How to Paint a Ceiling – Master’s Guide for Best Results

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Out of all of the things in our homes that we think about on a daily basis, ceilings are probably not on that list. Unless you have your feet up on a Sunday afternoon while you watch the dust particles settle in the afternoon light through your room window, your ceiling probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of things that need some maintenance in your home. If this has made you think of your ceiling for the first time in a while, then maybe you feel like it could use a new coat of paint, or maybe it has occurred to you that changing its color could improve the entire look of your home. How would you go about painting your ceiling though? What sets ceiling paint apart from other paint types? Let’s see if we can answer these and some other questions.



How to Paint Your Ceiling Effectively

Now that you know what makes ceiling paints unique and what a good ceiling paint should look like, it’s probably a good idea for you to know how to paint a ceiling once you’ve gotten your hands on your paint of choice. That’s why we’ve put together a short tutorial showing you how to paint your ceiling effectively while protecting your flooring and furniture from the inevitable paint drips and splatter. Here are a few of the things you’ll need:

  • A few tarps
  • Some clean cloths
  • A paint roller and brush and/or a paint sprayer
  • Some ceiling paint
  • Some ceiling primer
  • A pair of safety glasses
  • A pair of overalls or some old clothing
  • A pair of gloves

Ceiling Painting Equipment


Prepare Your Workspace

As with any DIY project, the most important step in the entire process is preparation. This doesn’t mean just preparing your workpiece, you should do your best to prepare your workspace while you’re at it. Painting your ceiling can be messy business, not only for your floor but for you too. So, unless you’re comfortable with getting paint in your eyes or on your skin we recommend preparing adequately.

Prepare Room for Painting Ceiling

How do you prepare your workspace for ceiling painting? Well, this is really simple. If you’re painting a living space or bedroom, it’s a good idea to remove as much furniture as you can before you get started. For furnishings that you can’t move, you should do your best to cover them up as best you can. While some newspapers will get the job done in a pinch, we recommend using something like a tarp or some plastic sheeting big enough to cover the entire furnishing just to be safe.

You should do your best to cover things like light fixtures, side skirting, and windowsills with some painter’s tape to ensure they don’t accidentally get any paint on them. As for your flooring, you should get a big tarp to cover your entire floor from end to end, or if you can’t get your hands on one big enough to cover the entire area, two to three small ones joined with some painter’s tape will do just fine too.

Tape Off Areas with Masking Tape


Prepare Your Ceiling

Okay before you get to painting you should prepare your ceiling to receive the paint you’ve chosen. Why? Preparing your ceiling correctly means that the paint will adhere as intended, not to mention ensure that the quality of your finish will look smooth and bump-free, which is presumably what you’re going for. If your ceiling is new or uneven, you may wish to give it a light sand with a sander.

Sand Uneven Ceiling for Painting

How do you prepare your ceiling once it has been sanded? It’s super easy. As you would when painting a wall or any other workpiece you need to ensure that the area you’ll be painting is clean. Use a broom to get rid of any dust or cobwebs, or if you have one, one of those portable vacuum cleaners to remove any stubborn clumps in the corners of your ceiling. As for any scuff marks, you can use some clean cloths and soapy water to scrub them away, and then allow the area to dry completely.

Clean Ceiling Before Painting

Be sure to give your primer a good stir before you start using it to mix together any heavier particles that might have sunk to the bottom of the container while it was sitting on a store shelf. Once mixed, get your brush out and cover any sections that you would be able to reach with your brush.

Everyone has their preferred way of doing this, but the most popular method is to apply your primer along the length of your ceiling cornice on all four sides of the room. This way you’ll be able to apply the rest of your primer either by starting at one end of your ceiling and working your way toward the other or by starting in the middle and working your way towards either end.

Brush for Ceiling Painting

The latter works better for irregularly shaped ceilings, but if you don’t have time for any of this you could just use a self-priming paint like the one we covered previously. Primers for ceilings are pretty common, but if you’re wondering what a good primer for ceilings would look like, they’re usually high adhesion primers aimed at oil and acrylic interior paints.


