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Professional Window Painting

As a rule one shouldn't paint over stickers on the outside of windows, be sensitive to ones with pertinent information and treat ones with less than rugged constitutions sensibly. Ditto signage and community flyers with important messages don't obscure the view to anything important; you should paint to enhance any interior window decorations if possible. While white tempera will not damage appliqués some brands may have colors that will stain to some extent (I’m guessing). Never use an acrylic over window stickers or lettering, period. You can still paint decorative borders just skip some spots!

Take care not to paint large items with tempera that are subject to be defaced by graffiti. A pumpkin or Santa with a profanity scratched through it is destroyed, so avoid tempera snowmen and large single color graphics in strip-malls or anyplace with a lot of walkers unless it's out of reach. You could instead paint our “wheat” or “frost and scroll” (a plug) both are impervious to graffiti, ice crystals don't scratch and the scroll is delicate enough that nothing will show up enough to offend. (Hobby acrylics can be desecrated too but it takes a more concerted effort.) Such truths are not hurdles for you to overcome in designing; they are mentioned only that they will be in the back of your mind (and so you don’t paint a dozen snowmen where the line forms at the theater). The more complex the design the less resemblance it will have to a chalkboard, not only is there far less chance of it receiving some other artist's signature remark it renders them less legible. Small children will want to touch the paint and see if comes off with some scratches once they’re focused on it whereas juveniles see it as a handy palette for their messages if you set it up like one. Some painters use acrylic house paints and can roll on miles of snow-capped mountains with trees, these are great design types so long as they do not obliterate the sunlight or obstruct the view of those inside so make a mental note of big, some people want it as big as they can get.

If you work with house paints be sensitive to your client, if it's a small shop ask them if they have their windows professionally cleaned. Professional window cleaners have large scraper blades whereas your client might be out there with a tiny razor blade, bleeding.

Unless you have an agreement to wash the windows where you’re painting don't! Peoples windows are usually clean enough to suit them or they will schedule for you to come after they have had them cleaned. (It is not your job unless you have agreed on a price for it!) I sometimes wipe off a little dust imbedded in rain spots as a courtesy with a dry paper towel and that is the extent of that. (LOL)But since I have a single edge razor in the car I might remove a few old scabs from tape. I have painted some pretty dirty windows on small storefronts where the owners don't seem to notice how dirty their windows are, these are the folks that don't prioritize clean windows and hire you mostly because they want to give you a job…If I can stand in one place and wash the window because it's that small I will if it really needs it, I do it every year or two.



This will be the most intimate chapter of the Librian. For several years my Mother and I had talked about writing a book about window painting. A broad subject, our interests were never on par with the many wonderful artists who are so adept and practiced at signage; those dedicated performers of the art. Artistic by nature, most of our work has been executed out of necessity or for fun. We do not reflect the true tenacity representative of running such a business except as we have managed to marry it with other forms of artwork sometimes combined with signage (signage is tricky, it is an art form with rules).

It is an honor for us to assist you with the knowledge that we have, we hope that through our efforts many who would have never tried their merits will be inspired. To open the eyes of those of you who never realized such a pathway existed so flexible as this one that you could hopscotch along its byways or seek out certain corridors as you skip along your merry way. You can jump in and out of work in this line! You can dabble in paint if you are a traveler and all that you need to get started are some photographs, a picture or two at least of your work and a few supplies.

Something to keep in mind about photographs, a great way to get as many as you might wish is to volunteer to paint a senior center or a nursing home. Also, the world is full of non-profits without budgets for such services; these are great places to try out designs if you’re a beginner as most will have plenty of glass and you will not be responsible for removing the designs! (My mother Carole, and I once painted the Boise Veterans Hospital for free because they had no budget earmarked for window painting and it was Xmas. I will make further references to budgets a little later on.) Some of the things in this chapter may be redundant when viewed with other work on the site. In a sense this chapter is being designed as a stand up work in its own right. These are the pages where we have invested our interest in your larger goals and they are designed to help you clarify that and make it a reality.

