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Get a painting business license: State-by-state requirements

As an ever-increasing number of people continue to purchase new homes and investment properties, the housing boom has also increased demand for interior decorators, interior designers, and other skilled laborers who are experts at transforming a given space into something uniquely beautiful.

One popular tradesman who significantly benefited from the exploding housing market is the painter. Every new home and business needs a new paint job, and anytime a property changes ownership or changes tenants, a fresh coat of paint is standard procedure when turning over the keys.

If you’re looking to join the legion of workers who profit off brush strokes, your first order of business will be to obtain a painter’s license. The following guide will help you understand the painting licensing process specific to the state in which you’re setting up shop or the state you’re moving to so you can spend less time worrying over paperwork and more time jazzing up walls with your cans and rollers.

How to get a painting license: Overview

What is a painting license?

A painting license is essentially a certification that allows you the opportunity to bid on large-scale painting contracts. Being certified with a painting license tells prospective clients that your painting operation meets state requirements and that you meet the basic criteria and skillset to call yourself a professional painter. In many scenarios, the process for obtaining your painting license will include: Taking a state exam, proving you have work experience, and proving you have economic stability deriving from your painting work.

How is this different from getting a business license for my painting business? Is it different at all?

Whether you are a painting business owner or operate as a painting contract worker, you’ll still be required to secure a painting license if your goal is to bid or work on large-scale painting jobs. However, a painter’s license does not encompass any additional licenses that may be necessary to own and operate a painting business in your particular state.

Suppose you’re launching your own painting business. In that case, you’ll first want to obtain your painter’s license and then explore the other business license requirements for your state, city, and town, all of which may differ depending on where you live.

Additionally, obtaining a painting license is not the same as registering your painting business with the state. Registering your painting business is often much less intricate than the licensing process, but like a painter’s license, it varies state-by-state in terms of the necessary steps.

How much does a painting license cost?

Just as the requirements for securing a painting license differ from state to state, the license fee differs on a state-by-state basis as well. Generally, the initial cost of a painting license will run several hundred dollars, with a renewal or activation fee added to the first year, which will be paid out every few years following.

What happens if I’m not certified?

If you opt not to procure your painting business license, you will not be legally eligible to bid or work on high-budget painting contracts. The minimum threshold for what constitutes a “high-budget contract” varies from state to state, so if you’re thinking about forgoing the certification process, it’s important to know what kind of work you’re limiting yourself to.

In the long run, it’s more advantageous to your painting career and your bank account if you spend the time researching your state’s painting license requirements and then take any of the mandatory courses or exams. You’ll not only emerge a more learned professional, but you’ll also possess a higher level of credibility amongst your potential clients.

Painting license requirements: State by state

Despite the variance across state lines, there is some overlap in general requirements:

Personal requirements

  • Be at least 18 years or older.
  • Possess a valid Social Security Number or ITIN Number.
  • Possess a valid driver’s license, identification card, or passport issued in the United States.

Your state may


  • Mandate a work experience requirement. For example, a prospective licensee must have at least 4 years of journey or handyman level experience in California.
  • Mandate a licensing exam consisting of contract law questions and painting questions.
  • Mandate a clean criminal record, whereas, in other states, minor offenses will not impact your ability to obtain a painter’s license.
  • Proof of work experience and a qualifying individual to verify your experience.
  • Require you to register your painting business with the state in which you reside.
  • Require a surety bond for added protection against flakey contractors.

The following outlines the specific painting license requirements for each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C.  

Alabama

In the state of Alabama, if a painting project cost is over $50,000, painting contractors must possess the Alabama and Wall Covering Contractor license if they wish to bid on those levels of projects. Alabama also requires painting license applicants to pass the Alabama Business and Law exams and possess at least 3 years of painting experience. Both a state license and business registration are required in this state.

