Mastering Techniques from Draw Down Cards to Brushes: Making a Great Professional Painter 1

Jason was about to join the business his father, Wesley, owned. For twenty five years – since before Jason was born – the company had offered interior painting services to homes and offices around the Topeka area. For the first few years, Wesley worked on all the jobs himself. But in the last two decades, he had carefully added new employees both in the field performing paint work and also in the office to make sure that everything ran smoothly. The plan was for Jason to spend time with each department, learning the ins-and-outs of the business so that one day, when Wesley retired, Jason could take over the family business.

The first job Wesley wanted Jason exposed to was the paint work itself. “Son,” he said, “the business end of things might be more interesting to you, but the core of what we do revolves around painting walls and making people happy. Get used to it, because you’re not going to do anything else around here until you prove to me that you know the paint work inside and out. Our team follows my lead and they all know that I can grab a brush and get to work if I have to.”

A paint roller and blue paint.

Becoming a painter isn’t as easy as picking up a roller. Professional painters have a skill set that takes time to develop.
Image courtesy of Premium Professional Painting.

Learning from the Ground Up

And so it was that Jason ended up on a paint crew for the family business. He originally thought that the work would last a few days before he was transferred into the office to help run the show. But the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months and before he knew it, Jason had been painting houses and offices for so long that he wondered if he’d ever play a part in the operation of the business.

Wesley understood Jason’s concern and answered him like this: “I told you that this business is about the actual work we do painting. It took me almost thirty years to get in this office… so no, there is no way you’re ready to run the show. When you really think you’re ready, when you really think you paint as well as anyone else in this company…even as well as me, you let me know and I’ll come take a look.”

Jason understood his father’s point of view and got back to work, finally understanding that he would have to earn his chance to run the company; it wouldn’t be given to him just because he was Wesley’s son. He understood that he needed to actually learn how to be a great painter, to follow in his father’s footsteps of doing the hard work first and doing it well. For months he had been simply showing up to work, keeping his head down, and painting walls until the job was done. But that kind of effort doesn’t make a great professional painter…far from it. Great professional painters take more pride than that in their work. Great professional painters focus on every detail from start to finish, making sure the client is delighted by the result each and every time.

Even the highest-level painter has to start somewhere. If you’re getting started in your career, you might be impatient to get to the top quickly, but in a skilled trade like professional painting, it is important to gain both width and depth of experience. Gaining that experience takes time, repetition, and exposure to different tools and techniques. There are not shortcuts available if you truly want to excel. You’d also be remiss to think that you can become an expert in the business side of professional painting without an exceptional knowledge base regarding the actual painting process.

Father and son paint team

Succeeding long term in the paint business requires commitment.
Image courtesy of Roehrick Painting LLC, via Southern Minn.

Mastering the Details

The first thing Jason needed to learn was proper job preparation. He understood that painting is only a small part of the job that comes after taping off trim and laying drop-clothes. Jason learned from more experienced painters which glosses worked well in different situations and how to offer the client a draw down card to make sure the color was exactly what they wanted. He learned from other painters on the team how to use a wet-film thickness gage to make sure the walls had been properly coated. He watched his colleagues to see what types of brushes they used in each situation. Most importantly, he took the knowledge he acquired over time and applied it to his own work. Eventually, he was able to go to Wesley and tell him that, yes, he was a skilled painter ready to take the torch from his father and lead the business into the future.

Whether you’re hoping to master interior painting or become a well-known airbrush artist, it’s important to pay attention to the small steps and details that eventually lead you to the finished product. Doing the little things well is what will separate you from your peers. And if you fail to master those little things, you’ll find that they can cause some big problems down the line – whether it’s paint that doesn’t properly adhere to a substate because you failed to choose the appropriate paint, or a color that doesn’t come out quite right and needs to be redone, learning how to nail every step of the process to begin with will prevent some painful lessons later on.

Bringing It All Together

As with most professions, there is much to learn on your way to becoming a good (never mind great) painter. The common thread with those that consistently provide excellent results is a never-ending thirst for new knowledge. New additives and tools and paint types mean that professional painters constantly have new options when painting. Are you taking advantage of everything available to you? Why not? By studying how to paint at a high level instead of simply being a painter, Jason was able to excel in his field and become the type of professional painter that does a great job and keeps clients happy all the time.

Are you simply a painter? Or do you seek to excel at your craft? If your desire is to simply paint for a living, then dedicating yourself to the work itself as Jason did is probably not under consideration. But if your goal is to be the type of paint professional that not only does great work for clients but also distinguishes themselves from other painters, then it is imperative that you take seriously each part of the paint process. Click here to learn more about becoming a top flight professional painter!

One comment

  1. Pingback: Advice on Tools and Technique from a Professional Painter | BYK | Getting Started in the Paint Industry

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