How to Paint a Textured Ceiling (with Pictures)

How to Paint a Textured Ceiling

Clear the room

The first step is to make sure everything in your space is protected. This is always important, but it’s extra important when painting a ceiling since the surface you are painting is literally hanging above everything else in the room.

How much you decide to protect the other things in your room really depends on how neat a painter you are and how easy it would be to clean your items if paint accidentally splattered on them.

Anything that would be ruined by a paint drip should be removed from the room or covered.

(after taking this photo, I also took the curtains
(after taking this photo, I also took the curtains and curtain rod down)

If you have space in an adjoining room, it’s easiest to just move small furniture and accessories out of the room you are painting. Larger furniture can be covered with drop cloths and rugs can be rolled up.

You may also need to protect your flooring with drop cloths. Our hardwood floors are sealed and I’ve cleaned paint off them easily in the past, so I did not cover them. But if you have carpet, tile, or more absorbent wood floors, drop cloths are a very good idea.

And if you aren’t sure how neat a painter you are because you don’t have a lot of painting experience, I would definitely play it safe and protect everything in your room.

Protect your light fixtures

Once all of your furniture and flooring is protected, it’s time to protect your ceiling light fixtures. The easiest way to do this is to use painter’s tape.

Carefully protect your lights wherever they touch the ceiling with painter’s tape.

If you have chandeliers or pendant lights that will be tricky to paint around, you also may want to wrap the rest of the fixture with lightweight plastic drop cloth to protect it from wayward paint.

Patch any holes

If you have any small holes in your ceiling from nails or hooks, you can easily patch them up with spackling and a putty knife.

We had several larger holes in our ceiling where light fixtures used to be. I patched these using a combination of drywall, drywall tape, and spackling.

Once your patches are dried, you can sand them to blend the edges and knock off any rough areas.

Matching the ceiling texture

This is where having a textured ceiling is both a blessing and a curse. The texture is great because it easily hides any imperfections in your ceiling including a less than perfect patching job.

But it’s also a pain because if you have patched any significant areas, you need to add texture to help them blend in with the rest of the ceiling.

After patching my old light fixture holes, they were super smooth and didn’t match the rest of the ceiling at all. (If you’ve only patched small nail holes, you don’t need to worry about adding texture).

Luckily, patching a textured ceiling is a lot easier than you might think.

You can buy paint texture additive which is basically a very lightweight sand. It comes in a few different grits including fine, medium, and coarse so you can most closely match the texture on your particular ceiling.

For a small patch job like this, you can just mix some of the paint texture with a bit of your ceiling paint in a plastic cup.

Then use a small roller or a chip brush to brush it onto any smooth patches on your ceiling. If your ceiling has a pattern to the texture, try to match the pattern as you brush on the new texture.

Our ceiling has a scallop pattern, but this same method will work to patch a popcorn ceiling or any other textured ceiling.

You may need to add a second coat to build up the correct amount of texture.

Painting the ceiling

And now finally, it’s time to start painting!

It works best to paint around the edges of the room (this is called cutting in) and then come back and fil in with the paint roller.

If you are painting a medium to large room, it’s best to paint one section of the ceiling at a time rather than cutting in the entire ceiling and then filling in the entire thing. I like to cut in a section of the ceiling around six feet wide, fill in with the roller, and then move to the next section.

If you have two people, you can greatly speed things up by having one person cut in around the edges and the other use the roller, but you can also paint a ceiling just fine on your own.

Cutting in with painter’s tape

When it comes to painting the edges of your ceiling, you have a decision to make: painter’s tape or no painter’s tape.

If you aren’t confident in your painting skills, you can use painter’s tape to get a nice clean paint line where the ceiling meets the wall or trim.

Painter’s tape is more work upfront getting everything taped off, but it means you don’t have to be nearly as careful around the edges as you paint.

The thing about painter’s tape is there are a few tricks to getting clean paint lines even when you are using tape. You need to be careful to place your tape very precisely along the line you will be painting and then press it firmly in place.

If there is a dramatic color difference between your ceiling and walls, you may also want to seal the tape with a bit of your wall color. (I have more details about that and all my top painter’s tape tricks here.)

And you also need to be careful about when you remove the tape to avoid peeling off any of your fresh paint. The best time to remove it is actually when the final coat of paint is still wet.

Cutting in without painter’s tape

You can also choose to cut in around the edges of your ceiling without painter’s tape.

If you go this route, I have a few tips that will help you get really clean, crisp paint lines.

cutting in the ceiling above our chalkboard wall
cutting in the ceiling above our chalkboard wall

First, make sure you don’t overload your brush with paint. You want it wet, but not dripping because that just makes the paint harder to control.

When you start painting, start with your brush about a half inch or so away from where the ceiling meets the wall and then slowly move it closer to the line.

As you’re painting be careful not to apply a lot of pressure to the paint brush because that’s just going to cause to squeeze out and spread to places where you don’t really want it.

Overall, the main key to getting really beautiful paint lines is just having a steady hand, finding the right angle and taking it slow. This is not a time when you want to rush.

It’s also helpful to keep a wet rag nearby for quickly cleaning up any mess ups. Paint’s actually pretty forgiving when it’s wet. So a lot of times, if you get a little bit of paint on the wall, you can just quickly wipe it up.

Cutting in around the edges of the ceiling

Whether or not you choose to use painter’s tape, you will need a ladder and a good angle paint brush to cut in around the edges of your ceiling.

