equipment safely and efficiently, and a strong sense of balance in order not to fall off roofs and ladders.

Time Management Skills
Whether you are self-employed or the employee of another, you will likely spend most of your work-day alone, or at least out of view of your supervisor.

You must be able to work efficiently and well without anyone else’s direct oversight. Self-employed painters must also be able to give accurate estimates of how long a job will take to complete.

Here's a list of skills employers seek in the candidates they hire for painter jobs. Skills will vary based on the position for which you're applying, so also review our list of skills listed by job and type of skill.

Painter Skills List

A - D

  • Actively Listening to Customer Preferences
  • Adhering Wallpaper
  • Aesthetic Sensibility
  • Aligning Wallpaper Patterns
  • Arm and Hand Strength
  • Assembling Scaffolds
  • Assigning Work to Assistants
  • Attention to Detail
  • Calculating Costs
  • Calculating Quantities of Materials Required
  • Calculating Quantities of Wallpaper
  • Cleaning Surfaces Prior to Painting
  • Cleaning Up Work Space and Equipment after Jobs
  • Collaboration
  • Coordinating Colors and Patterns
  • Covering Spaces not Targeted for Painting
  • Customer Service

E - O

  • Establishing Rapport with Customers
  • Filling Cracks and Holes with Putty and Caulk
  • Following Directions from Designers/Decorators
  • Hiring Helpers
  • Interviewing Customers to Ascertain Preferences
  • Maintaining Proper Ventilation
  • Maneuvering Ladders
  • Manual Dexterity
  • Mathematical
  • Measuring Spaces to be Covered with Paint
  • Mixing Paints
  • Neatness
  • Networking for Referrals

O - Q

  • Operating Painting Equipment to Spray Large Surfaces
  • Organizational
  • Physical Stamina
  • Planning Projects
  • Preparing Estimates for Customers
  • Priming Surfaces
  • Prioritizing
  • Problem Solving
  • Promoting Services 
  • Purchasing Supplies
  • Removing Wallpaper

S - Z

  • Safety Conscious
  • Scheduling Multiple Projects in Coordination with Other Contractors
  • Scraping and Sanding to Smooth Surfaces
  • Securing References
  • Selecting Equipment for the Project
  • Selecting or Recommending Appropriate Paint for the Job
  • Teamwork
  • Time Management
  • Training Helpers
  • Working Independently
  • Working Quickly with Accuracy

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