How To

Step by Step: How to paint a ceiling

By Luke Carlino

Published: July 17th, 2020

Making it easy to give your entire room a painting facelift

If you’re going to paint a room, you might be thinking you can skip the ceiling, but don’t – I promise you won’t regret it. This means that knowing how to paint a ceiling is a crucial skill because it’s not an easy task. But with a few tips and tricks, you (and your back/neck) will be thanking me when you can stand back and take in the freshly painted room.

From a simple spruce up and stain removal to the changing of colour and peeling ceilings. It can be a challenging task. Here are the most effective ways to prepare the ceiling and room for painting, applying the paint and of course the cleanup!

Step by step for how to paint a ceiling

Step 1: Preparation

Ask any painter; the most crucial step is always your prep! Before you begin painting, the right preparation will ensure the job goes smoothly.  Here’s what you need to do to ceiling paint preparation:

  • Begin by removing all furniture from the room if you can
  • Then prep the ceiling itself by using a broom or brush to remove all of the dust and grime. This will make it easier for the paint to adhere to the area.
  • Remove as many of the ceiling fixtures as you can and be sure to turn off the power at the fuse box before removing the hardware.
  • Next, do a little paint protection prepping which includes safety goggles or a hat for you and drop cloths for the floor and remaining furniture.
You’ll want to overlap the drop cloths and tape them to the baseboards to ensure they stay in place. You can use more drop cloths or painter’s tape on the windows, doors and trim if required.
  • Finally, if your painting task only involves the ceiling, mask the tops of the walls with painter’s tape to save any unwanted roller marks. Skip this step if you are painting the entire room as the paint will be going to those sections eventually anyway!
Painting the whole room? Then you should always start with the ceiling first!

Step 2: Priming

The task of painting your ceiling will be made a lot easier if you take the time to prime the ceiling with a coat of latex paint primer. This is particularly important if your ceiling has stains.

Allow the primer to dry completely and use a paintbrush to paint the edges where the ceiling meets the wall. This targets the areas the roller will likely miss giving you a more thorough and professional-looking result.

priming-ceiling-paint
Source: Pexels

Step 3: Painting the ceiling

Ceilings can be quite sizeable, so it is always a good idea to paint in sections with a roller. Work in small grid-like sections that will keep the edges wet. This allows you to see your progress, making it easier to achieve an even coat.

If you have a smooth ceiling, a low nap roller is best, if your ceiling is textured, use a roller with a 1/2-inch nap. Start in a corner, roll slowly and overlap the rows. Never roll directly over your head and vary the direction of your rolling. Repeat these actions for each section, rolling out and blending with the cut-in edge. 

If you happen to make a drip or spatter, clean it with a damp rag straight away before the paint dries.

Step 4: Second coat and clean up

Not all ceilings require a second coat of paint, but if you have used a bright colour or particular shade of white, this may be needed. And to be honest, it just helps in case you’ve missed a bit and need a more solid finish.

Before applying your second coat, allow the first coat of paint to thoroughly dry, then apply the second coat in one direction. 

When you have finished, it is time for the most fun and enjoyable part of any painting job – the cleanup.

 How to clean paint rollers and brushes

  1. Take all of your paint rollers, brushes, and paint trays to the laundry sink and clean them with warm soap and water
  2. Squeeze out as much of the paint as you can
  3. Then leave it all out to air dry
  4. Wait until your ceiling paint is dry to touch then remove any painter’s tape
  5. Safely reattach the ceiling light fixtures

Top ceiling painting tips

Here are a few extra tips that will make your life easier when learning how to paint a ceiling:

  • Make sure you are using specific ceiling paint as opposed to wall paint 
  • Standard white ceiling paint will make your room much brighter, whereas coloured paint will make it look bigger
  • Always paint the ceiling before you paint the walls
  • A paint roller extension pole will help you reach higher spots and angles more easily
  • Make sure your step ladder is reliable and stable
  • If you are learning how to paint a textured ceiling, do a test roll first to make sure nothing falls off, a paint sprayer can help if something does 
  • if you need to paint a really high ceiling, hire a professional
  • Water stains will still bleed through your new paint so use a stain-blocking primer to prevent this from undoing all of your hard work
  • Use an oil-based primer for water stains and shellac-based for other stains
  • Take as much care painting your ceiling as you do with any other wall, just because it is seen less that does not make it unseen
Paint rollers with colour
David Pisnoy

How to choose a ceiling paint colour

If you’re thinking about using the same colour paint for your ceiling and walls, first consider the type and size of the room. For small rooms, a darker paint colour for the ceiling and walls will make things feel more intimate. A lighter colour for the walls and ceiling will make the room feel bigger and more modern.

Darker or lighter paint colours in larger rooms will bring the focus to your furniture and decor. When you paint your ceiling a lighter colour, the walls will feel higher, creating a low-contrast look. Painting your ceiling a darker colour than the walls can create a high-contrast look in a white-walled room. A darker paint colour will make it feel like a lower ceiling even and works well to accent a decorative trim.

If you simply want to paint your ceiling white, choose a flat white paint as this will help disguise any lumps or bumps and hive you a clean, modern look. On the flip side, a colour will actually enhance the things you don’t want to bring attention to. If you have a room that doesn’t get a lot of natural light, white ceiling paint is the best option. White paint will reflect more light into the darker spaces and brighten everything up!

Frequently asked questions

Is it hard to paint a ceiling?

While painting a ceiling is considered more difficult than painting a wall due to the angles involved, it is not impossible. If you are a little unsure about handling the task, or if you need to paint a particularly high ceiling, the task is best left to a professional. They will have all of the necessary equipment and scaffolding to ensure a safe and efficient job.

If you feel as though you can tackle the task yourself, ensure the correct preparation, never paint directly over your head, and use a paint roller extension pole to help you reach higher spots and angles more easily.

Do you paint the ceiling first or last?

Always paint the ceiling first. It’s always better to paint large, high areas as there will often be roller spatters, overspray and brushstrokes that will be covered up as you move onto painting the lower regions.

Where do you start painting a ceiling?

When painting a ceiling, it’s a good idea to start in a corner, roll slowly and overlap the rows. Paint in sections with a roller and work in small grid-like areas that will keep the edges wet. This allows you to see your progress, making it easier to achieve an even coat.

When it comes time to paint the second coat, speed is the key. Try to get the task done quickly to ensure a professional-looking even drying coat.

Do you feel like you are now ready for Michelangelo levels of ceiling painting?

You now have all the information you need to paint your ceiling. Follow the steps carefully, and you should be able to perform a professional-level job that will make you smile every time you look up!

If you still aren’t feeling as confident as you would like about ceiling painting, fear not! There are plenty of skilled people who can help with your ceiling painting, as well as ceiling plastering and always making sure it looks great with regular ceiling cleaning.

If you have caught the painting bug and find it to be quite therapeutic like many do, read some of our other handy painting articles. You can see more living room painting ideas and 45 Bathroom colour schemes and ideas. A fresh coat of paint can do wonders for the aesthetic of your home, master the art today!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Luke Carlino

Luke Carlino is a freelance copywriter, social media manager and content creator based in Melbourne. He works for a range of clients across a plethora of industries and is also an accomplished musician with solo and band works online.

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