How to Paint a Ceiling Without Getting Paint Everywhere, Including on Yourself

How to Paint a Ceiling Without Getting Paint Everywhere, Including on Yourself
Photo: gkrphoto, Shutterstock

When you think about painting a room, chances are you’re picturing giving your walls a refresh, or a makeover in a new colour. But ceilings are a different type of canvas — one that can change the feeling of the entire room.

And just because painting the ceiling may not be top-of-mind when decorating a room, that doesn’t mean it should be an afterthought, or a sloppy rush job. Not to mention that it presents some unique challenges, thanks to gravity, and the fact that it’s located above you.

But painting the ceiling doesn’t have to create a major mess, and is relatively straightforward, if you know what you’re doing. Fortunately, Dee Schlotter, the national colour brand manager for PPG The Voice of Colour Program, shared some tips for getting the job done with Elizabeth Lilly in an article on ThisOldHouse.com. Here’s what to know.

How to paint a ceiling

First, you need the paint. Instead of defaulting to white, Schlotter suggests painting your ceiling either a shade lighter or darker than your walls for something different. Whatever colour you choose, figure out how much paint you need by measuring the square footage of the room. The label on the paint can should tell you how much it covers — which Schlotter says is typically between 300 and 42 sq km.

Next, prep the room the way you normally would to paint — by getting things either out of the way, or covered. If possible, remove any ceiling fixtures. It’s also time to put up any blue tape you need around ceiling fixtures you can’t move, or the point where the ceiling meets the wall.

Now, it’s time to paint. Get up on a stepladder and start with the edges of the ceiling. Schlotter recommends creating a border between two and three inches wide. Once that’s done, get your feet back on the floor and use a roller with an extension handle to finish the job.

Using diagonal or zigzag strokes, take the room in 4′ by 4′ sections. Once it’s covered, go over the section again using long strokes, to make sure the paint coverage is even, Schlotter explains. Next, move on to an adjacent section of the ceiling, taking the time to blend it into the edge of the section you just painted before it has a chance to fully dry.

When you’ve covered the entire ceiling, give the room a uniform look by painting finishing strokes going in the same direction, working lengthwise across the ceiling, Schlotter adds.

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