How to paint your ceiling: Everything you need to know

Painting your ceiling? Follow these pro tips.

Find a ceiling painter

One of the areas of your room you shouldn't skip when doing a painting project is the ceiling. Like your walls, the color of your ceiling can set the tone for your space. That's why learning how to paint a ceiling is one of the skills to add to your DIY arsenal.

Painting ceilings may not be a walk in the park, especially if you're working on high ceilings. These ceiling painting tips can be your guide. Whether you're painting textured ceilings or fixing peeling paint, follow these steps from start to finish.

Steps to Paint a Ceiling

Steps 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 for ceiling paint preparation:

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

  2. Then, prep the ceiling using a broom or brush to remove all the dust and grime. This will make it easier for the paint to adhere to the area.

  3. Remove as many ceiling fixtures as possible, and turn off the power at the fuse box before removing the hardware.

  4. Next, do a little paint protection prepping, including safety glasses 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. If required, you can use more drop cloths or painter's tape on the windows, doors, and trim.

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!

Pro-tip: It's also important to know what type of paint for ceilings is best. Ask a professional before buying your paint materials.

Step 2: Apply primer

Painting your ceiling will be much 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 them 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. When painting corners, use an angled brush.

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 make a drip or spatter, clean it with a damp rag immediately 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 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 dry thoroughly, 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 paint popcorn ceilings

The cottage cheese-like texture of popcorn ceilings tends to be more difficult to work with. Before painting them, fill in the 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; if you’re unsure 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.

Pro-tip: As for how to paint basement ceilings, it’s better to go with latex or sprayable paint if exposed to wooden rafters and metal pipes. 

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 the touch, then remove any painter's tape.

  5. Safely reattach the ceiling light fixtures.

Top ceiling painting tips

Here are a few tips for painting ceilings that can make the job easier:

  • 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 ensure 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 painter 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 unseen.

Painting ceiling tips

If you're considering 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 a large room will bring 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 darker than the walls can create a high-contrast look in a white-walled room. A dark, bold 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 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!

Make your ceiling stand out with new paint

Now that you know how to paint a ceiling, it's time to get started with the project! Use these steps as a guide and do a good paint job like a pro!

If you're still learning the ropes of painting ceilings, don't worry! You can hire Taskers to help with ceiling painting, plastering, and even ceiling cleaning.

See also: Cost of plastering a ceiling

Find ceiling painters, fast

Find a ceiling painter

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 the necessary equipment and scaffolding to ensure a safe and efficient job. If you feel 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 brush marks 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. Speed is the key when painting the second coat. To ensure a professional-looking, even drying coat, try to finish the task quickly.

Related articles

Related price guides

Let's do this!

It's free and takes only a minute.