Paint Your Ceiling

Now for the moment, you’ve been waiting for! It’s finally time to paint your ceiling. Before you get started, ensure that you have your safety glasses as well as your overalls/old clothing on as well as a pair of gloves to protect your hands. Once you’re all geared up, give your paint a good stir just like you did with the primer to ensure that the heavier particles are reintroduced into the mixture.

Mix Ceiling Paint Well

Once your paint is all mixed together it’s time to get painting. Just like when you applied the primer, you want to start by applying paint to the corners and edges of your ceiling using a brush. This ensures that you maximize your coverage and don’t miss any spots with your roller.

Prime Ceiling Before Painting

Once you have the corners and the edges covered, it’s time to get out your roller. Fill up your paint tray and get some paint on your roller, then paint from one end of your ceiling to the other if your ceiling is rectangular or square. This ensures that you get consistent coverage over the entire surface and will help you identify any spots the roller might have missed.

Paint Roller for Ceiling Paint

If you’re working with a ceiling that’s unconventionally shaped, you could start from the center and work your way out toward the edges to ensure consistent and even coverage throughout the application process. Regardless, apply as many coats as you’d like just be sure to allow each coat to dry for the manufacturer’s recommended time period before applying the next.



What’s So Special About Ceiling Paint?

What’s so special about ceiling paint you ask? Well, ceiling paint is some miracle substance that’s been specially designed for painting things upside down if that’s what you were thinking. Ceiling paint is regular paint of varying base types that have been formulated into a particular viscosity (thick) in order to reduce the probability of it dripping onto your floor or you during the application process.

Effect of Ceiling Paint on a Room

Thicker viscosity does mean that you apply this type of paint can be a bit challenging if you don’t have the right tools, in fact, professionals like DIY professionals and home improvement contractors typically use paint sprayers not only for ease of application, but because they allow you to cover a greater surface area in a short period of time, this, as you can imagine, is a good thing if you’ve been tasked with painting an entire home in a day or two.

Painting a Ceiling with a Paint Sprayer

The best ceiling paint products on the market all have the aforementioned in common in addition to a muted, calming color tone that initially goes unnoticed, but upon further inspection is simply beautiful to look at.

Ceiling paint should ideally pass by unnoticed, after all, you wouldn’t want your ceiling to distract from things like your presumably beautiful walls, furnishings, and other eye-level decorations. Besides, a loud ceiling can be really distracting and off-putting in certain spaces, imagine you or your visitors straining their neck to see just what their eyes are being bombarded by every few minutes?

Effect of an Overpowering Ceiling Color

Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to buy ceiling paint for use on your ceiling. In fact, if you take some time to familiarize yourself with some of the characteristics that ceiling paints have, you could save some money by simply purchasing paints with the same characteristics! The plus side to this is that you’ll widen the range of colors at your disposal while you’re at it.

Painting a Decorative Ceiling

Like most things in life though, you tend to get what you pay for when it comes to paint quality. Cheaper paints will typically last a lot longer and provide you with a better finish than more expensive ones, but on the other hand, if you prepare your surfaces adequately and use a good quality primer, you’d be surprised what you can accomplish with more affordable paint options.

How to Paint an Angled Ceiling



What Type of Paint Should You Choose for Your Ceiling?

While ceiling paint might be a class of paint on its own, there are three primary paint types that you’ll need to choose from for your ceiling painting project. These are acrylic paint, oil-based paint, and latex paint. These paints all have their specific pros and cons, but ultimately all make great interior paints for ceiling use. Let’s have a look at them as well as some of their pros and cons so you can decide which one suits your particular application best.

Small Foam Roller for Ceiling Painting


Oil-Based Paints

Oil-based paints have been around for a really long time and were some of the first paints used for heard-wearing applications like outdoor wood coatings and foul weather protection on a variety of workpieces. Oil-based paints are great for virtually any application, but they have been used less and less as new paint types have been discovered due to the fact that oil-based paints contain loads of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which are not environmentally friendly.

