How to paint your ceiling effectively

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The most effective ways to prepare the ceiling and room for painting

The most effective ways to prepare the ceiling and room for painting

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 color 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 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:

  1. Begin by removing all furniture from the room if you can
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Step 3:  Painting a ceiling with a roller

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.

How to paint popcorn ceilings

The cottage cheese-like texture of popcorn ceilings tends to be more difficult to work with. Before painting them, fill in gaps with new popcorn. Old homes with popcorn ceilings (think before the 80s) tend to have asbestos, which can be dangerous for your health. Be careful and if you're not sure whether your ceiling has it, have your surface tested first.

Once primed, try acrylic latex paint or flat paint, which can make surfaces look even and smooth. Tip: As for how to paint basement ceilings, it's better to go with latex or sprayable paint if it's exposed with wooden rafters and metal pipes. 

Step 4: Second coat and clean up

Not all ceilings require a second coat of paint, but if you have used a bright color 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 colored 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 know how to paint a high ceiling and the height is higher than average, hire a professional for safety
  • 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 unseenDavid Pisnoy

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

Darker or lighter paint colors in larger rooms will bring the focus to your furniture and decor. When you paint your ceiling a lighter color, the walls will feel higher, creating a low-contrast look. Painting your ceiling a darker color than the walls can create a high-contrast look in a white-walled room. Darker paint color 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 flat white paint as this will help disguise any lumps or bumps and give you a clean, modern look. On the flip side, a color 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!

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.

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Ceiling Painting FAQs

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.
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 on painting the lower regions.
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.
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.
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.
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 on painting the lower regions.

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