Alaska

There are three different types of painting contractor licenses in Alaska. Both a state license and business registration are required in this state:

  • General Contractors License: For painters who work exclusively on commercial buildings and not residential properties.
  • Specialty Contractors License: For painters who work on both commercial and residential properties but with limits. For you to work on residences, you must get a license issued by the Division of Corporations, Business and Professional Licensing.
  • General Contractors with Residential Endorsement License: For painters who can work on any type of building—commercial or residential—without any limits. To obtain this license, painters must possess business insurance in a general liability or workers’ compensation policy. Just like specialty contractors, to work on residences, the licenses must be issued by the Division of Corporations, Business and Professional Licensing.

Painters in Alaska must also secure a surety bond. The minimum bond amounts are $25,000 for general contractors, $20,000 for general contractors with residential endorsement, and $10,000 for specialty contractors.

Arizona

Painters in Arizona must secure a painting license from the Arizona Registrar of Contractors if they work on a contract valued at over $5,000. To apply for either the residential painting license or the commercial painting license, painters must secure a surety bond, pass trade and business management exams, and provide proof of working under an Arizona state-recognized contractor. One year of experience is required for the residential license, and 2 years of experience are required for the commercial license. Both a state license and business registration are required in this state.

Arkansas

If you’re a painter in Arkansas working on a contract worth over $2,000, you’ll need to snag a painting license. To do so, you’ll need to pass the C-34 exam, obtain a surety bond, and secure workers' compensation insurance if you have employees. Both a state license and business registration are required in Arkansas, and all painting contractors are required to procure business insurance.

However, if you’re a subcontractor and work with a licensed contractor, you do not need your own painting license. If you’re working for an unlicensed contractor, you will need your own license.

California

In California, the painting licensing process is a bit more rigorous than in other states. Painting contractors who work on a project valued at over $500 need a license from the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB). There are a few steps to follow to even qualify for the license itself. Painters must show proof of at least 4 years of experience within the last 10 years as a journeyman in the area they’re applying, pass the C-33 exam, secure a surety bond with a $15,000 minimum, and possess a workers’ compensation insurance policy should you have employees. Both a state license and business registration are required in this state.

Colorado

Colorado is one of the few states that does not have a license requirement for painters. However, you might need local licenses depending on where you operate in the state, and general liability insurance is often required in those scenarios as well.

Connecticut

Connecticut is another state that does not require a painting license. However, if your contracts are valued higher than $200 or total $1,000 for the year, you’ll need to register your business with the Department of Consumer Protection and designate whether you’re a major or minor contractor. Major contractors work on large buildings like hotels, care facilities, and other institutional homes. Minor contractors work on private residences and smaller units.

Delaware

Any painter working on any contract in Delaware from which they derive revenue must obtain a license from the Delaware Division of Revenue. To apply, you must pass an exam.

Once you have your license and begin work, you’ll need to secure a surety bond if the value of your contracts is greater than $20,000, and if you have employees, you’ll also need to lock down workers’ compensation insurance. Both a state license and business registration are required in this state.

District of Columbia

All contractors—including painters—located in Washington, D.C., must possess a Washington D.C. Contractor’s License. A general contractor’s license fee is $655, and you can apply online at the My DC Business Center.

Florida

The Florida painter’s license comes in two forms: Certified, which means a painter can work anywhere in the state, and registered, meaning a painter can work at the local level. In both cases, painters must pass an exam and have at least 4 years of working experience. Painters will also need to apply for a general contractor license from the Construction Industry Licensing Board, and if you have employees, you’ll need to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Both a state license and business registration are required in this state.

Georgia

For any painting project over $2,500, you’ll need the Georgia Residential Basic Contractor License. You’ll need to pass the Georgia Business and Law exam, secure a Georgia certificate of business insurance, and have two years of working experience.

Hawaii

Similar to Georgia, painting licenses are required in Hawaii for any contracts over $2,500. You can obtain professional and vocational licenses from the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. First, you’ll need to pass an exam, have 4 years of working experience in the last 10 years, provide a financial statement signed by a CPA, and show proof of a surety bond, general liability insurance, and workers’ compensation insurance if you have employees. Both a state license and business registration are required in this state.

Idaho

While there is no painting licensing requirement in the state of Idaho, you must register your painting business with the state to work on projects over $2,000. If you have employees, you’ll also need to show proof of workers’ compensation insurance and general liability insurance.

