How to Best Paint a Ceiling

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A fresh coat of paint has the potential to transform a room’s appearance at relatively little cost. And by applying a few tried and trusted methods, the whole process can be achieved with relative ease and the job completed to a very high standard. This is particularly true when painting ceilings, which often become stained over time. Here’s a step-by-step guide showing you what the best way to paint a ceiling is:

1. Furniture and Drop-Sheets

Painting ceilings can be awkward at the best of times so make sure you’re as unhindered as possible during the job. Remove furniture pieces that might get in the way and for items too big to get through the door, slide them to the centre of the room. Painting ceilings can sometimes be a messy affair so be sure to use high quality drop sheets. Note: large paint splatters should be wiped up immediately to avoid them seeping through to the floor – there are some spillages that even drop-sheets won’t be able to protect against.

2. Tale of the Tape

Taping-up is especially important for ceiling painting, particularly if other parts of the room have already been decorated (many people opt to paint a ceiling last). If this is the case, apply tape where the walls meet the ceiling to protect existing paint jobs from splatter. It should be noted that splatter can remain visible even on walls of the same colour, so if you’re going for the best finish, get taping. Apply tape to mouldings, light-switches and power-points as well – removing paint from wall fittings and the like can be a real pain.

3. Cutting-In (Edging)

Assuming you’ve taped up the fittings and have a safe, stable step-ladder to use, you’re ready to start. To make the whole ceiling painting process that much easier, it’s always a good idea to cut-in. This can be achieved by painting a kind of border on the edge of the ceiling all the way around the room. Try to aim for a 4 inch swathe – this should give you enough space to apply the roller with confidence. If the walls are going to be a different colour or shade, then the swathe need only be about an inch. When cutting-in, take special care to ‘lay-off’ your brush-stroke. In other words, begin strokes within the wet edge of your previous stroke to avoid start-marks.

4. Ready to Roll

Rolling in parallel with the natural light-source is the best practice as it does help to conceal roller lines. However, this isn’t much of an issue with textured ceilings. Once you’ve decided on which way you’ll roll, start at the leftmost forward corner of the room. Split the job into two sessions: one for rolling the paint on, the other for smoothing it out. It’s good practice to make your roller strokes span the length of the ceiling although this is difficult in large rooms. Walking the roller is an option but applying pressure consistently can be a problem. So for big rooms, consider splitting the ceiling into sectors.

Hero image from Ben Kraan Architecten BNA.