Paint for Ceiling Boards

What makes oil-based paints good for painting the ceiling you ask? Well, oil-based paints are unique because they seep into the surface of the wood and bond with its fibers. This ensures that wood or ceiling board is protected both externally (on its surface) and underneath (its interior fibers) from things like moisture, heat, abrasion, impact, and even things like insect infestation, which is great if your ceiling is made of hardwood.

Use Mold Resistant Paint

Something you should keep in mind about using oil-based paints is that they are typically used for outdoor applications because they tend to give off fumes. Using an oil-based paint to paint your ceiling means that you will likely have to ventilate the space in question for quite a while afterwards, which isn’t great, especially if you’ve painted your main living area or bedroom.

Toxic Fumes from Oil-Based Paint


Acrylic Paints

Acrylic paint is arguably the best paint for ceilings. It’s actually the paint type most commonly used in place of oil-based paints since they entered the consumer market. What makes acrylic paint the best paint for ceilings you ask? Well, acrylic paints contain less VOCs than oil-based paints do and they can be used for both indoor and outdoor applications, they are usually marginally cheaper than oil-based paints and their color range is greater, although this does depend on availability in your region.

Acrylic Paint for Ceilings

This type of ceiling paint is made from acrylic polymers with pigments suspended in them (which is how the color is achieved) along with things like plasticizers and stabilizers to make the paint usable in everyday applications. Acrylic paints fumes aren’t quite as powerful as ones emitted by oil-based paints, and spaces painted with them are often habitable within a day or so, which means you won’t have to quarantine part of your home to make it look better.

Acrylic paints are a lot easier to come by in certain colors compared to oil-based paints, so even though we don’t recommend that you use colors that are too outlandish on your ceiling, you have the option to do so, and since it’s your space your styling choices are, as it should be, totally up to you! This type of ceiling paint does not provide the same level of protection as oil-based paint would, but it’s perfectly suitable for ceiling painting.


Latex Paints

Objectively speaking, latex paint would not be the best type of paint to use to paint your ceiling. Why? Well, latex paint is commonly known as water-based paints, and as you could probably tell by the name, are pretty runny. This consistency is decidedly bad for painting your ceiling due to how gravity works and could result in you and your floor being covered in paint before the first section of your ceiling has been painted.

Latex Paint Needs Primer for Ceiling Adherence

Although it might be difficult, it’s not impossible to paint your ceiling with latex paint, all you need is a really good primer to ensure that the paint adheres to the ceiling without dripping onto your floor too much. You should also lay down some tarp or old newspapers on every inch of your immediate flooring if you intend on using this type of paint to coat your ceiling.

Plastic Sheeting for Painting Ceilings

How does latex differ from latex and oil-based paints? Well, unlike both of these it has a really runny consistency, but the main drawback of using latex paints on your ceiling would be that it would not be very durable. Latex provides very little protection from impact and abrasion, and virtually no protection from things like heat, moisture, and insect infestation.


Now that you know what sets ceiling paints apart from other types of paint on the market, the different types of paint that can be used for painting a ceiling, what some of the bestselling paints on the market are, and the best way to paint your ceilings, it’s time for you to get out there and put your new-found knowledge to the test. Remember to prepare your work area and ceiling well and always wear the appropriate personal protective gear when working with paint.



Frequently Asked Questions


Can I Use Wall Paint on Ceilings?

Can I use wall paint on ceilings? Well, this is a tricky question to answer. While there are dedicated ceiling paints, what makes them conducive to ceiling painting is their thick consistency. Finding a paint with equal or greater thickness will do just fine as this is what ensures the paint adheres to the ceiling while minimizing paint drips.


What Is the Best Ceiling Paint Color?

What is the best ceiling paint color? The best ceiling paint color or colors are ones that tend to look attractive enough for them to be noticed and open up space well, but don’t cause too much distraction or become off-putting over time. This is why many ceiling paint colors are soft hues with a flat finish.


Is Ceiling Primer Necessary for Painting a Ceiling?

Whether you’re a professional or a newcomer, when it comes to ceiling painting using a ceiling primer is always an advantage when painting a ceiling. Why? Primer helps paint to adhere to a surface and considering that you’ll quite literally be working against gravity, you’ll need all the help you can get.