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How to Paint a Ceiling

Painting a ceiling with a paint roller

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Sprucing up your home’s interior look with a fresh coat of paint can make a huge difference to it’s brightness and feeling in the room.

Often people squirm at the idea of painting their ceiling, but it could be the finishing touch to your room, whether it be a bedroom, bathroom, or living area.

If your ceiling has a popcorn texture, check out our blog on How to Paint a Popcorn Ceiling.

While learning how to paint a ceiling may seem like a complex task at first, honing the right skills and purchasing the right tools will make painting your ceiling a reasonably simple task.

So how do you start? Where do you start? Let me take you through all of that. This article will expound your knowledge of your next DIY endeavor: How to Paint a Ceiling.

Tools and Equipment:

Paint Roller Covers.

A paint roller frame is required for the use of paint roller coverings. They are typically used to apply paint, stain, or other finishes to large areas rapidly and uniformly. Plastic or hard paper is used to make the core of the paint roller cover, which is covered in absorbent fabric. Microfibre rollers tend to hold more paint than conventional roller. For best results use a thicker roller like a 15 mm or 20 mm nap roller as they hold more paint and make it easier to apply the paint.

Paint Roller Frames.

When painting trims around your doors, using a brush can take a long time than using a roller frame.

Using a mini paint roller is a great idea as seen in this video about how to paint behind a toilet. They can squeeze into confined spaces thanks to their small diameter (often less than an inch).

A Paint Roller

A Paint Roller

A roller provides thin, uniform, and even coats and is an ideal tool for painting large, smooth, well-prepared walls, ceilings, and large furniture. The roller is more economical, covers more surface area and is generally faster to paint large surfaces than its brush counterpart.

The roller porous-like surface holds much more paint and distributes an even layer of paint much faster.

Extension Pole.

When rolling a ceiling, always use an extension pole. Use a 1 ft. to 2 ft. extension pole in tight areas and a 2 ft.–4 ft. pole for medium-sized walls while painting in confined locations. The pole will save you both time and effort.

Paint Tray and Liner.

Using a paint tray liner eliminates the need to clean out paint trays between switching colors and at the end of a busy paint session. All in all, adding a liner to your paint tray will increase your productivity.

Paint Brush

If you opt to work with a brush instead of a roller, you can dip your brush directly into the tin of paint—without needing a paint tray. Try not to load the paintbrush with too much paint when dipping your brush- dip the tip.



Fiberglass, aluminum, steel, or wood are the different materials you can find ladders in that are designed explicitly with painters in mind. There are also folding, telescoping, extending, and wheeled ladders ideal for easy portability.

?Key Insight: As aluminum is lightweight and robust, it’s the most popular type of painter’s ladder.

Platforms ladders, multi-function articulating ladders, and 6-inch or taller ladders are generally good options for paint projects like your ceiling.

Avoid using a ladder that requires overextending. If you are overstretching, your ladder is not tall enough. You should not have to stand the top three rungs.

Bucket and Paint Tray.

A paint bucket helps prevent major spillage accidents. Most ceilings can be covered entirely with two 1-gallon buckets. If you have a huge room, you may need more than two buckets of paint. Another tool professional painters use is a “Paint Tray”. These come in all shapes and sized and are specifically designed to allow you to dip the roller into your bucket using a sloped surfaces so that paint can be applied to your roller evenly.

How to Paint a Ceiling: The Procedure

Clear the room.

Clearing all of your furniture out of the way while painting the ceiling is preferred, protecting your furniture, plants and flooring from paint drips while also allowing you to paint the ceiling without it interfering.

The carpet, flooring, or tiles will need to be protected with dust sheets, canvas drop cloths, tarps or another sort of floor protection.

?Remember: If you don’t have something to protect your floor, moving furniture to an area you are not painting and covering it with dust cloths is the best action. Also using canvas drop cloths are better for spills as they absorb paint into the cloth – whereas plastic sheets or tarps keep the paint drips wet, which once stepped in can be spread throughout your home.


