It starts with a sketch, often on a sheet of paper. The client approves the work, and you transfer the image to a wall. Then, the actual painting can begin: a rudimentary example, but this is the life of muralists. These artists use their skills as painters to create works on a large scale. Pay varies by location. It also varies based on your own fees.
In 2012, artists earned an average of $54,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10 percent of earners made more than $93,030, while the bottom 10 percent earned less than $19,410 annually. But these figures include the salaries of all artists, regardless of medium. The job-seekers' website Indeed provides a clearer picture of a muralist’s earnings, setting the average at $49,000 a year.
As with any career, salaries vary by location, and a muralist is no exception. Of the states, some muralists with the highest earnings were in New York, where the average salary was $59,000 a year, reports Indeed. Those in California also fared better than most, earning $54,000, while muralists in Connecticut averaged $55,000 annually. The same, however, doesn't hold for those working in South Dakota, where the average was closer to $37,000 a year.
What you can expect to earn as a muralist depends largely on your fees. Maria Brophy, consultant and brand manager for Drew Brophy, a muralist, provides a guide for setting your price for painting murals. She suggests starting with a fee per square foot and then a minimum square footage per project -- even if the mural is smaller. Her husband charges $35 per square foot, with a minimum of 160 square feet, which works out to $5,600 for the mural. This may seem like a sizable fee, and you may decide to charge only $15 a square foot, with a minimum of 100 square feet, or $10 a square foot with no minimum. Davis Images, a muralist in Massachusetts, prices murals at $10 to $20 a square foot, with the high end for high detail work. You have a lot of flexibility in how you price your murals.
The BLS expects employment for artists as a whole to grow by as much as 5 percent through 2020. This is less than half the average growth rate for all U.S. occupations, an estimated 14 percent. In this relatively small field, the 5-percent growth rate works out to 3,100 new jobs. The opportunities for employment may be different for muralists, however, because so many are freelancers.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook – Craft and Fine Artists
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Fine Artists, Including Painters, Sculptors, and Illustrators
- Indeed: Muralist
- Maria Brophy: How to Price a Wall Mural – Developing a Price Sheet and Proposal
- Indeed: Muralist Salary in New York
- Indeed: Muralist Salary in California
- Indeed: Muralist Salary in Connecticut
- Indeed: Muralist Salary in South Dakota
- Davis Images: Mural Pricing
- Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images