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How to paint a ceiling

by Michael Boyle on June 12, 2019

Step 1: Get the room ready

Remove the curtains, lamp shades, and as much of the furniture as you can. Cover the floor and any remaining furniture or other items with drip sheets or tarpaulin. Apply masking tape around the edges of whatever fittings need them, e.g. smoke alarms, coving, and light fittings. Stand back and take a deep breath, as the work is about to begin!

What you’ll need:

  • Drip sheets or tarpaulin
  • Masking tape
  • Filler and filling knife (if required)
  • Sandpaper
  • Soft cloth
  • Stepladder
  • Gloves (optional)
  • Ceiling paint
  • Small paint brush
  • Roller with extension handle
  • Paint tray

Step 2: Inspect the ceiling

Carefully check the entire ceiling for any cracks, holes, or other blemishes, and use an appropriate filler to tackle any of them, as necessary. Allow the filler to dry, and sand smooth with sandpaper. Give the ceiling a rub of a damp cloth and allow it to dry.

Step 3: Getting edgy

Use a small brush to do the edges of the ceiling, all the way around the perimeter of the room. You should ‘cut in’ by about four inches (ten centimetres) from the walls, to minimise the chances of the edge of your roller striking the walls later on. Also use the brush around light fittings, smoke alarms, etc.

Step 4: Ready to roll

Pour paint into a roller tray slowly and evenly, and be sure not to overload it. Then load the roller – just a little at first! – and start painting in strips, going the entire length of the room and then coming back, rather than doing ‘square’ areas.

It’s generally best to begin near the window (if there’s more than one window, start at the brightest one). It’s also recommended to remove the masking tape as you go along, as leaving it up while the paint dries can make it more difficult to remove afterwards.

Step 5: Finish off and clean up!

Just one coat of paint is generally enough if you’re tackling a white ceiling (that just needs brightening up), but a second coat may be required if it’s a new ceiling being painted for the first time, or if another colour is being used. Either way, once you’re happy with how the ceiling looks, close all paint cans securely, store away, and wash out all brushes, rollers, and trays. See our guide on How to Clean and Care for Paintbrushes for more on this.

Then remove all the drip sheets, bring back in the furniture, and start to enjoy your room again!