TP Home | About | Newsletter | Blogs |

How would you advise Jason?

I was wondering if you can give me some advice.

I am looking to learn about decorating. I have done a few jobs around my house and learned a lot from this site. There’s a company called Able Skills who do courses. Do you think you need a City and Guilds to get a job in decorating or to set up on your own?

What route would you take if you were looking to enter the trade? Could you give me some top tips.

best wishes Jason

It’s not essential to have C&G or the NVQ equivalent but I have found that with more discerning clients if I mention I have Advanced C&G they immediately take more notice of what I have to say. At college you will learn things that in the real world you will not have to do often, but having those skills puts you above the rest of the pack and believe me there are a lot of “decorators” out there who have no right to be calling themselves that.

You don’t mention your age but if you are young try to get an apprenticeship, you’ll do a combination of formal college and on the job training. The groundwork is on the job and you’ll learn a lot, the formal college work will refine things and teach you tried and tested methods.

Amongst Traditional painter are a few college lecturers and assesors, they will be able to point you in the right direction.

Good luck and aim high because the work at the bottom end is not where you’ll get much satisfaction.

Hi Jason,

Some great questions you have asked and my first impressions are: Your keen, or you wouldn’t be asking. So well done on that score mate.

IMO I would steer clear of fast track centre’s and look towards your local FE College’
You cant learn our trade on a six week crash course, you need to absorb and practice new skills over and over, these places will get you a qualification but I doubt you would have learnt very much at the end of six weeks, its a box ticking exercise KEEP AWAY!!

If your unemployed you can receive free training and if your currently employed most FE colleges will offer evening classes. (Now is the time that Colleges are taking on new learners, so dabb in).

As the other lads have mentioned you don’t have to have quals to be a good decorator; I know some cracking deccies that don’t have a qual to their name but most have had some formal training.

If you want to work on construction sites you will need a CSCS Card and therefore you will need NVQ training this will also make you more employable to potential employers.

Create a CV and nicely worded covering letter expressing your interest and send it out to local decorators in your area, always be honest and open with them and offer to work FOC to gain experience. Once you get the decorating bug in your blood its there for life and as the lads have said aim high, keep keen and motivated and you will succeed. It can be very rewarding and you get to meet some great personalities.

Hope this helps? Good Luck and Best Wishes, keep us lot at TP posted :slight_smile:

Regards Russ

1 Like

Well all I can add to the above is I have been in the trade for 30+ yrs and I don’t have any paper work to my name. I never have been to college ( well not to learn anyway but did 9 months at my local college teaching wallpapering and I got that job without any paper work or quals )

I got all (Or most) my training out and about working with my father and grandfather.
Now I will say if your just starting out and have little on site work under your belt, then getting some training will help you no end, but as been said by Russ, I would stay away from the short six week course route, and just get down to your local college or find a small friendly firm and see if you can get some work that way.

I thing I will say, which ever route you do take just look listen and never be worried about asking for help or asking questions when your not sure, as I have said before, I’ve been doing this for 30+ yrs and I’m still learning every day.

Good luck and keep us updated,


A few different perspectives, but all come down to one core factor - learn from the best decorators you can find.

I would say that in theory, the fastest (in a hare and tortoise type scenario) is to learn as Neil did, working constantly onsite from 2 master decorators with the drive to help you be the best you can. If you have that chance, even if it means living on beans, just do it. But in reality, there are not many of those golden opportunities around.

If you go the normal learning on site route, you will meet 95% of decs with a “That’ll do” attitude, and they don’t have a big picture mindset. You don’t want to be learning from people who put a limit on the possibilities. The depth and breadth of decorating as a trade is huge, from knocking out sites to gilding royal households to painting oil rigs, As a mate of mine told me, How can I soar like an eagle when I mix with turkeys.

College lecturers like Russ and Martin have been round the block on site and have a lot to offer, so if you can find a long term course with their calibre at the helm, stick at it for the duration of the course and pick their brains every day. Teachers actually revel in keen students, because that’s what they were (and still are) themselves.

I took a slightly different route in that after doing my C&G Advanced, I went to Art College and did a Fine Art foundation and Interior Design course. It taught me that didnt want to be an Interior Designer, but it also taught me that there is some fantastic work going on around the world outside of a building site and suburbia, and if I could develop some good decorating skills, I knew there was a market for my services, because Interior Designers with discerning clients need people like us :slight_smile:

Then I went on a long journey, but I could only do that because I had a solid foundation to work from, and it didnt hurt to say that I had Advanced City and Guilds of London. To be honest, only ever been asked twice in UK about qualifications, once on a job, once when teaching.

I never went to college to learn about painting boats, but I can assure you I did as much studying and asking and pestering the pros as I could get away with. Passion will get you a long way, because as per the above, there is nothing more exciting for a pro than working with equally keen bods, and it won’t take much to shine. All these TP guys have been doing the same job for 30 years and still love it, as Jase says being in a creative job too, it really is one of the “happiest” professions, if you get the bug - but only you can get your own bug.

1 Like

Apart from a lot of the above, all good stuff, I would say from personal experience, qualifications are been sought, more so now than in the last 20 years, never be afraid to ask!

Sounds simple, but just wait!

Get, and digest, as many good books on the subject as you can, old stuff, current, it’s all good to know, even if you think you will never need it, paint might have changed, application might have changed, but the biggest part, application has not, the problems that we solve have not, and the satisfaction from a job done right will never change!.

Look to learn some of the more obscure aspects of the trade, Graining, Marbling, Lincrusta, furniture painting, simply because there are few that can do it, and do it right.

One last thing, NEVER think that you ‘know it all’, You DONT!

what books of the trade can anyone recommened.Also on this site why not have a work offered section and job area?

Being a relative newcomer to the trade - only about 10 years or so, I would give my right leg to spend a month with any of the TP decorators. (I would say my right arm, but I need that to paint with.) I did an intensive apprenticeship with an experienced decorator, but I’ve no decorating qualifications. What I do know is that there are an awful lot of very average decorators out there, and many who do not deserve the name, as they make more of a mess than decorate. Just because you’ve done a course, doesn’t mean you’re any good.

Having worked with quite a few qualified decorators, I know that attitude is a damn sight more important than either qualifications or experience. But on the other hand, experience is definitely needed to do the best job, and qualifications (as has been said above) are increasingly necessary to do site work.

The best way to learn is have a great attitude, and learn from the best. If I could afford it, I’d offer to work for a month for any of the TP decorators free of charge, in fact if I could afford it I’d pay to work for them! Worth much more than a college course, I’d bet my mother on it! (Sorry Mum.)

1 Like

Hi you seem very clued up what books would you recommend