Illinois

There is no state-level painting license or registration requirement in Illinois.

Indiana

There is no state-level painting license or registration requirement in Indiana.

Iowa

There is no painting license requirement in Iowa. However, if the value of your contracts is over $2,000 by the end of the year, you’ll need to register your business with the Iowa Division of Labor.

Kansas

In Kansas, painters are only licensed at the local level. There is no state license requirement outside of those handling lead paint, who must secure a license from the Kansas Department of Health & Environment.  

Kentucky

There is no state-level painting license or registration requirement in Kentucky.

Louisiana

In Louisiana, you can obtain painting licenses from the State Licensing Board for Contractors, which issues 4 different license types that fall under the umbrella of the construction classification: a commercial license, residential license, mold remediation license, and home improvement license. To secure the license, painters must pass a business and law exam, submit a financial statement certified by a CPA, show proof of general liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance, and proof of your work experience. Both a state license and business registration are required in this state.

Maine

There is no-state level painting license or registration requirement in Maine.

Maryland

To apply for Maryland’s painter’s license, you’ll need to provide proof of 2 years of work experience, proof of financial information, proof of general liability insurance, and proof of workers’ compensation insurance if you have employees, and also pass the MHIC exam. Both a state license and business registration are required in this state.

Massachusetts

For painting work in Massachusetts, you do not need a license. However, you must register your painting business with the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation.

Michigan

For painters in Michigan, applying for the Maintenance and Alterations license from the Builder’s Unit of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs is required. To do so, you’ll need to pass a 60-hour pre-licensing course.

Minnesota

In Minnesota, commercial painters do not require a license. However, painters contracting with homeowners and offering skilled services in more than one area—such as interior, exterior, and drywall painting—do require a building contractor or remodeler license. To secure the license, you’ll need to pass an exam and show proof of general liability insurance and workers compensation insurance if you have employees.

Mississippi

Mississippi painters are required to be licensed by the Mississippi State Board of Contractors, for which you’ll need to take a pre-approval exam. As part of the application process, you’ll need to show proof of general liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance, pass exams, and submit financial statements.

Missouri

There is no state-level painting license or registration requirement in Missouri.

Montana

There is no painting license requirement in the state of Montana, though you’ll need to register your business with the Department of Labor and Industry if you have employees.

Nebraska

There’s no state license requirement for painters. However, painters conducting business in Nebraskan counties with populations greater than 100,000 will need a license. You’ll also need to register your painting business with the Nebraska Department of Labor and provide proof of general liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance if you have employees.

Nevada

All painters in Nevada must possess the Nevada Painting and Decorating Contractor License from the state licensing board. To secure the license, you must pass an exam, have 4 years of working experience in the last 10 years, a surety bond, and workers’ compensation insurance if you have employees.

New Hampshire

There is no state-level painting license or registration requirement in New Hampshire.

New Jersey

If you’re a painter in New Jersey, you classify as a home improvement contractor. As part of the license requirements, you’ll need to register with the Division of Consumer Affairs. You’ll then need to renew your registration each year and display your registration badge in your shop, on your paperwork, or in ads.

If you work with lead paint, you’ll need to secure a license from the Department of Environmental Protection Compliance and Enforcement, the Department of Law and Public Safety, or the Division of Consumer Affairs.  

New Mexico

There is no state-level painting license or registration requirement in New Mexico.

New York

There is no painting license or registration requirement in New York, though there are requirements at the city and county levels. For places like New York City, you’ll need a Home Improvement Contractor License from the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, for which you’ll need to pass an exam and show proof of insurance.

North Carolina

For painting jobs worth over $30,000 in North Carolina, you need to carry a license provided by the North Carolina Licensing Board, for which you’ll need to pass an exam. For jobs under $30,000, you do not need to carry a license.

If you work with lead paint, you’ll need to be certified by the Environmental Protection Agency and take classes to obtain the certification.

North Dakota

If your painting work totals more than $4,000 in the state of North Carolina, you’ll need to obtain a license and register your business with the Secretary of State. You will not have to take an exam, but you will have to provide proof of general liability insurance. If you have employees, you’ll need to provide evidence of workers’ compensation insurance.

