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Set Designer vs. Set Decorator: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

A set designer is responsible for the overall look of a production, while a set decorator is in charge of the furnishings and props used on the set. Both roles are important in creating a believable and visually appealing setting for a film, TV show, play or other performance. In this article, we compare and contrast the job duties, education requirements and salary information for set designers and set decorators.

What is a Set Designer?

Set Designers are responsible for creating the visual appearance of a production, whether it’s a play, movie, television show or commercial. They work closely with the Director to interpret the script and develop a concept for the set. Set Designers create sketches and models of the set, which the construction team then builds. Set Designers also select furniture, props, lighting and other set decorations. They may also be responsible for creating or finding special effects, such as pyrotechnics or mechanical devices.

What is a Set Decorator?

Set Decorators are responsible for the overall look and feel of a film or television set. They work with the Production Designer to determine the style of the set and select all furniture, props, art and other decor items. Set Decorators source these items from rental houses, antique stores, prop houses or create them from scratch. They also manage the budget for the set decoration and keep track of all the items used on the set. Set Decorators work closely with the other members of the production team to ensure that the set is ready for filming and meets all the necessary requirements.

Set Designer vs. Set Decorator

Here are the main differences between a set designer and a set decorator.

Job Duties

Set designers and set decorators share some of their job duties. They both create the scenery, props, furniture and other elements that appear on a film or television set. Set designers create the overall look and feel for a set, while set decorators determine the specific decorations for each scene.

Set designers also supervise the construction crew who builds the set. They ensure that the set is built correctly and meets all design requirements. Set designers may also communicate with directors and actors about the lighting and visibility on the set.

Set decorators work closely with the costume designer to coordinate the colors and styles of costumes with the set. They also manage the prop department, ensuring that they have the necessary props for each scene. Prop items can include food, drinks, books, maps, weapons and many other items.

Job Requirements

Set designers and set decorators typically need a bachelor’s degree in theater arts, fine arts or a related field. Some professionals also pursue a master’s degree to gain more experience in the field. During their studies, set designers and set decorators might take classes in scenic design, lighting design, stagecraft and art history. Many programs also require students to complete an internship before they graduate.

Work Environment

Set designers and set decorators both work in film, television or theater productions. They may travel to different locations for their jobs, depending on the project they’re working on. Set designers often work in studios where they can use specialized tools and equipment to create a realistic setting.

Set decorators usually work in theaters or other performance spaces that already have existing features. They may also work on location during filming or performances.


Set designers and set decorators share some skills, such as creativity, an eye for detail and the ability to work within a budget. However, their responsibilities are different, which requires them to use different skills in their jobs.

A set designer is responsible for creating the overall look of a film or television set. They work with the director and production designer to develop a vision for the set and then create sketches or models that show their ideas. They also need to be able to find or create props and furniture that fit the style of the set. Set designers typically have a background in art or architecture.

A set decorator is responsible for filling the set with all the necessary furniture, props and decorations. They work within the budget set by the production designer and may need to source items from prop houses or antique stores. They also need to be able to install any large pieces of furniture or fixtures on the set. Set decorators typically have a background in interior design or set design.


Set designers can earn an average salary of $63,657 per year, while set decorators can earn an average salary of $39,461 per year. Both of these average salaries may vary depending on the size of the company at which you work, location of your job and the level of experience you have prior to pursuing either position.


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