Painter License Requirements by State

Apr 19, 2022 · 8 minutes to read

Painter paints a wall using spray gun

female painter using spray gunProfessional painting contractors are in high demand with people who lack the time and talents to undertake these projects themselves. If you have the skills to provide them with efficient and quality work, then starting a painting business might be a wise move.

But before you begin accepting residential or commercial painting contracts, you may need to get licensed first. Getting a painter and decorating contractor license varies from state to state. Many states require you to show proof of insurance as part of the licensing process, and some don’t require painters to have a license at all.

This guide covers painter license requirements in six states to help you kickstart your small business.


In Alabama, painters must be licensed for projects over $50,000. To bid on such projects, they need the Alabama Painting and Wall Covering contractor license. The process involves passing the Alabama business and law exams, administered by PSI Exams, and submitting a financial statement, proof of experience (three prior projects), and three reference letters. Additionally, proof of general liability insurance is required. The application fee is $300 for general contractors and $150 for subcontractors. After three years in good standing, contractors may seek reciprocity with Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee.


In Alaska, painting contractors can obtain one of three licenses: Specialty Contractor, General Contractor, or General Contractor with Residential Endorsement. The Specialty Contractor license limits work to commercial and residential structures, while the General Contractor license is for commercial buildings, excluding residential. The General Contractor with Residential Endorsement allows work on all commercial and residential buildings. Contractors performing residential improvements must be licensed by the Division of Corporations, Business, and Professional Licensing. Only the residential endorsement license requires pre-requisites. All license types necessitate a surety bond, but only the residential endorsement requires workers’ compensation and liability insurance. The application fee is $350.


In Arizona, painters working on contracts exceeding $5,000 must obtain a license from the Registrar of Contractors. Two types of licenses are available: residential and commercial. To qualify, painters need to provide proof of a surety bond, pass trade and business exams, and demonstrate experience under a state-recognized contractor. A residential license requires one year of experience, while a commercial license demands two years. Both licenses necessitate state licensure and business registration, ensuring compliance with Arizona’s stringent regulations for painters.


In Arkansas, painters need a state license for residential projects over $2,000 and commercial projects above $50,000. Residential painters can choose between a home improvement or residential builder license, while commercial contractors must obtain a license and a $10,000 surety bond. Subcontractors working under a licensed contractor only require a registration certificate. All contractors must pass the business and law exam, provide a balance sheet or financial statement, and have business insurance for any employees. Additionally, obtaining workers’ compensation is necessary for those with employees.


California painters who work on projects of $500 or more must get a general contractor license. These licenses are issued by the Contractors State License Board. To apply, you must be at least 18 years old, have a Social Security or taxpayer identification number, and have at least four years of painting experience.

Once you apply, you will need to complete a background check, provide proof of General Liability insurance and Workers’ Compensation insurance (if applicable), and buy a surety bond. All contractors applying for a general contractor license in California also need to pass three exams covering:

  • Your trade
  • Law and business
  • Asbestos safety, handling, and removal

Your general contractor license needs to be renewed every two years.


In Colorado, painting businesses don’t need a state license to operate but require local registration. While there’s no state-level painting license, local requirements might mandate general liability insurance, with coverage varying by location and license type.


In Connecticut, painting contractors don’t require a specific painting license but must register with the Department of Consumer Protection. If contracts exceed $200 individually or total $1,000 annually, registration is mandatory. Contractors should designate as major or minor and, since July 2022, hold a minimum of $20,000 in general liability insurance. Registrations, especially for home improvement contractors working on residential properties, expire annually on March 31.


In Delaware, painters seeking a license must register with the Division of Revenue and the Department of Labor. This licensing is primarily for revenue purposes and is categorized for resident and non-resident contractors. To obtain a license, contractors must pass an exam and secure a Surety Bond if their annual project value exceeds $20,000. Additionally, painters with employees are required to provide proof of workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance. Non-residential contractors also need a surety bond to operate legally.


Painters working on projects totaling $500 or more must have a general contractor license in Florida. There are two licenses to choose from:

  • Certified – Allows you to work anywhere in the state
  • Registered – Restricts you to working in specific Florida jurisdictions

Licenses are issued by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. To apply, you must be 18 years of age or older, have a Social Security or taxpayer identification number, have at least four years of painting experience or training (or a combination of the two), and be financially stable.

Before you apply for a Florida general contractor license, you must pass a three-part exam covering business and finance, project management, and contract administration.

