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The following describes our process for painting a ceiling.  Each project will vary but we’ve found this process provides amazing results.

We’ve created a material list, a step by step guide and a quiz to test your knowledge.

Tools Needed:

Many of these tools can be purchased from your local hardware store.  We’ve included links to our Amazon store, which helps support our how-to program.  Not all of these tools are needed.  Below we list options for skim coating which require different tools.


1.  Pre-Arrival

Please refer to service standards post for instructions on how to communicate with a client and organize for a job.

2. Room Preparation

Please refer to our room preparation post on how to prepare a room for popcorn ceiling removal, ceiling texturing or painting.

3.  Popcorn Removal

If applicable to this situation, please see our post on how to remove popcorn texture.

4.  Skim Coat Ceilings

If popcorn was previously applied and you want a smooth ceiling, please refer to our post on how to skim coat ceilings.

5.  Texture Application

If you would like to apply knockdown texture to your ceilings, please refer to our post on how to apply knockdown texture.

6.  Paint ceiling

Spray or Roll Direction Guidelines:

You want to spray or roll your finish in the direction parallel to the most prominent light source in the room.  If the room light sources are relatively split, you should paint parallel in direction relative to the place people are most likely to view the ceiling from.

Spray Method:

Click here for instructions on how operate a paint sprayer.

  • Flat ceilings
    • Using a paint sprayer and a 621 spray tip with a 15-40 inch spray extension apply paint from corner to corner.  You’ll want the tip of the spray gun to be roughly 12 to 14 inches from the surface.  On your next pass, overlap by 50%.
  • Textured ceilings
    • If spraying a textured ceiling, you’ll want to go a bit quicker on your first pass, end to end.  After 3 end to end passes you’ll want to spray what you have already sprayed in the opposite direction known as a cross hatch.  You go a little quicker on the first spray because you will be spraying the area twice.  Using a cross hatch spray pattern will help to get all the angles of the texture so nothing is missed.

Brush & Roll Method:

You can use a 9 inch roller cover with 9 inch frame or an 18 inch roller cover with 18 inch frame for larger applications.  The roller nap should be 3/8 inch to 1/2 inch when painting a smooth ceiling.  If painting a textured ceiling, apply with a 3/4 inch to 1 1/4 inch.  A flat paint is more forgiving so the thicker of the options can be used.  For paint with a sheen, its recommended to go on the lower side of the roller nap options.

  • Application Steps
    1. If using a new a new roller cover, prepare the roller cover by wrapping it in tape and removing the tape.  This will remove any loose fuzz so it doesn’t end up in your finish.
    2. Prepare your paint source with a 5 gallon bucket, liner and a paint grid or a paint tray and liner.  For larger jobs its easier to use a 5 gallon bucket.
    3. Cut around light fixtures and ceiling edge with a 3 inch paint brush.
    4. Load your roller with paint.  This requires dipping, removing from paint and laying paint off onto the grid.  Dip again and lay off with grid.  Repeat several times until the roller is saturated.
    5. Plan for sections that can be rolled without moving the bucket or your location to the ceiling.  Most ceilings need to be divided in two or more sections before moving onto the next row.
    6. Lay paint on – Using a saturated roller, lay paint onto ceiling.  Roller should start off the edge of the wall a few feet since your roller will likely load a lot of paint onto the ceiling for your initial pass.  When you’re laying paint on, don’t worry about getting it perfect.  During this step you’re only trying to get paint distributed to the section you’re working on.
    7. Lay paint off – After you have a wet film applied to the section you’re working on.  Start at the beginning and back roll your paint with nice even pressure.  At this stage you’re likely remove some of the paint you applied to get an even wet mil thickness.  On your final stroke you want to finish in one direction for all finish strokes.  Finishing your strokes in the same direction will help the ceiling look more uniform.

7.  Next Steps

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