There are 4 classifications of licenses depending on the scope of work:

  • Class A: For a project exceeding $500,000
  • Class B: For a project less than $500,000
  • Class C: For a project less than $300,000
  • Class D: For a project less than $100,000

Ohio

There is no state-level painting license or registration requirement in Ohio, though you must obtain a license and registration at the local level.

If you generate hazardous waste, you’ll need to notify the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Oklahoma

There is no state-level painting license or registration requirement in Oklahoma.

Oregon

Being a painter classifies as a form of construction in Oregon, which means you’ll need to obtain a license. To do so, you’ll need to take an exam and provide proof of general liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance. Additionally, you or an employee (if you have one) will need to complete 16 hours of Renovation Repair and Painting (RRP) training from a certified provider. If you use lead paint, you’ll need a special license from the Oregon Health Authority.

Pennsylvania

There is no state-level painting license or registration requirement in Pennsylvania, though you will be required to show proof of business insurance.

Rhode Island

There is no state-level painting license or registration requirement in Rhode Island, but if you’re a painter who works on a home built before 1978, you must work for a licensed Lead Hazard Control Firm, for which you’ll need to complete a Lead-Safe Remodeler license.  

South Carolina

In South Carolina, painters must have a license, especially when working on a commercial construction project over $5,000. To obtain your license, you’ll need to have 2 years of work experience in the past 5 years and pass business and law exams.

Painters of residential buildings need to be registered, but they do not need to take an exam.

South Dakota

There is no state-level painting license or registration requirement in South Dakota, though you’ll need to be licensed by your local government.

Tennessee

For painters in Tennessee, you’ll need to obtain a Home Improvement License for any contracts between $3,000 and $25,000. For jobs valued over $25,000, you’ll need to secure a contractor license, for which you’ll need to pass a trade exam.

When applying for the Home Improvement License, you’ll need to provide proof of general liability insurance, workers’ compensation insurance, and proof of financial responsibility.

Texas

There is no state-level painting license or registration requirement in Texas.

Utah

In the state of Utah, you’ll need a construction contractor license for general painting, which you can secure from the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing. You’ll be required to show proof of 2 years of work experience, pass an exam, and provide proof of general liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance if you have employees.

Vermont

There is no painting license or registration requirement in Vermont, except for painters who work with lead abatement.  

Virginia

Painters in Virginia must obtain a state license from the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation. There are three different types of licenses:

  • Class A: For individual projects valued at $10,000 up to a $150,000 maximum per year and 2 years of experience.
  • Class B: For individual projects valued at $120,000 up to a $750,000 maximum per year and 3 years of experience.
  • Class C: For individual projects with no limit and 5 years of experience.

Washington

You’ll need to register for a license with the Washington Secretary of State. While you won’t have to take any exams, you will need to provide proof of general liability insurance. Specialty contractors will also need to secure a surety bond of $6,000.

West Virginia

If your painting work is for contracts over $1,000, you’ll be required to get a painting license from the West Virginia Division of Labor. You’ll need to secure a surety bond and workers’ compensation insurance if you have employees.

Wisconsin

There is no state-level painting license or registration requirement in Wisconsin.

Wyoming

There is no state-level painting license or registration requirement in Wyoming.

How Huckleberry can help kickstart your painting business

Despite being in demand, life as a painting contractor or running your own painting business comes with a significant amount of risk. That’s why you must get painter’s insurance. For all of your business insurance needs, choose Huckleberry.

Huckleberry stays busy finding the right policies for your painting practice so you can spend more time creating inspired landscapes on the walls of the homes and businesses you care about.


Disclaimer

All content on this page is for general informational purposes only and does not apply to any specific case, is not legal, tax or insurance advice and should not be relied upon. If you have any questions about the situation for your small business or the latest information in your state, you should contact an attorney for legal advice, an insurance agent or broker, and/or your state's labor or industry agency, board, commission or department. Please note that the information provided on this page may change at any time as a result of legislative action, court decisions or rules adopted or amended by any state or the federal government.

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