Below you will find detailed how to instructions for the process of roller painting your ceilings. Knock down, splatter, popcorn, or raw drywall, no matter what kind of ceiling you have, in most cases it can be painted (just as long as the proper procedures are followed). Do consider though, that a painted ceiling texture can be somewhat difficult to remove once it has been painted.

Using a paint sprayer to spray your ceilings is probably the fastest way to get your stipple or plastered ceilings coated with paint. Even so, this page is where you will find how to instructions for using a brush and roller.

Before beginning, be sure to follow all local government safety regulations and check with your local paint supplier regarding the correct tools, products and materials required for the job at hand.


Every job is different and you might find that some of the tools, items or materials mentioned may not be necessary for your particular project.

  • Tray & Liner
  • Roller and thick nappy roller cover (cage/sleeve)
  • Roller extension
  • 2-1/2" sash brush
  • Cut can to hold paint (for brushing, edging)
  • Stain blocker (primer sealer)
  • Caulk/gun
  • Hole filler
  • Drywall tape
  • Pliers/screwdriver
  • Plastic covering
  • Painters tape (1-1/2" wide)
  • Drop cloth (or old bed sheets)
  • Stipple or plaster repair (and a sponge)
  • Wall touch up paint
  • Step Ladder and/or scaffolding
  • Hat and old cloths etc.
  • Paint/primer


Always use a flat sheen (finish), interior type paint unless the ceiling being painted is in a commercial area (e.g. a restaurant). Also, don't be afraid to try colors other than white when roller painting the ceilings. By having a different colored ceiling you will change the mood of your room. Just keep in mind that the less bright your color is the darker your room tends to be.

If you have little experience when painting a ceiling try the new paints that change color once applied. Those who I have spoken to were very happy with these types of specialized ceiling coatings. I don't use them myself as I've become use to a specific product that works well when it's sprayed on.

Oil based (alkyd) or other type solvent products perform best with ceilings that have never been painted before. Reason being is that, latex based paints can cause issues with certain types of ceiling textures.

A primer/sealer is required for raw drywall and there are a number of stain blockers (such as Kilz or Binz) to chose from if your ceilings have become stained or dis-colored.

The amount of paint required depends entirely on the type of ceiling you have and the product being used. Talk to your local paint dealer regarding coverage per square foot (on average it is 400 sq ft of area covered per gallon) along with the best paint to use for your particular project.


Place furniture and other items (that can be moved) into another part of the home. Cover your floors with drop sheets then use tape and plastic coverings to protect areas and furniture that you could not remove.

Un-removed furniture should be placed in the middle of the room (stacked if need be) and also covered to protect from paint splatter.

When placing furniture in the center of the room be sure that you're able to,get at and paint around your lighting fixtures. Furthermore, remember that the ceiling fixtures might need masking or protection (tape/plastic/paper) from the paint. Masked off lighting should not be switched on and alternate lighting may be required.

With the tape in hand, tape the walls (at the wall and ceiling) going around the room (so as to protect the walls from the paint that will be applied).

Fill any smaller holes and cracks you see with paint-able caulking. After applying the caulking dab at it with your finger to make the caulk look like the texture thats on the ceiling. If the ceiling has a stipple look try and make the caulking appear the same as the stipple. Once dry, re-apply caulking if necessary.

With larger holes or cracks (1/2" or more) use crack filler, drywall tape and a stipple or plaster repair product. This popcorn stipple repair page will help you do the job properly if that's the type of ceiling you have.

Check for nails, tape and staples that may have been left on the ceiling from last Christmas or little Susie’s birthday party.

All stains (smoke, water, dirt, grease etc.) on the ceiling will need to have a stain blocker applied prior to painting. A blocker may also be needed if the ceiling is dark in color or dis-colored in some way.

Once your ceiling is prepped, fill your tray and cut can with primer or paint. If you wish to roll tight to the wall (instead of cutting in or edging with a brush) use another piece of tape (or three), one that slightly overlaps, and is below your first application of tape. The width of the tape needs to be wider than the roller cover. Rolling tight to the walls requires practice. If you're not familiar with tight rolling then attach some tape and work a brush around the room to cut in (edge).

Walls that are to be painted do not need protecting with plastic or tape. Even so, do try to avoid runs smudges and excess paint on the walls. If your wall does end up with a paint sag, mark or run, be sure to quickly smooth the paint out with your brush otherwise you will be mudding and sanding the runs after they are dry..

If you're not painting the walls, after painting your ceilings, do keep in mind that the tape you applied to protect the walls may pull paint off the walls themselves. With that said, you might want some wall paint to make any touch ups that may be necessary.


Start by cutting (brushing) around the room at the area between the wall and ceiling where you have taped off the walls to protect them. Dip your brush into the cutting can (one that's about 20 to 25% full of your ceiling paint or primer) then brush the coating on.

Be sure the paint filled brush makes a wide enough swath that's right up to, and a couple inches away, from the tape that’s on the walls.

If the ceiling is quite rough, you may need to push or dab the paint onto the ceiling, with the brush, so as to get the coverage you need.

You should now have a two inch wide painted stripe applied onto the ceiling around your room, light fixtures and any other items that needed to be cutting in (edging).


Slightly wet (load) your roller cover (sleeve) in the tray. Your roller cover needs to be saturated but not to the point where paint drips or excessively splatters off of it when rolling.

Raise the wet roller to your ceiling starting in one corner of the room. Begin roller painting your ceiling by painting the surface in two foot by four foot sections. Back roll (re-rolling the wet area with an unloaded or slightly damp roller) in one direction then proceed onto the next section to be done. Always roll into a wet edge (this means move as quickly as possible). Keep rolling section by section up to where you cut in or edged with the brush while working into the wet edge of the last section you did. Keep rolling until the entire ceiling is done. It's not advisable to stop half way through and take a break as lap marks may end up being visible. Either have help when rolling larger areas or stop at hallways or archways where lap marks can be more difficult (if not imposable) to see.

In most cases, a first coat of primer/sealer/blocker along with a second or in some cases third coat of paint will be needed to get the best results. Do keep in mind that each coat of primer or paint should be rolled in the opposite direction as the previous (e.g. north to south, let dry, then roll east to west). Doing so tends to give the best results.


Latex coatings can cause un-painted textured ceilings to lift from a surface while cracking or falling to the floor. To try and avoid such a problem use solvent based products that are recommended for un-painted textured ceilings.

With that said, I have successfully sprayed latex over unpainted texture with few problems. I did say few, so there are no guarantees that your stipple will not come off when using a latex product. I have never seen a case where the stipple has fallen when using an alkyd or alcohol type paint or primer but, I have been told of other painting contractors who have.

If your texture starts to come off it may require scraping and re-texturing.


Prior to roller painting the ceilings, be sure any visible stains are not from a water or roofing leak, otherwise you might be repainting again.

The easiest way to paint around a ceiling fan is to remove the fan blades. When removing the blades don't loose the blade weights (if there are any) be sure to re-attached the weight in the same specific spot that they were previously attached.

When you buy your roller sleeve have your paint dealer help decide on the thickness of nap you will need as per the roughness of the surface your painting etc. I ,myself, do not like the foam type ceiling sleeves, even so, other painters have found them to work quite well for their ceiling painting projects.

When rolling your ceiling the results may show roller or spray marks. Doing another coat can help the problem though I have found that once you have paint (or lap) marks on the ceiling it's almost imposable to get rid of them.

As a final note, it's usually best to plan on painting the walls after painting your ceilings. Also, talk to your local paint supplier regarding product, materials, tools and advice for roller painting the ceilings.

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