5 Top Tips for Painting a Ceiling

Stacey Marcus
Written by Stacey Marcus
Reviewed by Andy Kilborn
Updated January 5, 2022
woman on ladder painting ceiling
Photo: South_agency / Getty Images

Step up and paint the ceiling like a pro

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The next time you’re giving your home a fresh coat of paint, don’t forget to look up. Painting your ceiling might be just what you need to take your room to a whole new level. And while you might not rival Michelangelo, you can paint the ceilings with confidence with some go-to tips.

“Painting a ceiling is a fairly straightforward project,” says Andy Kilborn, Angi Expert Review Board Member and owner of Andy’s Handyman. “Make sure you focus on covering up your furniture and floors, or you’ll add cost and additional work to your project.”

A note on safety: If you have vaulted ceilings, painting them might require you to scale a ladder. This can be a safety hazard, so for extra-tall ceilings in need of a paint job, it’s best to hire a professional painter near you

1. Buy the Right Paint

The number one rule of painting any ceiling: you can’t just use any paint. Typical wall paint is too thin for ceilings, which means it can drip all over your floor, furniture, and you. 

You need to choose a paint that’s developed especially for ceilings, such as Benjamin Moore’s Waterbone Ceiling Paint. It’s splatter-resistant and has an ultra-flat finish to make your ceiling look flawless.

2. Pick a Hue That’s Right for You

Choosing what color to paint your ceiling is a big part of the fun. But you need to consider more than just your favorite shade of green—what color you paint your ceiling can make a room feel cozier or grander.

  • White paint reflects light and brightens a room. Painting a ceiling white can make the walls seem taller and the room appear larger.

  • Dark paint makes your room feel cozier by making tall ceilings feel shorter. It also adds drama to your space.

  • Light paint such as grays, beiges, and pastels can also make your space feel more dramatic. Neutral colors in particular complement any decorating style.

3. Fix Any Problems First

If your ceiling paint job is less about improving your aesthetic and more about covering up a damaged ceiling, you need to make sure the issue is 100% fixed before you start painting. Some causes of damaged ceilings include:

  • Leaky pipe(s)

  • Leaky roof

  • Stress fracture

  • Nail pops

  • Inferior carpentry

  • Foundation deterioration

  • Ceiling texture damage or blemishes

If you have a popcorn ceiling, you’ll first want to give it a good cleaning to remove dust and discoloration.

4. Don’t Skip the Prep Work

Ideally, you should empty the room and cover the entire floor with a drop cloth. Remove any chandeliers or lighting fixtures, too. If it isn’t possible to empty the room, move furniture to the center of the room and cover the furnishings with a drop cloth. This way you can navigate the space with ease—and protect your couch.

Make sure the ceiling’s surface is spotless and well-dusted. Repair any imperfections and sand glossy surfaces to make sure that when you paint the surface it is smooth and clean. 

If you are planning to paint the ceilings and walls, paint the ceiling first. That way, if drips do happen, you’ll be able to spot and fix any wayward paint on your walls later.

5. Make Primer Your BFF

While it’s tempting to jump right into the paint, an initial coat of primer is a must. It helps cover stains and smoothes the surface of your ceiling. Primer also makes your final paint job take fewer coats and look oh-so-polished. 

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