After you have passed the required test, you must:

  • Complete a background check
  • Provide your employment history
  • Provide FICO credit report and score
  • Provide a certificate of insurance
  • Submit other financial or legal documents (if applicable)

Florida general contractor licenses need to be renewed every two years. You must complete 14 hours of approved continuing education to renew.


A basic general contractor license is necessary for painters who perform work that costs $2,500 or more. The State Licensing Board issues licenses, and you must be 21 or over to apply. You must also meet the minimum work experience and education requirements set by the board.

To apply for a general contractor license in Georgia, you need to:

  • Pass a trade exam (if applicable)
  • Submit documents detailing your education and/or work experience
  • Provide a certificate of insurance for your General Liability coverage
  • Buy a surety bond

Your license must be renewed by June 30th in even-numbered years.


In Hawaii, painters must obtain a Professional and Vocational License from the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs for projects exceeding $2,500. License prerequisites include providing proof of workers’ compensation and general liability insurance, a surety bond, passing a business, law, and trade exam, possessing a minimum of 4 years of work experience in the past decade, and presenting a CPA-signed financial statement.


In Idaho, painting contractors don’t need a state license but must register their business for projects over $2,000. This registration requires proof of general liability insurance and workers’ compensation for employees. Licensing occurs at the local level only.


In Illinois, there are no state licensing or registration requirements to be a painting contractor. However, it’s crucial to consult local municipalities for any specific working requirements they might have. Always ensure compliance with any localized guidelines or regulations pertaining to painting contractors to operate legally within different regions of the state.


In Indiana, painters don’t need a state license or registration. However, some local areas may have their own requirements. Always check local stipulations before working.


In Iowa, there is no specific license required for painters at the state level. However, construction contractors, including painters, must register their business with the Iowa Division of Labor if their annual contracts exceed $2,000. This registration needs to be renewed every year. While no state-level painting license or exam is mandated, local jurisdictions may require painters to obtain a local license. Therefore, painters should check local regulations in addition to adhering to state requirements.


In Kansas, only painters handling lead paint need a state license. All others seek licensing locally through city or county requirements.


In Kentucky, no state-level painting license is needed. However, local registration or licensing may be required; always check city or county requirements before working.


In Louisiana, painters need a state license and business registration. The State Licensing Board for Contractors offers four license types: commercial, residential, mold remediation, and home improvement. Commercial painters require a license for projects over $50,000, focusing on painting, coating, blasting, and lead paint removal. Residential painters need licensure for projects above $75,000, while a home improvement license suffices for projects between $7,500 and $75,000. To obtain a license, applicants must pass a law and trade exam, submit a financial statement, and provide proof of insurance and work experience.


In Maine, painting contractors are not mandated to hold a state license. However, business registration is required. Licensing and permit requirements for operating a business are determined at the local town or city level. It is important to note that Maine law specifically requires licensing or certification for individuals engaged in residential lead abatement activities. This specialized license can be obtained through the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Thus, while there is no state-level painting license or registration requirement, other regulations may apply depending on the nature of the painting work.


In Maryland, painters must obtain a state license and register their business. Eligibility requires two years of experience in home improvement or a related field, financial solvency as per Home Improvement Commission guidelines, a trade name certificate, and liability insurance proof. Applicants must pass the MHIC licensing exam, and the license is valid for two years. Those offering lead paint abatement services must complete a Maryland Department of the Environment-accredited course. Additionally, proof of workers’ compensation insurance is needed if the applicant has employees.


In Massachusetts, while supervising construction mandates licensing, involving three years of experience and an exam, painting work does not require a license. Nonetheless, painters must register their business with the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. Additionally, undertaking residential contracting on a one-to-four-unit owner-occupied residence necessitates registration as a home improvement contractor, excluding interior painting.


In Minnesota, commercial painters don’t need a license but must register. However, painters contracting directly with homeowners, offering services in multiple skill areas—like interior, exterior, or drywall painting—require a building contractor or remodeler license. Acquiring this necessitates passing an exam and holding general liability insurance. If employing others, workers’ compensation insurance is also essential.


In Michigan, painters must obtain a license from the Department of Licensing & Regulatory Affairs. For residential and commercial work, a Residential Builders License, encompassing painting, is needed, requiring both business and law, and trade exams. Alternatively, a Maintenance and Alterations Contractors License, specific to painting and decorating, is available, also requiring a trade exam. This license additionally mandates a 60-hour pre-licensing course. The Builder’s Unit oversees these licensing processes.


