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.
2018 Salary Information for Craft and Fine Artists
Craft and fine artists earned a median annual salary of $48,960 in May 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, craft and fine artists earned a 10th percentile salary of $32,210, meaning 90 percent earned more than this amount. The 90th percentile salary is $70,210, meaning 10 percent earn more. In 2018, 50,300 people were employed in the U.S. as craft and fine artists.
- 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
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Craft and Fine Artists
- Career Trend: Craft and Fine Artists
Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.