How to become a car painter (with definition and skills)

Updated 3 March 2023

There are many career choices within the automotive industry, including car painting. A car painter has several responsibilities, all of which centre on painting automobiles in a variety of ways to ensure that they have the best and most vibrant appearance. Learning about the different steps involved to become a car painter can be a useful way of helping you determine whether this career path is right for you. In this article, we explain what a car painter is, look at how to become one and review the skills required to succeed in this role.

What is a car painter?

Car painters paint cars for decorative or protective purposes. They typically work independently or as part of an automotive team, for example, at a garage or car dealership. They usually paint cars using spray devices and this job can be a good option for those with an interest in cars that want to work in an artistic role. A car painter's typical duties include:

  • Setting up the equipment: Paint equipment comes in many forms, including spray guns, sanders, extractors and even the paint itself. Car painters maintain the equipment and set it up correctly, including any computer programs that help guarantee an excellent finish.

  • Preparing the bodywork: Car painters are responsible for ensuring that the vehicle is ready for painting, which may include sanding the flat surfaces to provide an even finish. Painters sometimes also address any dents and apply masking tape to create a stencil of how they intend to paint the car.

  • Painting the car: This role's primary duty involves painting cars, which might include adding the first coat once it's out of the factory or painting to cover up any scuffs and scrapes. It can also involve painting the car a solid colour or giving it a custom design, such as with racing stripes or other special graphics.

  • Maintaining the temperature: After applying the right paint at the correct thickness, painters make sure the vehicle receives exposure to the right temperature to help the paint dry. The correct temperature depends on the type of paint used, with oil-based solutions usually needing around 10°C to avoid causing the paint to crack or blister.

Related: Guide to artistic jobs (with salaries and duties)

How to become a car painter

Find out how to become a car painter by following these steps:

1. Finish secondary school

Many car painting courses and apprenticeships require several GCSEs, or equivalent qualifications, to pursue. The exact requirements may vary depending on the precise route you decide to take, but it's usually a requirement to finish secondary school to pursue these further accreditations.

For instance, if you choose to go to college, you may only require two GCSE passes to pursue a relevant course. In contrast, if you apply for an apprenticeship instead, this might entail getting five GCSE passes, including maths and English. Due to these differences, your GCSE results may determine the route you can take to become a qualified car painter.

Related: GCSE equivalent qualifications

2. Enrol in a car painting course

After completing your secondary education, one route you can take to become a qualified car painter is to pursue a relevant car painting college course. Enrolling in a car painting college course can help you to develop the skills necessary to work in this role, alongside allowing you to gain an understanding of the profession. Some examples of the courses you can pursue include:

  • Diploma in Vehicle Accident Repair Paint Principles

  • Diploma in Vehicle Accident Repair and Paint

  • Diploma in Vehicle Accident Repair Paint

Related: How to become a professional painter (plus career options)

3. Apply for a relevant apprenticeship

Instead of pursuing a college course, you can also become a qualified car painter by completing a relevant apprenticeship. There are numerous relevant apprenticeships available that can equip you with the knowledge and skills to work as a car painter. For instance, you can complete an apprenticeship with an accident repair technician or a vehicle damage paint technician, both of which can offer you excellent industry experience while enabling you to earn a wage at the same time. Moreover, during these apprenticeships, you can learn from experienced car painters who can teach you how to hone your car-painting skills.

Related: Types of apprenticeships for 16-year-olds and how to apply

4. Apply for car painter jobs

The next step involves applying for car painter roles. During this step, create a CV and cover letter that's tailored to each car painter role for which you apply. In your CV, aim to include details that outline your educational background, skills and experience. In contrast, in your cover letter, aim to include your reasons for applying for the role and why you're an ideal candidate, without repeating the details mentioned in your CV. To tailor these documents, review the job descriptions thoroughly for each vacancy and try to mirror the language included in these documents.

For instance, when listing your experience in your CV, try to use similar language to the language used in the job description's responsibilities section. Moreover, in your CV's skills section, ensure that you mention similar skills to the ones listed in the job description's requirements section. When writing your cover letter, make sure that you include examples of how you meet the requirements listed in the job description and mention specific reasons for wanting to apply for that particular role at that specific organisation.

Related: Important painter CV skills (with tips and definitions)

5. Pass the interview

If your application is successful, the next step involves preparing for an interview. Check the job description before the interview, as this can remind you of what the job specifically involves and can help you to anticipate the types of questions the interviewer may ask you. Then, prepare responses to these questions. For example, if the job description mentions that they're seeking someone with experience in prep work and full re-sprays, they might ask about this.

Alongside this, research common job interview questions and prepare responses to these before the interview. Moreover, thoroughly research the hiring organisation beforehand and try to think of some insightful questions to ask the interviewer.

Related: A guide on how to ace an interview (with tips and examples)

6. Complete on-the-job training

If you succeed at the interview stage and start working as a car painter, further training may be a requirement. Even after completing an apprenticeship or college diploma, the role may require you to complete specific tasks or procedures, or it might involve the use of special equipment, which requires extra training. This helps you to complete your duties to the standard that the hiring organisation expects while also helping you to develop your skills and knowledge in this field.

Sometimes, this training can take weeks or even months, but this usually depends on your experience, alongside the complexity of the tasks that the hiring organisation sets.

Required skills for a car painter

A car painter typically utilises the following skills to succeed in their role:

Attention to detail

Car painters have a thorough understanding of vehicles and their paint and they ensure that they give cars an even finish. To do this, they utilise their strong attention to detail, which helps them to notice even small cracks or blemishes on the vehicle. This is a critical skill for any car painter, as it can determine whether a client likes the coating. Attention to detail is also beneficial when creating custom shades or designs to ensure that the client's vision is accurately executed.

Related: How to improve your attention to detail


Whether you're speaking with a teammate or client, good communication is vital for this position. Car painters may speak with clients directly about what they want and it may help to improve client satisfaction by giving constructive criticism to clients about their paint choice. For example, you may think that a slightly different shade might make the car look better and by communicating this clearly, you may help them pick a more suitable finish for their vehicle, which might be one they enjoy even more.

Related: 12 ways to improve communication at work: a helpful guide

Artistic ability

If a client is unsure what colour or type of finish they desire, car painters may share their expert knowledge to help them make an informed decision. This makes it beneficial if a car painter knows the colours that work best for a vehicle so they can help clients pick the right shade and advise the client on the best choice of paint.

Also, possessing this skill can help car painters perform more complicated jobs, such as applying more unique graphics or shades to a vehicle. By having this type of knowledge and artistic ability, car partners can ensure that customers are happy with their service.

Related: 14 Higher National Certificate art jobs to explore

Strength and dexterity

Being a car painter is a physically demanding job where you're likely to be working while standing throughout much of the day. Car painters also bend down frequently to paint components with more precision, especially on the vehicle's underside. A car painter might also operate an array of machinery and equipment, which require both strength and dexterity. Hand-eye coordination when painting a car is also vital, as this helps you to paint accurately.


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