Painting a ceiling can seem tricky because it requires some elevation and contortion to get it just right. However, it’s perhaps one of the easiest DIY home projects you can tackle.
Whether you want to give your ceiling a classic white look or renovate it with a bold and bright color, you just have to follow a few simple steps to make a room feel warmer, bigger, and cozier.
To paint your ceiling, you should prepare the entire room, start with the ceiling edges, and then move on to the rest of the ceiling, always working in sections to ensure full coverage and avoid spills.
Of course, that’s not all there’s to it. Keep reading if you want to learn some techniques that can help you accomplish the job just like a pro!
For this project, you’re going to need the following supplies:
- 100-grit sandpaper
- Drop cloths
- Painter’s tape
- 2” angled paintbrush
- Paint tray and liner(s)
- Roller frame
- Roller cover with a ⅜-inch nap for even ceilings or ¾-inch nap for textured ceilings
- Extension pole
- Ceiling Paint
- Ladder or stepladder for cutting in
- Safety glasses
- Dust mask
1. How to Prepare the Room for Painting
Painting the ceiling can be very messy if you don’t prepare everything right. We know that, sometimes, what slows down a paint project isn’t the painting itself, but rather tidying up after you’ve finished. Here’s everything you should consider to minimize the amount of clean-up after painting.
Preparing the Room
Start by removing as much furniture as possible, as well as any ceiling fixtures and smoke detectors in the room. Solid electrical box faceplates can be painted over, so you don’t have to worry about those.
Cover up your ceiling fans, and any remaining light fixtures and furniture with drop cloths to protect them from paint spills and splatters. You can use a plastic sheet as well, but we recommend canvas for the floor because it’s less likely to cause you or your stepladder to slip.
Don’t forget to cover your vertical surfaces! Hang drop cloths or plastic sheets over your windows and doors.
If you aren’t planning on painting your walls, you’ll need to put protective painter’s tape over ceiling trim and molding. To prevent paint from bleeding through the tape, we suggest applying the tape starting from a corner of the room. Press down on the edges firmly to create a seal.
Preparing the Ceiling
Once the room is ready, it’s time to dust your ceiling to clear away any dirt or debris to prep it for painting. If it’s not too high, you can vacuum it to remove dust easily and quickly. Otherwise, you can simply use a clean broom.
The following step is completely optional, but to ensure a smooth paint job and increase primer and paint adherence, especially on untextured ceilings, we recommend sanding over any rough spots on your ceiling with 100-grit sandpaper.
After sanding, vacuum the ceiling again or wipe it with a damp sponge to remove the dust.
2. How to Apply Primer
Primer is primarily used to prepare a surface for paint, but that’s not all it can do. It can also help hide most flaws on your ceiling, cover imperfections, and create a stain barrier.
Primer application is quite easy, all you have to do is follow these three simple steps:
- Cut in edges of the ceiling where the roller won’t reach with an angled brush.
- Apply a coat of primer by roller with an extension rod to reach the ceiling.
- Let the primer dry completely according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
The type of primer you should use will depend on the texture of your ceiling.
- For smooth or lightly textured drywall ceiling, we recommend an interior latex drywall primer as close in color to the paint as possible, followed by ceiling paint. You can also use an all-in-one ceiling paint and primer product.
- For ceilings with a deeper texture, such as popcorn, you’ll need a high-build primer.
As you can see, applying primer is no rocket science. Once it’s fully dry, you can finally move on to the fun part, painting your ceiling!
3. How to Paint a Ceiling with a Roller
The best and easiest way to paint a ceiling is using a paint roller, working in grid-like sections to keep track of your progress and ensure an even coat.
A quick tip for those who are tackling their first painting project: when you open your can of ceiling paint, you might notice that the paint has separated. Don’t worry, you can just use a paint stirrer to blend the pigments back together.
Now, let’s get down to business!
- Starting from a corner of the room, cut in the perimeter of the ceiling with an angled brush. The edge should be about 2 to 3 inches wide, and you don’t need to let the paint dry before the next step.
- Load your roller with ceiling paint, being careful not to submerge it. Let it glide over the paint so it won’t drip when you use it.
- Roll the paint in 3-foot by 3-foot sections so that you can keep track of your progress. To prevent permanent roller marks and achieve a smooth, consistent coat, use diagonal or zigzag strokes and start each new section by overlapping onto the wet edges of the preceding one.
- Repeat until you’ve covered the whole ceiling surface, making sure to slightly vary the direction of your rolling.
- If necessary, apply a second coat.
- Let the paint dry for approximately 24 hours. Check specific dry times on the paint’s label.
And that’s it, you’ve successfully painted your ceiling!
How to Paint a Textured or Popcorn Ceiling
Painting a textured ceiling can be a bit of a pain, and whether you can actually paint it will depend on the quality of the texturing job.
If your ceiling has already been painted over, then odds are it’s safe to paint it again. However, if the texture has never been painted before, there’s a high risk of the water in the paint loosening the texture.
Whenever possible, it’s best to do a test rolling on a small or inconspicuous area to see how the texture reacts to the paint. If it loosens, we don’t recommend painting your ceiling.
Spray painting is less likely to loosen the texture, but doing so in an occupied house is quite tricky.
To paint a textured or popcorn ceiling, you should do the following:
- Just as you would with an even or lightly textured ceiling, cut in the perimeter of the ceiling with an angled brush, making sure the edge is about 2 to 3 inches wide.
- Grab a roller with a ¾-inch nap, which allows you to pick up more paint to fill in those grooves, and load it with ceiling paint.
- Roll the paint on and leave it. Don’t go back and forth with the roller as you usually would with any other project. This step is crucial because overworking the paint can pull the texture from the ceiling.
- Repeat until you’ve covered the whole ceiling surface
- Apply a second coat if necessary.
- Let the paint dry for at least 24 hours.
Another thing you should consider when painting textured or popcorn ceilings is that they require more paint to get into the grooves. When you’re calculating how much paint you need to buy, remember to factor that in.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I paint first, the ceiling or the walls?
We always suggest painting your ceiling before you do your walls. This way you can cover any accidental drips or splatters on the walls when you paint them.
However, if painting your walls is not in your plans, you might want to consider covering them with plastic sheeting before painting your ceiling to protect them.
How should I clean up after painting my ceiling?
Clean your supplies (paint brushes, roller, and paint tray) with warm soapy water before the paint begins to dry. Rinse with water to wash away any remaining soap. Squeeze out any excess water and let air dry.
If you have any leftover paint, remember to always use proper disposal methods if you don’t plan on storing it for later use.
How do I choose the color for my ceiling?
Flat and matte white paint is the most commonly used paint for ceilings because the finish hides most imperfections on the surface and the color (or lack thereof!) reflects more light, brightening the room.
White can typically make the room seem larger than it is, whereas a colored ceiling does the opposite.
Now that you’ve learned how to paint a ceiling, you can probably see it’s actually quite easy! The key lies in thorough preparation of the surface and a proper application technique.
This can be a fun DIY project that you can tackle in less than a day if you have the right supplies.
What are you waiting for? Let’s give that fifth wall a makeover!