You can use a gentle soap and water mixture to scrub your ceiling in circular motions gently. Wipe off your walls using a slightly damp cellulose sponge.

Use an ordinary sponge mop to thoroughly clean your ceiling and walls with TSP or water, then rinse well. After thoroughly rinsing, allow drying time.



A fast once-over sanding with 120 to 150-grit drywall sanding paper is a smart place to start on ceilings that have not yet been textured.

This ensures a flawless paint job and improves the adhesion of the paint. Using a sanding pole is the simplest way to accomplish this. When you have finished sanding, use a damp sponge to wipe off the ceiling and remove lingering dust.

Apply painter’s tape to the tops of the walls and crown molding.

You can use quick-release painter’s tape if you are only painting the ceiling and not the walls. Using painter’s tape, any moldings that adorn the ceiling’s margins should also be protected.

?Experts Tip: If you plan to redecorate the entire space or room, start with the ceiling! There’s less need for tape because you may paint over any stray brush strokes on the walls.


The best way to prepare a stained ceiling is to apply primer with a roller and a coat of latex paint primer. It would be best to use an interior latex paint primer for smooth or lightly textured ceilings; use an exterior latex paint primer for rougher or rougher surfaces.


Using smooth, parallel strokes, begin applying the paint to your ceiling. Try to maintain the same amount of tension across your entire ceiling; this will provide you with a nice, even coverage.

?Hot Tip: Try not to use excessive pressure when painting. You want a slight bit of pressure to add a minor bend in the bristles.

Top Three Tips:

Use a Stain-Blocking Primer to Cover Flaws

The primers are used to conceal stains like watermarks, nicotine (really tar), markers, and smoking and keep them from seeping through newly applied coats of paint. While adhering to difficult surfaces, they help improve the film’s leveling and durability.

Buy Special Ceiling Paint

Although there are exemptions, in general, you’ll obtain the best results with paint developed for ceiling applications. In contrast to conventional interior paint, ceiling paint is a specialty product.

However, standard wall paint is thin and has low viscosity, so painting a ceiling using standard paint is prone to spillage. Only use textured paint on a smooth ceiling.

Cut in Before You Roll

Apply paint to the corners first, then proceed to the rest of the surface. This implies painting on both sides of each corner, starting roughly two brush lengths away and working your way to the corner itself.

The best brush for painting is a 2- or 3-inch long one. Both before and after rolling are acceptable methods for splicing in the trim.

How to Paint a Ceiling: Top 8 Things People do Incorrectly

Pressing too hard

Pressing too hard on your roller will create an unprofessional look, creating paint splatters.

The best technique is using slow and steady strokes when learning how to paint a ceiling. Roll the paint in straight lines, and do not let your roller zig-zag around in random patterns.

Waiting till last

Always begin by painting the ceiling. As a result of this, you can apply at least two coats of paint on the surface without having to worry about the roller over-spraying the paint onto the walls.

Not Cleaning the Ceiling

Not Cleaning the Ceiling

Don’t expect your paint job to last long if you decide not to clean the ceiling.

Applying paint over a dirty, shiny, chipped, and flaking surface. Cleaning and removing dust from surfaces such as wall trim and ceilings will aid in the adhesion of new paint. This is true whether the surface is interior or exterior.

Thinking You Don’t Need to Prime.

Failure to properly prepare the ceiling surface might cause paint to fracture, peel, or seem chalky. However, not all ceilings need to be primed before painting. It’s easy to detect if your ceiling needs primer just by taking a close look at it.

Leaving All the Furniture in The Room

Even though you’ll probably use plastic sheets to cover up the furnishings, you still need to ensure that it isn’t your style. Even if they have a paint bucket in their hand, you don’t want to trip over your furniture! If you can, remove all of the furniture from the area that will be painted before you begin.

Not Covering Anything with Plastic

Covering your floor with plastic sheeting and then using a canvas drop cloth to cover the plastic is significantly more durable and absorbs paint splatters. Remove hard-to-remove hardware such as hinges by covering them with masking tape.

