Here’s how to paint ceilings easily and quickly. The secret is in the paint. Don’t miss this post on the best white ceiling paint to make sure you’re starting with the right product. That will save you a ton of headache and time, right off the bat. Now, read on for tips to master your next ceiling painting project.
Start With the Best White Ceiling Paint
Hands down, the best white ceiling paint is from Benjamin Moore. No shock there, right? It’s not cheap, but check out my math before you rule it out. I spent approx. $30 more and saved hours of work. Plus, it’s zero VOC!
This is not sponsored! I have tried and researched various ceiling paints, and I’m sharing the clear winner from my experience.
Read this blog post for all the details on this paint, how to afford it, and other good options to consider.
Get the Best Finish With These Tools
Buying a good paint is only half the battle. If you’re researching how to paint ceilings easily, the next step is to invest in the best tools you can afford for a flawless finish. The good news is that painting is just not that expensive, relative to other home projects, so these tools should be within reach. Once you have the rollers and brushes, you really just need new roller covers and tray liners on occasion.
Paint Pail Options
It’s really helpful to have a small amount of paint in a tub of some sort. As you walk the room to paint the edges, trim, touchups, etc., it’s easier to hold a small pail than to keep returning to the paint tray.
I love these 1 qt. Handy paint pails with disposable plastic liners for easy clean-up. The pail is comfortable to hold and has a magnet for your paintbrush. Once I pour paint into the roller tray, I add a small amount to this pail for cutting in along the wall edges.
Here’s what the magnet looks like. It works with any standard brush.
CHEAPER – you can always use an old yogurt or sour cream tub for this job.
Don’t Miss These Painting Tips!
Angled Sash Brush
This is my go-to brush: Wooster Shortcut Angle Sash. I find the flexible handle more comfortable to hold than wood, even after hours of painting. My hand gets really tired with a typical brush handle.
You do need an angled sash brush for the best results cutting in. If you find the Shortcut too small or too soft, this Purdy Clearcut angled sash brush is another popular pick for cutting in.
I bought this Hook and Hold version of the Shortcut brush to try for this ceiling project because it has a little clip on the back. I’m sick of my little brush sliding into a tray full of paint and getting covered in goop.
The clip works decently well, but if you have the Handy pail going at the same time, just stick it to the magnet inside the pot.
This may shock you, but I don’t have strong opinions on paint tray liners. HA. In these photos, you’re seeing disposable liners with this metal tray:
Sometimes I use the sturdy plastic trays that can stand alone. These are a good option and sell in a 3-pack for about $6. If you let the paint dry out in the tray, you can often reuse it for a future paint project.
Roller Covers and Nap Info
For roller covers, I usually buy the Wooster woven covers at Home Depot if the nap is the right length for my project. I used a 1/4″ woven nap on the basement ceilings because our drywaller crafted a lovely, smooth finish. On lightly textured surfaces, a 3/8″ nap is a better pick.
Popcorn Ceilings and Heavy Texture
All the painting technique matters a bit less on a ceiling with heavy texture. However, you’ll still need roller covers with the correct nap. On popcorn ceilings, you’ll likely need at least a 9/16″ or thicker nap. You can also look for specific popcorn ceiling covers, like this:
Last, you’ll need a roller frame. If you’re short, like me, you might like an extension roller. This is my go-to paint roller frame and I use it for every single project – ceiling or walls! Even when the handle isn’t extended, it’s just a bit longer than a standard roller. That means I can easily roll walls without a step ladder. For ceilings, reaching farther for each section saves both energy and time.
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A Few Tricks to Save Cash
If you really need to pinch pennies on your project, recycle a lidded yogurt container or plastic takeout tub to hold small amounts of paint. I also really like these twist-top Ziploc containers, with a more reliable twist-on lid to prevent spills. It’s helpful to save the paint you’ve poured out into a smaller tub, so that’s why I prefer lidded containers.
Keep a stash of plastic grocery bags on hand for painting projects. If you know you’ll be painting a second coat or returning to the project within 24 hours, wrap your brushes and roller covers in plastic and reuse them the next day. A standard grocery bag size fits nicely over a 9″ roller cover and a plastic paint tray liner. Wrap each separately. This is an easy way to save time and a bit of paint that would otherwise be washed away during cleanup.
Don’t store your plastic-wrapped materials for more than 24 hours. Otherwise, the paint will start to dry and cause problems with your project (goopy paint flakes in the finish). Plus, it’s better for your brushes to be washed out after each use. This is just an occasional shortcut suggestion.
Painting Tips + Techniques to Get the Best Finish
Now that you have your supplies lined up, here’s how to paint ceilings easily and get a flawless finish.
1. Prep everything in advance. Have all of your materials ready to go, paint mixed, wet rags on hand, and a step stool within reach.
2. Cover the entire floor or plan to paint before you install new flooring. I keep a stash of old flat sheets on hand for painting projects.
3. Tape ceiling edges, if desired. I really encourage you to learn to cut in with an angled sash brush. This is a huge time-saver, compared to taping wall and ceiling edges. Here’s a video tutorial.
4. Tape off anything that should be protected. Window or door casings near the ceiling, trim around closets or decorative features, or other areas like that.
Here’s a mid-project shot of my collected supplies:
1. Start with a brush and paint the entire perimeter edge of the ceiling where you’re working. If the room is large, paint half of it before you grab the roller.
2. Next, use the paint roller and work in 3-4 ft sections, or whatever size feels manageable to you without stretching the paint too far.
3. Roll out sections in a continuous direction. If you’re working across the room by rolling north-south, don’t suddenly start rolling east-west.
4. Load a good amount of paint on the roller. You want good coverage without running out of paint too quickly. Here’s what my roller looks like:
5. My rule of thumb: if the paint starts to feel too thin and I need to put serious pressure on the roller, it’s time to reload with paint. I try to avoid using too much pressure to roll paint on the ceiling, ensuring a nice, even coat of paint without thin spots.
6. Work as quickly as you can without causing splatter or drips.
*Most Important Step*
7. Once you’ve rolled a section, go over it lightly (no pressure!) in one direction. Roll separate strokes, each going the same way, slightly overlapping strokes. The goal here is to blend the paint into previously painted sections, smoothing out any lap marks.
Your progress should look like this:
Rolling Technique in Photos
For those who love even more visuals, here are photos of my painting method in progress. This is a cedar-planked closet in our basement:
Here are the steps I take to roll each section of ceiling paint. The key is in the final roll, smoothing out the paint to blend the lap marks.
There you go! All my best tips to paint a ceiling a smoothly as possible. Good luck with your next project!
Have I missed anything critical? What are your own tricks? Chime in below!