what skills do you need to pass your C-33 painting license test in California

3 Skills You Have To Have For The Painting License!

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In California, to charge over $500 for Residential and Commercial painting services you have to have a Painting License.

The Contractors State License Board requires all applicants applying for the C-33 Painting Contractors to:

  • Be at least 18 Years 
  • Have 4 Years of Journeyman Level Experience
  • Have a Driver's License or USA Issued Identification
  • Have a Social Security or ITIN#
  • Not Currently On Probation or Parole
  • Pass a Two Part Exam

image of a painting contractor on top of a house painting a window seal. To get a painting license in california you must meet the CSLB's basic requirements

If you meet the above requirements you are halfway there! 

I have helped thousands of painting contractors get the C-33 License in California, and the truth is that are 3 core skills you have to have to be successful and pass the contractor license exam your first try. 

1. Blueprint Reading

Blueprint reading is a core skill for anyone in a supervisory role on a construction site. Almost every construction trade will encounter blueprints of some kind. 

These skills are particularly important for contractors looking to get a painting license because 35% of the C-33 License exam is on planning and estimation.

A great resource for painting contractors looking to raise their game when it comes to reading blueprints and making accurate estimations is a website called: www.paintpro.net

  1. Planning and Estimating (28%)
  • Evaluating job sites
  • Selecting tools, equipment, and materials
  • Selecting paint, stain, and finish colors and
  • Reading blueprints and specifications
  • Estimating job costs for materials,
    supplies, equipment, and labor
  1. Substrate Repair and Surface Preparation
  • Identifying problems
  • Scraping, sanding, and wallpaper removal
  • Patching, caulking, and repairing
  • Masking and protecting job sites
  • Removing paint and cleaning surfaces
  • Applying primer
  1. Application of Paint, Wallcoverings, and
    Finishes (21%)
  • Applying paint and wallcoverings to
  • Applying waterproofing or sealant
  • Staining, sealing, and finishing wood
  • Applying touch-ups and cleaning work
  1. Safety (21%)
  • Tool and equipment safety
  • Personnel and job site safety
  • Environmental safety
  • Handling hazardous materials
  • Cal/OSHA safety requirements

2. Environmental Safety

Painting Contractors have to be aware of the environmental impact of their work. Additives to paint products include

  1. Pigments (Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide)
  2. Binders
  3. Solvents 
  4. Lead and Heavy Metals

Lead Paint specifically can cause nerve damage and brain disorders, especially in children.

It is very important to understand the negative effects of lead paint and also how to contain it in a construction setting. 

The Environmental Protection Agency works closely with the Contractors State License Board to ensure that anyone applying for the painting license has a thorough knowledge of environmental safety

Getting an EPA Certification

Painting Contractors can get an EPA certification for lead safety in a 1 day (8 Hour) course. 22% of the Painting License exam contains questions on environmental safety and hazardous materials, so having this certification can help you greatly in your preparation!

Logo of the EPA. contractors looking to get the painting license should have an in depth knowledge of lead paint

  • A Complete Lesson on Lead Paint
  • Negative Health Effects of Lead Exposure
  • Containment Processes for Painting Contractors 

To learn more about how to get an EPA Certification for Lead Safety, check this out.

3. Know Your Trade!

This goes without saying.

The Painting License is generally not considered the most difficult contractor license exam compared to others, but for someone who does not know the basics of their trade, it can be incredibly difficult. 

The exam is:

It is important to remember that the vocabulary or topics on the CSLB exam will probably differ greatly to the way things are done in the real world. You might encounter:

  • Out-of-date topics
  • Verbiage that no one uses anymore for tools
  • Processes that are never used in the real world

When studying for your painting license test, just remember that you are studying to pass the exam and nothing more. Your goal is to get the painting license and move on, not revolutionize the CSLB curriculum. 

a calculator and pencil laying on top of a piece of graph paper.

  • Use Online c-33 license exam questions
  • A study using a c-33 license Trade Book
  • Consider reviewing trade information with an online course or DVD class
  • Study consistently (even 10 minutes a day on a consistent basis is better than cramming)


If you have found this article helpful, be sure to leave us a comment and check back for future updates and changes to Contractor License Law in California!

Check out this guide for a complete look at the C-33 Painting License!