Chosing a Decorative Painter

Congratulations! You get to decorate a room! This thrills some folks and strikes fear in the hearts of others. But there's no need to fear. There's help available!

As you're getting started, though, there are just a few things you might want to consider. This is a room where you'll probably be spending a lot of time. What mood do you want to create? Quiet and serene? Cheery and bright? An inspiring place? A place of fantasy and adventure? The possibilities are as boundless as your imagination. Think of your room as a blank canvas – full of possibilities. But one thing's for certain, the decor should bring a smile to your face! So, unchain that imagination!

Again, there's nothing to fear. If you don't feel secure about decorating you don't have to go it alone. Help is available. There are a plethora of terrific designers who will assist you at either an hourly rate or by the job fee. Or they will be happy to help you with all purchases, adding a percentage to the price to cover their time and energy. Just contact the American Society of Interior Designers ( You may also have wondered about employing a decorative painter. There are some things a wise home owner might consider in finding the right person.

A Few Things to Consider -

Does the decorative painter come with certifications? A fine arts degree? Professional membership such as the International Decorative Artisans League? Such credentials are clues that your artist is someone experienced and serious about her craft. Your neighbor down the street might graciously offer to decorate your room at little or no cost but have you seen her work? Tales of woe abound since lots of folks fancy themselves to be on a par with a professional artist when they're not really. Choose an artist who can show you an extensive portfolio. Often you'll be able to view their work online or you may find them through the yellow pages.

Do you like her sense of composition? Her use of color.? Remember that many of us don't SEE color accurately. Many, many people may not even realize that they have some degree of color-blindness. This applies to artists, too. Many decorative artists may be very skilled at various wall treatments, like rag rolling or sponging, but lack the drawing skills necessary to render things like people, animals, trees, and other shapes convincingly. Just be sure you've seen her work and that you LIKE it! Don't assume that because she may be able to do one style she can do the style you want. There are differing types of artistic talent. One person may be great at abstract, cartoons, non-representational designs or faux finishes but may not be good at pictures that look real. The ideal artist for your baby's room has demonstrated talent in creating the style of work YOU want.

Check out an artist's reputation. Personality is important for someone who will be spending an extended time in your house. Are they honest and trustworthy? Dependable? Flexible? Does she respect your taste and ideas? Is this person creative yet open to collaboration? I, personally, LOVE the process of collaborating with a client but some artists believe their way is the only way. Is she gracious and a good communicator or a difficult prima donna? As with most other things in life, generally you do get what you pay for. And if your dear sister-in-law, in her generosity, paints your room … well, what if you don't LIKE it? How many years might you have to live with it or risk hurting her feelings? In the long run a low price might not end up being the bargain you'd hoped for!

What to Expect -

Rarely am I able to give a price over the phone. Each job is unique with many variables going into the calculation. Variables that can affect the cost of your project include:

  • Distance from the artist's studio.
  • Is it new construction? Is there texture on the walls that might have to be removed or “mudded over” to achieve the look you want?
  • Is there easy access to the walls or are you expecting the artist to work around your things? Will they have to do heavy lifting?
  • Is there air conditioning, heat, and good light or will they have to bring their own flood lights, extension cords, and ladders?
  • Will particularly expensive paints or other supplies need to be purchased?
  • How much design time will be required before the painter even arrives to begin rendering your job? Often the main thing separating a really striking treatment from an amateurish one is the design skill of the artist and amount of planning and design time put in before the artist ever loads up their vehicle and buys the paint!

A true professional will take all these variables into consideration.

The Process –

The artist should submit her bid, in writing, spelling out all the services she will provide. A contract, signed by both parties, should be provided and is for the protection of all concerned. An experienced painter will not vary from the price in the contract unless changes are agreed upon after signing. An inexperienced artist is inclined to underestimate the amount of work involved and may consequently underbid. It's a part of the reason to be sure the person you select is experienced. I've heard the occasional story of an inexperienced painter asking for more money in the middle of a job leaving the client feeling over a barrel.

When I'm working in a client's house I try to be as unobtrusive and self-sufficient as possible but your offer of basic hospitality is much appreciated. I come equipped to work hard – because decorative painting is hard physical labor. I thoroughly cover up your carpet and precious possessions because accidents sometimes happen. So YOU needn't worry. Then the fun can begin and together we will transform your room to the sanctuary of your dreams, a space that will bring a smile to your face for years to come.

About the Author:
A lifelong Austin resident, Carol Hawkins has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Texas with a major in painting and minors in design and art history. Her particular emphasis is color having studied with Prof. Robert Levers, a student of the renowned color theorist Josef Albers at Yale. She has owned her own decorative painting and portrait business for many years. Her work can be seen at