I also like to pour a bit of my paint into a plastic cup or a small paint bucket. This makes it much easier to hold your paint as you move up and down the ladder.

Once you’ve cut in the edges of the first section of your ceiling, you’re ready to fill in with the paint roller.

Using a paint roller extension pole

After all of the tedious prep and cutting in, painting with a paint roller is going to feel super easy and fast.

As I mentioned before, it’s really important that you use a paint roller for rough surfaces. These rollers have an extra thick nap so they can hold a lot of paint and really push that paint into the low areas of your textured ceiling.

You are also going to want to use a paint roller extension pole. This is exactly what it sounds like – a long handle that screws into your paint roller handle so that you can paint the ceiling without getting on and off a ladder a million times.

If you don’t have an extension pole, you can also use a broom handle to do the same thing. Just unscrew the handle from the broom and screw it into your paint roller. I’ve done this many times and found that not all broom handles fit, but most do. Just make sure that if you do use a broom handle, it is a nice sturdy one.

If you are painting a ceiling that is higher than eight feet, you will want to make sure to use a telescoping extension pole that extends far enough to reach your ceiling.

Painting your ceiling with a paint roller

When you are loading up your roller with paint, make sure all sides of the roller are covered with paint and then gently roll off any excess paint onto your paint tray.

You want your paint roller to be pretty wet, but not dripping.

Rolling the paint onto your ceiling goes much faster and is much easier than cutting in around the edges.

You may have seen or heard before that when you are rolling paint onto a wall or a ceiling, you should try to move your roller in a W pattern.

The main purpose of the W is to make sure you are varying the direction you roll the paint on and each roll of paint slightly overlaps with the last roll of paint.

The idea of the W shape makes that really easy to visualize, but when you’re painting a ceiling, doing a literal W isn’t always the easiest because you’re working overhead. Just make sure that you’re overlapping your paint strokes and keeping the roller moving as you’re rolling paint onto your ceiling.

As you are painting, if you start to feel like you need to press down hard on the roller to get the paint to transfer, it’s time to get more paint. You don’t want to be pressing down really firmly with the roller, because that’s going to lead to lots of tiny little paint drips splattering down on to everything else in your room.

It’s crazy how much brighter the fresh paint
It’s crazy how much brighter the fresh paint looks even though the ceiling was already ‘white’!

Second Coat of Paint

Once you finish your first coat of paint, there’s a good chance your ceiling is going to look pretty splotchy and uneven. That’s totally normal, especially when you’re using white or a really light color, so don’t worry if the first coat doesn’t look great.

Ceiling after one coat of paint.
Ceiling after one coat of paint.

Usually two coats of paint is plenty for a ceiling unless you’re doing a very dramatic color change from very dark to very light or the other way.

Thankfully, the second coat of paint usually goes much faster than the first.

Completed Ceiling

After two coats of bright white paint, here is my finished ceiling!

I am so glad to have this project finished. Honestly, I would probably rather paint the walls of three or four rooms than paint one ceiling, because it is time-consuming and awkward painting over your head.

But having said that, I am so glad that I finally painted the ceiling in these two rooms. It’s hard to tell in photos, but this fresh coat of white paint made a huge difference. It makes these rooms look so much fresher, cleaner, and brighter and it was definitely worth it.


Don’t Be Afraid of Color

You may not want to paint your ceiling yellow, but don’t be afraid to deviate from plain old white. Painting the ceiling a color can make a small room seem bigger, or a room with a high ceiling seem more intimate. Plus, it’s just more interesting. Ask at any full-service paint store for help in choosing complementary wall and ceiling colors, or search online for examples of rooms you like.

Safety Considerations

Some popcorn ceilings may contain asbestos. Prior to 1978, when federal law banned its use, asbestos was added to ceiling texture for its resistance to heat. Plus, the asbestos fibers helped strengthen the material. Through research, asbestos has been proven to cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. Popcorn ceilings in older homes may contain asbestos.

Asbestos does not always have to be removed. As long as the asbestos remains undisturbed, it can remain in place and be covered with paint or with drywall. If the asbestos-containing material is cut, broken, drilled, sawn, or sanded, asbestos fibers may be released into the air. Call qualified asbestos mitigation specialists if you need to do this.

Featured Video

Roll Gently on Textured Ceilings

Painting textured ceilings is a bit of a crapshoot. If the texture has been painted over already, it’s probably safe to paint again. If the texture has never been painted, there’s a risk the water in the paint could loosen the texture, causing it to fall off in sheets. A lot depends on the quality of the texturing job. If you have a closet or other inconspicuous area, do a test by rolling on some paint to see what happens. If the texture loosens, painting over the larger ceiling is risky. If possible, spray on the paint—it’s less likely to loosen the texture than rolling. But spraying in an occupied house is usually impractical. The best tip for rolling on paint is to avoid overworking the paint. Just roll the paint on and leave it. Don’t go back and forth with the roller, as this is likely to pull the texture from the ceiling. If the ceiling needs another coat of paint, wait for the first coat to dry completely. Then roll another coat perpendicular to the first one using the same careful technique.

How to Paint a Textured Ceiling and get Perfect Results

Yield: 1 Painted Ceiling Prep Time: 1 hour Active Time: 4 hours Total Time: 5 hours Difficulty: intermediate

Estimated Cost: $30-$50

Learn how to paint a textured ceiling including the materials needed, how to prep the room and more!


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