How to paint a ceiling

Paint your ceiling like a pro with our detailed, step-by-step guide

how to paint a ceiling
(Image credit: Getty)

Is your ceiling showing its age? Time to clean all those cobwebs away and refresh your home with our easy, step-by-step guide to painting a ceiling. You'll be amazed by the pay-off for your interior – a new coat of ceiling paint will make your room feel lighter, brighter and taller, too, if you use a light colour. Or perhaps you'd like to fall for the fashion for painting the ceiling a bolder shade? Whichever, find out how to paint a ceiling in our easy step-by-step guide.

Find out more about all things paint on our dedicated hub page, and don't miss all our decorating tips, advice and how tos.

You will need:

1. Protect floors and furniture before painting

Cover the floor with an old sheet; if there is any furniture underneath the ceiling, make sure it is either moved out of the way, or also covered. No matter how careful a painter you are, or how effective your non-drip roller is, some dripping or splashing is inevitable. If you don’t have any old sheets, you can buy made-for-purpose, cheap, plastic dust sheets. 

2. Work safely

As far as household painting goes, painting a ceiling can be tricky - and even dangerous, if done hastily and without proper safety procedure. Make sure that your ladder is steady at all times; clear the area immediately around it of anything that might be a trip hazard. Most importantly, be patient: move your ladder along after finishing a section, rather than over-stretching. (Even if you don’t fall, you may end up pulling a muscle.) We also recommend using safety glasses to protect your eyes from spilling paint, dirt, and debris. 

Top tip: Don’t scrimp on ceiling paint: the lower the quality, the more coats you’ll need. With high-quality paint, two coats should be enough.

3. Mask off cornices and lights with masking tape

Mask off the areas around any lights and above and below your cornices and coving in order to avoid accidental paint spatters. 

4. Fill a roller tray  

Don't overfill, as it will be more awkward to move your tray around.

Top tip: Stick to matt paint; a sheen will create a reflective surface that makes imperfections more obvious.

5. Paint coving first 

Use a brush, rather than a roller, to paint your coving, as it will cover this area better. Remove your masking tape before the paint dries. Allow at least two hours between painting the coving and the rest of the ceiling.

6. Cut in around the edges of the ceiling 

Cutting in is the process of using a brush to paint along the edges and corners of the ceiling for a really neat finish. You can then fill in the majority of the ceiling with a roller. Watch our handy video below to see how to do it.

7. Apply your first coat

Apply paint with your roller of choice. If you are going to use a roller on an extendable pole, make sure you paint a wide edge around the ceiling as it can be difficult to neatly roll close to the walls. Alternatively, you can use a long-handle roller. Roll in small sections in front, behind, and either side of you; avoid rolling over a large area all at once, as you may miss a bit. Allow the paint to dry thoroughly.

8. Apply the second coat

The second coat is very important, and will give your ceiling really professional coverage. There's no need to brush the coving this time.

9. Painting textured ceilings

Textured ceilings (or popcorn ceilings, as you might hear them referred to) can be repainted with any paint, although you will almost certainly need to use a brush to get good coverage. If you want to achieve a textured or popcorn ceiling, you will need to use a specific, textured ceiling paint.

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