Did you know that if you did only one design and had a photograph of it that you could find work? Or one type of design! Unlike my mother Carole a natural artist who is able to draw, I have managed to retain the youthful ability I had gained at about the age of seven. I still draw like a seven year old; by and large my human and animal figures remain virtually the same as I had drawn as a child. If I had more interest I could assume a more mature posture in this form of artwork I suppose, but I don’t. I believe that in the overall scheme of things my efforts are better impressed on these pages as my attention is more finely tuned towards heaven's own purpose of helping beings like you, who have interest and talent or passion! Interest or passion is essential, whereas talent can be replaced by a little contemplation, strategy and knowledge. This website is designed as a reference. This chapter is the heart of its work. Reasons for wanting to paint windows commercially will differ tremendously. Here I assume the stance that your primary interest is money and that it is married to some gift that you have, though I am well aware that it is not always the driving factor. It may be your blessed with a talent or a love of design that seeks an expression; perhaps you’re good at marketing and like the aspect of promoting the shop fronts (you were borne with the intuitive aspects of marketing and your mind is full of those images). Then you’re still a kind of dreamer and it will get you into the rank of artists and you can promote yourself as such.

Perhaps you would work well in a partnership. For years I canvassed the surrounding shops while my mother was busy painting. I could always come up with another job or two while she was painting one; I served as a go-fer, I would bring her coffee and required half of her salary, (which was something I negotiated with the shop owners, that and what she would paint for it). One winter my mother went on an extended vacation to Hawaii and while she painted there I was driven by the lure of pretty easy money to wing it and swing my arm into one of those scroll type patterns. As reluctant as I was it worked out well. I developed my own highly stylized type of scrollwork, and real quick. Suddenly on my own I was making $30.00 to $100.00 an hour (painting time).

Anyone can make a decent amount of money for the time spent painting if they have a good design that they can execute quickly. For many a year I painted with only a frosting container of white tempera and a can of ‘Santa's Ice Crystals', a couple of 2” foam brushes and a pinstripe brush! That's all I would carry, along with a little book of photographs thrown into an old purse and a receipt book. Obviously there are many doors one does not knock on if one is only capable of doing one thing. I was also limited by the exclusive use of tempera, which excludes shop windows exposed to rainy weather. But I got a lot of work from the doors I did knock on, one out of every 5 or 6 doors at least would hire me...

You will find that you set your limits in a perimeter that you think you will be the most comfortable with. One need not have a large repertoire of pattern or color to become a success. Indeed an interested person could paint large pretty ornaments, which would hang from a (painted) thread. This would not take an artistic past and the design could be done pretty random. If that seems too simple to you, you could arrange them with attention to some symmetry or they could arc or swag etc. These ornaments could be painted vibrantly, or a frosted pink (now known as dusty rose) with glitter to accentuate a boutique with matching colors. If I were an ornament painter I might create an assortment of sponges in perfect ornament shapes to compliment my original brushwork (I would have a few huge ones but some would be delicate), and I would approach any place of business that I thought they would look good and have with me at least 3 good photographs of artwork and at least one of them would be ornaments. And I would canvass the warehouse where I could hang great big Christmas balls on my way to the boutique.

Honestly, if you have photos of other artwork and have a clue about what you might be capable of doing on glass just show the pictures you've got and promise whatever you want and that should work about as well…If you have a design style in a medium that could cross over use that. If you’ve done any graphics you're probably trustworthy enough to hang out until you complete the job at a satisfactory level. Beginners should make a mental note from the vantages that the windows are viewed most commonly before approaching and in addition note signage and other colour schemes. While preexisting colors may not be a consideration it is a possibility that they could be. What’s going to make it pop? For instance lets pretend that there is a strip mall that has five shops, further, pretend that the entire awning is fuchsia. Now in your mind get in a car and slowly drive past the frontage, or mentally stand/park across the street and imagine a large amount of this same color coming down and accentuating the entrance of one store.

This exercise is a lesson in dominance of colour. From a distance that little shop you highlighted should look like the main entrance, or the dominant vender. This is what’s possible and while the whole scenario is exaggerated it holds true that if you reiterate a dominant color of structure or signage, the copy color will be seen by the eye in the same glance, whereas some colors will have to be picked out. (But if everyone else has fuchsia imagine something else like yellow.) Sometimes it will be important to the business that their window design/message be viewed best from a distance and if you believe this to be the case you will want to consciously make a consideration along these lines before approaching them.

There are a lot of people painting Santa Clause out there over the holidays. I have never been one of them, but highly recommend it to those who would like to. Of the hundreds of Christmas windows I've painted I've not lost more than a hand full of jobs for lack of painting Santa. But believe me if I were showing Santa pictures around people would want a Santa! Often people will say something like "oh yea, a Santa" when I first walk in, I just lead them through my pictures, likewise whatever your painting preferences this will be the case for you also.

