Orenda Home Garden_Steps on How to Paint Ceilings

How to Paint Ceilings: Steps and Tips

Painting is probably everyone’s favourite home improvement task. It is easy to do and gives an instant satisfactory feeling when done. But when you have to paint ceilings, the excitement suddenly turns to dread. Painting such a high surface needs elevation and body contortion that can turn most DIYers off. These steps and the tips should make it easier to give it a fresh coat and reward yourself with a brighter home!

Materials Needed to Paint Ceilings

You’ll find it easier to paint ceilings when you have all the equipment and tools ready and within reach. You can use this list as a reference, but keep in mind that you may need other tools or materials, depending on your ceiling surface.

Paint roller with cover and extension pole Medium and fine-grit abrasive paper
Paint roller tray and liner Spackle compound
Angled paintbrush Stain-blocking primer
Putty knife Ceiling paint of your choice
Wood paint stirring stick
Plastic sheeting and painter’s tape
Ladder or step ladder
Gloves and safety glasses
Vacuum cleaner and rags

Steps to Paint Ceilings

Follow this guide on how to paint a ceiling to save time and minimise errors.

Protect surfaces and remove obstructions

First things first: clear the room out, so you can work and move around with ease. Here are some tasks that should be on your prep list:

  • Move out as much furniture as possible. Relocate pieces that are directly under your target ceiling area. You can put them in another room for now.
  • Use plastic sheeting or canvas cloth. Use either to protect the remaining furnishings from paint splatters. This step applies to homeowners in tiny houses or those with too heavy furniture.
  • Protect and cover your floor. Laying down a canvas drop cloth or any non-slip cover is best, especially if you plan to use a step ladder.
  • Turn off the power and remove installed devices. Light fixtures and detectors are some examples.
  • Apply painter’s tape on top of walls and crown moulding. Press the tape edges firmly, as you would when painting kitchen tiles. If you plan to paint the walls after the ceiling, I recommend masking the trim still for an even finish. But if not, make sure to tape plastic sheeting as well to cover vertical surfaces. For walls without any ceiling trim, stick the painter’s tape directly to the edge where they meet the ceiling. Check out our crown moulding installation guide if you wish to add trimming later on.

Orenda Home Garden_Protect the Edges when You Paint Ceilings

Prepare your ceiling and tools

Just like when refreshing your kitchen cabinets, you need to prep the surface when you paint ceilings. This step ensures that both primer and paint will adhere and give a smooth finish. Prep work also makes the paint job last longer. So, make sure to do these tasks before painting:

  • Vacuum and wipe the ceiling. Use a vacuum cleaner to remove built-up dust, then use a damp cloth to wipe away the remaining grime.
  • Spackle holes, cracks and dents, if any. This step is optional. But if you are doing it, keep in mind that the spackle needs drying time before you can sand the surface.
  • Sand the ceiling to even out rough spots. You can use 100 to 180-grit sandpaper for this. Run it lightly across the surface in a circular motion. Then vacuum and wipe the area again to remove the dust from sanding. Skip this step if you have textured ceilings.
  • Make your tools and supplies easy to access. Put your liner on the paint tray, then place it somewhere close but safe to avoid tripping. Load a roller cover to the roller frame, then attach it to a roller extension pole. Make sure to use the proper pole weight and height to avoid straining your back, shoulders and arms.

Prime your ceiling

Applying a coat of stain-blocking primer before you paint ceilings is still part of prep work. But I opt to make a separate section for this crucial step to highlight its importance. One of which is that priming your ceiling can cover up marks like water stains or smoke. It also prevents these flaws from bleeding through into the paint later on. More importantly, it makes it possible for you to finish your project after only one coat of paint.

When priming, step on the ladder to cut in the edges first with an angled brush, then use the roller to apply one coat to the rest of your ceiling surface. Let it dry completely, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Check with the paint store to make sure you are buying the appropriate primer. For example, smooth drywall ceilings usually need latex paint primer. Popcorn or textured ceilings, on the other hand, often require a high-build primer to fill in grooves.

Orenda Home Garden_Use a Brush to Paint Ceilings

Start painting

Once your primer is dry, you can pour ceiling paint into your tray. Ideally, use one with high viscosity, which is usually around 106 Krebs Unit or higher. This spec is crucial in making your paint adhere and dry on the surface with minimal drips. Similar to priming, start painting the edges first with an angled brush, about 8cm wide.

When done, immediately switch to your roller to paint ceilings while the cut-in edge is still wet. This tip ensures a smooth, seamless finish for the entire ceiling. Here are a few more painting tips to help you out:

  • Glide rather than submerge your roller. Move it back and forth the tray to cover the nap with enough paint. This tip helps remove excess paint and avoid dripping.
  • Apply even pressure. Adding too much pressure increases the chances of paint drips and uneven textures blotting the surface.
  • Paint the ceiling in sections. This way, it will make it easier for you to keep overlapping on every wet edge before moving on another grid.
  • Create a zigzag pattern when painting. Paint W or M shapes in one grid, then go over that same area to even it out. Follow the same technique as you paint one section to the next.
  • Apply a second coat when needed. Wait for the first coat to dry first, then start with the edges again.

Clean up your tools and the room

Use soap and clean water to clean your paint tray, roller and paintbrush. You may want to use a paintbrush comb to clean your brush thoroughly. You can also use a spinner to dry your rollers and brush quickly.

Once the paint is dry, you can carefully remove all painter’s tape and drop cloths. Then start bringing your furniture in the room, reinstalling all light fittings or devices and, of course, admiring your handiwork!

Helpful Tips When You Paint Ceilings

  • Deviate from white ceiling paint. Give your room a pop of colour. Search online for inspiration or consult your paint store personnel.
  • Choose your equipment smartly. There’s no need to splurge on a painting pole, for example. But do buy lambswool paint cover if you can. It is a bit costly, but it is also easy to clean and durable.
  • Be gentle on textured ceilings. Going back and forth with the roller can potentially damage the texture. Apply the paint one time instead, wait for it to dry completely, then roll another coat perpendicular to your first one.
  • Protect yourself from paint splatter. Put on the right work clothes, and wear a cap plus safety glasses. Paint mist can still get to your face and arms, though, so I suggest applying lotion to make clean up easier.

Any plans to renovate your bathroom next? How about building a wooden outdoor pergola? Make sure to work in the same organised manner and tackle any home project like a pro!

Lachlan Grattan

When I finally have the home of my dreams, my garden and home became and oasis and a place of self-expression. I love adding touches around the house to improve the living space and garden area. It’s my shelter, after all, and I want it to be as cozy as possible. I created Orenda Home & Garden as a go-to resource for my readers who wants to get ideas, inspiration or tips to make their home better and more comfortable.