How to Paint a Ceiling—the Easy Way

Also: when to do it and what tools to use.

How to Paint a Ceiling, step ladder and paint can
Photo: Getty Images

If the mere thought of painting the ceiling makes your neck hurt, we hear you. But it's a necessary step to make a freshly painted room look complete. To ensure the process is as easy and pain-free as possible, follow these tips to get the job done fast and efficiently. From starting with the correct supplies to adopting the best technique, here's how to paint a ceiling the right way.

01 of 05

Paint the Ceiling Before the Walls

How to Paint Ceiling, Paint First
Getty Images

One question everyone asks: Should you paint the walls or ceiling first? If you're planning to paint the entire room, start with the ceiling. That way, you won't have to worry about splatters from the roller getting onto the walls—it will all get touched up once the walls are painted. The one caveat: If you're painting the ceiling a dramatic contrasting color to the walls, you'll want to tape off any molding and be careful not to get paint on the walls.

02 of 05

Apply Painter's Tape

How to Paint Ceiling, Tape
Getty Images

If you're only painting the ceiling, start by taping off the edge of the wall or crown molding. Consider using a wider painter's tape, which will let you get the roller close to the corner without getting paint on the wall. This allows you to be less precise, so you can work faster.

Also, remember to tape around any light fixtures or vents and cover ceiling fans.

03 of 05

Cover Everything

How to Paint Ceiling, Tarp
Getty Images

Sometimes, what slows down a paint project isn't the painting itself but the cleanup afterward. Save yourself the headache by removing as much furniture as possible from the room and covering anything that remains with plastic tarps.

04 of 05

Paint the Perimeter

How to Paint Ceiling, Cut In
Getty Images

Similar to painting a wall, you'll want to start by "cutting in," or using a paintbrush to paint around the perimeter of the ceiling. Using a 2- to 3-inch brush, start at the edge of the ceiling and paint into the ceiling a few inches. You'll want to feather the strokes so the edge will blend in seamlessly once you use a roller to paint the rest of the ceiling. If you're planning to paint the ceiling and the walls, skip the painter's tape, and cut in on both the ceiling and the wall as you work your way around the perimeter of the room.

To make cutting in easier, make sure you're using the appropriate ladder for the ceiling height. Straining to reach is not only dangerous, but it will likely result in sore muscles the next day. Pour some paint into a small bucket to keep at the top of the ladder rather than attempting to bring the entire can, which is not only heavy but could cause disaster if it spills.

If you have particularly high ceilings that you can't comfortably reach with a ladder, it may be time to hire a professional painter.

05 of 05

Grab a Roller

Painting Tips, Woman Painting Room with roller
duh84/Getty Images

For smooth ceilings, a low-nap roller works well; for textured ceilings, try a 3/4-inch nap roller. When you're shopping for supplies, keep the ceiling height in mind and get the shortest roller extension pole that allows you to reach comfortably. Getting too long of an extension pole means you'll be carrying more weight than is necessary.

Roll into the paint, and then use the textured side of the paint tray to roll off any excess. It may seem that more paint would help get the job done faster, but it will cause more drips and splatters.

Starting in one corner of the ceiling, roll on the paint with overlapping strokes to create a smooth, uniform surface. Once the entire ceiling is done, allow the paint to dry for 30 minutes. Then check if the surface needs any touchups or a second coat.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles