Scenic painter

A scenic painter


Scenic painters decorate sets for live performances. They employ various crafting and painting techniques such as figurative painting, landscape painting, and Trompe-l’œil to create convincing scenes. Their work is based on artistic vision, sketches, and pictures. They work in close cooperation with the designers.

The duties of a scenic painter typically include, but are not limited to:

  • discussing the brief with a set or production designer
  • analysing the technical drawings and model box (a scale model of the set) to work out how to create a full-scale reproduction
  • researching the best materials to use to create a realistic scene, for example the type of surface
  • calculating the cost of materials required and ordering supplies
  • using a projector to transfer a design onto a larger surface as a guide for painting the scene or mural
  • selecting paints, mixing colours and applying to surfaces using a range of paintbrushes and other tools such as a spray gun
  • using techniques such as stencilling, marbling, woodgraining and texturing
  • painting complex prop pieces and other three-dimensional pieces
  • assisting with the installation and removal of the scene items.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to scenic painter:

scenery painter
theatre scene painter
scenic painter and artist
theater scene painter
scenic artist
scenery artist
scene painter
scenic painter & artist

Minimum qualifications

Although it’s possible to become a scenic painter with only a high school diploma or equivalent, earning a bachelor’s degree can significantly improve the chances of success. Joining an art school or earning a degree in other relevant fields, like theatrical design or fine arts, can help gain the technical skills required for the role, like various painting techniques, sketching designs, sculpting, marbling, texturing, and mixing colors. It’s usually important to mainly pursue courses that are directly relevant for the job of a scenic painter, helping to gain in-depth knowledge instead of a broader range of less relevant skills.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Scenic painter is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Scenic painter career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to scenic painter.

set builder
followspot operator
prop maker
video technician

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of scenic painter. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of scenic painter with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

mask maker
puppet designer
video designer
programme funding manager
front of house manager

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of scenic painter.

  • Work ergonomically: Apply ergonomy principles in the organisation of the workplace while manually handling equipment and materials.
  • Understand artistic concepts: Interpret an artist’s explanation or demonstration of their artistic concepts, inceptions and processes and strive to share their vision.
  • Adapt sets: Adapt and move set pieces during rehearsals and live performances.
  • Use personal protection equipment: Make use of protection equipment according to training, instruction and manuals. Inspect the equipment and use it consistently.
  • Adapt to artists’ creative demands: Work with artists, striving to understand the creative vision and adapting to it. Make full use of your talents and skills to reach the best possible result.
  • Prevent fire in a performance environment: Take steps to prevent fire in a performance environment. Make sure the space complies with fire safety rules, with sprinklers and fire extinguishers installed where necessary. Make sure staff are aware of fire prevention measures.
  • Prepare personal work environment: Correct settings or positions for your working instruments and adjust them before starting operations.
  • Maintain theatre equipment: Check up on, maintain and repair tools and machinery used for onstage purposes, such as lighting equipment, stage sets or scene-change machinery.
  • Paint sets: Paint set constructions and stage props.
  • Translate artistic concepts to technical designs: Cooperate with the artistic team in order to facilitate the transition from the creative vision and its artistic concepts to a technical design.
  • Work safely with chemicals: Take the necessary precautions for storing, using and disposing chemical products.
  • Meet deadlines: Ensure operative processes are finished at a previously agreed-upon time.
  • Maintain workshop space: Keep the workshop space in working order and clean.
  • Manage personal professional development: Take responsibility for lifelong learning and continuous professional development. Engage in learning to support and update professional competence. Identify priority areas for professional development based on reflection about own practice and through contact with peers and stakeholders.
  • Define set painting methods: Define painting methods and materials.
  • Work with respect for own safety: Apply the safety rules according to training and instruction and based on a solid understanding of the prevention measures and risks to your own personal health and safety.
  • Transfer designs: Transfer designs into specific materials.
  • Interpret artistic intentions: Interpret the artistic intentions of the author.
  • Maintain theatre sets: Install, check, maintain and repair stages and sets.
  • Use genre painting techniques: Use a genre or academic painting and drawing techniques.
  • Keep up with trends: Monitor and follow new trends and developments in specific sectors.
  • Follow safety procedures when working at heights: Take necessary precautions and follow a set of measures that assess, prevent and tackle risks when working at a high distance from the ground. Prevent endangering people working under these structures and avoid falls from ladders, mobile scaffolding, fixed working bridges, single person lifts etc. since they may cause fatalities or major injuries.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of scenic painter. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Manage consumables stock: Manage and monitor consumables stock to ensure that the production demands and deadlines can be met at all times.
  • Manage technical resources stock: Manage and monitor technical resources stock to ensure that production demands and deadlines can be met at all times.
  • Plan workshop activity: Plan workshop activities according to production needs.
  • Perform first fire intervention: Intervene in the case of a fire in order to extinguish the fire or limit the effects pending the arrival of emergency services according to training and procedures.
  • Use moulding techniques: Apply moulding techniques.
  • Support a designer in the developing process: Support designers in the course of the developing process.
  • Keep personal administration: File and organise personal administration documents comprehensively.
  • Promote yourself: Market one’s own strengths in terms of skills and knowledge.
  • Organise workshop space: Arrange the space of an equipment workshop to ensure maximum efficiency, including installing ligh fixtures, a workbench, etc. Decide on the activities and equipment to fit in and the most convenient way to work.
  • Develop professional network: Reach out to and meet up with people in a professional context. Find common ground and use your contacts for mutual benefit. Keep track of the people in your personal professional network and stay up to date on their activities.

ISCO group and title

3432 – Interior designers and decorators

  1. Scenic painter – ESCO
  2. Planit : job profile : Scenic Artist Fine Art or Graphic Design
  3. How to Become a Scenic Artist in 5 Steps |
  4. Featured image: Photo by Enrique Hoyos from Pexels
Last updated on March 31, 2023

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