In England, little is known of the trade and its structures before the late 1200s, at which point guilds began to form, amongst them the Painters Company and the Stainers Company. These two guilds eventually merged with the consent of the Lord Mayor of the City of London in 1502, forming the Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers. The guild standardised the craft and acted as a protector of the trade secrets. In 1599, the guild asked Parliament for protection, which was eventually granted in a bill of 1606, which granted the trade protection from outside competition such as plasterers.
The Act legislated for a seven year apprenticeship, and also barred plasterers from painting, unless apprenticed to a painter, with the penalty for such painting being a fine of £5. The Act also enshrined a maximum daily fee of 16 old pence for their labour.
Enforcement of this Act by the Painter-Stainers Company was sought up until the early 1800s, with master painters gathering irregularly to decide the fees that a journeyman could charge, and also instigating an early version of a job centre in 1769, advertising in the London newspapers a "house of call" system to advertise for journeymen and also for journeymen to advertise for work. The guild's power in setting the fee a journeyman could charge was eventually overturned by law in 1827, and the period after this saw the guild's power diminish, along with that of the other guilds; the guilds were superseded by trade unions, with the Operative United Painters' Union forming sometime around 1831.
In 1894, a national association formed, recreating itself in 1918 as the National Federation of Master Painters and Decorators of England and Wales, then changing its name once again to the British Decorators Association before merging, in 2002, with the Painting & Decorating Federation to form the Painting & Decorating Association. The Construction Industry Joint Council, a body formed of both unions and business organizations, today has responsibility for the setting of pay levels.
Tools of the trade
The brush and the roller are the tools most readily associated with the painter. Recent advances in manufacture have led to a standardization of brushes, with many older brushes falling from fashion. The spray gun is one of the latest tools in the painter's arsenal. It is powered by an electric, pneumatic or fuel powered motor which pumps paint through a hose into a gun which atomizes the paint to a fine spray. With the airless spray gun it is possible to paint extremely large areas of surface in a short time.
The ground brush, also known as a pound brush, was a round or elliptical brush bound by wire, cord or metal. They were generally heavy to use, and required considerable usage to break them in. These brushes were predominantly used in the days before modern paint manufacturing techniques; hand-mixed paints requiring more working to create the finish. These brushes still have use in applying primer, as they are useful in working the primer into the grain of the wood. Pound brushes required an even breaking in to create even bevel on both sides of the brush, minimising the formation of a point which would render the brush useless.Sash tools were smaller brushes, similar to a ground brush, and used mainly for cutting in sash or glazing bars found on windows. Sash tools and ground brushes generally required bridling before use, and a painter's efficiency in this skill was generally used as a guide to their overall ability. Both these brushes have largely been superseded by the modern varnish brush. Varnish brushes are the most common flat brushes available today and are used for painting as well as varnishing. Brushes intended for varnishing typically have a bevelled edge.
Distemper brushes, used for applying distemper, an early form of whitewash, were best made of pure bristle and bound by copper bands to prevent rust damage. Styles differed across the world, with flat nailed brushes popular in Northern England, a two knot brush (a brush with two ovular heads) popular in Southern England, and three knot brushes or flat head brushes preferred elsewhere. In the United States distemper brushes were known as calcimine, kalsomine or calsomine brushes, each term being the U.S. variant of whitewash.
Fitches are smaller brushes, either ovular or flat and one inch wide, that are used in fine work such as to pick out the detail on a painted moulding. Stipplers come in various shapes and sizes and are used to apply paint with a stippled effect. A duster or jamb brush was used to dust the area to be painted before work commenced. Stencil brushes, similar in style to a shaving brush, were used for the purpose of stencilling walls or in the creation of hand-made wallpapers.
Brushes are best stored in a purpose made brush keeper, a box on which a wire could be suspended. The wire would be threaded through the hole in a brush's handle so as to suspend the brush in a cleaning solution without allowing the brush to sit on the bottom of the container and thus cause spreading of the bristles. The solution would also prevent hardening of the brushes and oxidization. These were generally rectangular and stored several brushes. A lid would enclose the brushes and keep them free from dust.
Drop cloths, dustsheets, paint sheets, paint tarps or protection films are required to protect nearby surfaces that are not being painted. Masking tape is used to define the line between the painted and unpainted surface, as well as to hold cloth, sheets, film and tarps in place.
Some modern house painters in the US, Canada and Australia have adopted color visualization computer software, developed by companies such as Autech Software & Design, as an additional tool to help demonstrate to customers how their home would look after it is painted. House painters can use a digital photo outputted by this software to show possible color schemes on the client’s home exterior or room walls to help with their color selection.
Activities of the trade
Historically, the painter was responsible for the mixing of the paint; keeping a ready supply of pigments, oils, thinners and driers. The painter would use his experience to determine a suitable mixture depending on the nature of the job. In modern times, the painter is primarily responsible for preparation of the surface to be painted, such as patching holes in drywall, using masking tape and other protection on surfaces not to be painted, applying the paint and then cleaning up.
Larger firms operating within the trade were generally capable of performing many painting or decoration services, from sign writing, to the gilding of objects or the finishing or refinishing of furniture.
More recently, professional painters are responsible for all preparation prior to painting. All scraping, sanding, wallpaper removal, caulking, drywall or wood repair, patching, stain removal, filling nail holes or any defects with plaster or putty, cleaning, taping, preparation and priming are considered to be done by the professional contracted painter.
Professional painters need to have keen knowledge of tools of the trade, including sanders, scrapers, paint sprayers, brushes, paint rollers, ladders and scaffolding, in addition to just the paint in order to correctly complete work. Much preparation needs to be considered before simply applying paint. For instance, taping and dropcloth techniques, sizes of brushes or rollers, material types or dimensions of rollers or brushes (there are different sizes or types of brushes and rollers for different paints), amount of paint, number of paint coats, amount of primer, types of primers and paints, certain grits and cuts of sandpaper, trim cutting (the act of painting with a brush on the outline of baseboard, moldings and other trim work), wallpaper removal, and nail-hole filling techniques just to name a few. Today many painters are attempting to break into the field of faux painting, allowing them more creativity and access to a higher end customer base.