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Paint a Ceiling

Painting a ceiling can make a room feel warmer, bigger or cozier depending on the color you use. We’ll tell you everything you need to know to paint the perfect ceiling.

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Prep Work

A ceiling painted a dark color makes the room cozier.

Painting a ceiling isn't much different from painting a wall. A good job takes preparation. To repair existing damage and protect your furniture, floors, fixtures and trim, read Prep for Paint.

For the best results use a ceiling paint and primer in one. It’s formulated to spatter less and has a flat finish to help hide imperfections. A gallon generally covers about 400 square feet.

As for color, white can brighten rooms without much natural light. On the other hand, a large room with high ceilings feels cozier by painting a darker color. Small rooms can feel less confining by minimizing contrast between walls and ceiling.

Good to Know

Painting a ceiling can be a messy job. Put down plenty of drop cloths and wear a hat to avoid paint spatters in your hair.

Good to Know

Popcorn ceilings can be painted, but you'll need to use a roller with a deeper knap. More paint is needed to get into the grooves of a textured ceiling, but be careful not to saturate it too much.

Paint the Ceiling


Step 1

Painter's tape put on the walls

If you're not going to paint the walls, apply painter’s tape around the edges for a crisp line. Then cut in using a 2- to 2-1/2-inch sash brush and a cut bucket, which is a smaller receptacle that you can easily carry up and down the ladder. Don't load the brush too much, and start each stroke away from the edge and work the paint toward the tape. Make long strokes and always finish brushing back into the wet paint. Paint several inches onto the ceiling and feather the edge.

If you're going to paint the walls, skip the tape for now and paint a few inches down the wall. Then you'll mask the ceiling before moving on to the walls.

Step 2

Woman holding an extension pole

When it’s time to roll, use a low nap roller for smooth ceilings, and a 1/2-inch or 3/4-inch nap for textured ceilings. An extension pole helps you reach the ceiling without a ladder.

Step 3

Woman rolling paint onto the ceiling

First, moisten the roller with a wet towel to help the paint load. Roll into the paint and then roll it off to remove excess. Start in a corner and paint in straight overlapping rows in small 4 by 4 sections. Roll slowly so the paint won't spatter. Once you've finished a couple sections go back and lightly go over the paint with an unloaded roller to smooth it out. Then just keep going. Once it's dry, check to see if a second coat is needed or if you missed any areas.

Step 4

Vaulted ceilings can pose some special challenges. First, use a long-handle duster to clean before painting. Then use a stepladder to cover light fixtures and ceiling fans.

To get into corners, use a pole-mounted brush extender. Brush from the floor using long roller extensions. Start at the highest point and work your way down. Brush small areas in straight lines and after a couple sections lay off the paint to smooth it out.


Safety first. If you have really high ceilings, leave them to the professionals.