Underestimating How Long the Project Will Take

People who are unsure about the task ahead often underestimate how long it will take them to paint their ceilings. Remember, painting your ceiling is very difficult because it’s using your shoulders, arms and neck consistently.

As a result, precise time estimation is critical if you want your project to succeed. If you are not physically strong with your upper body or have a neck, shoulder or back injury it’s best to outsource this job and get a few painting quotes from locally trusted house painters. Trusted House Painter makes this easy for you when you post your painting project on our app.

Make Sure the Paint Is Dry Before Painting a Second Coat

Once dry, the second coat of paint will likely peel, smear, clump, or flake off because it was applied before the first coat had had a chance to dry. Experts recommend allowing at least two to four hours between coats for the best results.


Where do you start painting a ceiling?

Take out a drop cloth sheet, cover the floors, and remove or reposition the furniture into the middle of the room. (You can use inexpensive plastic sheets or more canvas drop sheets to cover the furniture in the middle of the room.)

Use a 2-inch brush and start by cutting in the top corners where the ceiling meets the walls. Apply plenty of paint working in 4-8 foot sections about 2-3 inches thick. Work in long, sweeping strokes with the brush held at the edge.

How do you prevent roller marks?

The first tip is to apply lots of paint and don’t spread it to far! Poor paint coverage and unevenness in the final coat might lead to roller markings. Adding a second coat of paint ensures complete coverage while rolling in the other direction (Cross Hatching) ensures the finish coat is as uniform as possible.

How many coats of paint do I need?

Using inexpensive paint may require an additional cost because it doesn’t cover as effectively as more expensive paint. Look for “High Hiding” paint because it’s designed to be applied a little thicker than most acrylic paint and creates an even finish. For most ceilings, two coats of emulsion paint should suffice.

Should I paint the ceiling or walls first?

Professional painters almost always paint the ceiling prior to painting walls. The reason for this is because of 2 main reasons: because paint from the ceiling can splatter onto the walls and trim, and because you can “bleed” the ceiling paint onto the walls. This helps create clean and straight ceiling lines when you’ve finished painting the ceiling and start to cut in the top of the walls.

Why does my newly painted ceiling appear to be uneven?

There’s a few reasons your painted ceiling appears to be uneven. First, it’s a common user error to not apply enough paint – meaning you may have stretched out the paint too far. With today’s paints, you want to make sure to use plenty of paint and not stretch it too far. Another reason is because your ceiling could have a natural uneven texture. Ceiling paint is generally “flat” or “matt” in sheen – which means it doesn’t create a shine or glossy reflection. If you have patch marks on the ceiling from previous renovations, or the previous coating wasn’t applied correctly you might want to try sanding away the uneven areas before applying a second coat. For best results, it’s always best to sand the ceilings in between coats.

What’s the best way to roll a ceiling down?

The best way to paint a ceiling is using the “Cross Hatching” method. On the first coat roll the ceilings in one direction (East to West), and then on your second coat roll the other direction (North to South). Keep in mind if there’s a light source from a large window, it’s best to apply the second coat going with towards the light source (as opposed to going against the light source). Make sure you apply lots of paint and spread it evenly with uniformity throughout the ceiling. This prevents the appearance of roller lines.

Do you need to apply 2 coats on a ceiling?

If your ceiling is in good shape, you don’t necessarily need to apply 2 coats. However it’s quite often that the first coat absorbs unevenly into the ceiling, causing “flashing” to occur. This is when your ceiling looks patchy or you see lines after it’s dried. If the ceiling has never been painted and is fresh drywall, you’ll definitely want to use a PVA primer undercoat before you apply two coats. We explain more about this product here.

Before you paint your ceilings, it’s best practice to always sweep it with a gentle broom to get rid of any cobwebs that may have accumulated. Apply moderate sanding to remove any loose paint, fill holes, and smooth out the surface.

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