How to paint a ceiling using a roller and brush for a flawless finish every time

Look up: give your 5th wall the attention it deserves with this step-by-step guide for a crisp, clean and non-drip finish.
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  • It’s not often we look up to examine our ceilings. However, they are an integral part of our decorating schemes that can affect light, atmosphere and the overall professional finish of the room. So if you’re planning to decorate, learning how to paint a ceiling properly will make all the difference.

    In terms of painting a room, it’s wise to tackle the ceiling early on, as any drips that accidentally hit the walls can be covered over later. But you should start with any coving and ceiling roses you want to refinish.

    Ready to paint? You can use one of our best white paints – but also remember that colourful ceilings are popular right now. Whatever hue you’re using, these simple steps will help you to paint your ceiling to perfection.

    How to paint a ceiling – what you’ll need

    How to paint a ceiling you will need

    Image credit: Future PLC

    • A small to medium-sized brush
    • Decorator’s tape
    • A roller with handle cover and tray
    • An extendable roller arm
    • A bucket
    • A mop
    • Sugar soap
    • Floor covers
    • A screwdriver
    • Paint

    How to paint a ceiling – step by step 

    How to paint a ceiling cover floor with sheets

    Image credit: Future PLC

    1. Prepare the room

    Start by removing furniture from the room or away from the walls so you can get to the edges. Cover the floors and anything you don’t want to get splattered with dust sheets.

    You can use hessian dust sheets, but old bedsheets work just as well, and don’t require an extra spend – Remove light shades and any light fitting you can so you can get right to the edges when painting.

    How to paint a ceiling mask the edges

    Image credit: Future PLC

    2. Mask the edges

    Using your decorator’s tape mask off the area where the ceiling joins the wall or the coving if you have any. You might want to paint the coving at the same time, in which case mask off the area where the coving joins the wall.

    How to paint a ceiling clean with sugar soap

    Image credit: Future PLC

    3. Clean the surface

    If you are painting a ceiling that already has painted plaster ensure the area is free of crumbling or damaged paint by scraping away loose areas with a screwdriver or hard-bristled brush.

    Clean the ceiling with a sugar soap solution. It’s best to use a sponge mop for this as a handheld sponge could make your shoulder ache. Once it’s masked off, clean and mist coated it’s time to paint.

    How to paint a ceiling cut in around edges

    Image credit: Future PLC

    4. Cut in

    Start cutting in with your brush. Stir your paint thoroughly before you pour it into your paint try. For this how-to, we’ve used a special paint that starts pink and dries white.

    Buy now: Dulux Magic Brilliant White matt emulsion, £22 for 2.5ltrs, B&Q

    Paint an area one or two inches wide around the perimeter so you don’t have to roller right to the edges. If you want to paint your coving or mouldings now is the time to do it. Remember to paint around your light fittings too.

    How to paint a ceiling paint with a roller

    Image credit: Future PLC

    5. Paint the ceiling

    Start painting your ceiling while the cutting areas are still wet, as they will blend better. If your ceiling is flat a short-haired roller will be fine. If your ceiling has a texture, you may need a longer pile.

    Working in small sections, apply the paint with your roller working in a gentle zig-zag formation slightly overlapping the previous stroke with each movement.

    Don’t push too hard or you will end up with obvious lines in the paintwork. It might look slightly patchy but this will get covered with the second coat. Work across the whole area in small sections until the whole ceiling is painted.

    How to paint a ceiling before and after

    Image credit: Future Plc

    6. Paint a second coat

    It will probably need two coats so wait until the first is dry. Check your paint time for drying times, it’s usually a couple of hours. Then cut in and repeat the process.

    How to paint a ceiling peel of masking tape

    Image credit: Future Plc

    7. Finish the job

    Remove the decorator’s tape when the second coat is still damp. And there you have it a – freshly painted ceiling. Now you’re ready to learn how to paint a wall.

    Expert tips for painting a ceiling


    Colour strip painted in Pressed Petal, walls in Blossom White, ceiling in Nutmeg White, £29.16 for 2.5ltr, Dulux

    Why not try the latest painted ceiling trend, favoured by COAT paint co-founders Rob Green and Rob Abrahams? ‘Small spaces can feel bigger with a bold and daring colour, especially when you include the ceiling, too,’ they explain.

    ‘By choosing the same bold colour for both your ceiling and walls, you can embrace the space with that one shade, and style to create contrast and an atmosphere of your choice. You can also utilise molding and trim, which add volume to your ceiling.’


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