How To: Paint a Ceiling

Painting a ceiling is not as difficult as it may appear. Here are some tips to help you finish the job just like the pros.


Painting is perhaps the easiest of DIY home upgrades, but tackling the ceiling can be a daunting endeavor, particularly since it requires a bit of elevation and contortion. Here are some pointers on prep and techniques for how to paint a ceiling that will help you accomplish the job easily and successfully, just like a pro.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Interior latex paint
Interior latex paint primer
Drop cloth
Painter’s tape
Paint roller
Extension Pole
Roller tray
Dish soap
Cellulose sponge
Paper towels


Before you begin, remove as much of the furniture from the room as possible; doing this will make it easier for you to maneuver through the space where you’re working. Use drop cloths to cover any remaining furniture and to protect the floors from paint splatters and mishaps.


If you are just painting the ceiling and not the walls, use quick-release painter’s tape where the walls meet the ceiling. Tape should also be applied around any moldings that decorate the ceiling’s edges. And if you are painting the entire room, the ceiling is where you should start.


Apply a coat of paint primer. It may seem like an added step, but the primer will provide a stain barrier and, in most cases, will make it possible to use only one coat of paint to finish.


Now, switch to paint, either one that is labeled as “ceiling paint” or an interior latex paint with high viscosity. Use a stepladder to paint a 2″ to 3″ cut-line along the edge of the ceiling. Start in a corner and with a 2” trim brush, paint about three feet along one wall, then the adjoining wall.

While the cut-line is still wet, move onto the next step and begin painting the ceiling with a paint roller. Painting the ceiling while the cut-line is still wet will help reduce visible lines. The same will be true for paint applied from section to section with the roller.


To use a roller, fill the deep portion of a roller tray with paint and roll the apparatus over the paint until the nap is covered. (Depending on your ceiling’s texture, certain roller covers work better than others; get the scoop in our guide to the best paint rollers and make sure you choose the right one.) The key is not to submerge the roller, but rather to glide it over the paint, gently working it back and forth in the shallow part of the tray until the nap is completely covered and paint drips are minimal.


Attach the extension pole to the roller. To paint the ceiling, use the paint-filled roller to create a zigzag pattern measuring 3″ to 4″ square. Next, go over the same area using straight, controlled strokes to even out the paint. Avoid leaving paint lines from the edge of the roller. Since you need to work while the paint is still wet, tackle smaller sections and be sure to feather the edges to reduce distinct, visible lines between sections.

Depending on paint and coverage you may need to repeat the process—from cut-lines to painting—once the coat has dried thoroughly. Be sure to clean your paintbrushes, roller, and paint tray with warm soap and water.