How Much Money Do Painting Contractors Get Paid?

Painting contractors typically work on a project by project basis and often direct a painting team.
Painting contractors typically work on a project by project basis and often direct a painting team. (Image: Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Painting contractors are commonly hired by businesses, organizations, individuals, and the government for a large variety of jobs. Painters use brushes, spray guns, rollers, and other equipment to transform the color and look of houses, offices, buildings, and even bridges and other outdoor structures. They also commonly remove paint or work to make small improvements or touch ups. Job prospects for painters are expected to remain positive over the next several years, but salaries can vary widely based on a number of conditions.

Nationwide Salary Range

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in May of 2010 there were approximately 189,840 painters working across the country and earning an annual mean wage of $37,610. Most commonly painting contractors fell into the middle 50 percent of wages, earning between $27,500 and $44,910 annually. The bottom 10th percentile, perhaps the less experienced, reported salaries of under $22,450 a year. Painters at the top of their field, with the best reputation, may have reached the 90th percentile and garnered incomes of over $58,480 a year.

Effects of Location

A painting contractor's income may be significantly effected by the location of the work, possibly due to cost of living or over-saturation of painters. For example, Louisiana has both a low relative cost of living and the highest concentration of painting contractors in the U.S., and an annual mean wage of $33,150. Painters in Texas made even less at $30,850 a year on average. In states like New York and Hawaii, wages were considerably higher, averaging $46,620 and $49,350 a year, respectively. Illinois was the highest paying state in the U.S., boasting an annual mean wage of $51,140, according to the BLS.

Type of Projects or Hiring Industries

The vast majority of painters in 2010 were private building finishing contractors and made $36,650 a year on average in this working environment, according to the BLS. Those who focus on home building jobs averaged $33,270 a year. Landing contracts with the local government paid substantially more, $47,230 a year on average. Several employers paid exceptional wages, such as motor vehicle manufacturers, with an annual mean wage of $62,690. The motion picture industry provided the highest salaries. There were a very limited number of positions in this industry in 2010, but the average salary of a contract painter was $64,570 a year, according to the BLS.


Most painting contractors spend years learning on the job before they become independent contractors. Some enroll in formal training programs or an apprenticeship, lasting two to four years. In addition to learning about equipment and materials used for construction painting, apprentices will learn about color harmony, application techniques, and safety procedures. As painting contractors will typically obtain their own contracts, excellent social and interpersonal skills are highly advantageous.

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