You might feel nervous considering a request that has elements of design that you've never played in. If you like the imagery a potential clients request inspires you can excuse yourself or invite them to go with you outside to look at the windows and get a feel for how you can work it.

Once you finish any painting job get your client's card so you won't have to look up their number when you call them next year or next month. While your carbon copy receipt book (get a receipt book that keeps copies) will keep track of the business name and amount you charge, ask for or take a card. A lot of times people won't know if they will want you to paint their windows again. Sometimes they'll ask you to call them back for a holiday or window dressing they have in mind, but it's hard to be into next year for a lot of people. I often let them know that I'll call them next year (I say it as I'm waving and walking out the door). I transfer all my jobs into a small notebook along with phone numbers and the name of my contact and the amount paid. (This way you will know when you call back if you are dealing with someone who is familiar with your work to some extent.) Corporate managers often float or leave businesses.

I have gotten plenty of jobs over the phone with management who has never seen my photos because I ask for the manager by name. If they are no longer available I say that I had painted the windows (whenever) and could I please speak to whoever would be in charge of that. The employee who answered the phone will often be familiar with your work; usually they will take it upon themselves at this point to inform the person in charge that you are wonderful. This works out so that by the time the new manager gets on the phone they're already sold on you and schedule over the phone, it's cool! It's not like I have a phone rap but I have learned that if I just ask for the "manager" and they're new, they'll want me to come in and show pictures and they will be subject to hiring someone else before I get around to it. So unless it's a cold call don't just ask for the manager, give the intermediaries a chance to concede on your behalf. There are those who will paint windows that are rare, others common. But it doesn't make a difference finding work; there are jobs for everyone.



Many corporations will do a quarterly budget, even some post offices. If you don't have a presentation together early they may not have the petty cash to hire you, or your contact may not be able to present your proposal before they’re all decorated up or have their decorating money all spent on other supplies.

One year I canvassed in Portland Oregon over the holidays to find that most businesses did not have anyone on premise that could authorize their windows being painted, however if you live in a city you'll have a better feel for this sort of thing than I did. Too anyone in a greater area can focus on a larger vista. I'd get on the phone and say that I had something in mind that I could paint for them that I thought they would be interested in taking a look at or hearing about. (You're welcome to be posted on this web site, furthermore any window painting picture on our site your potential client might be interested in can be purchased by you in a pattern format for a few dollars (soon)… Just tell them you're an affiliate of ours and get a job order over the phone, that’ll save you some time!)

Here is an idea we haven't tried for off-season but had talked about. Empty commercial spaces for sale or rent could be accentuated by paintings; it might make them look more apt to be happening. Sometimes buildings are meant to sit vacant. If the empty spaces are not appealing to those who inhabit spaces nearby they may be painted with a friendly tree, beautiful trees are simple, or something else that will help break the gleam of the empty glass. I have painted advertising for adjoining shops on vacant windows. This is just an idea one might pursue if they wanted to paint designs that would lend themselves well in these situations.

Smaller jobs are as good as larger ones generally. If you consider the time you spend making corporate contacts and getting something set up you could have as easily have strolled down the block and canvassed, making as much overall for time spent. So in large part it depends if you would rather be on the phone or on the sidewalk. (The mom and popshops are always a great bet if you’re doing the sidewalk thing.) Any job is subject to lead to another, franchise owners often have a half a dozen businesses in town. Banks are subject to change their policies year-to-year regarding window painting but will often recommend you to managers of other branches when they do get painted.

You can cold call businesses out of the phone book, (though some of them may not have windows, ha-ha) or make a note of great windows while driving. You can have someone make calls for you and pay them well. You may have a place on our website if you’re using our patterns or we’re selling yours, or set one up otherwise to save you from driving so much to show photographs unless they are ready to paint them right away. If it's the holiday season chances are numerous painters may approach them until their windows are painted (if you live where it's been made popular). The Boise valley has a number of painters that come out for the Christmas Holidays. Many who dabble in the arts or craft arena as well as a few serious artists come out to do the big winter wonder. There have been a handful of us who have been out here for years, several of which work windows pretty steady all year long. Twenty years ago there were only a half a dozen of us painting Christmas windows in the area, today there are dozens.

'Distrust any enterprise that requires new clothes.'  Henry David Thoreau

To learn about hand lettering visit the Letterheads website

 "the Keepers of the Craft" of  Signage


Check back at a later date for more info in this chapter.