In Mississippi, painters must be licensed by the State Board of Contractors, following a pre-approval exam. Licensing requires submission of financial statements, proof of general liability and workers’ compensation insurance. Industrial painters are exempt from the exam requirement. Additionally, contractors involved in new residential construction over $50,000 need a residential building license, while those doing residential remodeling above $10,000 require a residential remodeling license. Applicants must also pass business, law, and trade exams to qualify for licensure.


In Missouri, state licensing for painting contractors is not mandatory, but local licensing may be required depending on city or county regulations. Painters should verify with their local government before starting contracts. Additionally, all painting businesses must be registered with the Missouri Department of Revenue. For handling lead-based projects, painters must acquire a license issued by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. This necessitates attending a training program accredited by the department.


In Montana, there’s no specific statewide license for painting contractors. However, all painting contractors with employees must register with the Department of Labor and Industry. Individual painters without employees have the option to register but aren’t mandated to do so. For work involving lead-based paint, contractors must complete EPA-approved training and certification. Additionally, local registration is required for individual painting contractors, ensuring compliance with both state and local regulations.


In Nebraska, painters don’t need a state license but must obtain one for business in counties with over 100,000 residents. Registration with the Nebraska Department of Labor is mandatory. Providing proof of general liability and workers’ compensation insurance is required if the painter has employees. Additionally, any individual involved in lead abatement or lead-related work must be licensed, with licenses expiring two years from issuance. This decentralized approach to contractor licensing emphasizes local requirements and specific occupational needs within the state.


In Nevada, painters require a Nevada Painting and Decorating License and must register with the state’s Secretary of State. To obtain this license, painters need to pass a trade exam and a business and law exam, post-exam pre-approval is necessary. Eligibility criteria include a minimum of four years of experience in the last 15 years, submission of financial statements, and securing a surety bond. Additionally, workers’ compensation insurance is mandatory if applicable. This dual process of state licensure and local registration ensures compliance and professional standards in the painting industry.

New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, there are no state-level licenses or registration requirements for painting contractors. However, to work as a painting contractor in the state, it’s necessary to obtain local registration. This requirement varies depending on the city or county, so contractors should check with their respective local governments for specific regulations.

New Jersey

In New Jersey, painters are categorized as home improvement contractors and must register with the Division of Consumer Affairs. This registration must be renewed annually. Painters are required to display their registration badge and number in their workplace, on business documents, and in advertisements. They must also provide proof of liability insurance. Additionally, painters handling lead-based paint need a specific permit from the NJ Department of Health. Compliance with these regulations ensures legal operation and adherence to state standards for safety and consumer protection.

New Mexico

In New Mexico, there is no requirement for a state-level license or registration to work as a painting contractor. Instead, the only requisite is local registration, which varies depending on the specific city or county. Painters looking to operate in New Mexico should consult their local government to understand and fulfill these regional requirements. This approach ensures that they comply with local regulations and can legally undertake painting projects within their chosen areas.

New York

In New York, while there’s no state-level painter’s license, local regulations apply. Painters must register their business and comply with local government requirements. Notably, in New York City, painters need a Home Improvement Contractor License from the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs. This necessitates passing a Home Improvement exam and providing insurance proof. The license, valid for two years, requires renewal. Other localities in New York also mandate insurance and passing relevant exams for painting contractors to operate legally.


There is no painter license at the state level in Ohio. The Ohio Construction Industry Licensing Board only issues general contractor licenses to specific trades, and painters are not part of this requirement.

However, general and home improvement contractors, including painters, may need a local license to work in Ohio counties and cities. Painter and decorating contractor license requirements differ between cities, but you will typically need to:

  • Pass a trade exam
  • Provide proof of General Liability insurance
  • Buy a surety bond
  • Submit applicable financial or legal paperwork

Check with your local licensing board for painter license requirements and renewals in your area.


The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not issue statewide licenses for most contractors. However, you will need to register with the Attorney General’s Office under the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act if you make more than $5,000 per year doing home improvement work.

To register as a painter in Pennsylvania, you need to provide details about your business and proof of your General Liability insurance. Your registration must be renewed every two years.


Painter licenses from the state of Texas are not required. However, you may need a local license or permit to work in some cities. All Texas businesses must have a business license to operate.

Local licensing requirements will vary, but you may need to pass a background check, show proof of insurance, and provide project details.

Protecting Your Painting Business

BizInsure helps small business owners from coast to coast find the insurance they need. No matter which state you’re based in, we make comparing policies from top-tier insurers simple and quick.

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*This information is a general guide only and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Always check with your local licensing board when getting or renewing your contractor license to ensure you are meeting their current licensing requirements.

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